Great weekend… and a big week ahead.

Calming it down, one breath at a time
It’s all coming at me pretty fast, but if I keep relaxed and keep breathing, it can all happen. It can all turn out pretty well.

I had a full and productive weekend. I caught up on a number of things I’ve been needing to get done for weeks, now. I also got some things done around my yard that HAD to get done before it rains later this week. I feel pretty good about getting those things done. It was not a small task, but I did it.  Woot.

Some important-but-delayed things I did not get done. But I got enough important things done, that it offsets the disappointment. And it gives me more motivation to get moving on those things I didn’t finish (or even start).

I’ve also been working on my breathing. Focusing on relaxing and feeling where my body is “at” — where I’m tense, where I need to loosen up, where my breath seems to have stopped. I need to keep it moving, not get stuck in fight-flight, which is what happens at times, when I hold my breath unconsciously.

Years ago, I was very intent on working with my breath and getting in touch with my body, so I could more effectively manage stress. It was a regular part of my daily practice, and it did wonders for me. Somehow, I got away from that. I got caught up in everything else, and I was in serious survival mode for several years, while I dealt with creditors and paid down my years-salary-worth-of-debt. I lost sight of the big picture with my approaches, and while some things improved in my life — like my job situation and my perception of myself in the professional world — other parts fell by the wayside.

Including my breathing. I’m working on that again. And swimming is a big part of it — since it involves both movement and breathing. And it’s great exercise. Just great, great exercise.

This week is a pretty big one for me. I have my weekly neuropsych appointment, when I work on problems with making progress and getting things done. I have a whole lot of things I need to get done on a regular basis. I’ve been doing them for years, I just haven’t been doing them as efficiently as I should – and it shows. I may need to take some of them off my to-do list and put them on my ‘would be nice to do’ list… and then not worry about them till later.

One project, in particular, has been drawing a lot of energy off the other projects I really need to do. It’s training materials for people who are in a certain part of the job market and don’t understand how things work.

The thing is, if I start on that, it’s going to be pretty all-consuming. It’s not just some training materials — the whole plan also involves public speaking, public appearances, and a lot of writing and publishing and networking. And I just don’t have time for that, now.

It’s a great prospect for me, and it could bring in a fair amount of money for me, but I have so many other things I want to be working on, I can’t really afford to spend the time on it, to do it full justice.

So, I’m tabling that — putting it on the “back burner” to simmer for a while. I’m really treating that like my backup-plan “B”, in case I lose my job or the 9-to-5 thing doesn’t work out for me. That would be the ideal time to cut this project loose and set it free — when I actually have time to fully devote to it.

I’m in the process of cooking up a number of other projects, many of which I find really inspiring and motivational. So, I need to make room for them, and find where I can fit them, while not burning out. I’ll work through this with my neuropsych this week — and in later weeks, as well.

In addition to that, I’ve got a town meeting this week, when we’ll discuss the fate of a company that wants to expand. I’ve had my ups and downs with the board I belong to — they don’t always seem to respect me, and they sometimes ignore me or talk over me. People in town have laughed at me, when I asked one of my “stupid” questions, which was completely disrespectful (and ill-advised, since the board I’m on makes decisions about what people want to do on their properties, and I’m not the sort of enemy you want to have). I let that go, though, and I continue to serve on the board. It connects me with the larger community, and it also puts me on good terms with the local authorities. It’s a lot easier dealing with the local police, when they run my personal details and realize I’m also an “enforcer” who serves the public good.

I probably would have gotten in more trouble, had the friction not dissipated when the cops realized who I was and what role I play in local government.

Another thing is, I’m seeing my neurologist later this week to talk about the headaches and my other issues. Actually, I’ll be seeing their assistant, as the neuro proper has kind of washed their hands of me. They didn’t find anything on the MRI (even the DTI-MRI) that gave them any clues about what was going on with me, and since they can’t diagnose me with anything, how are they supposed to treat me (and bill the insurance companies)? I feel for them, but I don’t appreciate being pushed aside.

Fortunately, while I was sorting through my stack of insurance statements and various papers and notices, I found a promotional flyer for one of those services that gives you access to second opinions by highly qualified physicians and healthcare experts. I’m going to check in with them, to see if they can help me, because this current neuro approach is not working. I really don’t need to take hours out of my day to drive to an office where I’m just going to be brushed off, and my concerns aren’t going to be taken seriously.

