Choosing progress

Whitetailed Deer 4 Point Buck Closeup
Pick where you’ll put your attention

For years, I have been compulsively productive. Ever since I was a kid, there was a vast amount of ideas and creativity… and, well, product flowing out of my mind. I was always up to something, I always had ideas “cooking” in the back of my head, and of all the people I knew, I was the one with the most original ideas — and the most determined of opinions.

I always thought that my ideas would turn into something more than just my ideas. I thought they might actually bring me some income. I thought that all the stories I wrote would catch the attention of the reading public and make a name for me.That never happened — mostly because I could never fully finish a lot of the works that I started, and also because the ones I did finish either didn’t make a very good impression or never got much promotion from me. I’m a creator, not a promoter. And I’m a person who enjoys my solitude. So no, a life of fame was not in my cards.

I’m not sure that fame and fortune was ever my top priority, though. Nor was publicizing the steady stream of creative works that flowed forth. The main thing for me was that I could figure out what I thought/believed… and why. I wanted to have my own mind, my own thoughts, my own outlook — not something handed to me by others. And while it never made me rich, it gave me a freedom of spirit and heart, that I haven’t often encountered in others.

It’s a lot of work, making up your own mind about things. You have to be willing to suspend a lot of your beliefs and prejudices, in order to let the truth of your situation come through. It’s also scary for some people, to admit that things are not certain, that they’re in constant flux, and ultimately, we’re both alone in the world — and never alone. It’s a scary place to be, in a world that is pretty scary, in itself.

For some reason, though, it never scared me. It was scarier for me to go along with the crowd. It felt like I wasn’t making good progress.

I need to get back to that sort of progress again. I need a break from all the social media chatter.

The past weeks have been altogether too loud for my liking. All the violence, all the threats, all the arguing, all the name-calling. It’s just too loud. And it’s a little embarrassing, hearing all my friends and relatives resort to over-simplified versions of what The Truth is. And then demanding that others agree with them… or else. And doing it on Facebook lets you say all sorts of things you’d never say to someone’s face. It lets people feel bold and outspoken, when they’re really nothing of the kind in person.

Lesson learned — it’s not worth getting pulled into debates online. Objectively, I have absolutely nothing to do with the Paris bombings. I have nothing to do with the San Bernardino shooting. I have nothing to do with gun control or troop deployments or religious convictions. And if it weren’t for the news, I wouldn’t know anything at all about any of those things — and more.

So… It’s time for me to just step away from all that loudness. The name-calling, the accusations, the culture wars.

No more checking the news to see what foolishness people are up to, today. I’m cutting back on my Facebook activity, and I am not getting into any more discussions with people about hot-button issues. There’s no point. It’s just a terrible distraction that saps my energy and leaves me with nothing left. And for what? Nothing changes from talking alone. Nothing is made better or worse by anyone getting upset and pitching a fit. It continues on with a life of its own.

I’m tired of the “emoting” scene — where people think that outpourings of prayers and good thoughts are actually making a difference. People seem to think that so long as they feel something, it matters. They care. They feel for people. They support them. They feel like they’re involved and invested. They post to social media and share and make their voices heard. But they don’t actually DO anything.

It’s become incredibly important for me to act. Do something. Don’t just talk. Take action.

And so I shall… Take care of myself. Get stronger than I am. Write to Congress. Treat people with respect and dignity. Get active. Do something constructive. Use my energy for something positive, not just running my mouth. I got some exercise this morning — and strained my hamstring a little bit in the process. Now I’m headed out for a walk to work out that soreness. I saw a little group of three deer, recently — a four-point buck, a two-point buck, and a doe. Maybe I’ll see them again today.

Because life goes on. We just have to choose what we’ll do with it.

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I miss the solitude under my rock

I’m fine here… Really, I’m fine.

