For June: Do one positive thing a day for myself and my dreams

road leading into the distance with a flat horizon
Just keep steady, in a good way

Let’s just face it.

I’m stalled.

I’ve been stalled for months, even years. Even longer than that, actually. No matter how I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to break free of the rut I feel like I’m in. It’s just felt like one problem after another that I’ve handled… that is to say, other people’s problems. And in the process, I solve my own.

I get paid to solve other people’s problems. I get paid pretty well, too, so that solves a lot of problems in my life. I need money to survive. I need a certain amount of status and security to stay healthy and not die. I know people who treat money like an optional thing. They don’t want to get entangled in it. They have more important things to worry about.

And I’m happy for them. I really am. If they can make it — or survive the stresses of not having enough — that’s a quality I admire. But I can’t do it. The stress throws me off too much. It disrupts my sleep, and when that happens, I can’t function. Even worse, my behavior takes a nose-dive and I lash out. Yelling. Slamming things around. It’s not good, for me or the other people around me. I’m stronger than people realize, and I can do some damage, if I let it all loose.

So, I need to keep things well managed, in a steady state of balance. That means getting enough sleep. And that means not getting so stressed out that it starts to wreck my life.

I keep myself in a pretty regular routine. And it works for me. I manage to get enough sleep, most of the time. I eat regularly, exercise regularly, take care of my responsibilities, hold down a job.

But I’m in a rut.

So, I need to get myself out of it. I need to take action on my own behalf, to at least create the impression that I’m taking care of myself. I’m so busy taking care of everyone else, I get lost in the shuffle of my own life. And that needs to change.

So, I’ll do one positive thing a day for myself. Something that brings me happiness, not just maintains my steady state. And I need to prioritize it over everything else. Yes, I may need to do other things, first thing in the morning, to get myself going — exercise, eat breakfast, take care of my spouse — but then I need to just take a little time on something that contributes to me. And my future.

There’s a lot of stuff I can do for myself. I have a bunch of books I’d love to read. I’ve been wanting to read them for a while, and I will surely get around to them. And there are other undertakings — writing, designing, artwork — that I want to get back into. My legendary (in my own mind, anyway) projects take on a life of their own, and they bring me a lot of happiness. But I’m stalled between a number of choices. Each of them has benefits. Each of them has downsides. I might be able to do any of them and be happy about it. But I have to pick one. And move on. Get going with just one, so I can get out of my rut… make some progress.

So, that being said, I’m picking one project and doing something positive about it, each day in June. I may not blog about it, every single day, but I will have that focus. I’ve made the commitment to myself, and now I’ll carry through.

The main thing is to have a deliberate focus in my life. My job is… fine. But it’s not how I want to spend all my free time. My marriage is on good footing, although it seems to be getting more challenging each week. My health is pretty good (though I could stand to lose 15 pounds). Overall, my life is… fine. But I need a specific focus on something that is mine and mine only, so I don’t feel like I’m just evaporating into the mist of everyone else’s dreams and ambitions.

I can do that. I will do that. I am doing it.

Onward.

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Break it down, and get it right

I’ve noticed a very different way of doing things, now, than I used to follow before.

In the past, I wanted (needed) long stretches of time to think things through, figure them out, and then gradually move through them.

Now, though, I work better when I break things down into smaller steps, focus fully on them, and then let them go after a little while.

I never realized, before, that spending too much time on what I was doing, was holding me back.

But it was. I would get tired. Then I’d get scattered. And I would get distracted to the point where I would lose focus on what I was doing, wander off and do something else, then wonder why I could never get anything done.

I know now why that is/was. I get tired.

So instead of trying to do everything all at once, I break things down into smaller steps and do them one at a time. And I don’t try to do everything all at once. If I plan properly, I can come back and pick up where I left off, and all is well.

All really is well. This is a huge improvement for me. I get more done, and I don’t exhaust myself in the process.

Onward.

Yeah… and so it starts again

drift-boat-in-rapids
How my life feels, right about now

I’m going to restrain myself and NOT refer to the people managing the company where I work as “Lying sacks of sh*t”. Let’s just say, things have apparently changed, since they last told us that the rounds of layoffs were over, a few months back.

They’re not over. Not even close. And they will continue to happen, because the deal that’s supposed to be so sweet, is becoming a bit sour.

