All the things I thought I’d lost

abstract checklist with Xes beside the lines
I used to feel like this was what I could do – nothing.

I was going through some scrap paper, the other day, and I came across a printout of a list of things I’d gradually lost in the several years after my latest TBI in 2004. They gradually drifted away, and I thought they were gone for good.

Here’s the list I compiled:

Things I have progressively lost over the past several years

  • Love of reading books
  • Going to the beach
  • Going to the gym

All three of these things were so central to my life, once upon a time.

Then I stopped being able to do them.

And I thought they were gone for good.

Now it’s not like that anymore.

I can do them again.

See? Things can change. It’s taken years and years, but things did change for the better.

Now, I still have my days when reading and going to the beach and going to the gym are the last things I want to do. I’m too tired. Or I’ve got other things I’d rather be doing. But even in those times when I have to force myself to do them (if I must), I can find a way to make it okay. I can find a way to manage the situation – and also manage my own state of mind. The situation doesn’t rule me, anymore.

And that’s the most that I can ask for, really. It’s all I want.

Onward.

Rest day – re-set day

laptop with blank notebook and pen on a desk
Today I move at my own pace – blank slate

I’m working from home today – woot woot!

This will give me time to step back and really think about my work, as well as my future. I need to focus on the activities which are directly related to my ongoing career, and not get pulled off-track by distractions or busy-work.

I get into busy-work situations when I am tired and am more distractable. It makes me crazy… and it’s an ongoing challenge. But at least I’m aware.

And I can take Fridays to re-set my attention on the things that mean the most to me and will move me forward, both now and in the future. I am home, so I can take a nap in the afternoon — use that extra hour I save from not commuting. And then my weekend is much, much better, because I’m not wiped out from a non-stop week.

Onward…

Exercise, exercise, exercise

swimming turtle under water
It feels great to get in the water. So peaceful.

I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped, last night.

I had a long day, and then I got home a little late from an appointment. It’s all good – and the appointment went well – but I didn’t sleep as much as I’d wanted to.

I got maybe 7 hours last night. It’s not enough. I needed 8. But I’ll take what I can get. Anyway, this gives me a head-start on the day. Waking up at 5:30 has its advantages.

I had meant to get in a swim, yesterday afternoon. I usually head to the fitness center at work around 2:00, spend about 20 minutes in the pool, then head back to work within the hour. It’s nice to step away, and also to really stretch myself when I’m swimming. The water feels great, and it’s so relaxing and quiet. I’m usually one of the only people in the pool at the time (unlike after work, when you have to wait for a lane). And it’s the perfect break to the day.

Sometimes, it really wears me out. I have some trouble coordinating my breathing, so I don’t usually do a crawl – I do backstroke and breaststroke, so I can control my face being above water. Sidestroke, too. and a bunch of other ways of getting through the water that don’t have names I know of.

Sometimes I swim with only my arms, keeping my legs crossed behind me. Sometimes I swim with only my legs, lying on my back and relaxing my arms as I flutter-kick my way through the water.  It’s a good balance. And after a good workout, I get worn out and sleepy for the last few hours of the work day.

But that’s fine. I have a sip of coffee. I drink my water. I have a bowl of raisin bran. And I’m fine.

I sleep great, too. When I’ve had a good workout, I can just drift right off and stay asleep. Yesterday was a full day, with lots going on in my head. It’s all good, but it was brain-busy. And I didn’t sleep through the entire night.

Well, maybe tonight I will. I’m getting back in the pool today – no matter what. It’s a priority. Sleep is a priority.

Everything goes better with sleep.

 

The magic of tin foil handcuffs

open handcuffs with broken lniks between them
They only look like handcuffs from a distance

Today is looking pretty sweet. I’m flying solo today, as my spouse has a business trip. I’ll help them get themself packed and out the door, then I’ll have the whole day to myself. To putter. work around the yard. Do some reading (because I can). Sleep. Sleep a lot.

I can also take care of some traditional Sunday activities today. And do a little bit of work-work, since over the past few days I got caught up in some “flash” projects with work and didn’t keep to my established plans. Now I need to do a little bit to get myself back on track, so Monday isn’t such a pain in the neck.