God, what I wouldn’t give to just be away from people for a while. But I can’t. I have to be social. I have to talk to people. I have to deal with insurance people, and I have to talk to people about what happened to my spouse during their car accident. The worst part is giving them the details… and then having them tell me all about their car accident experiences.

It’s all very social. And it’s all so exhausting. Driving out to the hospital to get my spouse and their friend and get them to a motel and then get them home, cleaning out the car, and getting info from the tow yard lady, has not been the hard part. The hardest part has been the emotional upheaval afterwards, and my spouse fixating on how close they came to being killed. PTSD.

I’ve been in a number of motor vehicle accidents, myself (three of which gave me TBIs), and I hate thinking about them, because everything gets so jumbled up. It’s also over and done with, and trying to sort all the ideas out takes so much energy. I want to just let that all go and move on. Get back to my regular life. That should be happening in the next few weeks. But right now, everything feels hard and frustrating and confusing. I’m foggy and having trouble doing more than one thing at a time.

My big deadline yesterday actually worked out, pretty much, and even where I screwed up and complicated the process, people were super helpful helping me sort through it all. Nothing else really got done, other than that project. I had to focus on that — and only that. Keep watching. Keep emailing. Keep tracking. Keep following up… It was exhausting, and I slept for another 10 hours last night.

I miss the solitude under my rock. I miss not having to talk out loud to people. I just want to hole myself up and not put words together, not put ideas together, not express them, not make them clear to anyone. It’s just so difficult for me at times like these, when I am stressed, and I am in visual-nonverbal-mode.

Visual-nonverbal-mode is my mode when I am trying to get things done. I see pictures of what is happening, and I see how it’s all fitting together, and I’m moving forward, making that happen. I have a hard time paying attention to anything around me, other than what’s in front of me, and I don’t hear a lot of things that go on. I basically pretend… while my brain is processing images and getting ready to spring into action, instead of sitting around talking.

Less talk, more action, is what that mode is all about, and it’s how I’ve been for most of my life. I had trouble hearing, when I was a kid, and I am having trouble, these days. I also had trouble getting words to organize in ways that others understood. Plus, I didn’t know the proper sounds to use for some letters, so that didn’t help. It’s hard to explain, but when I am stressed, the verbal part of my brain shuts down, and since people are so damn’ eager to talk and talk and talk (it soothes them and connects them to others, thus reducing their anxiety), talking things through just makes things more stressful for me.

It’s like talk and action are mutually exclusive in my brain.

Which is why I favor solitude so much. Nobody is talking to me. I’m just taking action. I’m just doing what I need to do. I don’t have to explain things to people. I don’t have to get their feedback. I’m just doing it. I’m not sorting through my ideas to make them “accessible” to others. Oh, let me digress for a moment…

<rant> why the hell do other people feel entitled to have “access” to each others’ ideas, anyway? can’t we all just do and be what we are, without demanding “access” to each other and being slavishly social? wtf people?! </rant>

Okay…. anyway, being alone is such a tremendous relief for me, especially in times like this, when I have a lot to handle and a lot is on my shoulders. I haven’t been talking to a lot of people about the accident (I told 2 of my close coworkers yesterday), and I really don’t want to get into it, if we’re not exchanging some meaningful information that people can actually use — like dealing with insurance companies.

The other reason I don’t want to talk to others about the accident is that it really upsets me on so many levels, and I need to stay functional. I can’t afford to break down, and when I am this tired and this stressed, it’s easy for me to lose my sh*t. I can’t do that at work. I have to stay steady. I just barely missed getting cut from the roster, a few weeks back, and I need to handle my more demanding workload.

All the more reason to seek out solitude. I go to the cafeteria to work, so I don’t have to be around people and hear them talking. I also go there, so no one will come up and talk to me. I really just need to be by myself, and while that does piss people off, I can use food and an excuse to do it. We’re not supposed to eat at our desks, and I need more than just a piece of candy to keep me going. So, I take my instant oatmeal or little bag of chips, and camp out in the caf.

