Just being grateful solves a lot

I’ve been struggling a bit, lately, with some resentments and frustrations. Starting a new job and feeling like I’m new all over again has been a little tough. I want to know what I’m doing. I want to have expertise. But I have to go through the process of doing that. And after being alive and learning so many lessons for around 50 years, now, there’s a part of me that feels like I *should* know more than I do.

I know I need to learn in my current position. I need to learn who the people are, how to use the technical tools, how to navigate the political landscape, and so on.

I just get tired, I guess. I’ve been having some long days, lately, and things at work have been quite frantic, with a deadline suddenly looming, where none was just a week ago. It’s been a bit of a fire drill, to tell you the truth, and it’s taking a lot out of me.

I am also going to be traveling this weekend, so that means I have to do more to get ready. Sigh. At least I slept till 6:30 this morning, instead of waking up at 5:30.

Of course, I didn’t get to bed till after 11:00. Oh, well. At least I got about 7 hours of sleep. That’s better than I’ve been doing regularly, for quite some time.

So, the good part is, I’ve gotten some sleep. And another good part is, this seems like a company I can be productive and happy at, for the long run. It doesn’t feel like a contract, right now. It feels like the beginning of a permanent spot, and for the first time in years, I’m happy for that. I did feel that way, to some extent, at the last company I worked at… until they moved the office farther away, mixed up the organization, and screwed everything up.

I actually do miss my old friends from there — I’ve really been feeling that, lately. But I don’t miss the company. I’m just so glad to be done with them.

Anyway, back to the present. I’ve realized that with all my struggles and difficulties — feeling tired and disoriented and harried and a bit stressed over adjusting, not to mention a bit of political drama (already… it only took me 2 weeks to screw up) — the one thing that helps the most is gratitude. Sleep helps a bit, but it can wear off. Fatigue or restedness are not things I can will into or out-of existence.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is something I do have control over. I can change my frame of mind and change my attitude, and reach a place where I am really, truly grateful for everything I have around me. I look for the good, and I look for the benefits to the situations I’m in, and it really turns around my outlook and mood. In my darkest times, making a list of all the things I’m grateful for — especially good things that are buried in the midst of tough situations — brightens my outlook and lifts me up out of my funk.

Things at work right now are pretty challenging. I have a bunch of things on my plate that I need to sort out, and it doesn’t feel like I have the time or updated ability to do them properly. But they are big opportunities. So, today I’m starting out with gratitude and focusing on the things I can do, the lessons I can learn, and I’m concentrating on the positive things that will come out of it.

People at work are starting to warm up to me. And I’m learning the lay of the land. So, things are looking up. I just can’t let myself fall into a funk over stuff that’s transitory. The sources of stress and strain right now — the unfamiliarity, the uncertainty, the lack of connection with people — will all sort themselves out over time. I just can’t let the tone for my work be set by that temporary state. Not when a better permanent state is just around the corner.

I never know when things will turn around. So, I’ve got to keep steady and positive. And look to the brighter tomorrow. For so many good things that haven’t even come to me yet, I am truly grateful.

 

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Making the most of my sh*tty situation

Life can keep its lemons

So, I’m still a little “off” from my travels last week. And I have yet another trip coming up in another week. That gives me a bit of normalcy this month. Not much, but some.

What-ever. I can’t let fatigue and fog keep me from living my life. I’ve just got to get on with things, and not let other people’s crap get in my way. There’s a ton of that going on, right now at work. One of my erstwhile friends has turned out to be a monumental pain in the ass, maneuvering around me and everyone else they work with, to push their agendas. They fight and squabble over every little thing. And they don’t fight fair. Seriously, they are so stupidly divisive, it’s not even worth dignifying with attention.

And then there’s the other one in my group who is turning out to be such a cry-baby. They come across as so together and professional, when they’re playing their role, but behind closed doors, they’re infantile and colicky. Nice. They’re one of the most “mature” people in my group, too. But years don’t mean much, apparently.

That’s two less friends in the mix. It’s sad. But during reorganizations and shifts of power, that’s how things happen. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and the one-time friend who’s gone to the dark side is frankly not mature enough to resist the temptations of sudden influxes of power. While the cry-baby just has issues — at home and in their personal life. Bitch-bitch-bitch. What a waste of my time, having to deal with their emotional upheavals.

It’s all a big pain in the ass. But then again, it’s not so terrible… because it actually makes it easier for me to move on. I hate getting emotionally attached to people at work. They always fall short. The worst thing is, expecting people to be better, stronger, more honest, more capable, more excellent, than they really are. I set myself up with my expectations, and then I get let down.

So, yeah – whatever. It’s Saturday, and I’m feeling like crap. I’m tired and foggy and am just not very sharp today. It’s disappointing, to say the least. I really want to be sharp and with-it and able to be fully alive. But today might be just one of those days…

I went to see my doctor yesterday about my headaches, and they recommended I see a headache specialist. Maybe these are migraines, maybe not. Who knows? All I know is, I get headaches when I exercise or get stressed or suddenly get hit with a blast of sunlight. And no matter how great things are going, I usually have a headache of some kind. I’m working with a physical therapist who showed me some things I can do, too. We’ll see if that works. Some of the things they showed me actually made me feel a little worse, so… I’ve got to be careful.

Most of the time, the headache thing doesn’t even bother me that much. It’s not nearly as bad as the other pains I have. But it is annoying at other times — distracting and confusing and frustrating, because it just doesn’t seem like it’s every going to stop. And it’s those other times I’d like to address. I’m not keen on the idea of pills, but we’ll see what happens. I may need to go back to my chiro – they seemed to help my headaches in past years. The problem is, they’re located in the opposite direction from work and my house, so if I start going back to them, it’s like an extra hour more driving, which I really don’t care for. I’m trying to get better, not cramp up from sitting all the live-long day.

Well, anyway. I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

For today, I’m making the most of my situation. It is sunny and bright and not as cold as it has been. I’ll put on my sunglasses and head out for a walk. Then take care of some other chores. And focus on relaxing and just enjoying myself. I’m not getting too worked up over work, because — oh, hell — it’s not even worth getting all bent out of shape about.  I started to “spin” about it this morning, but that proved to be a total waste of time and energy. So, I quit.

I just need to concentrate on the good that’s in my life and keep going in a direction that works for me. And be grateful, each and every day, for all the good things I do have.

Stewing in sh*t is such a waste of my time.

Onward.

Guest Post: Why I Hate The Invisible!

Speed can do some serious damage – and so can attitudes

Another great post from our friend Ken Collins

37 years ago today, I was recovering at my parent’s home in Oakridge, Oregon after I ran head first into the side of a parked car while riding Pat Moore’s snowmobile by Summit Lake, Oregon, at 4 a.m., on December 31, 1976. My friends who were there saved my life and said I was going full speed when I hit the car and was catapulted from the snowmobile to the side of Bob Brewers Ford Pinto.

On impact, I broke my left jaw below my chin and rammed my right jawbone through my ear canal, separated my skull completely (cap fracture), shattered most of my teeth and fractured a rib. In the hospital the doctors couldn’t set my jaw for two days because of brain swelling.