Things at work are looking up – for me, at least. My boss indicated that my position is safe for the next three years, at least. There’s a small (and by that, I mean, only a few days’ worth of pay) honorarium that they’re paying out each year over the coming three years. It “vests” during that time. The amount they’re offering is laughable, but it is a gesture of intention to make at least some attempt to keep me.

The really good news about this is that not only do they want to keep me, but they’re not offering me so much money that I’ll go out of my way to stay. I really need to be making at least 15% more than I am — especially as my spouse is unable to work, and while they haven’t filed for Social Security disability benefits, I looked into it, and if they did, they’d be getting a few hundred dollars a month, max. They’ve had lifelong issues with employment, and much of their work was done under the table, so they haven’t exactly socked a lot away for retirement. I’m not sure they’ve ever given retirement any thought.

In any case, I am more and more the primary breadwinner in this household, even if my spouse is out doing work like today. They are having a lot of trouble walking and moving around, which limits them. And they are getting a little tired of all the busy-ness that goes into their work.  So, they’ve been scaling back, over the past year or two. And I suspect they will even more, in the future.

That means I have to make some serious money. Like real money. And that means I can’t afford to stay at this job for the long term. Plus, when the merger is totally complete before the end of this year, there’s no guarantee that our compensation will stay the same. That’s all the more reason to start looking in the fall.

I’ve been taking it easy, this summer, just thinking about stuff, “rambling” through my head, thinking about what I want to do with myself and what I want to do next. I need to build out a handful of different resumes, because I can do a variety of things. And I need to start  reconnecting with recruiters. I have a few in mind who are good contacts, and I’ll be reaching out to them over the coming weeks and months.

I don’t want to start anything before October, really. I need my summer OFF — something I haven’t had in five years. For four years, I was completely consumed by summer projects that had me working overtime from April till September (that sucked). After I left that job, I thought I’d get a break, but I went into a situation that was even worse – the sheer volume of work was crushing. And I couldn’t go on a full vacation at all. I actually had to work during the week when my spouse and I had a week at a beach house. I was home for three days during that week, while they were at the beach.

Yeah, that sucked even worse than my situation before.

Basically, I want to use all my abilities and skills and experience, and not have to suffer from anyone else’s foolishness and poor habits of thought and action. If other people can’t plan and follow through properly, why should I suffer? I shouldn’t. And I’m tired of feeling like I’m paying the price for other people’s laziness and ineptitude.

So, yeah… I’m getting more motivated to look around. And the fact that my employer is not offering me anything even close to golden handcuffs — more like tin foil handcuffs — gives me total freedom to choose something else.

And choose, I shall. I have time to be a lot more focused and deliberate about this next move — to look around and find a situation I want, rather than sitting back and waiting for others to find me. This is quite different than things have been in the past, when my main strategy was to build a fantastic resume that attracted people. It was my “chumming” strategy, where I put out “bait” in my resume that I knew would attract the headhunter “sharks”… who would then go out and find me work.

That was great for a long time, and it’s really my go-to strategy. But I’d now like to take a more active, pro-active role in my job searches, and go out and find companies I actually want to work for.

So, in preparation, I need to do the following:

  1. Create several different versions of my resume, each highlighting different aspects of my skills and experience.
  2. Scout around the areas I can reach by train. I really want to start taking the train, rather than being stuck in traffic, and I have access to two different commuter lines, which means, I have twice the potential area for good jobs. PLUS, one of the commuter lines ends up right in the middle of a regional innovation district, which — hello — is good news for me, since I need to be with innovators.
  3. Figure out how much I can ask for, salary-wise. I’ve always played it safe, because of my insecurity around my cognitive-behavioral issues. I also didn’t want to stress myself out terribly with heavy-duty negotiations over salary. And that’s worked. I haven’t had to walk away from any negotiations, and I haven’t flipped out from the stress of it. I’m in a much better, much more secure place, now, and I think I can handle that important piece of the puzzle now.
  4. Connect with recruiters.
  5. Connect with old colleagues who say they like their jobs, and see if there are opportunities there.
  6. Get my references in order. It’s only been about a year, since I last contact everyone, so, they’re still “warm”.
  7. Be smart about it. Don’t fall in love with how things look on the surface, because everybody’s hiding something, and no situation is 100% ideal. Even if it starts out that way, it won’t stay that way for long. So, don’t get all whoop-dee-doop over how perfect stuff is. Get ready for change.