I just heard that there are supposed to be more layoffs in another 4 weeks or so. Wonderful. That will give me time to spruce up my resume.

Please, please, please, may I get a decent package and be released into the wild. I know I’m supposed to be careful what I ask for, but the way I figure it, I am eminently replaceable. The company that’s buying mine already has people working with the technology I work with, and they look to be 20 years younger, which means they are cheaper — and easier to let go, at some point. Now’s the time when they can let me go and not get dinged for it.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe.

Who knows? All I know is, my patience has run thin, and I really don’t feel like doing anything for anyone, anymore. The whole thing about trading my time and talents for a paycheck just seems like a bad joke. I’ve given enough. I’ve contributed enough blood to the cause.

It’s a strange feeling. I feel as though I’m in a motorboat, crossing a swift river. And my motor has died. I’m trying to get it started again, pulling and pulling on the starter cord, but I can’t seem to get my motor to start. And the river just keeps flowing.

I really feel like jumping overboard and swimming for shore… and getting off the river. I feel as though that’s what the whole corporate scene is like — going on a boat ride down a river. You can’t control the river, you can try to maneuver around rocks and through rapids, and you can alter your speed, but as long as you’re in the river, you’re never getting to the other side. Even the people running the show aren’t getting to the other side. They’re swept along, the same as the rest of us.

So, I think I need a different river. Or a smaller one. Once again, I remember why I always prefer to do contract work. People who run things at “stable” companies often seem to have different priorities than keeping the business running smoothly – especially when they’re huge. I’ve been working at top-10 multinational corporations for most of the past 30 years, and it’s always the same.

On it goes. I work with a bunch of people who have been through this a bunch of times. I’m not sure how they do it. Living with a sword of Damocles always hanging over your head… not fun.

So, it’s time to take action. Decide where I want to go, and what I want to do, and just do it. I actually have a project I was working on about a year ago, that sputtered out. But I really think it needs to be revived again. I have a handful of projects — all organized around a central theme — that I think could be good and useful for other people.  And I could also do some public speaking about it, as well. It could be an additional way for me to make some money, and it might even expand into something bigger. Now than I think about it, I actually have a number of things I can bring together… and actually build a business out of it. Heck, I have the start of an eBook that actually has a lot of really great content in it. I can use that as a starting point, and work from there. I know there are some places in the area that can use this — and I might be able to branch out, as well.

It’s funny — I had actually started to build out this business, in the few months before I got approached by my current employer, and it looked like I was going to be able to knock it out of the park. But when I got this new job, I put everything on hold, because I wanted to focus on this job. Now things are changing again, and it’s actually the perfect time to revive that business idea. Not only does it give me a good way to “channel” my anxious energy, but it also gives me something to work towards.

The more I think about it, the better this sounds. It really, really does. And I had forgotten how much work I had put into this, in the months before I started this new job. It’s pretty amazing, really — and once again, my “blinkered” perception rears its head. I get so hyperfocused on what’s in front of me, that I lose sight of the larger picture — and things that occurred in times that I’ve forgotten about. It’s a good thing I store everything on my hard drive — and on an external one, as well — and online in my web storage space. Otherwise, I’d just forget all about things.

Yeah. That’s it. I need something that’s actually mine, that I can call my own. And this is it. Other people have kids… or pets… or some cause they rally around, that brings meaning and purpose to their lives. I have no kids, I have no pets (not since the last cat died, 4 years ago), and my causes are personal and private — not the kinds of things I bring out into my outward life.

I just need to get creative and pick the direction I want to go — then go there.

I’ve already picked it. Now it’s time to go.

Onward.

Awesome. Just awesome.

nature-beautyOh, thank GOD. They finally scheduled an announcement about what’s to become of me/us at work. Tomorrow’s the day we have our team meeting – ostensibly to get the news about whether we are going to keep our jobs and/or if our duties will be changing in any way for the foreseeable future.

They’re having the meeting at 4 p.m. on a Thursday, so it might be “bad” news — it could be they want to tell us at the end of the day, so we can all go home and have a good meltdown. And since it’s being announced on a Thursday, people can take Friday off. Or spend  Friday clearing out their desks. Or pretend to work from home.

OR… they’re waiting till the end of the day, so that the people who are spared don’t have to spend the day surrounded by those who are getting pink slips.  And seeing as most people work from home on Fridays, anyway, it should be even more quiet than usual.