Just as an example, the neuro-in-charge told me that my concerns about falling and having a worse TBI than the one I had before, were unfounded. They told me that concussions are NOT cumulative, which contradicts just about everything I’ve read… and after weeks of consideration, I have a lot of reservations about their abilities and willingness to be of help.

Then again, I do fit the profile of someone in the “miserable minority” — I’m very much like the first individual profiled in that seminal 1996 paper, which touched off a chain-reaction of further studies and diagnostic / treatment approaches to folks with lingering post-concussive symptoms. So, maybe the neuro was referencing that profile.

My own feelings of insult and dismissal aside, the “miserable minority” approach may have done more to perpetuate misery, by steering away from the functional and structural issues that come along with traumatic brain injury, and focusing so deeply on the psychological factors.

I’m not saying psychological factors don’t come into play. I’m saying there’s more to it than that, and it’s my belief — after many, many years of unfruitful and counter-productive therapy approaches, followed by amazingly fantastic progress after far fewer years of basic functional retraining — that a focus on psychology, without addressing the underlying neurology, has done more to perpetuate PCS than anyone would guess.

Of course, people mean well. They’re just misguided. And they’re so caught up in proving that they’re right, and they deserve a place at the rehabilitative table, with all the respect due highly trained professionals, that they “circle the wagons” and get Balkanized — cut off from others, hostile and uncooperative and territorial, and always ready to battle over some piece of territory.

Unfortunately for those of us who need their help, we get sucked into that dynamic, and that’s no good for anyone.

But there it is.

There it is.

Friday is free and clear for me — no meetings, no appointments. I do need to do some shopping this week to pick up some black pants for my business trip next week. I’m going to be presenting at a client conference, and I need some black pants. Or maybe I don’t need to go shopping. I have a couple pairs of black pants I can probably wear. They’re just not as casual as the conference wants us to be. It’s definitely “dress down” — although we still need to present in a professional manner.

I also need to practice my presentation. I’m doing one technical talk that’s only about 10 minutes long, and I’m going to be “on call” to answer questions about the company’s full product line, which is a pretty extensive collection. I just need to  have a quick 2-minute “spiel” I can launch into, for a variety of topics. That’s probably the biggest undertaking of this week, and I’ll be practicing while I’m driving to and from work, as well as to and from my appointments.

Memorizing things used to be easy for me as a kid. I can still memorize things, if I go over them 30+ times. 35 times seems to be the magic number, but I don’t have that kind of time — 35 times for each of the 10 different spiels is 350 separate practice sessions. At 2 minutes apiece, that’s 700 minutes (11.66 hours), minimum. I can break it up, sure, but it’s still a lot of time to spend.

So, again, I’ve got to pick and choose.

And so, I shall.

Onward.

Beautiful day – how shall I use it best?

It's off to see the trees, with me...
Off to see the trees, I go…

I have a commitment this afternoon, and I have to leave the house at 1:30. It’s nearly 12 now. I figure I can get a quick hike in, then be back in time to shower and change… and get on with my day.

I got some of my major chores out of the way, early this morning. And I really do need some alone time in the woods. I have other things I need to get done, but I was so product and busy yesterday, I really do need a break – some time off the leash, so to speak.

So, off I go to the woods.

Later today, I’ll get a quick nap in and then do some more chores. It’s all good. And there’s time enough for everything, if I plan it well and follow through as I know I should.

Sorting out my weekend

house-scaffoldI’ve got a bunch of stuff I need to do around the house, this weekend. A number of things are leftovers from past weeks, when I didn’t follow through and do what I was supposed to. A number of things are leftovers from past years, when I was too “taxed” to get it all done.

And it needs to get done.

I’ve got to clean. I’ve got to organize. There are things I started over the winter, that I planned to finish up… and then never did. My basement is almost un-navigable, because of all the stuff I left out. I re-organized and re-boxed a bunch of items, and I left just a handful of things out on a table, to wrap up later. But for some reason, that never happened.

So, it’s got to happen this weekend. I have to be able to walk through my basement. Especially because I went to so much trouble to clean it up, in the first place. Now, it’s even harder to get through than before I “fixed” it. And this will never do.