My hospital records show that I was in a Posey Jacket and wrist restraints all the time I was in the hospital. One day when I was in the bathroom I yanked out my catheter and a few days later were sent home with my parents because I started to get loose (3 times in 6 days). On my last day in the hospital I was found urinating in a planter in the hallway.

For my own safety and the liability of the hospital, I was sent home with my family who were told if they couldn’t handle me then put me in a nursing home. Luckily my family spared me the fate that awaits many young people who sustain these types of injuries: long term confinement to the nursing home, long term rehabilitation facility or state institution – unless they have good insurance, but when that runs out and they become “poor”, many will be forced to have the government pick up the tab. This starts by applying for Social Security Income (SSI).

After people go on SSI, they will become eligible for Medicaid, which will pay for long-term care in a nursing home or institution, if Medicaid home and community-based services aren’t available to them in their state. These services are critical if the person with a disability wants to go back home and try to get on with their lives.

This new life also comes with having to survive on $498.00 a month Social Security benefits to pay for shelter, food, utilities and whatever else they can afford. When they are lucky enough to have a long work history they will go on Social Security Disability Income and make more, maybe $600 to $900 a month. What kind of life can you afford on this income?

Oregon was one of the first states in the U.S. to develop Medicaid home and community-based services. This was all after my injury, and if home and community-based services would have been available, I might not have had to steal food and do other things that would have put me in jail or prison if I’d been caught. It’s humiliating to have to steal food to survive.

Humiliation is invisible: that’s why I hate the invisible!

Every night when I would go to bed and close my eyes and try to sleep I would see –
pictures of people, images and objects floating by as I lay there with my eyes closed. They were like negatives of pictures just floating by. Faces of people looking at me, pictures of people setting or pictures of several people setting or standing, all kinds of scenes and images floating by as I tried to sleep. When I would finally get to sleep I wouldn’t dream. In the morning when I awoke it was like I didn’t sleep at all.

These pictures floated by for about five years, and it took another five years before when I closed my eyes – the face of the man with a beard and long hair looking at me on the other side of my eyelids went away.

Ten years may seem a like a long time for most people, but for those of us who live with a brain injury everyday life really only starts being less of a struggle after the first ten years. For most of us, life will never be the same and for some the struggle will never end.

Before my accident I was a professional baseball player and everyone’s friend. After my injury, when I would see the same people in the community – they would go the other way.
The struggle and turmoil caused by brain injury is invisible: that’s why I hate the invisible!

It took me 13 years before I could start to smell again, and because after the first year of not smelling I forgot what things smelled like – now I have to relearn all over again. It took me 18 years before the numbness on the left side of my body went away, however the limp is still there when I get tired or have a long day.

It took 20 years for me not to have to look on the calendar or my day planner to know what I was going to do that day. Now, at night when I sleep I can dream again. It took me 25 years before this was possible.

To look at me now, 33 years later, you would never guess that I have had such a difficult time. I have faced many of society’s barriers, most of these attitudinal. Attitudes are invisible and are fueled by ignorance and fear to create invisible lines of prejudice and discrimination. Attitudes are invisible and breakdown trust, hope and our own well-being.

Attitudes divide us, separate us and control us: that’s why I hate the invisible!

Handicapped gets its origins from an old European phrase, “cap in hand” when people with disabilities had to beg to survive. Why is it that people with disabilities are forced into begging the Congress and Senate every year not to cut Medicaid, food stamps and other programs they depend on to survive? Politicians say they care and are full of promises to help. What they say and what they do are two different things: that’s why I hate the invisible!

Invalid and invalid are spelled the same, but have different meanings. These words perpetuate the stigmas and stereotypes people with disabilities must wear.

Stigmas and stereotypes are invisible: that’s why I hate the invisible!

People with disabilities are often referred to as “invisible” because we don’t have the means to be heard. We don’t have the money to pay a lobbyist to hang out at the capital. They say: “we need your input” but when we offer it – our input is disregarded all in the name of “health and safety”.

Paternalism is invisible: that’s why I hate the invisible!

Away we go, trying to rebuild our shattered lives in a society that does not equip us to deal with the prejudice and discrimination we will face because of our disabilities. When we fall short of our personal expectations we fall victim to a paternalistic system that tries to fix our every move and keep us safe and not allow us to learn from our mistakes just like everyone else.

Last week, when I was job developing with a 48-year-old man who has a brain injury and a long and productive work history, and I ask the manager, if they were hiring. She has worked with our agency before so I consider her to be a lot more educated about employing people with disabilities than most in Gallup.

As I ask her about hiring Robert, she announced to me in a loud voice as she stood by the cash register, that she doesn’t have any opening right now but, “I have worked with people like that before” looking straight at Robert as if he was invisible.

Didn’t she see his shoulders slump when she uttered those words? Didn’t she see how he looked at her after she said what she said? Doesn’t she understand that words can cut deeply just like a knife and cause unseen pain that reinforces the stigmas and stereotypes we must overcome if we are truly going to become equal members of our community?

Many of my friends use wheelchairs to get around because of accidents, injuries or illness. When we go shopping in stores or go out to eat at restaurants something that usually happens is the clerk or server will ask “me” what “they” want? Sometimes they speak louder when they ask them what they want.

I guess because they can’t walk that means they can’t hear either?

How often do we hear someone call someone or something “retarded” without regard to what they are saying? This phrase is despicable and degrading to people born with mental retardation and yet we hear the “retarded” phrase just about everyday. There is a very good chance that you use this word as part of your own descriptive vocabulary.

When people with brain injuries and advocates try to educate people in our society about how this word should never be used because it hurts peoples feelings and is degrading we are faced with indifference.

Indifference is invisible: that’s why I hate the invisible!

People with brain injuries want to live just like everyone else. We don’t like to be made fun of or talked down to. Honor, embrace and value our experience and knowledge we have gained.

If you hear someone call someone “Retard” – “Crazy” or other degrading names – speak up and educate them about what they are saying. If you see someone making fun of someone who has a brain injury or retarded – speak up and tell them not to do be so ignorant!

Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard, because nothing gets done when you say nothing and become invisible!

Gratitude adjustment

Indeed.

Today has started out on the rough side. I got in bed before midnight, but I wasn’t able to sleep past 5:00. So, here I am, operating on about 5-1/2 hours of sleep, with a full day ahead of me. Oh, well, I guess I’ll do the Thomas Edison thing and take a long nap later today. By his own admission, the inventor of the light bulb considered sleep to be a waste of time and missed opportunity to work and invent. He once wrote that he considered people who slept 8-10 hours a day to be “never fully asleep and never fully awake — they have only different degrees of doze through the twenty-four hours“.

Of course, he did nap an awful lot (and there are lots of photos showing him taking “power naps“), so that’s where I’m putting my focus — on just getting a nap later today when I can. I’ve got the whole day — and I’ve got tomorrow, too — so waking up early isn’t such a terrible thing.

So long as I use the time productively, of course. The thing that actually got me fully awake after I woke up was not such a great thing. It’s something I don’t often have trouble with, but today, it’s a big ole burden — Jealousy. Frustration. Feeling like a relative failure.

