I had a busy weekend, doing a lot of work around the house while my spouse was out of town. Lots of lifting and moving and hammering and drilling and lugging things around. And in the end, I’ve finished some of the biggest items on my to-do list — which were also the ones that I couldn’t seem to do for months and months.
And it’s all good.
I’m really foggy today. I was really foggy yesterday. I’ve been feeling really “draggy” and dull, lately, and it’s not fun. But I keep to my schedule and I keep doing the right thing(s) for myself, and it all seems to work out okay. I haven’t been getting to bed at a decent hour, lately, so that’s probably a determining factor.
But at least I’m functional on average. And I can rally to get a bunch of stuff done when the opportunity arises.
Now it’s quiet. The sun is shining, and the kids have all gone to school. Time to get ready for work and see what the day has to offer.
This week, my goal is to get myself back on track with my sleeping. I see the neuro one last time this week, to see about possible neuropathy in my feet and legs. I’m guessing there’s none, but I’m going to follow through with it. Then I will probably just drop the whole neuro thing and look into having my ears checked.
I had a good morning, reading and tweeting, and I made my list of Things That Must Be Done. It was a long list, taking up the full back of an old business-size envelope, but each of the items needed be done.
Cleaning. Organizing. Taking out the trash and recycling. Weatherizing the house. My spouse can’t do much of this, because of their mobility issues, so it mostly falls to me. If I don’t do it, it just doesn’t get done. Now, I haven’t had the energy or the inclination to do these things for quite some time. I’ve had a hard time A) organizing my thoughts, and B) getting started on extended projects. And while it hasn’t been horrible, and we don’t live in squalor, still… these things all needed to be done.
So, list in hand, I got myself in gear about noontime, and by 5:00, I had accomplished the most pressing items… and also started cooking a fantastic meal… and gotten a number of additional things done, as well.
Banner day. And at the end of it all, it felt so good to look around the house and see the fruits of my labors.
My spouse is delighted. Some of the rooms look completely different, and others just feel different. It’s a fantastic feeling.
Today is a continuation — but a lot more low-key. The jobs I have today are more “thematically grouped”, being about the same sort of stuff. I’m about to get started on the rest of the list, and it feels good.
I had a pretty good weekend — no, I had a pretty phenomenal weekend. I had an exquisite balance between body, mind, heart, and spirit, that I haven’t felt in some time, and I actually felt like myself.
It’s been a long time, since I truly felt like myself. I was reading and studying again, doing some journaling. I did chores around the house and cleaned up outside. And I was out in the woods a whole lot, with naps in between.
I didn’t “accomplish” some of the goals I set out to do, but you know what? I don’t care. I feel really solid, and that matters more than any external goals I set for myself. On Fridays, my weekend goals seem so terribly important. But by Sunday morning, I’ve “rearranged the furniture of my interior life” and a whole new set of priorities come out, which are a lot more life-giving than the ones I identified on Friday last.
It has taken me a long, long time to get to this place. I have been “in the woods” in a not-so-good way for many years, and at last I’m at a really stable place, where I’m not all over the map for no good reason.
Now, in some ways, I still feel strange to myself. But that strangeness has actually become an integrated part of my life now. See, the thing is, I don’t just see myself as a person whose character is set in stone — and that’s it. I see myself now as more of a person whose character is constantly developing along certain lines that are “me” — it’s not the particular details of how I’m feeling and what I’m doing, that make “me” the person I am. It’s actually the process I go through to get where I’m going, that makes “me” the person I am.
For example, I am usually in pain of some kind or another. Either I have a pulled muscle or I have a headache or a backache or joint pain. I literally can’t remember the last time I did not have some kind of pain — and this goes back to my childhood, when I had a very rough-and-tumble kind of life and I was usually getting scuffed up or knocked around by someone or something or other. I was extremely sensitive as a kid, and a lot of times, if someone touched my arm or my back, it felt like I was being hit. It stung like fire ants or burned like fire or it felt like someone had me in a vice and was twisting. Being young, I couldn’t really explain it. That’s just how it was.
And when I was younger, because of that, I felt like I was always being punished. Because when you were really bad, you got hit or paddled or yanked around by an adult. And that hurt. But I wasn’t being constantly punished — I was just having that kind of experience without any connection with reality. My body didn’t realize it, and my mind couldn’t process that.
So, I’ve had this complex — pretty much my entire life — about being a bad person who needed to be punished.
