Trial and error – the best way I know to figure it out

I didn't swim, but I did have a good walk.
I didn’t swim, but I did have a good walk.

Things have not been turning out the way I expected or planned, lately. Sometimes it’s been disappointing. But I’ve been making the best of things.

I bought some flowers the other night for my spouse.

Turns out they’re allergic to them.

Those flowers are now upstairs in my study, on the desk beside me.

I went out and bought a fresh bunch last night — ones I know they’re not allergic to.

Those flowers are downstairs on the entertainment center. They’re beautiful and they actually look better than the first bunch I got.

So, that’s nice.

I thought I was going to go to the beach at a local lake, a few days ago. I used to swim in that lake regularly, and I’ve been missing it. I took the day off work when the weather was perfect. I had everything planned. I’d swim, and then I’d sit in the sun and dry off and read a book I brought with me.

But when I got there, there were signs telling me I could not swim because of bacteria levels. It’s been dry here. The lake was low — scary low — and I didn’t want to take a chance.

Instead of swimming, I walked around the lake, found a sunny spot, and sat in the sun reading.

And it was nice.

Even if I didn’t swim.

Today, I’m considering telling my boss I want to be considered for a different position. One of the members of my team is leaving, and it would be a great opportunity for me to step into. I’m weighing the pros and cons, thinking about what I’d gain, and what I’d lose. In my current position, I have plenty of freedom and autonomy. I can pretty much do as I please, so long as I show results.

I’m concerned that the other position will have more responsibility, more limitations, more interactions with people I don’t care to interact with. There’s definitely more stress.

I don’t know if it’s worth it.

But I’ll never find out, if I don’t give it a shot.

Trial and error. Maybe I’ll just go for it, and see what happens.

Maybe.

 

 

 

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And now I can rest.

Thank you for your service, USA veterans!
Thank you for your service, USA veterans!

Memorial Day. Thank you to all the vets (living and passed on) who have sacrificed so much for us. We literally would not be here without you.

I just wish you had a nicer day, instead of all the rain and cold.

Then again, if you’re like me, you welcome the downtime. And you can use a break from the rest of the world. This is your day. You should enjoy it.

I’m staying off Facebook today. Twitter is another thing, but Facebook has gotten too volatile for me, of late. I need to rest. I need to sleep. Nap. Take it easy. And let my frazzled sympathetic nervous system chill from all the fight-flight. Just chill.

I worked out more strenuously, over the weekend. So, now I’m sore. And that’s good. It means my body needs to rest, and I’m more than happy to do that. I did some balance exercises this morning after riding the exercise bike, just to get myself woken up. I was going to ride a long time on the bike (I had extra dessert last night). But I got tired.

Yeah, I need to rest.

So, that’s what I’m doing. I have a bunch of reading I want to do, and a bit of writing I need to do, as well. Ideas I’ve got going, which I need to continue to develop. The nice thing is, I can just let them develop and not make myself nuts over it all. This is a big change for me, and it hasn’t been an easy one.

For years before I fell in 2004, I had a number of my own businesses going in addition to my 9-to-5 job. I was quite prodigious, I have to say. Always on the go, always cooking something up. And I created some pretty cool products and services that other people really got some use out of. I was part of some pretty exciting ventures over the years, and even though I had a ton of fatigue and sensory issues all the time, I was able to power through them and keep going on the adrenaline alone. It was so exciting, and it was very satisfying to be part of teams working “on the sly” towards common goals.

After I fell in 2004, I couldn’t keep up the pace. I tried. For years, I tried. I really pushed myself to continue to code and be involved in events and ventures. I hatched all kinds of startup plans, and I went so far as to start a formal business for one of them. I had project plans for about 20 different ventures, most of them around selling information and spinning books off into videos and online courses.

But I couldn’t get any traction on them, I’d get confused and discombobulated and turned around… and then frustrated and angry and difficult to live with. So, about 4 years ago, I started backing off on a lot of those things. And I started culling the list of ventures I had planned and waiting in the wings.

It was a hard change, because DOING BIG THINGS was always such a part of my identity and my sense-of-self.  And no longer having a full roster made me feel lost and disoriented and un-moored. Like I’d been cut loose from my anchor and set adrift in the big, wide sea.

