I can hear the Glenn Miller Band playing “In The Mood”

Or should it be “In A Mood”…?  I am in such a terrible mood, these days, it’s not even funny.

Fortunately, I know it, so I’ll spare you my emotional ups and downs.They’re artificial, really. Not based on anything substantive, other than that I’m extremely tired and over-taxed, and there is a lot of change going on at work.

Very little of which seems to be managed well. By others, or by me.

No, scratch that. I am handling it all pretty well — all things considered.

I’m just very, very tired and wading through unknown territory as best I can. I have to be careful that I don’t let my physical state trick my mind into believing that I’m worse off than I am. That happens to me all the time, and for years it really messed me up, because I interpreted feeling bad as being bad.  Not the same thing. Not even close.

I might as well get used to this, because the way things are going for me, it’s not going to get easier or simpler, anytime soon. The people in charge are seeing what I can do under really challenging circumstances, which will only bode well for me, job-wise. So, in that respect, things are good. At the same time, if nobody else is stepping up except for me… well, you get the picture.

Getting ahead of myself, though. Way ahead of myself.

The wild thing is, things are actually going really, really well for me. When I step back and take a look from 30,000 feet up, and I can disengage from all my internal angst — not to mention the pain and confusion and frustration I’m in — things are looking great. But my biochemistry is completely out of whack, and I’ve been running on adrenaline for a bit too long.

So, screw it. Just keep going. I’m sure everything will brighten up, on down the line. It just feels like I’m not making headway, my spouse is perpetually under the weather, I have too much on my plate, the new car is having issues, and I’m feeling pressured all over again in a multitude of ways.

Okay, I’ll stop now. That’s enough for one morning. Time to just get moving and do something about this.

Things to do differently this year

Starting ahead of time is probably the best idea

After going through all the pain of sorting through my taxes from several years, I am strongly motivated to do things very differently this year, than in past years.

What became very clear to me, in the course of sorting through all my past records, is that lack of organization has really messed me up in so many ways, financially speaking. And this is the year to do something about it.

I had not realized — partly because I glossed over certain parts of my tax prep that I thought were “non-essential” — was that there were deductions I could have been taking all along, that I didn’t. Perhaps the tax law has changed, so it’s more prevalent, now, but I uncovered close to $1000 extra dollars that I could deduct, simply by claiming my spouse’s van for business expenses in a different way. They use that van almost primarily for business, and if they didn’t have their work, they wouldn’t be driving it. They put hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles each year on that vehicle specifically for business.

So clearly it counts as a business expense.

Live and learn.

After finalizing the last of my old tax returns, I took some extra hours yesterday to download all my bank statements and put them into a spreadsheet. And I started organizing them and figuring out what can be counted towards what deduction and what kind of income.

And so it starts. In tried doing this a few years back, but I was very unorganized. And I got confused. So just like I did with the refiling of past taxes, I gave up after a very short time. And I never looked back.

Till yesterday.

I can really tell that my thinking is much more organized than it used to be. This is leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be. I think a number of things have helped me:

First, keeping this blog going.

It disciplines me to organize my thoughts each day — usually first thing in the morning. Because I’ve got over 500 followers, and more keep joining, I really feel a responsibility to write something useful and meaningful, not just toss a bunch of blather out on the screen.

Second, the logic work I’ve been doing.

I’ve been specifically working with logic problems for about a year and a half. I come up with a statement, and then I prove it to myself on paper with a detailed step-by-step explanation. I don’t do it for others, rather for myself. I’m my biggest critic, after all, and if I can’t convince myself, I’m not going to convince anyone else. I really believe it’s helped me collect and organize my thoughts in ways that few other exercises have.

Third, working with a lot of different kinds of people and organizing them to get things done.

In my job, I am in charge of making sure people get things done, so that’s really forced me to think in organized terms that direct people in a certain way. I’ve had to really dig deep to learn how to do this … and I’m still learning. And it’s doing wonders for my ability to gather, process, and organize information. That whole process actually started in my last job, so now I’ve been at it for about five years, and work has been hugely helpful in getting me more cognitively functional all across the board,

So, yes, I’m better organized in my thinking. And now I need to get better organized with my doing. I need to get my papers in order — all the bank statements in a folder together, all the bills in a folder together. It’s really a question of just having a place to put them all. I need 3-ring binders, for sure. That is a simple fix for what amounts to an incredible amount of needless complexity in my life.