See, yesterday afternoon I called a creditor who I’ve been paying off for the past couple of years. We arranged monthly payments which have been pretty intense to meet each month, and according to my notes, I was going to be all paid up as of this coming January. Well, in talking to them, I learned that I’m nowhere near being fully paid up — I have about another year to go at the current rate — before I’m all paid up. This puts a huge kink in my plans. Having $400 less each month that I have to pay out has been a huge part of my planning for 2014. It was going to free me up, let me pay off other things that have been hanging over my head, and open up the options for work I can take on.

Because if I need to spend $5000 less each year, that means I don’t have to earn Top Dollar for my work, and my options for what kind of work I can take in, will expand. I hate to settle for less, but in my discussions with recruiters, I haven’t been very encouraged by what they’re telling me I can make. Times are tough all around, that’s for sure. And that $5000 break was something I was banking on.

Then my mouse died — the left button doesn’t click. And I realized that I have a lot of things I need to take care of this weekend, which I did not do for the past few weekends (I forgot I had to do them). And money is very tight – the mortgage is going to be paid a month late for the next three months, by my calculations. And the bank loves to call me, even though I technically have a 60 day grace period before they send me to collections. Last night, it was all starting to come in on me, and I went to bed feeling overwhelmed and generally put-upon.

I woke up this morning in a funk, pissed off at myself for not having called the creditors sooner and basing my future plans on a mirage… pissed off at myself for forgetting the things I needed to do… pissed off at TBI for screwing up my life back in 2004 so much that it’s taken me almost 10 years to get back to some semblance of normalcy… pissed off at how hard I have to work at things, how much I need to constant re-think, how much energy it takes, and how overwhelmed I feel.

All. The. Time.

I feel like I can never catch up, and it makes me crazy. No sooner do I come close, than my goal moves out of reach again, and I have to work all the harder.

Geeze. What a rotten way to start the day.

But it gets better (not)… then I got to thinking about an old friend of mine who has really been pissing me off, lately. I first met them when they were an admin at a massive, faceless, soulless corporation, just putting in the hours and hating their life, and longing to do more. They had some health issues and left the 9-to-5 for a while, then they returned to the workforce… and then married someone with a great job, and moved out to the country where they were going to focus on their writing and try to become a published author.

We kept in touch now and then over the years, and one day I was messaging back and forth with them, and they were saying how they wished they could get feedback from other people for their writing. They were enjoying being able to write all the time, but they felt very isolated in the country, just doing their own thing by themselves. They weren’t working a regular job, because their spouse made enough for them to stay home, but the solitary life was not for them.

I suggested they start a blog — blogging was brand new, back in 2006 — and they said, “What’s a blog?” I told them about blogging, how awesome it was, how liberating. They could write each day, work on their style and their “voice”,  and they could get feedback from readers.

So, they did just that. They started a blog. And within a few years, they had a regular readership of thousands of people each day, they had advertisers, and they were starting to get requests from magazines to write for them. Big magazines. Well-known magazines. Jackpot. One thing led to another, and now they’re working on their third published book, they’re doing international book signing tours, and they’re leading online classes that are in high demand.

Holy crap. What an amazing success story. They literally did everything right, and I’m really proud that I helped make that happen, because a lot of people have benefited from their blog and their work.

On a good day, that’s how I feel — proud of them and gratified and in awe of how well they’ve followed through on everything.

On a bad day — like today — it bugs me to no end. Because despite the fact that I’m the one who encouraged them to follow their dream and I’m the one who told them about blogging in the first place, never ever have they actually thanked me for that tip. They did thank me once for supporting them with a little pep talk atta-boy email I sent to them, but other than that, it’s been crickets. I guess they’ve been so busy, they may have forgotten about my tip. But in other ways, they’ve just kind of brushed me off, whenever I’ve reached out to them as a peer.

Like I’m not good enough for them anymore. Even though I was there for them, when no one else could be bothered.

In fairness, I didn’t do myself any favors in our friendship. When we were still in regular contact by email and IM, I was a few years out from my last TBI, and I was pretty erratic and unpredictable. They actually sent some business my way that I couldn’t follow through on, and I think I kind of screwed things up for them and the people they referred to me. I also posted some stuff on their blog that was a little “out there,” and I’m sure it made them wonder if I was right in the head (for the record, I wasn’t, at that time).

Even so… it sticks in my craw that I have to really work at the most basic things, while they seem to be swimming right along. And when I read their Facebook posts and their blog posts about how fantastic everything is… how awesome their life is in their bright new apartment that’s getting new hardwood floors and has plenty of sunlight… and how exciting life is in their very popular, up-and-coming locale…. how connected they are with their professional connections and their readers… how stimulating it all is… how much they love their spouse… as well as the next member of their perfect family who’s on the way and due in just a few months… God, it really works my last nerve.

Okay, I get that we all make our choices. I didn’t get where I am totally by accident. But this is one of those mornings, when everything feels terribly unfair. The main reason they were able to do all they’ve done, is they’re married to someone who has made it all possible. They haven’t had to work for anyone else for close to 10 years, and they’ve been able to travel all over the world, because of their spouse’s connections. They’ve gotten insider tips on places to live and business connections, thanks to their spouse’s connections, and they’ve had the freedom to make plenty of mistakes along the way, without it hurting their work, their business prospects, or their vision.

It is really unlike me to be all pissy and envious like this, and it doesn’t feel good. I know that comparing myself to anyone else is a losing proposition, and it just drags me down for no reason. I don’t know what kind of pain and suffering they’ve experienced in life, I don’t know the reality underneath the facade of perfection they put forward, and who can say if they are anywhere near as happy and truly successful as they seem to be? Heck, for all their books that have been published, who knows if they’re even seeing much profit from it? And who knows how much creative license they’ve had to part with, in order to work within the system?

Who can say if they’re even that happy? I know they seem to have all the ingredients in place — attractive spouse, trendy house, new baby on the way, world travel, a successful blog, and a string of publishing credits that keeps getting longer — but who can say what their actual experience is?

Heck, they might be even worse off than I am, on the inside, whilst putting forth the right impression on the outside.

Who knows? All I know is, there’s this thought in my head that they have it so much better than I, that they’ve had it so much easier than I, and that they’ve succeeded as a result of others’ help, which they aren’t even acknowledging.

But that’s an ugly way to start the day.

I’ve known that since about 5:15 this morning. I’ve also known I needed to change my attitude, one way or another, since about 5:17 a.m.

Thinking through how I felt about that old friend of mine this morning, I gradually found my thoughts turning to another old friend who’s on the other end of the spectrum. This is someone I became good friends with, several years after the above-mentioned Friend No. 1 disappeared from my daily life. Friend No. 2 and I were great buddies for years, working closely together and producing some great projects on a regular basis. We’re very simpatico, with similar world views and values, and we’ve kept in touch intermittently over the years. Whenever we’ve caught up for coffee, we’ve had some great discussions, and we’ve talked about collaborating on a number of projects — none of which ever panned out… but oh well…

Anyway, Friend No.2 and I caught up about four months ago, when I told them about a project I was launching – starting a new business on the side – and I showed them my product. They were really impressed and we had what I thought was a great conversation and a jump-started connection.