But you know what? After a while, I realized that it was a huge relief for me to not have all those things constantly “cooking” in the background. And I realized I could actually start to relax. I became less and less reliant on Super-MEGA-PRODUCTIVITY for my sense of well-being and direction, and I actually gave myself a chance to catch up with myself.

It’s taken years for me to feel more comfortable with this — and I have to admit there are times when I revert back to my old over-doing ways. But nowadays, it comes more naturally for me to plan less, rather than more. And in the end, whatever needs to get done, gets done.

Today, though, not much really needs to get done. I’m chilling out. Relaxing. Giving my body and mind time to catch up with themselves. Without pressure. Without agenda. Just so.

 

New eBook for “10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me After My Concussion(s)”

10 Things I Wish They'd Told Me After My Concussion(s)
Click the image to get an eBook for your reader ($2.99) – or click the link on the left to get a free full-size PDF.

I’ve slightly revised and updated my work 10 Things I Wish They’d Told Me After My Concussion. I’ve also changed the title from “Concussion! Now what?” I think the new title is more clear. Click here to get the free full-size PDF.

I also created an eBook for Kindle and other eReaders (Windows PC/PocketPC, Mac OS, Linux OS, Apple iPhone / iPod Touch, etc.) – it’s $2.99, and if you’d like to support this site, you can download it here.

Additionally, I’ve got a longer book in the works, which has more background and discussion of scientific research and personal experiences behind what I discuss. We’ll see which version is more useful for people 😉 I’ll admit, I’m an anatomy-and-neuro-geek, so the things that fascinate me may not light others’ fires. And since I’m not an official academic, some of my conclusions and discussions might not sound ideal to the advance degree experts who do this stuff for a living.

It’s something, though. And for me, it’s the kind of book I wish I’d had access to, 8 years ago, when I started to realize how much TBI had affected my life. I’m really writing the longer book for myself — the person I once was, who needed help… but couldn’t find it anywhere.

I’ve also been looking for ways that people can support this site. Some have asked what they can do to contribute, but I’m not actually comfortable taking donations. I need to give people something in return for $$$ they contribute, rather than just take their money.

I blog just about every day, and I’ve got nearly 800 followers on WordPress, 111 followers via email, and 955 followers on Twitter, so I’m putting something out there. But even if no one were paying any attention, I’d do it anyway. Because this is my daily “ritual” that helps me check in with myself and keep myself honest. Accepting money for it seems a little wrong to me.

So, I’m starting to publish some of my posts as eBooks (and probably print books, too). I’ll be publishing individual articles, as well as collections — with themes, like anger and memory and sensory issues, as well as most popular posts that people continuously come back to.

It’s also my hope that this publishing can spread more information around about TBI recovery, to show people that it CAN be done — even after years of difficulty and suffering. Even persistent TBI issues can become manageable. They may not disappear 100%, but they can be managed.

I’m living proof of that.

More shuffling

bookshelf-with-booksI needed to find space on my bookshelf for the two books I got yesterday. So, I moved some things around, rearranging the books I have into a more orderly fashion.

I have been collecting titles over the years. Not a huge number, just a handful of decent scientific / medical / physics works, each year. Some of them have been popular successes, others have been acclaimed in their own circles, which is really what matters most to me. And some are obscure, but have a lot of really great ideas behind them, which have really enriched my life.

The thing with me is that I’ll get really interested in a topic, pick up some books that go into that topic in-depth, and I’ll read them to see what’s there. But my associating mind tends to jump around from concept to concept, and it also connects the dots with other books I’ve read and concepts I’ve encountered, so I veer off course. I make some really useful connections that help me better understand my life and the world around me. But I rarely finish books I’ve started.

Part of it is because I’ve already made a conceptual leap into another realm.

And part of it is that I have seldom read a book that actually  had a strong closing. Most books I’ve read have been let-downs in the last few pages. It’s almost as though the authors just kind of gave up on the whole thing, because the writing and editing process took so damn’ long.

Anyway, I’ve shuffled the books on my bookcase to keep the neurology / neuropsychology volumes together, and put the mythology / archetypal works in their own space. I’ve got books about alternative teaching approaches, as well as quantum physics. And anatomy. Let’s not forget the anatomy. I even have a set of Netter’s anatomy flashcards that medical students use to prep for exams.