I bitch and moan about how complicated the modern world is, but I also don’t do myself any favors, at times. If things are too confusing at a 50,000 level, then I need to get in closer — more frequently — and take a closer look on a regular basis. I can break this down into more manageable pieces — and I can also use it to my professional benefit, because my household expenditures numbers are data I can use to create meaningful visualizations that will not only be good experience for me with the new programs I’m trying to learn, but also help me understand my world better.

The beauty part of all this is, because we’re now halfway through April, I have three months’ worth of numbers to plug into my 2015 taxes spreadsheets, and I can get a jump on things.

Plus, if I keep on top of it, next year I won’t get sidetracked by all my disorganization and freeze response, and end up pushing against the deadline to get my taxes filed. AND I can have a good sense along the way, of where things are problematic, financially, and need to be fixed.

I’m also going to continue with my logic problems. They really seem to be helping me. That, and being really engaged with my work… letting myself mess up without getting too bent out of shape about it… learning as I go… it’s all good.

So, this feels good. I just need to keep at it.

Onward.

Yeah, I’m definitely better

NOW it makes sense to me. That’s a relief.

I just got done with recalculating my taxes for a couple of past years. I had tried to do it last year but process had me completely confused and intimidated, that I first messed it up pretty badly, and then I avoided it… and missed out on recouping thousands of dollars that were rightfully mine.

This is not so difficult, after all. And compared to how confused I got before, trying to organize my thoughts around it, the process this time was much more straightforward.

It’s been over a year, since I last tried to do this. I must be getting better, because this time I was able to do it with very little angst, anguish, and confusion.

Yes, there is progress.

I don’t even care about the missing thousands of dollars. This obvious progress is worth far more than that to me. And I’ll make up the difference in the coming years. I’m determined to do it.

Onward.

Taxes, Healthcare, Day-to-Day Tangled Messes – Complexity as a form of social control

Got ‘er done

I finished my taxes last night.

Hoo

Ray.

Now, I need to refile some other taxes which I messed up in years past. I figure, I’m still in tax-filing mode, so why not?

I messed up, years ago, thanks to a number of factors — not least of which was my TBI in 2004. I just wasn’t doing that great at handling complexity. Even with my tax prep software, just collecting everything together and organizing myself was a monumental task.

I managed to do it, but I did it wrong.

And that really messed with my head.

It messed with me so completely, that I missed the re-filing deadline last year, and I missed out on recouping thousands of dollars that I really needed. That’s on me – I should have reached out for help, but I didn’t. I guess my pride got the better of me on that one.

Anyway, now I’m busting my hump, trying to get myself into the frame of mind that will let me finally do these remaining taxes.  Git ‘er done, you know? And considering how challenging it is for me, I can only imagine how challenging it is for others who are in much worse shape than I am.

And it occurs to me that the powers that be probably profit handsomely from our confusion. We pay too much, because we don’t understand how to navigate the hidden complexities that could give us an advantage. We don’t get the refunds we deserve, because everything is far too complicated for us to grasp, and we don’t always know where to turn for help. When we do manage to reach out for help, we’re still screwed, because we may not know how to talk to the person(s) who are helping us. We might not be able to communicate our situation, and so we don’t get the assistance we need.

This can apply to taxes, healthcare, and just about every other complicated thing in life. Especially where older and/or cognitively impaired folks are involved. Seeing what my spouse went through after their car accident, where they totaled our van and had to talk to all sorts of insurance folks and navigate the healthcare system, made it all the more clear to me just how disadvantaged people can be… simply because everything is so hugely complicated.

If you don’t think the way the people in charge think, you’re so out of luck. You’re on your own, really — this is America, after all. And unless you learn how to fend for yourself, you’re pretty much out of luck. On the one hand, this is great incentive for people who have that kind of orientation and are able to adapt and learn — or at least take a beating and keep on going to fight another day. But for people who are genuinely impaired and who need assistance… well, shit. You’re just out of luck.

Now, this is not to excuse people who just can’t be bothered to get up off their asses and make something of themselves. We all know people like that — who use every excuse to get themselves off the hook and not live up to their potential.