One thing that really struck me, though, was their attitude. After years of what most would consider a very successful career, a solid marriage, and the ability to take time off work for a few years, thanks to smart investments and prudent savings, they seemed… well… bitter. Like life had been unfairly unkind to them, they’d been used and abused, and they were running out of options. They didn’t seem to have a whole lot of enthusiasm for their future, and they seemed a bit depressed when they talked about their general situation — which to me looked pretty good.

I mean, seriously — they have a really nice car that’s paid for, their marriage is strong, their house is paid off, they’ve got an amazing new riding mower with all the tools to keep their lawn in tip-top shape, they know who they are, and they know what they love to do. They have a lot of the things I lack — and am suffering for pretty intensely at times.

And yet, they’re bitter. They can’t do some of the things they used to do all the time — like go out to clubs every weekend and listen to live bands because it’s way too loud. They have ideas for inventions, but they can’t figure out how to turn them into money. They’re brushing up on their technical skills, but they can’t seem to find an exact match for what they want to do. They’re feeling used and abused and washed up, like their life is over and there’s nowhere else for them to go.

It really surprised me to hear them talk about the things that get to them. It’s like they were just settling for turning into a curmudgeony old coot without even putting up a fight. They’re about 15 years my senior, so they are getting older, but still… I’ve got relatives who are in their 80’s, 90’s, even past 100 years old, and they’re still going, still engaged, still enjoying their lives.

After what was mostly a good meet-up, Friend No. 2 disappeared. I gave them a call a few months later to see if they were interested in helping out with this project. When we met four months ago, they said they’d love to help with it, but when I called them again, they couldn’t talk at the time and said they’d call me back. I never heard back from them, and frankly I’d be surprised if I hear from them ever again.

Friend No. 2 is gone. By their own hand. It’s a loss for me, because when they were “on”, they were great to talk to and hang out with. But if they’re not going to be “on” and they’re just going to be bitter and resentful about every little thing that doesn’t work out for them, I really don’t need that in my life. And I doubt they’re going to come around.

So, there’s my tale of two old friends. I’m probably going to un-friend Friend No. 1 on Facebook, because their self-congratulatory tone just rankles me and serves no purpose in my life. Friend No. 2 is out of the picture, probably for good. And here I am in the middle, looking for a way to find gratitude to buoy me up out of my morning funk.

Comparing myself and my life and my success to others makes no sense. I can only compare myself to myself — and when I do that, I can see how incredibly fortunate I’ve been to receive the gifts I’ve gotten over the years. The TBI in 2004 could have ruined me, no doubt. But through divine grace, a bunch of risks I took that worked out, and a ton of hard work, I’m back on track and moving towards something truly fine. I’ve got love in my life and a spouse who is still with me, even after 23 years of some very challenging times. I have a house, a commuter car and a late-model minivan, I’ve got a regular job with a regular paycheck (which I’m probably not going to be leaving soon, because of the change in my financial timeline), and I’ve got my health. I have personal projects that keep me engaged and involved in my own life, and our local libraries have amazing collections which I can request from anytime I like.

I really do have so many blessings in my life, and considering where I come from, I have every reason to start the day feeling grateful and proud.

So, that’s where I’m at — having a gratitude adjustment, so my day doesn’t need to fall prey to bad thinking habits and mental laziness about things that may or may not be true. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’m disappointed that my financial plans for 2014 have been altered. Yes, I have to work a little bit harder than I’d like, today, go buy another mouse, and try to catch up with things I forgot to do for the past month.

But life doesn’t happen by itself, and things happen for a reason. It’s dawn. The sun is finally coming up. Time to find my reasons, and help things to happen.

Onward.

Worn OUT

Oh, man, I am so beat. This week has been a roller-coaster, and I’m wiped out. I still have a full day of work to go, and I’m not happy about it.

It’s been good, though. I’ve gotten a ton of important things done, and I’ve made excellent progress. I’ve been adjusting my mindset, as I go, disregarding all those little messages that keep going through my mind that cause me to doubt and question myself and my abilities.

Sometimes, it’s not about adding in more good things. Sometimes it’s about removing the bad things, and letting the good things just be. I waste a whole lot of time doing damage control from bad habits of thought and action. What if — just what if — I didn’t do/think some of those things, and didn’t have to spend the energy sorting out the fallout?

These are the kinds of things I’m figuring out, these days, and it’s hugely helpful. That, and reading books and watching videos about people who do extraordinary things.  That’s giving me a huge kick in the butt. And it gets me out of my “grandmaster funk,” as I call it.

Yeah, motivation and inspiration is turning out to be so important for me. I’ve always been into self-improvement and better performance, and I’ve always had a thing for a good motivational speech. Some of the turning points in my life have come after hearing or reading a motivational individual share their experience. I’ve done myself a huge favor by “liking” a bunch of Facebook pages that are all about motivation – especially sports motivation. They give me a much-needed kick in the a$$, and then I can pass them along to others.

They seem to appreciate it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have some motivation when they get on FB? Keepin’ it positive feels pretty great.

I’m also hoping to get in a nap today. I’ve been stepping away around lunchtimes, now and then, to listen to my relaxation audio and rest. It’s been good even half an hour has a positive effect on me. Right now, all I can think about is sleeping, which is not good. I have an important meeting in half an hour, and I have a bunch of things I need to get squared away pronto.

So, I guess I’ll have that cup of coffee now. I had some strong tea, this morning, hoping to get myself off the whole coffee habit. But I’ve picked a bad day to do that.

Time to get that coffee and get into the day and see what I can find that moves me in the right direction.

Onward.

Push hard, then let it go

Yeah – push it

I’ve come to realize that, in the course of my life, I’ve acquired habits of mind and action that have really worked against me, time and time again. Most of us have. I’m not alone in that. And I’ve also come to realize that those poor habits have always seemed to work for me because I was fairly functional and I didn’t have a lot to lose. The stakes weren’t particularly high, and I didn’t have much motivation or reason to change the way I thought about and did things.

Prime Example: My old plodding “slow and steady wins the race” approach, which saw me spending years upon years moving steadily towards a distant goal, only to give up at a certain point… for some reason or another. My intention all along was to keep things at an even keel, to not let things get out of hand and not to feel out of control, and to move forward slowly, putting one foot carefully in front of the other. The problem was, when I did that, I didn’t develop any tolerance for stresses and strains, and I became more susceptible than ever to the ups and downs of life. If things went “too fast”, I would freak out. If things didn’t go according to plan, I would lose it. I was in a perpetual state of anxiety, because I feared with all my heart those ups and downs that are in fact a normal part of life. And with nearly every major undertaking of my life, where I had a dream I wanted to realize with all my heart, I gave up when the going got “out of control”. I just let things drop, because the anxiety was too intense for me.