I should really get those out and “play” with them more.

I do love anatomy. It fascinates me, how everything is put together and works as a complex whole.

So, that’s the excitement for the day.

It’s the weekend. I need time “off the leash” to just do my thing, go at my own pace, and catch up with myself… instead of what the world demands of me.

Onward… and inward.

It is so good to be reading books again

books-open-stackLast night, two books I ordered arrived in my mailbox. Very, very cool. I went on a “shopping spree” on abebooks.com a couple weeks back, looking for neuropsychological rehabilitation titles (that weren’t over $50 – not an easy task). After combing through listings, I selected a couple. I got both of them for under $25, which makes me incredibly happy.

And they came in the mail yesterday. As it turns out, it’s even better than expected, because they are in good shape, and they are hardcovers. It looks like one of them was a library book, because it’s got the call number taped to its spine and a checkout log inside the back cover. That’s cool. I don’t mind. The book is in good shape, and all the people who checked it out over the years were actually responsible about it.

So, now I have some reading to do. I used to read constantly — always had my nose in a book when I was a kid. My home office is full of books I have bought and read. It’s always been my preferred way to chill out and get my mind off the rest of the world. Plus, I’m always up for learning something new.

But when I got hurt in 2004, I couldn’t read anymore. Not books, anyway. I could read short blurbs, but remembering what I’d read a few pages (or chapters) back, and putting it together with what’s right in front of me… that was out of the question.

Over the years, I’ve pieced it back together again. I’ve read countless technical and scientific papers (most of them having to do with TBI and neurological issues). I’ve read more social media posts than I care to think of. I’ve read a lot of magazine articles online. And of course, there’s the daily deluge of emails that have to be read and responded to.

So, it’s not like I haven’t been able to read anything – just not full-length books.

A few years ago, though, that ability started to return. I had to work at it a bit, and I had to step away from my practice and come back later, many times over. But the practice paid off, and I got it back.

And now I have my books. My nice new books about neuropsychological rehabilitation. Just a little light reading…

Happy New Year, everyone!

Happy-New-Year-20162016 has arrived! And welcome, new year. I’m very happy to see you arriving.

Just in time 😉

The bluejays are gathered around the base of the birdfeeder in the back yard, and crows are calling in the distance. When I got up this morning and went into the living room to do my daily warmup, I saw a cardinal sitting in one of the bushes outside my front window.

It didn’t fly away when I stopped to look at, it just sat there and looked at me.

Now the squirrels are arriving at the birdfeeder. They have been more active this year than usual, given the warm weather, so of course they’re hungry.

I just had my breakfast, so I’m not hungry anymore. At least, not for food. I’m hungry for life and all that this coming year has to offer. It feels like the kind of hunger you feel when you’re anticipating a really good meal prepared by someone you love (who’s also a great cook).

I have a really good feeling about this year. Of course, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will be coming down the pike, but whatever happens, I’m sure I will be able handle it.

Some of the things I have on my “docket” for this year are:

  • Finding a new PCP.
  • Finding a new neuropsychologist.
  • Continuing to build and strengthen my marriage. After 25 years, my spouse and I have been through a lot with each other, and we’re stronger than ever. I’m committed to keeping that going.
  • Finishing the books I have started – expanding Slow My Heart Rate, into a full-fledged book with expanded references and resources, as well as finishing several other TBI-related books I started over the past several years and have not yet put the finishing touches on.
  • Continuing with my daily exercise program, and really focus on my strength training.
  • Organizing my workspace better, so I have more room to work and store my materials.
  • Keeping my professional head on straight, so that the pending work changes which are imminent don’t derail me.
  • Just staying steady and strong through it all, focusing on the basics — good food, plenty of water, good sleep, leading a meaningful life.

I suppose that could be considered a New Years Resolution list, but in fact it’s just a continuation of what I am already doing — it’s more of a statement of intention to keep on keepin’ on, and fill in the blanks of my life where they pop up… which is really what I do anyway.

It’s steady-on for me, this year. With all that entails. I’m sure I will learn a lot in the process. There will be ups, there will be downs, there will be highs and lows and everything else in between. And that’s fine. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be…

So, with that said,

May the new year bring you much that is good, much that helps you grow and strengthen and continue on your chosen path. And may 2016 bring us all much love and light — no matter what.