This is about recognizing that not everyone has the same skill level or capacity to think things through and navigate tricky situations, as the people who design the convoluted systems of our lives. It’s about recognizing that the way things are structured, these days, has become so specialized and so professionalized, that everyday people are being cut out of their own world. If you’re not professionally trained or you don’t have access to assistance from someone who knows (or can figure out) the whole system, you’re pretty much screwed.

Of course, there are plenty of people who will help — for a fee. There are also people who will help for free.  But it’s not always easy to find them. And you may not know exactly what to ask or what you need help with, when find them.

All of which seems like a really cool way to “manage” society — split our culture into levels and classes, putting the people who organize things at the top, people who can figure things out in the middle, and people who can’t make sense of any of it, at the very bottom. I’ve been in all three classes, over the course of my life — as many of us are, in a variety of ways — and scraping the bottom of the barrel is no fun at all.

The thing I can’t help but keep coming back to, is the idea of how much money the federal government makes off us, how much power they hold, and how much they do, simply because they’ve created a system that’s far too complicated for any average, normal person to get their head around. If everyone understood how the tax code works and had the wherewithal to get every penny back that they are owed, how different would things be?

I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe it wouldn’t be that different from how things are now. Some people are naturally inclined to amass power and abuse their position. And those people tend to gravitate towards powerful positions. Even if we did get rid of the god-awful tax code and went to a flat tax for all (which I strongly support, by the way), there would still be people who would seek out positions of power and control in other ways. Maybe having a convoluted tax code serves as an outlet for people who absolutely crave the experience of screwing everyone over, and it keeps them from branching out into other areas, thus sparing us their sickness of mind and spirit in other more obnoxious ways.

In any case, the whole system is a screwed-up mess in more ways than any of us knows. For me, rather than tilting at the windmills of social injustice, I’m fending for myself. For many, many years when I was younger, I was bound and determined to change the overall system. That got me nowhere.

Now I’m focused on building up my own skills and becoming as self-sufficient and independent as humanly possible. The things that would give me an advantage in the world — namely, a college degree and social connections to people who can be of assistance to me — are pretty much out of reach. I doubt I’ll ever have the time or money to go back to school and put in two years of academic work required to get a degree. And fatigue and exhaustion are such major factors with me, that I am absolutely done by the end of each day. And I spend my weekends just getting back up to normal speed. So, I don’t have the energy for socializing and getting into the circles of people who can help me get ahead.

Even if I could do all that, I’m not sure I’d want to. I think those ships have sailed for me, and I’ve gotten so accustomed to making my own way, it suits me now. I don’t want to be in the midst of a corrupt and corrupting system. I need to be on the outside, making my own way IN my own way. It works for me. And from what I see of the people around me, it works better for me, than it does for them.

Anyway, I’ve got a full day ahead of me, so I’ll sign off now. With any luck, by the end of today, I’ll have a prior year’s taxes refiled and I’ll be able to check that off my list.

Onward.

A productive weekend, even so

How could I pass up this?

Well, most of what I planned to do over the weekend did not happen. I had every intention of finishing my taxes, which I started weeks ago, but that was not to be.

Instead, I spent Saturday working on a programming problem that still had me stumped by the end of the day. It soaked up the entire day and rendered me distracted and confused and frustrated, and I was only a few steps closer to a resolution, when all was said and done.

On the bright side, it became incredibly clear to me that programming as a way to make a living is NOT what I want, anymore. I want to design programs, not code them up. And this is something I can do, for sure.

This is really good news because I got an amazing idea over the weekend, which I think has a lot of potential, and it’s something I can pretty easily document and hand off to a capable developer to create. If I insist on doing the coding myself, it will only slow me down. But this is the sort of thing a really capable programmer could “bang out” in short order.

So, I’m pretty psyched about that.

I have been getting in my way with so many things, mainly because I have been rigid and hard-headed and haven’t been willing to entertain other possibilities — or let go of old things that no longer fit me.

But after a full day of focusing on the computer screen, trying to solve one little problem that had me hung up all day, it’s pretty clear that I don’t want to do that anymore. I ended up sore and stiff and feeling like I’d been trampled by elephants. Plus, I spent a full day off — which was beautiful — inside, staring at a computer.

No thank you.

Saturday evening, I made up for that and went for a long walk in the woods. Saw a herd of 12 deer. Got some good exercise. Unwound.