It works.

Anyway, I have to get going. I have another full day ahead of me, and I just need to get things done. I am working really hard at recovering and getting back on track, so I can continue my trajectory to the type of life that I can be happy with — making the most of all my talents, making the most of my situations, and getting to do things that I can’t do right now – like travel. I just have to make my hours at work, earn the money, do the work, and let everything fall as it will.

It will be fine. I just miss my solitude under my rock.

Working on foggy and dull

I’m a little low this morning. I got a full night’s sleep – almost 8 hours – but I haven’t been sleeping well for a number of days, so I have some catching up to do. I also have been kind of stressed at work, concerned about missing some dates — when it’s my job to keep everyone on track and make sure we don’t miss dates.

I have been feeling foggy and dull — not at all like myself — for some time, now. I can’t remember whether it’s been weeks or months. I think it’s actually been years. I feel so dense and dumb, sometimes… like I’m walking around in a daze. The only times I don’t really feel that way, are when I’m a little stressed over things — when the pressure is on, and I have to dig a little deeper inside to make things happen.

I realize I’ve been chasing that experience for as long as I can remember — at work, and in my personal life. My “best friends” were always folks who treated me badly, and I chose one job after another that would stress me out. In fact, the most stress the better.

Now it’s all catching up to me — I’m in a job that has a lot less environmental stress, the commute is shorter, the team is stronger, and the company culture is words better. And I’m having difficulty adjusting to the good circumstances. I’m feeling dull and blah and bland. Like there’s not much excitement going on at all.

Here’s the thing, though — I could create my own excitement and “get the juices flowing” on my own, by stepping up and pushing forward just a little bit harder. I could apply myself more, step it up just a bit, and thereby give myself the pump I need. Only this time it would be in positive conditions, which I am setting — instead of chasing something or playing catch-up.

It would appear that’s the key — to be the driver behind the action, rather than the reactor. I have been working in reactive situations for so long — where management tells people not to think, but to react — that I’ve gotten acclimated to that way of doing things although I never wanted to in the first place.

Funny how that goes.

Anyway, now I can work on that, and get ahead of things a bit. I have an old bad habit of not taking action and just reacting to things happening around me, and I have to change that. It’s a lifelong tendency, which needs to go away. I can do this.

But I need sleep to do it. I need to be rested. I need full nights of sleep, and I need to work at relaxing again, like I used to do.

I could really use some relaxation down-time around 2:30 p.m. each day, to get myself geared up for the late afternoon, which is go-time for me. It’s the time when I’m most productive, when I’m most clear, when I can focus most fully. The rest of the day is a wash for me. Not until around 2:30-3:00, do I start to really come to life. Then I’ve got about 4 hours of goodness, before I start to wane again.

Getting used to this job is a lot about getting used to a new routine and a new cadence. Part of that new cadence is being able to sleep, and not being ON, 24 hours a day. That’s going to take some recovery time — and more than 6 weeks, that’s for sure. It’s probably been a good 15 years, since I could relax and settle into my job. The TBI in 2004 didn’t help anything, but the years immediately prior to that were pretty much of a test, too.

So, here my life is, in really good shape, and I need to restructure my life so that I can be in really good shape, too — and keep my life this way. Things are pretty simple and straightforward at work. Keep people on schedule. Deliver things on time. Communicate news — both good and bad — as honestly and clearly as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask for support from management, because they can — and will — help.

So, I got a full night’s sleep, and it’s time to get ready for work. I’ve got some good blocks of time today through Friday, when I can really kick it. So, I shall.

And get some good rest, in the process.

Onward.