Happy New Year!

A big bunch of boxes

My situation is not quite this extreme, but sometimes it feels like it

I went a little off the rails, a couple of weeks ago. I decided I needed some new computer equipment, and I bought a couple of items I’d had my eye on at Amazon for some time. I knew I had the money, and I got a deal, so I went for it.

The only problem was, I forgot that A) My spouse had just paid off a bunch of bills that drained our bank balance, and B) I had moved money into our savings account. Saving occasionally is on my to-do list. I used to direct deposit $50 into savings each month, but then things got very tight for a few years,and I had to stop even that.

Yes, we were living close to the bone. Since getting back, I still have this sinking sense of dread that catastrophe is just around the corner. It’s not true, but I feel like I need to be constantly prepared for disaster. So, I haven’t done the regular direct deposit, recently. Even a little bit helps. … Actually, let me fix that now.

Okay, I’m back. I’m putting a little bit aside with each paycheck, now. That feels better. It’s not a ton of money, but it can add up.

Anyway, as it turned out, last week, I really miscalculated about how much money I had on hand. Not only did I spend more than I had on that equipment, but I also spent more than I should have on a couple of side projects I’ve been doing. For some reason, I was convinced that I had $5,000 more to my name, than I did. And the bank was kind enough to inform me of my miscalculation.

I fixed the problem, then it happened again.

More overdraft charges from the bank. Good grief.

A series of confused choices commenced, with me transferring money to and from the wrong accounts, and completely screwing up my mortgage payment. My susceptibility to short-term interference really bit me in the ass, in the space of only a few minutes. It’s crazy. Unless I write stuff down and keep referring to it, it might as well have never even entered my mind. It can evaporate in a matter of minutes — sometimes seconds.

Thanks to the magic of online transfers and a 30-day grace period, I eventually managed to sort things out, but it was a comedy of errors there for a while. I got so confused about which account was which, even though I was looking right at everything on the screen in front of me, and I thought I was 100% clear, each time I set up a transfer. I did it wrong three or four times, before I was able to get it right. And just now, when I looked at my pending transactions, I realized that I’d actually cancelled the mortgage payment transfer. So, I set that up again.

It wasn’t that difficult, but for some reason, my head got completely turned around. I’m still a little fuzzy about it. I’ll check again later this week, when I’ve gotten some more sleep.

It’s all sorted out, now. At least, I hope so. And … getting back to my original subject… I have the new computer equipment I have been needing. And I now have a bunch of boxes I have to figure out what to do with.

The equipment was shipped to me as boxes within boxes. And a bunch of packing stuff to go with it. What the heck? How many boxes do you need? I have them stacked in in front of my bookcases, awaiting their fate.

Not that this is a bad problem. I have shelves full of crap books and papers that I have not used or looked at for years. I’ve moved things around a bit, but I haven’t actually used them. Not the way I used to, years ago. But fortunately, with these boxes, I have a solution – at least in part. I can put some of that stuff under my bed in the narrower cartons. It’s an elegant solution, really. Space is at a premium in this house, and I’ve long felt that space under beds is best used for things other than gathering dust.

So, there’s one solution.

Now I just have to choose what goes there. That’s another question.

As you can probably tell, I’m still in quandary-mode over how best to organize my workspace in my study. I’m incredibly fortunate to even have a study.  It’s mine, all mine, and it’s my sanctuary. It’s a cluttered sanctuary, but I’m not convinced that’s necessarily a bad thing. But with freedom comes responsibility, and I’ve been so caught up in all my projects for the past six months (if not more), that I’ve ditched a lot of the responsibility and let things slide.

With the end result being that I have a lot of stuff that needs to be rearranged and put in proper order – stat. So, I’m working at it a little bit at a time. Not making myself nuts over it, but trying to be smart. A little goes a long way, actually, and that’s a good thing.

Enough talk. Time to solve some stuff. And go for a long walk on this beautiful day. And get a nap.

Onward.

Spring is sprung, and it’s time to clean house

I’m not THIS bad off, but I could do better

That pretty much says it all. Spring is up on us, and with it comes a certain urgency with me to clean house — to clear out all the leftovers from the past year that have nothing to do with me, any more, and really put my current interests and affairs in order.