Sunday I turned the tables and started the day with a walk, then did yard work for about four hours. Got a lot done. Wore myself out. Took a long nap. Got up and went for a ride with my spouse, to get some fresh air and just hang out. We’ve both been working really hard, and we needed some “away time”. And we got it. It was really nice to just get out of the house together and relax.

Last night, we had supper, watched some television, and then I trundled off to bed. I briefly took a look at my taxes, but the weekend was mine, and I wanted to just enjoy myself. I would have made better use of my time working on taxes Saturday, than getting stuck on that programming problem, but that didn’t happen.

The thing is, I hate using my free time off for drudge work. The kind of drudge work I had to do, is really best broken up into chunks of time — focusing in for only a few hours, instead of a full day. I really need my time off, to do what I please, when I please, and concentrate on the things that I want to do. I spend my weeks taking care of other people’s business. The weekends are mine. And I have a hell of a time relinquishing them for anyone — especially for something like taxes.

So now I need to finish up my filings in the next two days. It’s no big deal, because I am 80% done. It’s just that extra 20% that has me stumped. I figure I have tonight and tomorrow night — and possibly Wednesday morning — to do them, so that gives me plenty of time. I’ll go into work early today and tomorrow, so I have at least 4 hours each night to devote to them. That is more than enough time, actually, so I’m not really worried. It’s just a thing I need to get done with 100% focus.

Yes, getting my workdays out of the way and having free time in the evenings is the right way to go. And after my taxes are done, I will focus on my new project, getting the documentation together so I can find a programmer. I had a really great weekend, even though it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

It’s all good.

Onward.

5 ways mental slowness is less of a problem

For the past month or so, I’ve been feeling mentally slower than I’d like. Almost as though I was wading through mud. I tried explaining it to my neuropsych, but I didn’t do a very good job of it.

This week, though, things have seemingly lifted off me. And while I’m not feeling 100%, per se, I’m not feeling as burdened by my slowness as I was before.

First, I’m not feeling as slow as I was a few weeks back.

I started exercising again. That might have something to do with it. Either it’s getting my mind off things, or I’m genuinely feeling healthier. I think it’s the latter. In addition to not feeling as slow I as I was… I’m also feeling comparatively sharper than a lot of people around me. I’ve been watching others around me, and they are not holding up very well. So, I know it’s not just me. And that makes me feel a lot less self-conscious.

Second, I’ve got too much going on, to notice how slowed down I am.

I am doing so much that’s new for me, these days — or that is a combination of old things that are showing up in new ways, that I almost have no way of knowing if I’m actually thinking more slowly than usual, or if I’m just taking my time to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Third, I realize that my old “need for speed” was pretty much of an illusion.

I had it in my head that I needed to be going 500 mph all the time, when in fact “haste makes waste” and I was bumbling all over the place, screwing up, messing things up so royally that I was constantly scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t necessarily operating at a higher speed, I was having to back-track and retrace my steps a whole lot, which had me in a frenzied panic state, a lot of time. I thought it was speed, but it really wasn’t.

Fourth, I’ve realized that while my processing speed may be slower than it used to be, that has its advantages – namely, that I can slow down to sift through more information.

I’m 10 years older than I was when I had my last TBI. And a whole lot has happened to me, since that time. I’ve been through a lot of upheaval and struggle, and I’ve had some big wins and losses along the way. I now have more “data” to sift through in my head, and that means it’s going to take me longer to put things in order and make sense of them. Even if I’d never gotten clunked on the head along the way, I would still need more time to parse through everything and make sense out of it.

Fifth, I may feel slow today, but I am pretty sure that can change.

I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should, and I know that has an effect. It’s also been a long winter, and I’m foggy and dull. I have seen my mental performance turn around in the past, and with the right hygiene and exercise and just getting all the gunk out, I know from past experience that that can have a positive effect on me.

I’ll just keep trying. Everything changes, and this can get better. I just need to keep a positive attitude, use my head, not be stupid about my sleeping habits, and do the best I can each day.

Somehow, it works out.

Adversity is my friend, this week

Up and over

This has been an extraordinarily challenging week. Thursday and Friday, especially. All sorts of stuff “blew up” at work — most of the drama being emotional.

Hm. I know all about that. Over the years of struggling with unexpected behaviors and results after my fall and mild TBI in 2004, I’ve had more than my fair share of meltdowns, freak-outs, blow-ups, and countless hours of feeling like a miserable piece o’ sh*t for long stretches of time.