Just gotta suck it up and dive in. Just do it. Start somewhere – anywhere – and make at least some progress.

There are a lot of things I have let slide, or just didn’t do thoroughly, because I wasn’t systematic about it — or disciplined. I get tired, then I get distracted.

And things fall apart.

And then I feel like an idiot (yet again).

And it seems the world is re-confirming that I’m really not all that competent, and any sane and normal person would be able to do what I can’t, so what the hell is wrong with me?

What the hell is wrong with me?!

Of course, this sort of self-talk is all very counter-productive and pointless. It’s not a good use of time, and I know it.

So, rather than getting caught up in that, I’ll do something about the situation. I’ve got my list of things I need to do on the house, and I’m going to take them one at a time.

That’s the way to do it – one thing at a time, with complex things broken down into smaller sections. I am a very visual person, so I can “see” how it should all happen. It’s just translating that vision into action that gets me.

It’s made me feel stupid for far too long. Time to do something about it — just get going, and be proud of myself for simply starting.

Onward!

Woot-woot! Happy Friday!

happy-dance-stickmanWow, am I glad it’s Friday. It’s been a “heavy” week.

I’m so looking forward to the weekend.

But I’m also looking forward to today. Things are always quiet at the office on Fridays, and I can focus on getting things done.

Thinking.

Concentrating.

Focus.

It’s a real treat.

So, off I go!

Getting my body back, too

balance-figuresI’ve been concerned about falling, for some time, now. I get lightheaded and dizzy, and I sometimes lose my balance when I’m tired or I’m distracted (which is often how I feel). I’ve seen a neurologist about possible neurological bases for this, but the MRI didn’t come back with anything meaningful that they could do anything with. Also, I don’t have a condition they can diagnose, so they can’t bill the insurance company, which means I can’t get much in-depth help from them. They need to pay their bills, and if the insurance won’t cover what they’re doing for me – and I certainly can’t cover it all – then nothing’s going to get done.

Which kind of sucks.

But frankly, it doesn’t surprise me. I have been steering clear of neurologists for some time. Only after my neuropsych encouraged me to dig deeper, did I agree to try again. And the one they referred me to moved out of state, so that’s that. This one was another good prospect, they thought, but my experience is turning out different from their expectation. No surprises there.

I’m going back in another week to follow up and put this whole thing to rest. All they can tell me is that I’m probably not sleeping enough, which my old neuropsych thought was “preposterous” – but I can kind of see their point. When I’m tired, my brain doesn’t work as well. And balance is very much handled in the brain. So, fatigue could conceivably be a source of imbalance.

Still, there’s no guarantee that I’m going to ever actually catch up on my sleep and feel fully rested. I wear out easily, and I don’t have a life that allows me to get naps when I need them. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on that.

Anyway, I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about it. I’m meeting with a wellness coach/personal trainer at work today. That’s one of our employee benefits – an on-site wellness consultant – so I’m going to take advantage of it. I’m going to see if they can tell me some things I can do to strengthen my overall system, to give me better balance, physically speaking.

Think about it — the body moves as a result of muscles coordinating their movement. And keeping your balance really involves a lot of muscles. I sit and stand — stationary — for most of the day, every single day, so I don’t use those muscles as much. And that’s no good. So, I’m hoping they can show me ways to strengthen, as well as get more flexible — that’s another piece of keeping your balance.

I’m also working on really improving my sense of my own body and where I am in space. I get pretty banged-up from doing yardwork and chores around the house, because I run into things (but don’t realize it), and then I end up with bruises from impacts I can’t recall. I’m so focused on what I’m doing, that I don’t even notice the impacts. So, yeah, there are two things going on there, but I’m thinking that if I can at least improve my sense of where I am, relative to sharp objects and hard surfaces, I can possibly look a little less like I got in a bar brawl, after I’m done cleaning up the yard😉

The way I’m working on that, is by really paying attention to my body during the day – noticing where I’m tense, and focusing on relaxing it. I’ve been watching videos of Systema — a Russian martial arts practice that centers around breathing, relaxation, and body awareness. Some of the things that they do in the videos are amazing — and the folks doing it aren’t these monster-ripped superheroes who overpower their opponents with sheer force. They’re average-looking folks who you’d never expect to be able to do the things they do. Because they know their bodies, and they relax and let themselves just respond to the situation.