I got off to an early start today — I had an ungodly-early meeting at 8:00, which meant I left the house early  — but it wasn’t so horrible Voila! I missed all that terrible traffic in the meantime. And now I’m home early — it’s not even 6:00 yet, and I’ve had time to grocery shop and get a little exercise in. I’m going to start doing this regularly — get an early start, so I can beat the traffic in the morning, leave the office before dark, get home at a decent hour, and then just relax. All those late evenings at the office got pretty old, pretty quick.

And the fact of having the rest of the evening to myself is absolutely magical.

It gives me time to myself.  To prepare mentally for the day tomorrow… And focus on the things that I want to do for myself and my own work, despite what everyone else is up to.

Ironically, I won’t be in the office tomorrow for the team meeting. My spouse and I have dentist appointments in the afternoon, and I need to act as chauffeur, because my spouse doesn’t drive well in the little city we’re going to. I don’t mind at all. It gets me out. And it gives me the chance to spend some time with my spouse that I normally don’t have. We’re going to make an evening of it, doing some Christmas shopping and having a nice dinner — steak!

It’s our favorite “date” trip — going into town, running errands, having a steak dinner, and then heading home after all the traffic has cleared. If I still have a job tomorrow, I’ll celebrate quietly and not say a word about it. If I’m losing my job, I’m not sure what I’ll say — probably keep quiet about it, so we have some much-needed quiet time to ourselves.

I don’t want to ruin a perfectly nice evening. Not over a job.

Anyway, right now I have a whole evening to myself, and it’s really, really good. And it’s  actually much better than my usual schedule of getting up early and writing and reading, then going into the office later and staying later. I’m more awake after4 p.m., versus 9 a.m., so I might as well do my writing when I’m actually with it. I am not a morning person — never have been, but was forced to become one,because of work — and I’m tired of having early morning be the only time I can get to myself.

Time to change that around and take back my afternoons, when the creativity is running high… and I have no more work-work to absorb my attention.

Whatever happens at the end of the day tomorrow, it’s fine. I really don’t care. Whatever happens, I will handle it, and it will be awesome. In fact, my future will very likely work out better for me than where I am now. I’ll see to that.

And if I had the holidays off, that wouldn’t bother me one bit. Heck, I know a number of people who would love to hire me back, if they can. Maybe I’ll pick up a few days’ work, here and there. Whatever. It’s all speculation, anyway. Not a good use of time.

A better use of my time is to think about what is. What shall be. What I want to be.

And do the legwork towards making that happen.

For me.

For real.

Onward.

I wish I felt worse about this impending loss… but I don’t

So, my neuropsych is retiring in the spring. I’m probably in a state of denial,right now,with the inevitable progression from that state of mind to anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance.

At least,that’s how it’s supposed to go.

But I’m off to a strange start, not feeling much of anything other than genuine happiness for them — and being a little relieved. Similar to my PCP passing away, this impending loss will solve some issues for me — issues that I had been planning to resolve by just terminating my relationship with them.

Supposedly I’m supposed to have a reaction to this. And back in the day, I would have. But since my fall in 2004, I haven’t been able to muster the emotional connection with others, like I used to. I don’t know what happened to me. I have been thinking it was just a by-product of getting older, getting crankier, and ceasing to give a damn about the things that used to get me in such a whirl before.

Maybe it is… but other people my age seem to be able to forge strong personal bonds with others… especially others who help them on a regular basis. This working/therpeutic relationship I have with my neuropsych is the most stable, constant connection I’ve had — probably ever.

And it’s going away in 5 months.

I guess I’m feeling a bit sad, in some ways, but not as clearly as I used to feel before 2004.

I think part of it is, I’ve never really understood clearly how I was supposed to feel about them, in the first place. I go there each week to work, to make progress, to get my life back on track. It’s not for emotional support or whatever. But they seem to think that’s what things are about.

I dunno. It’s a bit confusing for me, even though I know it’s not supposed to be. Maybe I’ll sort it out.

Or maybe it will be like when my doctor passed away — a burst of regret and sadness and frustration that they had to suffer as they did, but not a ton of loss and regret for me. In a way, I had already moved on. And I sort of feel that way about my neuropsych, who I have felt myself drifting away from for a number of months, now. As though I expected something like this to happen.