It’s become painfully clear to me in the past couple of years that if I continue to follow those habits of mind and action, I’m really not going to get anywhere. I’m going to stay stuck in that same-old-same-old world and I’m not going to live the life of my dreams — I’m going to just keep dreaming about the life of my dreams. I need to be more resilient. I need to be less fragile. I need my life to be less dependent on things be exactly as I envision them. I need to learn to handle those ups and downs a whole lot better. I need to actually welcome the unexpected and see where it will take me.

I think I’ve figured out how to do it. This new technique of mine involves treating unexpected things — and a lot of the things I used to fear with all my heart — as welcome challenges, not dreaded threats. It’s about walking straight into situations that normally terrify me, and taking them as they come — as a warrior, not a worrier.

See, here’s the thing… I need to be more resilient. I need to develop more ability to handle anxiety-producing situations. I need more practice dealing with those things in a positive way.

That takes practice. It takes a constant, regular willingness to step up and go into situations where I am not 100% confident of my abilities, but I am 100% confident that I will build up my abilities through this practice. It takes a willingness to look stupid, to look foolish, to possilbly be taken advantage of, and the understanding that I’m not going to be perfect the first time out, but I will get stronger. And better. And smarter, along the way.

Of course, this involves added stress — in moderate doses — followed by ample rest and relaxation. It means I need to push myself a bit, then back off and let myself digest everything. It’s like having a good workout and wearing yourself out, then resting and eating well for days afterwards, giving your body a chance to recover and bounce back — stronger than before.

The hard part in all this for me is the resting period. I’ve never been big into relaxation, and in fact, I’ve only learned to consciously relax in the past couple of years. There has been so much stress in my life, for as long as I can remember, just getting through each day, and the costs of me not being “on” have been high. Nobody likes to be attacked — physically and verbally — and nobody likes to be ridiculed. If I wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t on the defensive, that’s exactly what would happen to me, when I was a kid. And that pattern persisted over the years, in some cases becoming self-fulfilling.

So many times, we get exactly what we expect, and my expectations were very low.

Very low, indeed.

Now, though, it’s just not cutting it for me anymore. I am so sick and tired of the mediocrity around me, and the company I’ve ended up keeping over the years. I am sick and tired of being at the mercy of employers and C-level execs and managers who care more about themselves and their own little empires than the welfare of the whole company. I am sick and tired of being pushed and pulled around and used like a tool by people who have no ethics and certainly no apparent morals. I’m not getting on my high horse. I just get sick and tired of having my life influenced by people without vision and character, whose values bear no resemblance to mine.

And I’ve had enough of working for people who will happily throw me under the bus for their own short-sighted agendas, which cause so much pain and suffering to their employees and direct reports.

They don’t care about me. They don’t care about anything but themselves. Why should I care about them? And why should I keep being stuck with them and their hare-brained schemes? Makes no sense.

So, to pull away from all of that and make my own way in the world, I need to be a lot more resilient and a lot less fragile. I need to see challenges and failures and necessary and important steps along the way to making my life what it should be. I need to stop seeing things in terms of “shortcomings” and “failure”, anyway. They’re all lessons. Plain and simple. Just lessons — and opportunities to grow and learn and be better tomorrow than I am today.

All that being said, I really need to change around my approach to how I do things. Rather than mapping things out, slow and steady, and plodding through them, I need to get some fire into it. I need to push myself hard to get through the challenges, with my attention trained on what’s going on. And then I need to let it go. I waste waaaay too much time worrying about the results of my actions and choices, concerned that they may be harmful to others. It’s good to desire positive relations with others, but not at the expense of doing what you need to do.

I’m way too haunted by the “terrible” things I’ve done. Plenty of people over the years have accused me of hurting them, doing and saying “awful” things that cut them to the quick. Okay, maybe I have been on the rough side at times. I admit that. At the same time, I realize I’ve taken way too much flak from people for their own problems, their own weaknesses, and their own unwillingness to take responsibility for their own B.S.

Seriously, I have had it with people who make me responsible for their pain. I’ve wasted way too much time on people like them, thinking I was going to help them or make things easier for them. Silly. All I did was drag myself down. They weren’t interested in lifting themselves up. They just wanted people to feel sorry for how “down” they were… and then stay stuck in that pitiful state. And the more I tried to help them, the more they turned on me. Because they couldn’t stand the idea of things actually working out for them, and if my example and my words and support threatened what they knew, they would actually turn on me and punish me for trying to help them.

What a waste. I feel really bad for folks like them. But is it worth me holding myself back for them? No. Not at all.

So, here’s my new approach — push hard and just do what I need to do. Be clear about what I need to do, both for myself and others. Be totally honest with people and let them know where they stand with me, and let them worry about how they handle it. Quit taking responsibility for things I cannot control (like other people’s state of mine), and take full responsibility for myself. And treat challenges and “threats” as chances to learn important lessons. The harder things are for me, the more necessary the lessons. And the more I walk right into those lessons — face forward, standing tall — the more I have to gain.

I’m going to get knocked down. I know that. I am going to take heat, and I’m going to be threatened by people who seek to undermine me. But if I stay strong in my mind and keep focused on what it is I am doing and how I am going to do it, that can get me through. And if I keep flexible and open to change, and if I get plenty of rest and good sleep, then I can take whatever comes.

That much is clear to me, after I got 5 hours of sleep in my nap yesterday. I had a bunch of things planned, and I had a very busy morning. After my lunch and shower, I lay down “for a little bit”. I didn’t set the alarm. I just let myself sleep. And when I woke, it was 5 hours later. And I felt phenomenal. Really, really good. The best part was, later when it was time for bed, I didn’t stay up. I actually went to bed. And I got some more good sleep. I pushed myself hard, then I rested.

And today I feel like I can handle just about anything. I had my morning workout. I had an idea for a new project that’s about 5 years out (and depends on my current projects going well). And my day does not look as terribly overwhelming and daunting to me, as it often does, when I have just one day left in the weekend and there’s a lot I haven’t accomplished that I intended to.

I have a plan put together for how to handle everything, I know most of what needs to be done, and I’ve learned some incredible lessons in the past couple of weeks that will help me a whole lot later on. I’ve made some expensive mistakes in the past months, but those are not likely to happen again, and that’s worth more to me than all the easy “success” in the world.

I’m just starting out down this new road, and I am very hopeful of the good that will come of it. If nothing else, having this new approach and new attitude will help me feel better along the way, instead if burdening me with all sorts of heavy concerns about things I cannot control and am not responsible for. It’s good. It’s really good. Plus, taking my lumps and learning as I go will only help me across the board, as I move forward.

I just need to give myself ample time to rest. And now that I have that critical piece in place in my life — knowing how to relax, and realizing just how good it feels — I’m one step closer to having that be a reality for me on a regular basis.

It’s all a process of course. I will make progress, then I will lose ground. That’s just how things go. But I will keep moving and I will keep progressing. It’s all good — and it’s just getting better.

 

Always beginner’s mind

Perspective makes the difference

I’m taking another shot at cleaning up this hard drive on my “old” computer. I think there are still components that can be un-installed, to reclaim even more space, not to mention speed. The more programs you have running on your computer, the slower it tends to go — if, that is, you’re a “mortal” like me, with a serviceable but far-from-top-of-the-line model.