It’s a lot to do… Fortunately, I have all of August and September to get my act together. If I break it down into manageable pieces and pace myself, I can do this. I can totally do this. I’ve never done it quite as thoroughly as this before, but I’m feeling pretty strong about my abilities, these days, so why not give it a whirl?

Why not, indeed?

Onward!

I had no idea how much those “bumps on the head” affected me

It feels like no one understands... and heck if you can describe it to them
It feels like no one understands… and heck if you can describe it to them

When I was a kid, I got clunked on the head. A lot. When you’re little, they call them “boo-boos”. Your mother kisses it and makes it better. Or your dad checks to make sure you’re still breathing, then hauls you back on your feet and tells you you’ll be fine.

That was back in the day. 1960s. 1970s. Falls. From heights. Bike accidents. Clumsiness. Playing at recess.

In the 1980s, it was organized sports. High school. Car accidents, too. Two of them within the space of 6 months, if I recall correctly.

It had an effect.

I’m sure of it.

Irritable. No good sense of where I was in the world, relative to other people, or relative to objects around me. Distractable. Easily confused. Angry. I got angry quickly. I was always playing catch-up, and nobody seemed to notice.

They all told me I was so smart… Why wasn’t I as smart as they thought I was? What was wrong with me? What was wrong with me?

I had no idea that any of the concussions had an actual effect on me. I knew I was dizzy and dumb and numb for minutes, hours, days after the biggest hits, but I had no idea that it could last. I had no idea that it did last.

Maybe that dumbness, that numbness blinded me to my own difficulties. I’m sure it must have, because coupled with that fog, was an energy… a furious drive to go-go-go that propelled me through life, like someone on a 6th century battlefield who gets hit in battle and has to keep going, keep fighting, keep running and charging and defending and thrusting and parrying, lest I end up dead like the rest of my comrades.

Like that. Only I wasn’t in any outward battle.

It was an inward battle.  And I was attacker and the attacked.

I never knew…

I never knew.

TBI-Friendly Grocery Shopping Chops

grocery store scene with shelves of produce
Shopping frequently saves me a lot of hassle

I grocery shop almost every day on my way home from work. I do this for several reasons.

  1. I hate to eat defrosted frozen food. I like meat — and vegetables — to be fresh when I cook them. I don’t own a microwave, and I hate dealing with frozen foods. They don’t taste as good, and they don’t seem as healthy as fresh food. We used to eat a lot of meals “out of cans and boxes” — cans of soup, ready-made meals we heated in the oven, frozen combinations we stirred up with cooked pasta. But since my spouse got ill back in 2007 and I started doing all the cooking, I just can’t bring myself to do that. I need real food. Fresh food. And I’m happy to shop every day to get that in the house.
  2. Shopping every day keeps my shopping lists short, so I don’t lose track of things and I don’t end up wheeling around a cart piled high with stuff in all sorts of directions, when I remember that I forgot to get something on the other side of the store. If I have a list of 10 things, I’m good. I can manage that. More than 10 items becomes a trial and a test, and by the time I get to the checkout lane, I’m in a terrible mood. It also makes it easier for me to go through checkout more smoothly, without a lot of anxious fumbling with the card reader and getting turned around about which way to leave the store.
  3. Buying fewer items lets me go through the self-checkout lane. Cashiers and baggers are helpful, but I’d rather do it myself, thank you. I don’t have to interact personally with a machine. I don’t have to exchange niceties and keep an eye on the bagger who was never taught that you put the heavy things at the bottom of the bag, not on top of the fragile/breakable things.
  4. It gives me extra time to chill out before I get home from work. It’s a stop off that lets me recalibrate and reset with strangers, before I interact with my spouse. And that’s helpful for both of us.
  5. It’s on the way home. Literally. It’s just off the highway, and there are actually three different choices of very different — and good — stores on the way. So, if I can’t find something I need at one, I can always go to another. Stopping off to shop also gets me out of the worst traffic at the worst time of day, so that’s a major plus, as well.
  6. It’s familiar in a way that reminds me of when I was younger. Years ago, I lived in Europe, and it was back in the day before there were a lot of preservatives in foods. I got in the habit of shopping daily, just like everyone else, and I really miss those days. Doing my grocery shopping every day, nowadays, makes me feel like I’m 20 years old again. And that’s a good thing.