To be honest, at this point, the most distressing thing about it, is that I’ll have to adjust my schedule and get acclimated to a new neuropsych. I need to keep working with someone, because if I can’t talk to someone who knows neuropsychology, the rest of my life becomes a tangled mess of not being able to put things in order. I’m surrounded by lazy-ass people who just want to be comfortable in life, and who think my issues are mental or emotional or just character-based. It drives me nuts. I need to interact with someone who is A) aware of how TBI affects your life, and B) is dedicated to improving both themself and helping others do the same.

Anyway, enough about this. Shrug. The day is waiting.

Onward.

Well, THIS is unexpected… or not?

Skyscraper
Welcome to the Big Time! The Great Overlords in the Sky have some plans…

So, apparently, my new employer got bought by another company.

How ’bout that.

There has been talk in certain circles about the company merging with another one, for some time, now, but The People In Charge all told us that it was just rumors and speculation, and they believe the best route to take is to stay steady and keep to the course they laid out.

Of course, they were not the ones who were actually working on the deal. And while it is probably 100% true that they agreed with the original course and were NOT in favor of a change, they were actually not the ones calling the shots. So, they don’t have to look like liars, because they weren’t. Ironically, the people working on the deal showed up and made the announcement like it impacts them emotionally. How could it? The only thing that changes for them is how much money they have — and they already have more money than God, so I’m sure it doesn’t have nearly the impact that it does for those who are at the bottom of the food chain. How could it?

Oh well, who can say? The Great Demon in all of this is dread speculation. Gotta hold that at bay. All I know is… nothing specific, yet. There was a company-wide conference call yesterday that told us a few important points, and there will be a team meeting today.

This rarely works
This rarely works

I’ve actually always known that things would change at this job; my current boss told me from the start that they didn’t know who I would be reporting to in six months. So, no surprises there. I actually belong to a different group than the rest of the folks in my team — it’s all pretty confusing if you try to make sense of it.

So, I don’t bother trying to make sense of it. Not until I have more information… which will be unfolding over time.

I actually find this news quite energizing. I’ve been at the company long enough to see that they are very entrenched in old ways of doing things, they have old loyalties and rivalries that get in the way of getting work done, and a change would do a lot of people good. It’s an excellent company with good products – and in some ways, they have been victims of their own success and have gotten in the habit of resting on their laurels. So, they really do need a shakeup. The days of constancy and steady-as-she-goes have never actually existed in the tech world, and those who believe things should just stay as they are, really don’t belong here.

So, who knows what will happen? My little group may get disbanded. I may get reassigned to another team. Who can say? I’m betting that in the next months, there will probably be plenty of opportunity for folks to reinvent themselves and see what else they can do. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open to see what’s available — and I’m also checking out the acquiring company’s website to see what positions they have had open and what their staffing priorities are.

I’ve been doing this an awful long time, and it’s not the first restructuring I’ve been through. I’ve been through no less than 10 different re-orgs at multinational companies, over the years, so I’ve learned a thing or two.

Main thing is to keep chilled out, continue to exercise regularly, eat right, and get plenty of rest. That way I can keep alert for opportunities when they arise.

And this could turn out even better for me than the awesome situation I’m in now.

Onward.

Magic rest – it must be there somewhere

I’ve got to put all my notes in order. After just a few days of talking to people, I have a bunch of notes that I wrote on scrap paper, and I now need to sort through them and put them into my regular notebook.

I need to do this soon. It’s tiring me out, keeping everything sorted just in my brain, and halfway through Week 2, I’m getting fatigued and a bit turned around. My schedule is different, now, and I’m a heck of a lot more active than I have been in a long, long time.

So, yes indeedy doo – my system is pretty taxed, right now.

Not that I’d want it any other way. Doing things piecemeal — don’t fill up your schedule till you get accustomed to getting up 2 hours earlier each day… don’t start exercising till you settle in at work… — that doesn’t work for me. I need to test myself all at once, right from the get-go, because all the changes are consistent with each other, and I want my system to acclimate all at the same time.

And of course there is the danger. There is always the danger of getting too tired, or getting too overwhelmed, or pushing too hard. But I’m at a good place, right now, with everything happening at once. I’m not over-doing it. I’m just doing a lot. And it’s pretty awesome.