I start my vacation today. Just two days off, before the onslaught at work begins. I have a ton of stuff to do, and in the past I would have declined to take time off, because I take a lot of pride in my productivity, and I don’t want to leave my co-workers hanging. It’s a terrible spot to be in, and Lord knows I have pulled out all the stops for them in the past, so they wouldn’t be left hanging.

But you know what? The Company is doing a lot of things that say loud and clear, “We don’t really care about your productivity and your team, and you better do what we tell you – or else.” They’ve pushed this agenda for the past 2 years, and I hate to admit it, but it’s worn me down. Also, my co-workers are just a little shy of insane, with their go-go-go mindless reactivity that dashes madly from one task to the next, without ever actually finishing anything. They’ve worn me down with their multi-tasking mediocrity.

Now, in the back of my head I have been thinking that I don’t want to trash my reputation with poor performance. I don’t want to alienate people who could do recommendations for me. But the people whose recommendation I care about have either left the company already, or they are on their way out, and all of us are going to say super nice things about each other, because it’s a small world, and we know that if we do good for others, there’s a chance it will come back to us. The people who are staying, who are invested in me super-performing for them and The Company, aren’t the sort of people I need recommendations from. So, I don’t feel like my long-term prospects have been that jeopardized by this environment and this organization. It’s all good. And anyway, I’m going to go back to contracting, once I’m done here. There’s a lot less pointless drama for me, when I’m not “permanent full-time”.

So, I’m not getting concerned, and I’m not letting  myself worry. Today and tomorrow is “me time”, and I’m looking forward to just kicking back and enjoying things. Running a few errands this morning… taking a trip to a museum I’ve been wanting to visit… heading out into nature to just relax. They’re calling for rain tomorrow, which could put a damper on things, but my spouse and I are fine with that. We’ve got rain gear. We also are taking books to read, and if we spend the day sitting in the car reading and resting…. away from the hustle and bustle, that’s just fine with us.

The point is getting away.

It’s funny, though… for me, getting away is less of a necessity than it is for a lot of people. Yes, it is good to take a break from it all, and yes, it does help me “reset” my mind and give me a different perspective on things. But I don’t crave it like some people. I think it’s because each day literally seems like a whole new one to me. Every morning when I get up, things feel new. Hopeful. Like there’s something else out there to discover and learn. Sometimes I wake up with a terrible sense of dread, but that’s usually due to fatigue or a physical feeling. When I’m feeling sick and foggy, and I’m in pain, I really do get depressed. But when I’m well-rested, not much can get me down.

In this respect, I think my crappy short-term working memory actually helps me. Because I forget so much, and I lose my place so often, I have had to learn how to keep an open mind and perspective, and watch for clues and opportunities. When much of your daily experience that’s more than 20 minutes old seems to evaporate behind you as you walk through your days, you learn to keep going and keep your eyes open for clues about where to go next.

Literally. I mean, my memory for how things were and what I was doing, just an hour ago, tends to be pretty vague. I have to think hard to recall what I did just half an hour ago. And who has the time and energy for all that work and thinking, every minute of every day? If I focus too strongly on the past, I lose sight of my present and where I’m going in the future. So, I have to keep going, keep moving, keep growing and improving.

Some people would get pretty upset, if this happened to them and that’s how their life turned out. For me, I can’t remember anything different. I just never realized that this was unusual, until I did my neuropsych testing and learned that I have the short-term working memory of a chipmunk. Things get lost for me after a surprisingly short period of time. They start to dissolve and disappear on me, leaving big gaps in what I think I remember about what just happened.

That was an eye-opener for me, and it threw me for a loop. But then I realized that it wasn’t all that catastrophic — I’ve managed to put together a pretty excellent life, despite all that “disability”, and frankly, a lot of stuff that people insist on remembering simply isn’t worth hanging onto. I have several really good friends who are ultra-invested in nursing grudges and remembering every single slight and hurt that’s ever been done to them. I can honestly say that that kind of mentality does NOT make you a happier person, than someone like me who has no “storage space” for that sort of stuff. I mean, I couldn’t remember it, if I tried, but why bother trying? It’s much better, in my opinion, to start fresh each day.

Obviously. I mean – compare… I cannot retain much of anything, and I bounce out of bed on many days with a great sense of expectation and anticipation. While they remember each and every instance of insult, slights, hurt, inconsideration, offense… you name it… and they literally can’t get out of bed a lot of days. They don’t want to live their lives, they’re afraid of living their lives. They expect bad things to happen to them at every turn, and a lot of times, that’s exactly what happens. But the bad things happening is not the problem. They get stuck in those bad things and cannot work through them, so they get stuck. Because their minds are stuck in that place. They’ve fallen, and they can’t get up.

I’m sure a lot of it is neurological. One of these friends was routinely knocked out on a regular basis by abusive adults their parents hung out with. There’s also the one-time drug abuse that left its mark, long past their last drink or drug. It’s also biochemical — one of the most hard-up friends I have simply refuses to eat responsibly. They live on coffee and chocolate and rarely eat a real meal. Small wonder they’re screwed up. They just won’t take care of themself. It’s heart-breaking to watch, but that’s their choice, and no matter how I try to reason with them, they just can’t seem to get it.

The thing that keeps these friends of mine going is drama and stress and adrenaline. They’re always getting themselves into some sort of mess — probably because it makes them feel alert and alive. I know for a fact that a lot of them have “tonic arousal” issues, as a result of brain injuries. But they can’t hear me talk about it. They just can’t get their head around the whole TBI thing, which is a shame, because they could really be helped if they would just admit that that’s the issue. But they’re more interested in proving that the problems come from outside them, not inside their head. There’s a whole mindset there that just kills. And it’s a shame.

But enough about them. For me, beginner’s mind is the only way to live. I start fresh each day, mostly because I have to. It’s way too much work to try to remember everything — that’s where my lists come in. Most of all, it’s way too much work to try to remember all the emotional and mental experiences I’ve had lately — even if those experiences were uplifting and encouraging. When I think about it, I realize that I’m constantly orienting myself to the present and to “what’s next” — not so much to the past, because that is dim and fragmented for me. And when I interact with people, I really follow their lead when I socialize and take cues from them, and I rely on them for reminders of what I’m supposed to remember and think about.

It’s a good thing that all of this happens inside my head, because if people new just how reliant I am on the people around me for even the most basic conversation topics and direction, they’d think I was a complete idiot.

On the other hand, when I look around at people who supposedly “know” how things were or what happened once upon a time, I see a lot of people who have very different perspectives about exactly the same thing, and who have completely different recollections and interpretations of “reality”. It’s like they’re all living in their own worlds (I guess most of us are), and they believe with all their hearts that their version is the right version. And they’re willing to defend that interpretation with their very lives — as a result, we’ve got wars and conflicts and political parties.

So, maybe having a “good” memory isn’t so great after all.