I am making the somewhat radical decision today, to not file additional federal paperwork on a project I started up last year. The paperwork would be all about registering the intellectual property of my project, and it would ensure that I have the right to sue other people for stealing my ideas.

In theory, that sounds like a good plan. It protects my rights and makes it possible for me to profit from my inventiveness and creativity.

However, in practice, it’s not very workable. Say a big company comes along and likes my idea and decides to steal it. I would need to launch a big-ass legal action on them and be willing to go through all the drama around lawyers and court appearances and filings and whatnot. I’ve had enough of courts in my past several years, and the last thing I want — even if it’s to protect my intellectual territory — is to spend any more time in court or around lawyers.

Not only would I need the right legal help, but I’d also need the time and energy to pursue all recourses, and God only knows how long that would take, and how much energy it would demand. I just don’t have that kind of bandwidth available, and the stress of it… well, that’s just not worth it to me.

I’d much rather have a good and settled life that has a good balance between challenging work and having enough time to blog on the side. That’s what I really want — to refocus my energy and attention on TBI recovery solutions, and make a positive difference in people’s lives.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. My study is chock-full of all kinds of materials — some of it junk, some of it gold. I have a ton of old bills lying around in stacks on my two desks, and I have a bunch of unopened junk mail that I thought might be interesting… but hasn’t appealed to me enough to want to open it. I’m feeling a bit blocked in, to tell the truth, and I need to free up some space for the things that matter most to me:

  • Sitting/breathing meditations
  • Stress inoculation / hardiness development (strength and endurance training in all aspects of my life)
  • Learning new things and relearning old things I lost
  • Sharing what I’ve learned so that others can benefit as well

I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to do with myself and my life, lately. I have really thought hard about my Big Project from last year, and whether I need to continue it. As much as I want to follow through as planned, upon closer examination, I now realize how much time and energy it has consumed from me, and what a source of anxiety and worry and stress it has been for me. I really learned a lot from it, but in the end, it’s really not what I want to be doing with my life, so I’m letting it go.

And when I consciously let it go in my mind, I feel this enormous rush of relief that opens up all sorts of other possibilities for me.

Like another more technical project I had started about 5 years ago, which I let go because I was having so much trouble with the work involved in making it happen. It was a good project, and I hated having to let it go, but my brain just wasn’t up to it.

My brain was too scattered, to easily distracted by all sorts of peripheral details that had nothing to do with what was actually going on. I had trouble interacting with other people, because my moods were so crazy, I would get pretty aggressive with folks, and my anxiety was out of control. It’s kind of tough to lead a project and present yourself well, when you’re a heap of frazzled nerves and you’ve got hair-trigger reactiveness. Plus, the technology I needed just wasn’t there, yet, and because of that, there were a ton of legal and federal regulation issues that were insurmountable hurdles for me, at that place and time in my life.

Now, though, the technology has matured, and I want to re-start that project. It was a good one, and the initial version of the program I wrote actually helped me with my recovery a great deal. So, I want to re-start that and take it to the next level. I have had many good ideas for how to simplify it, over the past years, and I’m ready to start again.

Which is good.

And which is why I need to clean my study. All these books and papers and bills and leftovers… There’s just so much … stuff … that I haven’t used in years, and I’m probably not going to use again. At the same time, buried under that stuff is a lot of material that I need to excavate and restart, because that is what matters most to me, and that’s where my passion lies.

Moving forward is really as much about figuring out what you don’t want to do, as it is about figuring out what you do want to do. And making the choices to NOT move forward with certain things, and to clear the decks of all those things, is a major step towards making some real progress.

Spring is in the air. And it’s time to make a new start. The winter has been long and grueling, and I’ve learned a lot of good lessons.

Now it’s time to put those lessons into action… and move forward with the best of what I have.

Onward….

 

Finished another book! Woo hoo!

The books are back!

Holy smokes – I actually finished another book! It’s called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” and it’s about how to deal effectively with manipulators. I have had issues with getting involved in relationships with manipulators for as long as I can remember. When you have skills and talent and energy, and you don’t have a lot of real direction and you haven’t developed the ability to clearly focus on what you want and how you’re going to do/get it, it makes you very vulnerable to the manipulations of others.