I don’t think I’d ever do Systema training, because of all the hits and the falls. I’ve had enough of them in my life, already, and I don’t want to push my brain’s luck. But I did get a book from them a while back about breathing and improving your body sense, and I’ve been reading that on and off, over the past year. I’m getting back to it, now, and it feels pretty good. Just getting a better sense of my body, how it moves, how it feels when it moves… when it’s tense… when I need to breathe… it’s good.

It’s also helping me sleep. I get so caught up in my head, that my body can’t catch a break. So, focusing in my breath and also trying to feel each and every bone and muscle in my body, and relax as much as possible… that gets me into a relaxed state that gets me “down” before I can get halfway through. I’ll start at my toes, and by the time I’m at my knees, I’m out.

And that’s great. I used to do this all the time, then I stopped… and I forgot about doing it. That’s one thing I’m working on, these days — trying to follow through and not drop things before I finish them. Or, if I do get interrupted, make a note of what I’ve been doing, and keep that note where I can see it and remember it. I just remembered another project that I was making amazing progress on… then I got interrupted, and I forgot about it… and I ended up heading in a completely different direction.

Months later, I suddenly remembered it last night, and sure enough — there it is, waiting for me to continue working on it.

The breathing and relaxation stuff is just the same. I’m making great progress, then I get distracted, and I head off in a different direction. And I forget about what I’d been doing — and it ceases to exist for me.

So, I lose the benefits I’ve been getting from it. And I lose that part of my life. I slowly drift back to my old ways. I start having the same problems that I had before, and I wonder why I keep ending up back where I started… all over again… when I was making so much great progress.

It’s discouraging. So, I need to do something about that.

And so I shall.

Onward…!

Getting my act back together

checklistOver the past couple of years, I feel as though I’ve let a lot of things slide. The main focus (with my neuropsych) was really on getting myself to not have such a harsh view of myself, and to lighten up on the “Type A” behavior and mindset.

That had its advantages, and I did learn to have a lot more compassion for myself. But it didn’t come without a cost.

I let a lot of things go. I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked, with my undertakings and follow-through. To some, it looked like I was doing great, but under the surface, I was borderline-dissatisfied with how things were going.

And I knew I wanted to do better.

So, what sort of things do I want to improve?

First, how I take care of everyday business – paying bills, taking out the trash, keeping my home neat and clean. I get so blocked by all the details, and I end up feeling so overwhelmed — and then stupid, because I keep thinking, “it shouldn’t be this hard for me”.

And then nothing gets done.

So my new neuropsych is going to help me with this. They’re going to help me sort out the things that overwhelm me — and I can’t be embarrassed about getting overwhelmed about things. I just have to say it like it is, and get some help.

It’s more important to me to get myself in order and restore some real structure to certain aspects of my life, than to look good. I had that problem with my last neuropsych – I was a little too concerned with not looking like an idiot. But this one seems to have a much more frank perception of my issues, and they’re much more interested in working with me in goal-oriented ways.

Which is good.

So, this is a shift. It’s a change. And change is never easy for me. The thing is, I’ve been needing to make this change. I’ve been whining about feeling like I was being prevented from making this change. So, it makes no sense for me to block it from progressing.

Baby steps. One at a time. Crawl, walk, run… Or maybe just walk for a while, rather than running. The main thing is to keep going consistently and use my head, so I don’t get blown out of the water by my own enthusiasm. I tend to do that.

On it goes. Onward…

 

 

 

Chronic Blogging – Picking the right theme (design)

I like WordPress. A lot.
I like WordPress. A lot.

WordPress is basically made up of two parts:

  1. A “back-end” framework, like the inner gears of an engine, that runs the whole deal. Think of the back-end like you think of an engine of a car. You don’t necessarily need to know how it all works, to pick the right car for you.
  2. A customizable “front-end”, using themes that change the design of your blog and offer different features. Think of themes as the “body” of a car – it has the elements that you (and others) will actually have contact with on a daily basis. Just as you pick a car based on its roominess, interior features, color, and flexibility, you pick a theme for your blog.