And maybe it’s actually better for me, that my past becomes just that — a faded, fragmented, distant past, about so much of which I’m uncertain. Maybe it’s better that I don’t remember all that much from my childhood, aside from shadowy memories and a bunch of brightly shining times when I knew I was okay, and new everything was going to turn out alright. Maybe it’s a blessing, that I can’t retain all the kinds of crap that my friends are so adept at remembering.

Maybe beginner’s mind is exactly the right thing for me.

I know it’s what a lot of people strive for. They actively seek to put themselves in that frame of mind. But I’m there by default, thanks to at least nine mild traumatic brain injuries that had progressively negative impacts on me. Each time I got clocked, a little more of my brain changed. And now here I am… beginner’s mind. Some people would (and do) pay tons of money to learn how to get there, but I learned for free.

NOT that I’m advocating repeat concussion as a route to enlightenment. Far from it. The thing is, for all that I’ve lost as a result of mild TBI, life hasn’t turned out to be a total waste. I’ve been forced to acquire new skills and adapt — or else. And all the hard work has been worth it. If I ever get concussed again, I’m not sure what will become of me. Maybe my memory will be completely erased.

Who knows? All I know is, right here and right now, I’m feeling pretty good. I have a few days off — a four-day weekend, which I’m looking forward to. I am practicing relaxing and getting back to my “happy place”, and the world looks pretty promising to me — despite all the international upheaval and what-not.

Bottom line — life is good. Onward.

Pick your own experience

Which side will you look on?

Something pretty important has become increasingly apparent to me, in the past week or so – namely, that I can choose my own experience in life. No matter what is happening, I can choose to think and feel any way that I want to think and feel about just about anything.

I don’t have to fixate on one side of things, and I don’t need to get stuck in only one outlook.

Everything has more than one side to it. Everything. From the most terrible events to the most fortunate experiences, if you look hard enough, you can find whatever you need there, to feel however you want about it.

Life is literally like a cut stone – it has many different facets that catch the light in different ways, and depending on which side you look at, it can be awful or it can be wonderful… or any combination in between. Usually it’s that.

The challenge is to not get caught up in what’s obvious on the surface — that something is GOOD or BAD, but just that something… IS. The other challenge is to not completely disregard the different qualities of a certain experience, because you’re invested in feeling a certain way about them.

Things like injury and hurt and harm aren’t the kinds of things you’d want to feel great about. That’s kind of like encouraging them and making them okay, which they’re not.

On the other hand, there can be good that comes out of those things, and if we overlook the learning that comes from them and dismiss the good things that came in their aftermath, then we lose out on half our lives — if not more.

That’s the stuff I’ve been wrangling with, this week. Coming back from my vacation and going back into the fray has been extremely difficult, and I’ve had some meltdowns along the way. It hasn’t been pretty, and I’ve been working my ass off, trying to catch up. I’ve been pretty down on myself, realizing that I still have a ways to go, before I can say for certain what I want to do for my next job, but I just have to keep moving, keep going, keep proceeding. And I can’t just run away from what’s in front of me, because it’s valuable experience that can help me. I still want to leave my employer — but the work I do? Maybe I don’t need to ditch that, as well.

When it all boils down, basically I’m realizing that whatever situation comes up in my life is an opportunity for me to learn and grow and get my act together. And that’s the truth. I’ve been having some tough times at home, behaviorally speaking. And at work I’ve been really on the hot seat. But these are chances for me to (re)learn how to handle myself under intense pressure, because this is certainly not the last time I’m ever going to be under this kind of pressure. Compare to what’s to come, it’s probably child’s play.

I believe it’s the Navy SEALs who say, “The only easy day is yesterday.” Googling it, I see that a lot of people say it, but it’s the unofficial motto of the SEALs. Hm. Those folks again… Is there a theme here?

It’s possible. Looking around at my world, I seem to be surrounded by folks who don’t have principles, who don’t live by any kind of a code, who are just drifting and following whatever moves them. They don’t seem to have any higher purpose than to follow what comes to mind. And suggesting that they find a higher purpose is usually met with resistance – some of it violent.

Don’t get me wrong – my relationship with the Almighty and the morals and ethics of my youth has really been tested over the years. And I can’t say I’m a perfect adherent to what I should or should not do in the eyes of others. But at some point, I have to choose where I’m going and understand why I’m going in that direction. And that often means putting aside my own selfish wishes and just getting on with what needs to be done — AND not paying any attention to others when they aren’t on the same wavelength as I.

How they choose to live their lives is their own business. It’s no concern of mine.

And that being said, as I’m taking responsibility for my actions, I also need to take responsibility for my experience. I am the only person who can hold me down and make me feel badly. Nobody else can do that to me, unless I don’t take responsibility for my own emotions and thoughts. These aren’t just things that show up out of the blue. These are things I can direct and choose to disregard or pay attention to.

And the kinds of thoughts and emotions I choose to pay attention to are going to shape my experience. So in making conscious choices, I create my own experience. I create the world I live in.

Two people can be living under identical conditions — one is in heaven, the other is in hell.

Where do I want to live right here, right now?

Getting ready for the day

Getting ready…

I just came across an interesting blog — Short stories from life.

Here’s a good story from it — “A life wasted”. It’s about what can happen when you make certain choices in life.

And it gets me thinking about the choices we all make in the course of each day. The long weekend is ahead of us, here in the States, and that means I have time to rest and catch up with myself after what has been a pretty grueling week.

It’s Friday, and it feels like “fried”-Day. That came to me this morning at 5 a.m. when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. I got up and sat and breathed for a little bit, but my head was just going and going, so I had to just get up and get on with it. I was a little tweaked that I had tried to get to bed at a decent hour, but hadn’t actually gone to sleep till around 11:30. And then I wake up at 5:00 and can’t get back to sleep. What a pain. I considered skipping my morning exercise routine, because I felt tired and out of sorts. I even considered skipping my formal “sit” where I breathe and balance out my fight-flight inclinations. But then I got downstairs and checked my notes and realized I hadn’t really done anything substantial, exercise-wise for the past two days, and I was due.

I decided it wouldn’t hurt to do a little bit of exercise. And it wouldn’t hurt to just sit and breathe. So, I sat for a bit and got myself into a frame of mind (and body) that was a whole lot more relaxed than it had been 30 minutes before. And I got on the bike and rode. Then I did my leg lifts… and picked up my weights again.

And lo and behold, by the time I was into my second set of easy reps, I felt like doing more. So, I focused on a handful of key exercises and pushed myself more than I have in some time. Not with heavier weights, just with more reps. And by the time I was done, I felt pretty good. Better than I have in some time, after lifting, in fact. It didn’t take much — just a little more effort and focus. But the payoff was substantially more than what I actually put into it.

Then again, I don’t want to sell myself short. I could have just taken it easy, done the bare minimum, and skated through. The office is closing early, so I could put in a bare-minimum performance today and not be noticeably different from others around me.

But that’s not my goal in life, actually. To be “not noticeably different” has never been my main aspiration. There are plenty of people whose main ambition seems to be to turn themselves into a cookie-cutter cliche, with the “right” clothes and car and house and activities and number of kids playing the “right” sports, but I’m not one of those people. I never have been. And folks whose main ambition is to be liked by others and to fit in, make me a little nervous, to be honest. They can be very nice people and enjoyable to be around, but I never quite feel like I “synch” with them.