Because the control they exercise over you and their ability to get others to do what they want them to do, can be very attractive to someone like me, who wants to be effective, but doesn’t always have the attentional ability or sustained focus to make things happen reliably.

And being manipulated doesn’t feel like manipulation – it just feels like you’re making progress in the world, and it can feel really good. The only problem is — it’s not your progress. It’s someone else’s idea of progress.

So, over the years, you can find yourself drifting farther and farther from where you want to be, and the life you want to live. And eventually, you can even forget what it is you originally wanted to do.

That has happened to me a lot over the course of my life. I haven’t even minded it, until the past few years, as I’ve gotten clearer about my own abilities and interests, versus the interests and agendas of everyone else. I was so mired in TBI and attentional issues, that I was an “easy mark” for people who wanted to use me for their own purposes.

A great example is my job — I got into my current line of work because it fit the definition of a “real job”, with the regular schedule and seat at a desk. I have never, ever longed with all my heart to sit at a desk all the livelong day, working for someone else, and hoping to be noticed by the “right people”. That just kind of happened because I needed to make a living, and this line of work was the path of least resistance.

It was originally interesting to me, and I turned out to be pretty good at it, but I have felt the burn of carpal tunnel issues, back issues, and all sorts of physical issues, in the past 25 years of being a desk jockey.

And while the money was good, and the rewards were there, I have still ended up entangled in a way of life — being sedentary, primarily mentally engaged, sitting at a desk from 9-5 each day (or more like 10-7) — that has never, ever appealed to me, and which I used to cringe when I thought about doing it. 30 years ago, I would have sooner killed myself, than been consigned to the life of a desk jockey.

That’s probably the best example of my life going off the rails, that I can think of. And manipulation has played a large role in getting me where I am. The coworkers who maneuvered and schemed with or against me, the bosses who tried to control me, the whole system, which threatened and rewarded and has pulled out all the stops to keep itself in place… Also, my spouse is a masterful manipulator, and they have roped me into doing a ton of things that I did not want to do. The big reason we have been so deeply in debt, is that I gave into their pressures to spend money on things that we did not need, or that were massively over-priced. I have only myself to thank for that… and I have actually used the last three years of lean living as an example of what can and will happen, when we live beyond our means. It has been hard on us both, but mostly for my spouse — who then in turn has taken it out on me.

I don’t want to sound like a whiner or a victim. I am neither. I am just seeing clearly the manipulating-capitulating patterns that got me where I am today. I have willingly participated in this kind of relationship, at home and at work, for the sake of the rewards. And now I am seeing that something else is possible.

I really need to escape this way of life for the sake of my sanity and physical health. This manipulation-capitulation will not stand. I’ve already started taking steps to stop the momentum of those moments when I’m urged to do such-and-such right away, even though it’s not the right thing to do. And I’m turning things around at home. My spouse manipulates for their own reasons — largely out of anxiety, because not having things all set and figured out and exactly “just so” makes them intensely uncomfortable, and they don’t do well with discomfort.

I myself am working on becoming inured to discomfort. I try to condition myself a little more each day, and it’s working pretty well. But my spouse… that’s not their “thing”, and they chase after relief for their self-induced discomfort, just about every waking moment. Their habits of mind are what hold them hostage, and everyone around them pays.

Reading the “Strings” book has helped me see things more clearly. And it’s also validated the steps I am already taking to shift the balance of power in my marriage. I know my spouse loves me with all their heart, as I do them, so I have hope that things can turn around. I just need to be more clear about what I want, and what my agenda is. That’s something my spouse understands — a self-centered agenda. So, if I can invent one (even if it is not 100% accurate, seeing as I have very few agendas in my life, period), that changes the dynamic, and they respect that.

Reading this book has been both eye-opening and validating. And it has kept me engaged throughout. I actually read almost 200 pages of it yesterday afternoon, while I was resting. I had a very active morning and I needed to rest, so I just read… and read… and read. The amazing thing was that it went very quickly. I could follow what was being said, I could remember what was on the previous pages, and the flow of the book made sense to me. I could even tell when the author was repeating herself and over-simplifying things, so I just skimmed some parts.

The skimming is probably the biggest sign of progress for me. It shows that:

  1. I can read and comprehend what is there at a glance.
  2. I can get the “gist” of what’s in the paragraphs without needing to digest every single letter of every single word. I can understand what’s being said on the page, without needing to consume every single paragraph.
  3. I am not nearly as obsessive-compulsive about every single little detail that’s being communicated. I am not spending 15 minutes on a page that should take me 2 minutes to read and digest.