The magical learning loop

Look – learn – act – look – and learn again

Speaking of re-adjusting and recalibrating, I had an epiphany in the grocery store the other evening, when I was picking up supper after a long day of yard work. I was dog-tired from working, I was a bit banged-up from moving and lifting and hauling, but I felt great. As I was walking through the store, I was getting sort of confused, not being sure where I was or where I was going. No biggie. It happens. I get disoriented for a few seconds — usually because I’m overwhelmed with the bright lights and the activity around me and fatigue — so I stop what I’m doing, I take a few breaths, I look at my list, and I continue on. This happened several times, and after the 2nd or 3rd time, I realized that it really wasn’t bothering me. I was so friggin’ tired (I worked my ass off on Saturday and never got the nap I needed), and I was out of it and spaced out and disoriented and feeling like a zonked out zombie. But it didn’t bother me. I just dealt with it.

This is a huge change from how things used to be — I used to get so worked up and bent out of shape about this kind of stuff. I would get anxious and nervous, my heart would start to pound, my head would start to race, and I’d have all these crazy thoughts running wild in my brain. It would practically incapacitate me, and it just freaked me out. And in the process, things would get even worse than they already were. And I’d be even more disoriented, confused, and forgetful.

But yesterday it didn’t. It just sort of was what it was… I knew I was tired — and for a very good reason. I knew that when I get tired I get forgetful and spaced out. I also noticed that there were a lot of people around me who were in really crappy shape — the father who couldn’t keep his kids in line without yelling at them… the guy who was all over the produce section with his cart… the ladies who were so engrossed in the displays that they blocked the aisle with their carts and wouldn’t let anyone pass… everybody was sort of at their wits’ end — probably for the same reason I was — we’d all been working our asses off for the past two days, maybe longer.

At the same time, the folks who worked in the store were very cool. They greeted me like they knew me, even though I didn’t recognize them. Maybe I should have recognized them – I don’t know. All I know is that they were very pleasant and personable, and it’s always nice to have someone greet you and treat you like a decent human being.

I also noticed that I was really relaxed. I mean, really relaxed. I was tired, yes. I was out of my head, yes. But I was relaxed and chilled out and putting out a vibe of real confidence and calm. I was dropping stuff left and right, bumping into things, forgetting things, not knowing where I was or what I was doing, here and there. But it wasn’t bothering me. I just kept going. I just kept on keeping on.

And it worked.

Not only did I pick up all the supper items on my list, but I also remembered a bunch of other things we needed, and I came home with two full bags of groceries that we needed for the coming week. Score.

And then I went out and seeded my lawn — at least, that’s what I thought I was doing… until I realized that I’d bought fertilizer earlier that day, not seed. And I was going to miss the opportunity to seed my messed up lawn before the rain comes later this week. That really threw me for a loop – I had it carefully planned, how I’d rake up all the dead grass, then seed, and water, and then I would be done for a few days.

Except that I didn’t buy grass seed.

After getting a little tweaked over it, I let that go and just decided to fertilize my lawn instead. God knows, it needs it. So, I got out my spreader, gave my lawn a nice dose of fertilizer, and watered afterwards. It wasn’t a total waste, and in fact, it’s probably an even better idea than seeding right off the bat. I just picked up seed the next day, when I was less tired and could read and comprehend the labels on the bags — which was giving me a LOT of trouble at the hardware store the day I bought the fertilizer — I could hardly comprehend anything I was reading, and the words weren’t making any sense to me. But I got in and out without too much drama.

Anyway, this is something new for me — not only taking steps to avoid issues, but learning how to gracefully handle the times when issues are in my face and unavoidable. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pretty focused on keeping bad things from happening. A huge amount of anxiety has followed me everywhere in life because of that. But now I’m getting the hang of not having the screw-ups really screw me up — just learning my lesson, dealing with what comes up, and getting on with the next thing.

Just keeping moving. Learning. Living. Using what I learn in that “learning loop” and taking things to the next step without missing a beat. Paying attention to the feedback that comes from the world around me and finding the pieces that will help me get to the next level — or just to the next step.

And trusting that I will be able to apply what I’ve learned in a way that makes things better the next time.