Now, for sleep. It’s important. For years, I thought, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but that actually just makes me feel like I’m already dead. And it doesn’t help me function.

My head was spinning last night, and I couldn’t get to sleep when I intended to. My mind was filled with all the ideas from work, all the opportunity, all the excitement, and me getting home late after having to work around my grocery store losing power and not being able to sell me half the things I wanted because they were perishable. And then there were the storms that wreaked havoc in the towns around us, but somehow passed us by. And then there’s Facebook. I spent 15 minutes checking people’s posts, and that woke me up even more. Bad choice. No more tablet in my bedroom. That’s enough.

I finally managed to get to sleep by relaxing and breathing. Doing some muscle exercises that release the tension. I’m pretty sore from working out — today is a rest day — and my muscles are definitely adjusting.

But it’s good.

And today / tonight, sleep is a priority for me.

Today, relaxation is a priority for me. Keeping my inhale and exhale regular and the same count of 5 seconds each, is what I do to balance out my fight-flight adrenaline rush, and it really helps. Remembering where I am, and periodically remembering to stretch and relax and release… that’s so important in the course of each day. It keeps me going and it keeps me present.

Rest… relax… It’s not just about sleeping at night. It’s about how I go through my life. For so, so many years, I was wound tight as a spring. Never relaxing, never letting down my guard, always ON. It’s fine, if the situation calls for it, but I was wound way too tight for regular situations.

I think that’s why I gravitated towards tough jobs — the adrenaline and pressure calmed me down, and I actually felt normal. The stress made all the noise quiet down, and I could finally think, when I was solely focused on the One Single Thing I needed to accomplish.

But all that wound-up stuff takes a toll. For sure, it does. And I don’t have to do it, anymore. I have other ways of sharpening my attention and blocking out distractions. Single-minded focus.  Born of a my own brand of za-zen meditation — picked up from stories of old Samurai zen masters of years gone by. Somehow, I always seem to connect with old zen-typed warriors from all over the world who (either living or dead) talk about the exact same state of mind that I’m looking for — single-minded focus in the midst of chaos.

Without that focus, I’m toast.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready for work.

To rest while working… to relax while acting… and to get a good night’s sleep tonight… those are my goals.

Help is on the way… I hope

American Heart Association: Neck manipulation may be associated with stroke – see the little tear in the blood vessel wall? That can be caused by prior trauma. So be careful. Fortunately, network chiropractic involves an approach OTHER than structural adjustment.

I’ve got an appointment with a network chiropractor later today. I’ve been to network chiropractors in the past, and they really helped me, but I’m no longer willing to drive a long distance to get to them. Now that my commute is much shorter, I am much more protective of my time.

Plus, this chiro is someone I wanted to work with, years ago, but they were too expensive.

Now, they have special packages for people who need help, so I’m getting help.

What I’m really hoping for is to get a break from the pain and to be able to rest better, so that I can get back to normal and complete some of the big projects I’ve had going for some time, but which haven’t gotten wrapped up, yet. My plan was to have at least one of them done last weekend, but the car accident prevented that.

I need to just get back to normal and proceed… Onward.

I’m pretty hopeful about this. Network chiropractic doesn’t involve a lot of structural adjustments, which can be dangerous for someone with a history of neck and brain injury. Those kinds of injuries can cause clots to form more, because the walls of blood vessels may tear, causing blood clots to form inside the tears. And neck adjustments can loosen the clots which may go to the brain and cause a stroke. Or they can even cause the tears which can lead to clotting… and to stroke.

No thank you. I’ve got enough on my plate, thank you very much.

Network chiropractic is all about re-tuning the autonomic nervous system and getting your system properly talking to itself again. It’s gentle and it’s very powerful, and it helped me a lot in the past. I have high hopes for this new chiro.

And I’m also looking forward to this coming weekend, when I can (fingers crossed) settle in and do the things I intended to do last weekend. I have a lot to do, and it’s great stuff. I just need to be allowed to do it.

Onward!

Changes at work – working out in my favor

Things are moving — gotta move with them 🙂

So, the reorganization work has culminated, and they have started making announcements about who’s going where. I’m in good shape, being with a manager I really like, doing about the same work that I have been, but having access to more training that will improve my overall employability.

It’s working out. Like it hasn’t, in a long, long time. It’s a combination of me not being so friggin’ tired all the time, having a much shorter commute, and having an attitude of gratitude in general – and seeing where I can take advantage of things.