Only a few years ago, I wasn’t able to even get through an entire page without losing my way and having no idea what was being said. I would forget, from one page to the next, what I had read, and I would give up after a while. That was so demoralizing. I grew up with books as my best friends, my only solace in an otherwise overwhelming and hostile world. Books where my refuge, my safe place, my domain. And I would write my own stories and invent my own worlds, when books fell short. Books surround me in my home and my study — there are shelves full of them, in every room of my house. My bedside stand has a stack of books 8-high on it, and my spouse’s bedside stand has even more.

Books have been the cement in many a relationship. Having my parents read to me was a way for us to bond when I was very young. Reading the same novels smoothed over interpersonal conflicts with my parents later in life, seeing what books others were carrying and reading helped me figure out who could be my friend, and showing others what I was reading let them know if we had common interests — especially with regard to science and non-fiction. Sharing things we read has joined my spouse and me together, and bookstores have been one of my favorite places to meet interesting people.

So, when I was no longer able to read, and I lost all interest in writing, I lost a huge chunk of my life. I lost my safe place, my solace, my refuge. I lost my best friend(s) from before I could even read. It wasn’t just words — it was any story line, any collection of ideas that I needed to keep in my memory for later. I just couldn’t follow. I just couldn’t manage it. Everything just evaporated so quickly for me… and it was devastating and left me feeling left out in the cold.

The weird thing was, it didn’t even register as that huge of a loss to me. Maybe there was part of me that couldn’t face up to the intensity of the loss, and it was so potentially devastating that I could not even really think about it. Or maybe I was just too busy keeping things in order and trying to keep my life in some semblance of togetherness, that I just didn’t have the time to read. That could be part of it.

But whatever the reasons, it was tough to lose that part of my life.

And now it’s back. If I can find a book that deals with something I am intently interested in, that is relevant to my life, and that gives me good food for thought and tools to use in my everyday life, that is a huge help. It keeps me engaged. It keeps me coming back for more. I have another book called “White Coat: Becoming a Doctor at Harvard Medical School” that I am also reading, because I wanted to be a doctor when I was little, and I am fascinated by what makes doctors the way they are. This book is helping me to understand the process people go through to be enculturated into the medical community, and I am getting lots of useful tips about the mindset and the orientation of doctors.

That’s always helpful. I read this book while I am riding the exercise bike in the morning, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through. It’s a little slim on substance, but it’s an entertaining and informative overview of the kinds of experiences that make docs how they are.

I also have another book which my neuropsych loaned to me several years ago. It’s called “A User’s Guide to the Brain” by John Ratey, and it’s all about how our brains work.  I have not been able to finish it — I read it 3/4 of the way through, years ago, then I put it down when I got too confused and overwhelmed by all the information. I want to finish it and return it to my neuropsych before spring comes. It’s a goal. If things are going really well, maybe I’ll just start from the beginning and re-read it. I think that would be a good exercise, because it will show me how much I retained over the years. And I think it will also help me better understand it this time, because my comprehension is better and I’m better able to get the gist of things.

Now, I’m not sure how things are going to be tomorrow… or the next day… or the next.  It could be that I’ve maxed out my reading-with-comprehension muscles for a little while, and I need to rest for a few days or weeks to rebuild my resources. I do feel a little tuckered out, to tell the truth. But for today, by God, I have finished a book, and it feels pretty damned good!

Now, it’s time to go outside, to get my blood pumping and get some sun on my face. I’ve got a whole Sunday ahead of me, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

Onward.

Wake up call #392

Time to sit up and pay attention

Okay, it’s been a few months since I really applied myself to one of my big projects, and now that I’m back in the swing of things, I can really tell I’ve been away. I had to produce a little side-project, this past week, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I remembered it being, a few months back. That’s basically because I stepped away from that activity for a while — and anytime you’re away from something that you do, even daily, you get rusty.

And rusty I was. It was a pretty humbling experience, and I was definitely feeling the burn 48 hours ago, because it turned out to be a challenge I hadn’t counted on being that hard — and I almost didn’t get it done in time.