So, shopping every day actually works well for me. It not only helps me handle my own personal “combination” of issues, but it also adds something positive to my life. It’s all about making the most of things, despite my shortcomings — even using them to my advantage.

It’s all good.

Onward…

Saturdays and Sundays should be reversed

lawnmower

I have a general complaint for the Western World – Saturdays and Sundays should be reversed. For those of us who “run hot” all week, Saturday is the last day of the week that we actually have resources to do everything as well as we would like to. Municipalities should have the town dump open on Sunday afternoons. Banks should be open then, too. Business should have hours on Sunday afternoons.

And they should all be closed on Saturdays.

Think about it… people only have so much energy, and if you push people to keep going top-speed through Saturday — to take the kids to their sports / dance competitions or various clubs… to run errands, do the week’s food shopping, go to the bank, get your hair cut (oh yeah, I did that yesterday, too), and generally tool around at near-top-speed… you’re going to encounter herds of people who are all in a pretty bad way, all forced to interact with each other.

And that’s no good.

It’s very bad, actually.

Of course, this structure all presumes that everyone can KEEP GOING on caffeine, adrenaline, fear, joy, and necessity.

But not everybody has energy left over in reserves.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t about to change for me, so I have to do my own adaptations. The biggest one I’ve come up with, is a Friday afternoon nap. I usually work from home on Fridays, so I get up and do my work, my thinking, my concentrating. Then I have some lunch, maybe go for a walk down the road and back, and then I lie down for a nap. I don’t set an alarm (unless I have that cruel, cruel bi-weekly Friday 2 p.m. conference call). I let myself just sleep.

Sometimes I sleep for half an hour. Sometimes I sleep for three hours. I’m exhausted, and there’s no way I can request a reduction in hours without compromising my position, especially now that the company is changing hands. Word has it that the new company is much more amenable to working from home as much as humanly possible, so I might even be able to do it more… but who knows?

Anyway, for now, I have that approach.

Another option I have is to take the trash to the dump earlier in the week, like Wednesday, when they’re open till 7. Or during the day on Friday, when I’m working from home, anyway. I could do that. But I’m usually pretty fried by the end of each day, and on Fridays, I’m also pretty wiped out, so it’s actually easier for me to do it on Saturday morning.

But yesterday was a real task … just so laborious and zombie-like… And now that I think about it, it might be worthwhile to shoot for Wednesday, before I’m completely wiped out. Or push myself on Friday, before I take my nap. The idea of having a Saturday free of having to deal with that chore, is quite pleasant. I’ll have to re-jigger my schedule and see what comes of it.

The other stuff I have to do, like get my hair cut (about once a month), I generally have to do on Saturdays, because that’s when I have the free time. The barber is in the opposite direction of my work, so it’s no longer on the way there, anymore. So, unless I go on Friday (which would take a chunk of several productive hours out of my good “thinking” workday), there’s no really smooth way to segue that into my week.

I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet with the haircuts, and stick with that. Or start shaving my head. Or get a buzz cut that will last me for months. Or let my hair just grow, and run around with a pony tail or a bun or some-such. Then again, I hate it when my hair gets long. It’s even more distracting, with the ends getting in my eyes and hanging on my neck. And then I have to comb it. My hair does what it should, when it’s short, so I keep it that way. And that works.

For chores like shopping, I grocery shop almost every day on my way home from work. I do this to keep my list small and also break up my day. It’s not bad — and it also keeps me from having a massive list that I lose track of. I also try to do other shopping on my way home from work — office supplies, greeting cards, hardware… If I take the long way through the town next to us, I can get a lot of things bought on my way home.

Another thing I usually don’t have to do on Saturdays is mow my lawn. I generally think I’m supposed to mow on Saturday, but it actually works better to do that during the week, after work, when it’s a little cooler. It only takes me half an hour to mow my front lawn, which is the one that matters, so I don’t have to feel obliged to do it on the weekends.

All in all, I think I have a pretty good system in place for many things I do. My system spares me from my weaknesses, and it makes the most of opportunities. And my Saturdays actually aren’t too crazy-busy, to tell the truth. I just don’t have much energy at all, for the things I need to do. And I feel like I’m walking around in a grouchy haze, which isn’t fun for me or anyone else.