I don’t want to get cocky or take things for granted, but it really feels like things are turning in my favor. After so many years of them going against me (and me not knowing how to take things in stride and get them to work in my favor), this is good. I’m due, I reckon.

Other people at work are not feeling good about things. I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like. In the past, I have been in many situations that didn’t “sit right” with me, and I fought them, resented them, resisted them. The only effect was that I made myself miserable.

Kind of like holding onto a hot coal and expecting others to get burned.

But I know very much how that is. And I know how hard it can be when things change, after you’ve become accustomed to them being stable for some time. There have been several big changes, lately — the office move to a different location, the configuration of the office to a more open (and more noisy and chaotic) plan, and now the re-org — and not everyone is dealing with them well.

I have the advantage of coming from a work situation that was magnitudes worse than where I am now, so relatively speaking, I’m feeling pretty blessed, right about now. I’ve been through so many really sh*tty work situations and changes, with companies who cared far less about their employees, that this time it feels pretty sweet.

Of course, there will be adjustments. Some things will become harder, and some people will become more difficult to work with. But I’m not particularly worried about that. I have almost no commute. My mornings and evenings are my own again. I’m doing work I truly enjoy and have some control over. I also have a job that will translate from one company to another seamlessly, without me needing to go out and learn new things or brush up on my “chops” that have diminished from disuse. I’m getting more training that will bring my skills up to speed and get me more current – that translates to employment security over the long term.

So it’s all good. Even if things didn’t work out that great and I got let go, I now have a demonstrated history of delivering on projects, and that’s what matters. I can hold my own, and I know I can.

Today we’ll be learning more about what’s what. So, I guess I’d better get ready for work. 🙂

Onward

Who am I today?

Summary / Bottom Line

I don’t feel like myself, these days. I haven’t felt “like myself” in a long time. And all the hopes and dreams I once had as a kid, seem so far from me. But maybe, just maybe, I am truly living my hopes and dreams… I just don’t feel like I am. And that changed sense of myself is keeping me from realizing how much my life really does resemble my onetime hopes and dreams. Restoring a sense of self can be a huge challenge with traumatic brain injury, and adjusting to how things truly are, versus how they appear to be, or feel, is one of my biggest challenges.


I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my identity… who I was when I was a kid, who I am now, and who I’ve been along the way. I recently had a birthday, and while I don’t feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis, I still have been thinking a whole lot about whether I am where I expected / hoped / planned to be, when I was younger.

I know that “life happens” and we can end up very far from where we wanted to be when we were younger. And to be honest, I’m not even sure if I had specific plans about the trajectory of my life, when I was younger.

I do know that what I wanted more than anything, was to become a scientific researcher. I wanted to go to school to get a bunch of degrees, and then focus on research. I’m not sure what kind of researcher I wanted to become — I just wanted to study, collect information, synthesize it, and publish it.

I also wanted to be a writer. Maybe more than being a researcher. Being a writer is what I always wanted to BE. Research is what I wanted to DO. In a way, being a writer is like being a researcher – it’s not the same type of science, but there’s a sort of science to it — observing, drawing conclusions, testing your hypotheses, etc.

Over the course of my life… well, life happened. I got hurt. A bunch of times. I fell and hit my head a bunch of times. I got in car accidents a bunch of times. I was attacked. I did stupid things. And I got hurt. I also had a lot of chronic pain that knocked me out of the running when I was in my early 20s. And I got in trouble with the law and some rough characters, and I had to go on the lam when I was in my late teens, which limited my future prospects.

Now, looking back, I see how so-so-so many opportunities have been out of reach for me, because of everything that happened back then. I have done my best to patch things up over the course of my life, and relatively speaking, I’ve done extremely well for myself.

But am I really where I want to be today?

I’m not sure. This life I’m leading doesn’t look and feel like I hoped it would. It feels strange and foreign to me. Hell, I feel strange and foreign to me. I feel like a stranger to myself, half the time. I don’t have that feeling of being “comfortable in my skin” that people talk about.

Now, I used to have that feeling. I used to have a clear sense of who I was and what I stood for. And I didn’t let anyone hold me back. Even when I was getting in trouble with the law and then went underground, living overseas till things quieted down here, I had a clear sense of who I was, and what I stood for. I had to change my life for a while, and I couldn’t do a lot of the things I had once enjoyed doing — like going anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted. But it didn’t feel like I’d lost a part of myself. I’d screwed up for sure, but I was determined to fix things.