The positive outcome of all this (now that I’ve learned how to modulate my inner state – which, I can tell you, has not been easy) is that I am much less thrown off by intensity and seemingly impossible situations. I’ve already been to the depths of that pit, and I know how to pull myself out of it.

And in the process, I can pull others out of their tailspins, as well. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days — keeping a cool head, so I could do a “knowledge transfer” from someone who was leaving the company — and was the very last person in their group to leave, effectively taking all the resident expertise with them.

{insert big sad face emoticon here}

Anyway, everyone has been pulling a “nutty” and freaking out — yelling at each other, slamming their hands on desks, and spinning in circles — because a few key people in management didn’t put two and two together, and they got caught out with a big massive gaping hole in their staff.

Ooops.

Oh, well.

So, I got pulled into the mix, because I actually have years of experience doing the sort of thing the departing individual did on a daily basis. I used to do it everyday, in fact, and it surprised me that nobody reached out to me to loop me in.

Of course, I was all booked up with another massive project that has been nearly going off the rails, on and off, for the past few months — in no small part because management is making decisions that negatively impact the lot of us, without so much as an explanation why, or providing any sort of support for our transitions.

Oh, well.

Anyway, the good news is that I’m a contractor, so no matter what goes down, I still get paid, and this sh*tstorm can’t hurt my future prospects. All it’s done is given me opportunity to get involved in the kind of work I’ve been wanting to do for some time, now, but haven’t been able to.

Plus, I figured out how to automate a seriously drudge-work task yesterday, and I’m working today on programming a tool that will save the sanity of many people to come after me.

So yes, this is not so bad, after all. I get to step up and save the day, I get to be the hero, and I get to expand my skillset — in a practical professional manner, in a way that goes right on my resume (woo hoo). This just makes me stronger, in the long run, because it shows that I can rise to the occasion and keep my cool in the midst of a mess… and come out with a solution that works for everyone.

And to be perfectly honest, if I hadn’t spent years in the pit of despair, not knowing how to pull myself out, stuck in my fight-flight sympathetic nervous system overload “soup”, I wouldn’t be able to keep calm, right now. I have developed some serious skills over the years, at handling these sorts of experiences, with varying degrees of success. And actually, nothing that has happened to me over the past few days has come anywhere near close to the level of distress, panic, anxiety, and meltdown that I used to experience on a regular basis.

Compared to the emotional upheaval I used to marinate in on a regular basis, this is relatively minor.

Which just makes me look good. Calm in the midst of the storm. So much calm, in fact, that I’m going to build a little app that will offload a sh*t-ton of manual drudge-work from the hapless soul who has to do it in the future.

So there.

I’m pretty wiped out from the past few days, but I’m energized by the programming I’m going to get to do, and it’s all good. Just have to pace myself and catch up on my sleep.

For sure.

Onward.

 

Oh, Lordy…

It will be alright in the end.

Yesterday turned into one big long exercise in pulling out every skill I’ve developed over the years and putting it into action in very subtle ways.

It stood me in good stead, and this little drama is going on my resume for sure.

More later — still putting water on the smoking coals from the conflagration yesterday.

Gotta run.

Onward.

Gearing up for another neuro visit

Well, I found a new neurologist. And I finally got an appointment with them in about 4 weeks’ time. I’ll be sitting down with my neuropsychologist to review their notes.

This makes me nervous. Looking at what’s been going on with me, and trying to articulate it with another person is… challenging. I worry that I won’t articulate things well, and we’ll end up going off on a tangent that’s just not consistent with where I’m at.

And then I can end up on yet another boondoggle.

No thank you. I’ve done that already — several times, over the years, and I have better things to do than try out new meds that make me feel worse (or just plain weird).

I guess the secret is in keeping things simple. Focusing on a few simple questions — like  Is this sh*t going to kill me? — will keep things from spinning wildly out of control.

Also, staying rested and well-fed… not eating too much sugar… tracking my headaches when they come up. It’s all part of it.

I’m really more anxious than I am fearful. It’s just a lot of ideas and nervousness spinning around in my head. And things are very busy and chaotic at work, so that doesn’t help.

Oh, well. Time to go back to my experiments with numbers…