Well, now that I know more about my situation, that’s not burdening me anymore. I know that my sensitivities are connected with how much tension I’m feeling — when I’m tired or stressed or upset — and they’re not about me being a bad person who should be punished. Pain is happening because I’m doing good things — not bad things. Pain is a sign that I am genuinely trying to do better and be better.
It’s like after a hard workout. Your body is absolutely wracked for days on end, while it recovers and gets used to the “new you”. It’s not a bad thing — it’s a by-product of a good thing, and it will totally be worth it in the long run.
So, I have a completely different view of my pain, these days. And I have a very different attitude towards my experience. Thinking of my pain as the result of me pushing harder to be better, makes the pain about me being driven to be better. That’s a far cry from the old way of thinking and feeling — which was all about me being bad and deserving to be punished.
It’s kind of a “no pain no gain” mentality — “pain is weakness leaving the body” and all that.
So, while I don’t feel physically peachy-keen, most of the time, which at times makes me feel really terrible about being in my own skin, the way I think about feeling crappy has actually restored some of my sense of self. Rather than the pain meaning that I’m deficient, it means that I’m genuinely trying to do better, that I’m motivated and really trying. Waking up today with a headache and fatigue means that yesterday I wanted to be better, and I did something about it.
It’s not about me being in an ideal state at any given point in time. It’s about me being in the middle of a process of improvement that is taking me towards a variety of ideals which I can experience at different points in time. Life isn’t always going to be perfect. Where would be the challenge in that? In fact, it seems to me that the more “yourself” you are, the most challenges you’re going to face, because life likes to keep us guessing — and so do we. I have seen so many people unconsciously create situations that get them in trouble, and I’ve seen so many “good” people dragged into complicated messes, that after close to 50 years of wondering “WHY?!” it’s all I can figure.
Being a good person doesn’t mean I’m going to have all good things happen in my life. It means I’m going to have plenty of opportunities to create more good in the lives of myself and everyone around me, no matter what the circumstances.
And that goes for TBI. Lemme tell you, it has been one tough motherf*cker, getting through this, and in a lot of ways, I feel like the “old me” is gone for good. But the “new me” — or maybe the “real me” that I never recognized before — is not so much about being a certain way in certain circumstances, thinking certain thoughts and having certain feelings about things. Maybe the “real me” is actually a dynamic personality who is constantly learning, constantly changing, constantly leaving the old behind.
I think that once upon a time, I knew this. I cleaned out my study, over the weekend and found some old journals from 20+ years ago. Back when I was still wet behind the ears, I had this amazing capacity for fluid adjustment. I think because everything around me was changing all the time, and the multiple TBIs messed with my head so much, I realized that it was pointless for me to try to hang onto anything for long. But then I “grew up” and got all adult-like and what-not, and for some reason, I had it in my head that “I” was a certain way, and that “I” wasn’t going to change.
It got worse after my 2004 injury — my thinking just got so rigid and fixed and brittle. And now that I think about it, that “self” that I felt I had lost… that “self” may have never even existed, because my thinking was so one-dimensional and fixed. I had this vision of myself in my head that was distorted and confused, and for some reason, I thought that was “me”.
It was like going into a funhouse and looking at all the mirrors, and then deciding that one image of myself I saw was THE REAL ME, and I invested all kinds of energy in hanging onto that distorted image of myself. Even though it was as far from “me” as you can get.
So, this weekend, it was all about the process. All about loosening up, all about cleaning out dusty spaces and getting things in order. My study is still in some disarray, but that will change. Gradually, I’ll work my way through — one shelf at a time. And by this time next year, there’s no reason to think that it won’t be in decent shape.
So, that’s the result of my great weekend. It felt so good to just let go of the Friday-fatigue-flavored expectations of last week and just let things flow. Letting things flow didn’t get me “off course” – if anything, it let me get some rest and more inspiration for the coming week. Now I’m coming back to my work week with a renewed energy and a better understanding — the machine of my life is just that: a machine. But it’s the ghost that does all the driving.
Each day is a new discovery. That much has become abundantly clear to me, over the past years. I think I’ve always had that orientation, really, from when I was a kid. I was inquisitive, no doubt, and I had an insatiable curiosity to find out “what happens if –” I had plenty of opportunity to find out the answer to that “what if”. And not all the answers were fun and games. But at least I kept at it.
I had another “discovery evening” last night, after dinner. I was helping a friend get some web stuff together, and they were starting to get anxious and pushy. I seem to have a lot of friends who get anxious and pushy… Anyway, tempers were starting to escalate, and I was getting pissed off. I was trying to help them, and they kept arguing with me and changing what they wanted to do. Exasperating.