When I was in all that crippling pain, 25 years ago, I had to let go of a lot of activities that had once meant a lot to me. I had to stop exercising and spending time outside in the sun. The diagnosis that the doctors came up with was probably wrong (I never had tests that confirmed or denied it 100% — they didn’t have good tests, back then). But I had to take steps in any case. As it turned out, the things that I was told not to do — exercise a lot, move a lot, test myself physically — were exactly the kinds of things that I needed to do to alleviate my pain. Movement and staying active was NOT going to hurt me. Being sedentary was.

In those years when I was dealing with the pain, I lost of lot of things that meant a lot to me. I couldn’t eat and drink the same things anymore, and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. But I didn’t have a sense of having lost myself. I was still who I was, and I was clear about that.

Now things feel so strange and foreign to me. It’s hard for me to describe. Even though I know I’m doing better, and I have numbers and feedback from friends and family that indicate I’m improving, I still don’t feel like myself. It’s hard to describe — just that someone else seems to have taken up residence in my life.

I know my personality has changed a good deal, since my fall in 2004. And it kind of freaks me out, because that wasn’t the first mild TBI I’d ever had. I’ve had a bunch — probably about 9. I’ve been assaulted once, had at least 4-5 falls, got hurt a couple of times playing soccer, got majorly dinged while playing football, I’ve had a couple of car accidents, and so forth. But not until I fell in 2004, did it totally screw up my life.

Not until the past years, have I felt like a stranger to myself.

It’s kind of getting me down, too. At least, it has been. I try not to think about it, but it’s still always there… Who am I today? What am I going to do today that doesn’t seem “like me”? What am I going to feel and think and say and do that doesn’t seem consistent with the person I know myself to be?

That feeling of observing yourself going through life… it’s weird. Disorienting. I resolve over and over again, to hang in there and just keep plugging, until I see some glimmer of who I am. And sometimes it works. I’ve been feeling more like “myself” lately, which is nice. But at the same time, I don’t quite trust it. Like in Flowers For Algernon, when the main character stops taking the medicine that made him think and act like a normal person… and he drifts back into his old state. Whenever things are going well for me, I feel like I’m looking over my shoulder for signs that I’m slipping back into not recognizing myself.

I would like to stop this. It’s not fun, and it’s not productive. It serves no one, and being on high alert over it just kills my quality of life.

So, over the weekend, when I had time to think about it, I realized that maybe it would be better if I just acclimated to this feeling and let it be. It could be that I actually am getting back to my old self — I just don’t have the sense that I am. It could be that I’m even better than my old self. There’s a good chance of that, because my old self was majorly concussed and had all sorts of issues that I didn’t even realize. It could be that I’m in better shape than ever before… but I don’t have the sense of it being so, and therefore I don’t trust it.

I don’t feel like I’m myself, most of the time. Maybe all of the time. But maybe I actually am. Maybe the missing piece is NOT my personality and my identity, but the sense of my personality and identity. Just because the sense of being who I am isn’t there, doesn’t mean I can’t BE there myself.

Rather than getting all caught up in recreating that sense of myself, maybe I need to just get on with living, regardless of the sense of myself. Maybe I just need to trust it… not place such high demands on what qualifies me as me, or not-me.

And maybe — just maybe — the life I have now is exactly what I was hoping /expecting / planning / dreaming I’d have, back when I was a kid. Looking around at my study and thinking about how I live my life, I realize that I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do, when I was younger — reading and researching and writing and publishing. I write and publish this blog. I read and research TBI-related materials (especially concussion and mild TBI) and I spend a lot of time thinking about them.

I also read and research other subjects and write about them, though I haven’t published much of that … yet. I am getting to a place where I soon will, and then I will have that to my credit, as well. This is all done independently, according to my own standards. I’m not doing it professionally, but I have managed to help some people, here and there along the way. That much is clear from the comments on my blog.

So, even though it may feel like I’m one person, the objective facts reveal something quite different. And for me, it seems the challenge is to not let feelings of weirdness and alienation and failure stop me from just getting on with my life.

At some point, I just need to trust. I’m working on it.

Onward.