The part you really care about for your blog is the “front-end” – it’s what you can most easily control. And you usually don’t need to know any programming to manage it.

There are literally thousands of themes available for people to use. Design professionals make a business out of creating WordPress themes, and there are some really great ones out there.

You can pay for a theme, or you can get them for free. I always go for free, because my needs are basic and straightforward, and I can do everything I need to do with a free theme.

What are my needs?

  • Responsive – my site will adjust to the size and shape of whatever device people are using: phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc.
  • Customizable header – so I can change my look, if I like.
  • Sidebar – so I can put in my “follow” buttons and links list and archives, etc.
  • White color scheme – it’s easier for me to read.
  • Social sharing – so people can share my posts with others.
  • Good font size – that makes it easy to read (most themes have that now, but it’s an important thing to check).
  • Free – because there are too many good choices, and I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles.

So, where do you find the magic? Log into WordPress, and you’ll see an “Appearance” choice in your WP-Admin.

theme-menu

 

Choose Themes, and you’ll see this (or something like it):

theme-choices

This page shows you which theme is active for you, and it lets you pick from a wide array of choices.

You can see all the different options that you have for themes. There are themes with a single column, two columns, three columns, and there are themes in different colors and so forth. I have spent a lot of time looking through a lot of different themes, and I have found that in my case simplest is best. You can easily spend hours and hours looking through all of the different options, trying them out, and seeing what you like. But it is a much better use of your time, if you find something simple to use, and start with that.

If you search for “responsive white sidebar”, the page will change to show the ones that fit your search. And you can explore from there.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Twenty Sixteen. It’s responsive, it has one sidebar on the right, I can customize the header, and it does everything I want it to do. It’s fast and easy to configure, and it’s not a huge headache like other themes.

There are many, many web pages and guides out there which talk about WordPress themes, so if you want to dive deeper, scout around a bit.

To activate your theme, all you have to do is put your mouse over the theme, and the Activate and Preview buttons will show up:

theme-activate

You can preview your blog and see how it will look with that theme. If you don’t like it, then just close the preview. If you do like it, click the Activate button, and now you’ve got that theme.

Remember that you can easily change out your theme in the future, so don’t worry too much about choosing the exact right one, right off the bat.

You’ve got plenty of flexibility to change later.

So, have fun with it!

So, I don’t really HAVE to do it the hard way?

accounting-calculatorI’m going to finish my taxes today. I got them 1/4-way done yesterday — all my own income and business expenses have been tallied up and accounted for. Now I need to pull in my spouse’s numbers, and that will be a bigger task, since they are self-employed, and they have a lot going on.

Fortunately, this year, we did the smart thing and split up the work, so I only did the bank-numbers-collecting, and the tax software forms-filling-out, and they took care of tallying up all the checks and the items that I couldn’t make sense of. So, it actually worked out well. And they produced two pieces of paper that have neat calculations on them, rather than 10 sheets of paper with a thousand individual items listed.

It’s progress — real progress. And it tells me my spouse is actually doing much better, neurologically, than they’ve been in a number of years.

In past years, I explained what I needed, and they didn’t understand. They just didn’t get it. No matter how I phrased it, no matter how many times I repeated myself, they just didn’t get what I needed, and they went ahead and did what they wanted to do, anyway… which made my life extremely difficult at this time of year.

Now they’ve gotten their system down, and they did it in the space of a day, rather than dragging it out for weeks on end. That’s huge progress, too. They’re more focused, more cognitively streamlined, more motivated.

And it’s all good.

So, today I finish off the work. I do this every year, so now it’s very familiar to me. And that’s a great thing, because each year, I get all tangled up in anxiety about going through this process, and I become convinced that I won’t understand it, or I’ll get confused, or I’ll get turned around. Doing my taxes used to be a fairly straightforward thing, before I had several businesses to account for. Once upon a time, I could do my taxes in the space of a few hours in the afternoon. But when both my spouse and I got our businesses going, things got very complicated — it would take me weeks to get it all done. And ironically, our businesses really took off and got way more complex during the early years of my TBI recovery — after 2004.