I’d really just like to enjoy myself on the days I’m off work. If the rest of the world isn’t going to accommodate me with making Saturday into the day of rest, then I’ll arrange things, myself. One trick at a time, it can happen. One small improvement at a time.

Onward…

Good day. Thorough day.

moon shining on tree in field
And now it’s time to sleep

I had a pretty good day today. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a “rage issue” this morning, when my routine was disrupted and my spouse was hounding me for information. I was off my game and reacted poorly. Tailspin commenced.

But other than that, I’ve gotten a whole lot of stuff done that’s been needing taken care of.

Hauled the trash to the dump.

Emptied the dehumidifier.

Watered the flowers that have been withering in the heat.

Put the last air conditioner in the living room window.

Assembled the new shelves I bought my spouse a few weeks ago, and set them up in the corner where they’ll double as “stuff” and clothing storage.

Cleaned out the refrigerator and got rid of the science experiments blossoming in the containers.

Did some other cleanup.

Had a little nap.

Made a really delicious dinner.

Caught up with a friend who’s been wanting to connect. Had a good conversation for a couple of hours.

And now it’s time for bed.

A well-deserved rest.

Q3 Goals done – Yes! Bring it on.

hand holding pen, checking off lists on a checklist
Got that covered

I just got notified that my boss approved my Q3 goals. Woot!

That’s done. Now I can just live my life and do what I please, come what may.

I’ve been spending some time really digging into the “corners” of my past year at this job. Next week is my 1-year anniversary, so now’s a good time to do a retrospective and see what all I’ve accomplished… and figure out if that’s what I want to do with myself in the future.

I need to brush up on my resume this weekend, just to have it in good working order, in case I’m let go next week. And yes, I’m very nonchalant about it, because it’s a distinct possibility, and I have NO idea what’s going to become of me.

BUT I am confident of my ability to find another position. I’ve come to realize, through dealing with many other people, that I have skills and abilities that are assets to any organization. After years and years and years of not thinking I’m a “people person” — because I would lose track of conversations, get confused, not feel like I was keeping up, and I was a total blithering idiot — I now realize that I can hold an intelligent conversation with other people, if I just pace myself differently and interact with them more, in the course of our conversation.

I’ve also become a LOT less self-conscious, thanks to working with a neuropsych on a weekly basis. Just having someone there who’s intelligent and experienced and isn’t going to judge me for being weird — because they know what my limitations are, and they understand the nature of them — is a huge help. I practice conversing in those sessions. There are other benefits, of course, but it’s mostly the conversation practice that I need and benefit from.

So, I feel like I’m really well-positioned for whatever happens next at work. I suspect, if anything, they’ll keep me around but slot me into a different role, because the thing I do now has changed a lot, since I started, and it’s sidelined me and not made the best use of my abilities. Whatever. I’m happy to live a life of simulated productivity, just like everyone else. For all their talk about how “slammed” they are, they spend an awful lot of time on Facebook and watching videos😉

So, today is all about doing a retrospective on my last year, as well as working on the handful of things I’ve got going for a handful of people at work. It’s fine. It’s Friday. Everyone is working from home, pretty much. And so am I.

So am I.

Lighting a candle of my own, while the world seems to burn around me

hand holding lit match, lighting a small candle
We can’t do everything, but we can do some thing

I’m focusing on just being really kind to other people.

… Carving out my own little space of heaven on earth, where others can be treated with dignity and respect and offered what they need most – connection with a living, breathing person who sees their worth and humanity.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that a lot of people just want to connect, just want to talk, just want to be treated like a real human being.

And that’s what I’m going for these days.

In the supermarket… sharing a moment with someone trying to figure out which package of chicken to buy… in the elevator, just chatting with someone who wants to be acknowledged… at work, where everyone is worried and uncertain… at home, where my spouse wants to just hang out and spend some time together.

It takes time to connect with other people. It takes energy. And at the end of a long day, I don’t always have the strength to do as much as I would like, or to do it as well as I’d like.

I could have stopped a little longer to talk to the woman in the supermarket. I could have said something more intelligent to the veteran who was sharing the elevator ride to the 2nd floor. At work, I could go out of my way to be a little more friendly to people. At home, I could spend more time just hanging out with my spouse, talking about things we both care about.

I can think of many things I would like to do better. And each time I make the effort, I learn a little bit more.

I’m not perfect. But I can do something.

And so I shall.

Onward. Together.