Then again, my reluctance to not engage fully with people who need to be liked, is probably closer akin to my reluctance to exercise in the morning and do my breathing when I need to. I actually do believe that the vast majority of people do have some spark in them that really makes them stand out — and it’s our job to find that spark in people and fan that flame, so they can live up to their full potential. This isn’t just something that I think only motivational speakers and inspirational writers should do – it’s something I think we all should do. Because you can’t have constant access to self-improvement gurus, 24-7, and you can’t always be sure that those gurus are even going to have precisely the answers you need at any given time.

We need to be our own self-improvement gurus/coaches/motivational speakers — and we need to do that for others. Not because others are pitiful and pathetic and would slack off if we didn’t keep on them, but because life is hard, and it takes it out of you, and everyone who knows that should also know that we all get beaten down and depleted, so we need others to help lift us up. It’s not charity, it’s basic neuroscience. It’s not pity or coddling. It’s self-preservation for all of us. Because when others around us are dragging, that means that our “team” isn’t operating at full capacity. When the others we depend on are struggling and having a tough time, what’s the likelihood of them being able to be really responsible in their actions and choices, and live up to their promise — which ultimately helps us?

Now, I’m not talking about doing the handouts thing. I’m not talking about making excuses for people and cutting them a break when they’re milking it. But there are ways that we can step up and lend a helping hand with just a kind word of encouragement that help others pick themselves up and get their asses in gear. In some cases, tough love is the way to go — I had a very heated discussion with someone the other day who was totally slacking and being a little bit dense about a sticky work situation. I didn’t sugar-coat what I was saying, but I didn’t attack them either. I just called it like I saw it — they were being irresponsible and their actions were having a bad effect on their co-workers. After they hemmed and hawed and groused about it a bit, they saw that it was true, and they took steps with their co-workers to get their act back together, which was really gratifying to see. I didn’t do it for them. I didn’t make excuses for them. I didn’t pretend it didn’t matter, so they wouldn’t feel badly about themselves. I was just honest — and also generous with my belief in them that they could figure it out.

And they did.

See, this is what I’m talking about — I know that the economy is tough, the job market is awful, people have money problems left and right. And everyone seems to be on edge (the 2012 end-of-the-world hype isn’t helping, imho). There’s only so much you can do for people — especially people who don’t seem to be willing to help themselves. But you/we can extend a kind word and tell the truth. And we can communicate clearly to others “Yes, you can do this – I believe in you, and I am sure you can accomplish what you set out to do.” Which is probably the biggest and most important gift you can give to anyone.

And it costs nothing — other than the effort of getting out of your head and forgetting about your own problems for a few minutes, and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. But sometimes that’s the ultimate price that people just won’t pay.

Anyway, I’ve got to get on with my day. I woke up this morning “too early” then I got my act together. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the opportunities life puts in our way, along with the crap that I (and everyone) must deal with along the way. I’ve been reading various blogs that have proven pretty inspirational – and have given me a much-needed kick in the a** with their honesty and clarity and refusal to compromise. Checking in with them, however briefly, is the kind of boost I need on “Fried”-Day. Not a handout, but a reminder of how much is possible, with the right attitude and a willingness to work.

Speaking of boosts, it’s time to get moving.

More to come. Always.

whats the difference between a concussion and actual brain damage?

Why you should wear a helmet!
Why you should wear a helmet!

This question was asked recently in a search engine, and the person who asked it ended up here on this blog. A lot of people have been searching for concussion information, some worried about brain damage…. and worried about becoming stupid as a result of their concussion.

Concussion, while technically a brain injury, can vary in its severity, as well as the outcome. You just can’t say, from one person to the next, whether or not a person sustains lasting and significant brain damage as a result of a concussion. Some people heal relatively quickly and show no signs of injury after the fact. Others heal more slowly and experience some changes, but get back to their lives without huge impact. Still others struggle for a long time after their injury and have considerable difficulties well into their future.

It’s very individual, and it’s also very unpredictable. That’s what makes concussion and brain injury so frustrating — and interesting at the same time.

The thing is, you have to factor in neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to shift and change and “remap” itself. Contrary to what we’ve been told for many, many years, the brain actually does change, and damage can be overcome. There are numerous stories about people who overcome serious neurological problems to live incredible lives. The book The Brain that Changes Itself (click here to buy it) is a great example of how the fact of neuroplasticity can trump the impact of neurological problems — some of them acquired.

See, here’s the thing for me — even in the face of concussion, even in the face of brain damage, the fact of the matter is that you can overcome a huge amount of difficulty by proper management of outcomes. Over at The Concussion Blog, they talk about that a lot — the problem isn’t concussion (it happens), the problem is managing it when it happens. It’s the same with any brain injury, I think. Brain injuries happen. TBI happens. Sh*t happens. We often have no control whatever over that.

What we DO have control over, is how we respond to it. And when we respond with educating ourselves and coming up with smart and common-sense responses to the issues, rather than running in circles, or running in fear, we improve our chances of a positive outcome dramatically.

Think about it, folks — concussions and traumatic brain injuries have been happening since the beginning of time. And yes, we’re still here. We’re still pluggin’ right along. We don’t have to curl up in a ball and give up. We don’t have to say, “Oh, I’m brain damaged – that’s it, then. I’ll just have to give up on ever having a normal life.” … or “Oh, you’ve had a TBI, and that’s it – you’re f’ed up and you’ll never change.”  Both of these statements are based on fear and ignorance, and a real lack of knowledge about what the human spirit is capable of doing.

The human spirit is capable of so much, and so long as we have that — and an earnest desire to improve and work towards something positive — we still have hope.

Ultimately, the difference between concussion and brain damage might not matter so terribly much. Of course, severity plays a role. But attitude has a lot to do with it, too. Both of them (regardless of severity) can be sidelining, if you decide that they mean you’ve got problems that will never go away, and the challenges are more than you can take. If you decide that all hope is lost, and it’s pointless to pursue any sort of recovery, that you need to just accept your “new self” as you are and not reach for something bigger and better, and you refuse to adopt different ways of reaching the goals that matter so much to you, then ultimately there probably isn’t that much difference between concussion and brain damage. The effects can be similar, if not the same. A lot of it depends on how you approach it.

Now, I’m not saying that concussion and brain injury are laughing matters, or you can just shine them on and pretend they never happened. Brain injury introduces permanent structural changes to your brain… and concussion can, too. The thing is, the brain is an awfully big place with a whole lot of potential for change. And if we just give up, we never give ourselves (and our loved ones) the opportunity to learn and grow and adapt and have all the life that is possible for us and them.

Brain injury changes a lot. Concussion can change a lot, too (see The Biography of a Teenage Concussion for more discussion of that – it’s a new blog I just discovered recently). But if we stay flexible and focused, we can do a tremendous amount to overcome whatever new challenges stand in our way.

whats the difference between a concussion and actual brain damage? Sometimes, it’s all about the attitude.