That’ll teach me to wander off and distract myself with other side projects, while I’m getting the Big Project up to speed.

You know, it’s funny. I made really rapid progress with my Big Project for about 10 months running, then everything ground to a halt. I made great strides, and everything was looking awesome. I mean, I was booking. Seriously. People I talked to were amazed at how much progress I was making. I was focused, I had a vision, and I had the drive to make it all happen.

Then I hit a few big bumps in the road, things got crazy at work, and everything with my Big Project stalled. Just stalled. Like I threw a rod or something. The work, the thinking, the progress, the innovation… everything… suddenly, where there was once focus and drive and determination, there was nothing – zip, zilch, nada. 

And I went into a kind of hibernation — a sort of depression — not feeling up to much of anything, and just wanting to hide from the new world I was moving into, and resuming residence in the old world where I lived for so many years… a world of books and reading and writing and words and thoughts and plans and very abstract, non-solid kinds of thinking. Fluid… general… pie-in-the-sky, without much actual work going along with it. Just thinking in the abstract, high-level. I went back to my books, back to my studies, back to writing pretty much non-stop about new ideas I had.

Comfort zone. Sweet spot. And it felt great to be away from all the new-to-me activity I’d been caught up in. It felt great to take a break from that new sort of busy-ness, the anxiety of figuring things out from scratch, and get back to the old familiar. Ironically, it wasn’t a slowing down of my pace — if anything, it speeded things up. But it was a different kind of speed, which was familiar to me and gave me some relief from the stress of newness and uncertainty.

I actually did do a lot of really good work at that time, but it had nothing concrete to do with the Big Project I started, about a year ago. I need to follow through on some important steps, to bring it to its logical conclusion, but there was nothing — and I mean nothing — happening.

So, anyway, after 2 months away, I got a new client who wanted me to do some work for them related to my Big Project, and I said, “Sure – I can do that.” I had a hard and fast deadline to meet, and I had every confidence I could easily do it.

But — surprise — it took me about three times as long as it used to take me, when I was still in practice. I thought it would take me a day, at the most, and it took me three days of regular work, some of it really frustrating because things were not fitting like I expected them to.

And in the end, some of the results were not ideal. I also found some holes in the process I was following, and I needed to scramble a bit to get them all in order.  I can check in with my client later, to see how my product is working out for them, and I can certainly make needed adjustments, no problem. But it was a wake-up call for me, to see how much I was struggling with things that I was expecting to be very easy.

Without getting into a lot of fine detail, basically, I need to follow specific steps to deliver my new “product” — and if I do the steps out of order, it screws everything up. I have a number of different pieces that need to fit together, and I was having a hell of a time seeing how they all fit, and figuring out where to start.

It was the weirdest thing – I could see it all in my mind, at a high level, and I knew this was all very straightforward and I’d figured things out. But when it came to actually doing it, things just didn’t “gel” the way I expected them to. And I got so overwhelmed with the jumble of details and steps, I hesitated and held back on moving forward as quickly as I could have, and I lost a lot of valuable time in delays, as well as confusion.

So, the one day turnaround that was logically realistic, turned into three days of recalculating and reconfiguring and hassling over details I thought I had worked out.

The thing is, I had worked out those details. I know how to do this stuff. I’ve done it tons of times in the past, with great success. I was just out of practice after two months of not much thinking about it and even less doing it… and I underestimated the degree to which that time off affected my performance.

Well, now I’m back. And I’m practicing anew each day. After working hard for the past few days, I’ve got my motivation back, and I’m moving forward. I have my ducks in a row better than in a long time, and I’ve made some important decisions about how to move forward, that will help me in later times.

I’m also back into getting as much practice as possible, doing and doing and doing some more — at a steady pace, instead of fits and starts — so I won’t get into the situation I was last week. This has been an important wake-up call for me, and yes, now I’m fully awake and alert and back “on point”.

I’ve got my notebook with the steps I need to take each day, and I am taking them, systematically and regularly. And it feels great to see how much I’m able to do each day. I’m getting more organized every day, and I’ve got a clear path ahead of me.

So, it’s good. I’ve taken my lumps — which fortunately were only my lumps, not someone else’s — and I’ve learned my lesson(s) so I can keep going, regardless of bumps in the road.

Yes. Onward.