Yesterday was the first day of my week-long vacation. I had a great Christmas – and I hope everyone else out there had a very merry time, too, whatever you may celebrate. It’s been a while, since I’ve had this much time free — with no added excitement, no outside obligations, no drama planned.
My last week-long vacation was a total bust, because of visitors and guests who overstayed their welcome and needed to be managed. Now I have a week at home with a whole lot of time to do the things I would like to do — as well as some things I need and have been wanting to do, but haven’t had the time to focus on, lately.
I also have some time to rest up and gather my strength for the New Year. There are big organizational changes happening at work, and I may be in an excellent position to actually do some real work, this coming year. After more than three years of not being recognized and not being well utilized in my job, I finally have gotten the attention of people who know where I come from and appreciate my experience and abilities.
And that’s a far cry from where I’ve been. It changes everything. It puts everything in a new light, and it really ups the ante for me getting my act together. I’ve really struggled in a lot of ways, over the past years, trying to get myself back on track and re-integrated into work that suits me. In the job I had before this, I overstepped my bounds a great deal, and I pushed too hard before I was ready to do the job I was given. I floundered and fumbled and stumbled a lot, and that took a toll on my self-esteem.
Over the past 3-1/2 years, I’ve led a sort of dumbed-down existence that I’ve really struggled with. I knew I was better, I knew I had done much better and much more complex work before. The thing was — and I can see that, looking back now — I wasn’t ready to get back to it. I just wasn’t. I had a lot of patching up to do, yet, with my brain and my attention issues and my ability to read and write, along with my moods and my behavior control.
Now things are actually very different with me. I have improved by leaps and bounds, and I have really made substantial progress in keeping my sh*t together… and now I’m ready to move forward again — to get back to where I was, professionally, before my last TBI. I have a much better grasp on my behavior and moods, and I have more supporting pieces of my life in place now, than I have in many years. I have friends I can talk to about things. I have a couple of “independent ear” types of folks I see regularly for counseling of one sort or another. And I have a much better understanding of my inner emotional landscape and how to manage it, than I have in many, many years — maybe ever.
Plus, the logistical hardships of my life have really worked themselves out — the past three years have been sheer hell, when it comes to just keeping my head above water. But now that I’ve sorted out a hell of a lot of debt, and I’ve corrected errors in my tax filings, things are loosening up, and I can see a light ahead — and it’s not an oncoming train ;).
So, things are freeing up. And for the next week, I’ve got a ton of free time. I can go for those long walks in the woods I’ve been wanting to take. I can sleep as much as I like, whenever I like. I can experiment with some new recipes. And I can take time to reflect on the past year, to see how far I’ve come, and where I hope to go next. I have time. Time to visit libraries. Time to research. Time to cook. Time to do things at a leisurely pace, and just let it all sink in. There’s no need to rush — unless I want to pick up the pace. There’s no hurry, there’s no strain. It feels like it’s all coming together, and this week is a precious, precious opportunity to spend some time just catching up with myself without the specter of constant fatigue dragging me down.
I think the food piece is what excites me the most. More and more, I’m really getting into cooking. It does wonders for my sequencing and time management skills, and it gives me a reward at the end of it all. It’s also doing wonders for my health, as I try new things with new foods, and tweak my diet a bit to include more dopamine-producing foods. I’ve been making small changes in my diet, in order to boost my dopamine levels, and already I’m feeling better.
After only a few days. Pretty amazing, actually.
Maybe it’s the excitement that comes from learning that I actually can improve my neurotransmitter levels with different types of foods (most of which I love and can eat). Maybe it’s the energy I get from learning new things and putting them into action in ways that show results very quickly. It’s probably all of the above. In any case, it feeds me on so many levels, and I’m sure that does wonders for my dopamine levels.
Which is where I’m really focusing, these days. Watching The Crash Reel and learning that Kevin Pearce is snowboarding again (after a snowboarding accident nearly killed him and gave him a pretty intense brain injury), has got me thinking a whole lot about what drives us to continue to do the kinds of dangerous things that get us into trouble in the first place. What’s our motivation? What’s that driving need all about?
And when I think about it, I come to a number of conclusions:
- that doing the kinds of things that nearly get us killed can be an important part of our identity and self-image… and without them, who are we?
- that we really really need that rush, that push, that fix, in order to feel like ourselves again
- that there’s a built-in mechanism for producing that rush, that’s a critical part of who we are
- that it’s possible to recreate that rush, in one way, shape or form, so that we don’t have to put our lives in danger to feel like ourselves again
These conclusions didn’t come overnight — they’ve been years in the making. And I’ve never been able to fully get away from thinking about them. Because I know that my behavior tends to the risky side. I know that my life sometimes hangs in the balance, based on how I’m feeling on any given day. And I don’t want to die or end up in jail. I’m not arrogant or unseasoned enough to believe that “it can’t happen to me” — I know it can. I know it has. Almost. And I don’t want to go there again.
So, I need to find a better way to get back to feeling like my old self again. I need to find a new way to live.
And having the next week off is going to give me time to experiment with some approaches in a quiet, uninterrupted way, that lets me think clearly and not be constantly distracted by a lot of spurious stimuli.
It’s going to be interesting, of course, because the last few times I had time off to “just relax”, I cycled through a series of blow-ups and melt-downs that took a pretty intense toll on my spouse and me. But things are different this time. Because I’m being much more deliberate about managing my “inner state” — and I’m doing concrete things to improve my state, like eating foods to boost my dopamine, working on projects I really enjoy, and planning regular exercise and rest times, each day.
Speaking of exercise, it’s time for a long walk. I don’t have to be anywhere, I don’t have to go anywhere in particular. The point is just to go… come back… and relax into my day.