So, I told a joke. And they laughed. And the whole mood changed. The whole experience turned from being a hurdle, into being an interesting discovery that we could figure out together. And we ended up having fun with it. Of course, it would have been nice if we’d done this earlier than 10:00 at night — it woke me up, and I didn’t get to sleep till midnight, and then I woke up at 5:15 today. Bummer. Oh, well. At least we managed to get that web thing done, and with any luck, it’s going to help them make some money and be more independent.
Humor is becoming more and more key for me, these days — or rather, figuring out how to find humor is becoming more key. I used to be a real card — a cut-up, a joker, a fun-n-games type of person who was always good for a laugh. All growing up, I could always make the people around me laugh and smile and feel better. It was one of the things that made me so great to work with. People really enjoyed working with me, because I was a lot of fun, and I could turn any tense situation into a much easier one.
Then I fell in 2004, and all of a sudden, nothing was funny anymore.
I think of all the things TBI has cost me, my sense of humor has cost me most dearly. It’s really messed with my quality of life, and my ability to function in the world. You wouldn’t think that a sense of humor would be that critical, but in trying times — as they so often are for me — being able to laugh at myself and my situation has carried me through some very tough spots. And it’s helped others as well. In fact, my sense of humor is one of the things that attracted my spouse to me in the first place.
Not being able to lighten up has made things much more difficult in my work, my relationships, my marriage, and life in general. I used to be able to lighten up “on demand”, but over the past years, it’s been incredibly difficult to do that. In fact, if anything, I’ve gone in the opposite direction — spiraling down, down, down, on an instant’s notice. That’s been very hard on everyone around me. And watching them struggle with me has felt terrible. I should be able to do better. But that “better” escaped me for years.
Fortunately, that’s changed somewhat over the past while — I’m not sure if it’s been a year or months. I lose track of time. But regardless, I’ve been able to find humor in places that tend to trouble me. When I can find the humor, I can get some perspective — and my brain gets the additional oxygen it needs. And everyone gets a much-needed break from all the intensity.
Thinking about the dynamics between my spouse and me, they were always the one who was heavy and intense and deeply feeling, and I was the bright light that danced around in the sky, getting our minds off all those troubles, and hoping for a better day. I really was able to balance my spouse’s mental challenges and physical illness with good humor and courage, for many, many years. And my humor gave me tons of energy and optimism. Between the two of us, we could get a ton of things done. When the humor left me around 2004-2005, we lost an important part of our relationship and our dynamic.
And everything got that much harder, that much more mired in the muck of life.
But now I can see myself coming out of that dark space. I hear myself making jokes again. And I find myself laughing spontaneously, for a change. Facebook and YouTube help, actually, with their steady stream of videos and pictures highlighting the follies of humanity. My laughter is lighter, now, and less bitter. Because I’m getting out of the weeds, and I’m figuring out how to not get mired in one detail after another.
You know, it’s funny — I’ve been thinking, lately, about how lax I’ve become with a lot of things. I used to be so diligent, so conscientious, so focused on results. Now, I’m more interested in enjoying myself in what I’m doing. But has that cost me, in terms of doing what I say I’m going to? No. Actually, it helps me. Before my fall, things were much more proportional in my mind — I could keep things in perspective, and not get hung up on all sorts of stupid little details. TBI really screwed with that — and I became obsessed over sh*t that didn’t matter, sweating every little thing that was of no consequence. The more I obsessed, the more I sweated, the more obsessed I became — over a lot of nothing.
Now, I’ve figured out how to let a lot of that go, and just focus in on enjoying what I’m doing, without really sweating all the little details. A lot of the things that used to drive me — doing exactly the right thing in the most perfect way possible — oh hell, I don’t care about that anymore. It makes me crazy — and for what? The job I do isn’t going to save my soul, and it’s not the ticket to a gloriously happy life. It’s a job that pays the bills. It’s fairly interesting, but it’s not all that — like it used to be.
Ironically, I’ve found that when I let a lot of my obsessing go, I can actually focus in on what I’m doing, and do a better job of it. I can clear out the cobwebs with a good laugh, and buckle down to make some progress. Having this balance is a new thing. And it’s a good thing. It feels odd, to not be over-the-top obsessed with being #1 at every single thing I do, but I can live with that odd feeling.