Doing taxes turned into a huge undertaking. I would collect all the data and sort it and categorize it and compile it into several different spreadsheets, and then sort it again. I’d have to re-assign numbers that I did wrong, because they really belonged with one business, not the other. And I sometimes wasn’t sure if I’d done it all correctly, which was a massive source of stress for me.

This year has been different, however.

As it turns out, my own thinking is much, much clearer now than in the past. I got a first inkling with that, when I was exporting all my banking information to sort and plug in. I’ve always been extremely thorough, sorting and categorizing everything, from start to finish, following dates. I got so caught up in it, in fact, that I had intended to collect all the numbers on a quarterly basis and sort through them, so that at tax time, I could just plug them in.

Of course, that never happened. I did it last April, after I’d finished my 2014 taxes, and just the exercise of sorting the numbers of three different bank accounts in multiple formats was too much for me. Hundreds and hundreds of transactions, large and small. How could I keep up with it?

Answer: I couldn’t.

So, I abandoned the exercise, and I was feeling bad about myself, when I went back to my 2015 taxes directory on my computer and saw the failed attempt from last year.Then, it occurred to me yesterday, that that exercise was actually a total waste of time. I didn’t have to collect and sort every single transaction. I didn’t have to categorize every trip to the grocery store, barber, and fast food joint. I could just cut them all out, up front, and only categorize the numbers that actually applied to our businesses.

It seems so simple now, but this was an epiphany for me. Rather than biting off a massive chunk of work, I could work with only the most necessary pieces, and concentrate on them — and pretty much disregard everything else.

So, I did that yesterday evening, and what used to take me days, took me a couple of hours, max. And that’s a good thing, indeed.

I should be able to get our taxes all squared away in a matter of hours, really. And that’s fantastic. Because I can keep doing this new and improved approach each year. The progress continues. Even if it’s the sort of thing that should have been totally obvious to me… it wasn’t. I got so mired in the details, I couldn’t see the easy way of doing things.

Now I can see it, though. I’ll have to make a note for myself to do this again next year.

If it works… why mess with it?

forest-walkYesterday, I decided to do things a little differently, and go for my walk in the woods before I started writing. I intended to spend most of the day working on a piece I started about “chronic blogging”.

I had a lot of good ideas in the course of my walk, but by the time I got back, there were SO many, that I just couldn’t keep up with them all.

So, I went back to bed.

Turns out, my daily routine is a routine for a reason – it works.

I really need to stick to my standard approach of exercise, followed by breakfast, followed by writing… followed by either going to work, or having a good hike. If I hike before I write, my brain gets too muddled, and I lose the benefit I got from the vigorous exercise I did earlier.

Walking is exercise, yes. But it’s leisurely. And it’s not always conducive to my writing. I need to trust my gut and just do the thing I intended to do, to begin with.

Another thing that works for me, is talking through my daily life and logistics with my neuropsych. Not delving into my emotional landscape. Not digging up all sorts of old hurts and pains to “heal” them. I totally understand how that’s helpful. But for my purposes, I really need to focus on my day-to-day and manage the things that are functional problems for me.

I’ve been under the weather and feeling wiped out, in part due to my new NP’s fondness for “exploring emotions”.

Good God. Please save me.

Anyway, I’m not doing that anymore. I’ll set the tone and set the agenda by myself. This NP is quite a bit younger than me, and they’ve got a youthful vigor and excitement for “the hard stuff”. Please. I’m an old warhorse. I’ve done the hard stuff. Now I just need to function.

And so I shall.

Onward.

Quiet day, quiet night

zen-stonesToday was pretty low-key. I got up early, helped my spouse get on their way to a business commitment… went for a hike in the woods… took a little nap… had some lunch… did some chores… and now I’ve been doing some organization on some old projects.

Tonight I’ll work on my taxes some more. I got a start on them a little while back, but I’ve been too busy and too tired to focus on them.

So, I’ll do that tonight. Just take it easy. And get in bed early.

After I’m done downloading bank info, I may watch a movie I saw with my spouse, last week. It was a great movie, but I couldn’t watch it in one sitting because I got home late, and I had to get to bed at a decent hour. It’s over 2 hours long, which is longer than I’ve had to spare, each evening this week.

Tonight I have the whole evening to myself, so I can watch it, start to finish. I’m looking forward to that.

That’s all for now.

And that’s more than enough.