As long as I’m enjoying myself and not driving myself crazy… as long as I’m making progress and moving things along… it’s all good.
Until somebody tells me it’s not. Then I have to refocus… but that’s another topic for another day. For today, it’s all good.
So, this is interesting. I had two full days to get a lot done, but that backfired on me. I got almost nothing done that I intended to, including a couple of Very Important Tasks that I need to have completed by next weekend, which will set the stage for how things turn out in the coming months. I had planned to spend a lot of time on them over the weekend, and really dig in. I was really looking forward to it, too. But as it turned out, I ended up spending most of Saturday doing errands for the house and sleeping… and I spent most of the day yesterday helping my spouse get ready for their upcoming business trip, as well as going to see a double-feature movie with some friends last night.
It’s good that I took time for myself, got some rest, and saw friends. I don’t do enough of that, as it is. But the things I needed to do, were things I really needed to do, and they didn’t happen. That’s not good.
A combination of things got me in trouble.
First, looking back, I was way too optimistic about how much time I would have over the weekend. Seriously, I needed to rest. A lot. I push myself so hard during my weeks, it’s quite unrealistic of me to think I’ll keep up that pace during the weekend.
Second, I gave myself way too much time to do the different things I was planning. I tend to think that having a long stretch of uninterrupted time is going to help me focus in and get the job done. But in fact, having a big block of time overwhelms me, and then I end up doing a million other things — big and small — because I think, “I have enough time to do the important things later. I just need to warm myself up.” The thing about “warming myself up” is that I tend to wear myself out, in the process.
Third, I had too long a list of things to do. And the things on the list were too big, to begin with. I didn’t just pick a few pieces of those critical things I needed to get done and focus on them. I put the whole honkin’ beasts on the list. It was like being a near-sighted rock climber who’s looking at a massive wall of rock with no visible foot- or hand-holds. There was no way I was going anywhere.
Fourth, I am incredibly nervous about this next stage of my projects, and I just got freaked out… and ran away.
Fifth, I isolated. I didn’t communicate with anyone on my project(s). I just kind of disappeared. I just couldn’t deal, so I didn’t.
Looking back, I’m very disappointed with myself. I did some healthy things right this weekend — and to be honest I really felt great. But I also floundered around a bit, and I’m coming out of the whole experience feeling like I’ve failed. Fact of the matter is, I did get good rest over the weekend, and I did take good care of myself in a non-work way. But I didn’t live up to my promise(s) to myself, and that really bothers me.
The problem wasn’t what happened – it was what I expected to happen. It’s what I promised myself — that I could not deliver. I bit off too much, and then just spit it all out and (metaphorically) went fishing. What else could I do? I had set myself up to fail, even before I began.
I think that rather than setting myself up for failure, one weekend after another, I need to have a better plan. I need my Saturdays and Sundays to catch up with myself and my home and my marriage — I need my weekends OFF. That way, I can rest and rejuvenate and get myself back to where I want to be on Monday. There are ample hours in the week to take care of the things I need to do — and the one project-related thing I did right over the weekend, was to reschedule some of my work for the next three days, when I’m flying solo and I have the house to myself and am not distracted by domestic demands.
I also need to be more realistic about what I’ll wantto do on my weekends. Yes, I can tell myself I’m going to do this or that, but when push comes to shove, my heart often isn’t in it. By Fridays, I am pretty wiped out, to tell the truth, and my reasoning abilities are starting to lag behind how I am on Mondays. I have a bad habit of loading up on all kinds of planning on Thursdays and Fridays, which blocks out my weekend and fills it up with “must-do’s” as though I have no life at all. It’s a pattern that I need to get out of. And now that I’m aware of it, I can do just that.
So, what’s next?
List out the critical things I need to do this coming week, break them down into little pieces, and then take them just One At A Time.
If I find myself going beyond my allotted time, I need to stop myself and take a break. I instinctively push myself time and again, because I am getting tired and I don’t realize it. The break that I take can be rest, or it can be doing something else. But I need to break the momentum.
I also need to be easy on myself and realize the good that I did for myself this weekend. Life happens. I needed to sleep, and also to be social. I need a well-rounded life, not a constant grind. And that’s what I had this weekend. Not bad, really. Not bad at all.
Last — and not least — I need to get out of my head and just get on with things. Too much time on my hands opens my mind to all sorts of distractions, and when I get thinking about things too much, then I end up stuck in my head, which is never good.
And now the week is waiting, along with everything I’m setting out to do.