Regaining my Dignity at the end of “Most Excellent Day One”

zen stones in waterI just woke up from my nap. I lay down for 2 hours, and I could have slept for three or more.

It felt amazing. I need to make supper, now. Get back on track. But I feel so amazing, after just a little bit of sleep.

And I know there will be more where that came from.

Because I have the next week off. Actually, a week and a day. It’s amazing. Fantastic. Just what I needed.

And now I can regain my dignity.

See, it suffered for many months, while I was working on this Mammoth Project. I’ve been over-worked, (of course) under-paid, I have been doing the job of 5-6 people, and I haven’t gotten a lot of support from my boss throughout. Just criticism from afar. Or meddling from afar. Or what seemed like outright sabotage. I’m not sure what’s in it for them, to make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing, or to override me, but bottom line, they did more harm than good.

Anyway, the first phase of the project is over, and now I can look towards the next phase — about two months off — and leverage the foundation I’ve built with people, thus far.

And start living and acting like myself again.

Catch up on my sleep — and stop making mistakes because my brain is mis-firing.

Chill out my stress levels — and stop getting overwrought and yelling at people.

Find the good in what I’ve accomplished — and stop feeling so self-conscious and insufficient, because some things didn’t go 100% according to plan.

I can actually hold my head up again, after nearly a year of feeling trampled by other people’s successes. I can actually get my bearings again and stand firmly on both feet. And I can get past the dismay at my brain failing me, time and time again, under conditions that seem custom-made to trip it up.

I can get my dignity back to where I’d like it to be.

And that started today, on this Most Excellent Day One (of 9), as I got to not worry about The Project for a whole 24 hours.

I’m looking forward to the next 8 days.

That’s the understatement of the year.

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Now, I can sleep

Christmas wrapping
The final push is on…

I’m giving myself an early Christmas present. I’m not going to make the Big Trip to see my extended family for Thanksgiving. I’ve been working long hours for weeks and weeks (months, really), and I feel like I’m on the verge of getting really sick.

My spouse isn’t all that keen on spending all that time in the car, either. And during the most heavily traveled time of the year.

It just doesn’t make sense for us.

Yes, it will be unfortunate that we can’t see our families.

But it’s a massive relief that we’re not making the trip. It’s exhausting in every sense of the word — to the point where it’s not really safe to be doing it. Traffic. Potential for accidents. Family frustrations. All of it is just too much to handle, right now.

What I really need is sleep. Like, an extra 100 hours, to make up for all the lost hours of the past weeks and months. I need to retrain my system to level out, to calm down… to get out of the sympathetic bias that’s just torn the living crap out of me. I’m shaky… nauseous… dizzy… unsteady on my feet… Yeah, I’m in no shape to do much of anything for a week.

And that’s what’s going to happen — not much of anything.

I have off work all next week and the following Monday. I don’t have to go back till Tuesday the 28th.

I won’t have to set an alarm. I won’t need to keep my phone by my bed. I can just lie down and sleep, without worrying about being late for things, or forgetting things, or saying stupid things, or messing things up. I can just be. And recover.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Onward… back to bed.

What I do, is What I am… and is Who I am.

This past weekend was a busy one. It was busier than I expected, because a project I’ve been working on had a “pre-launch” on Saturday, and I had to join a conference call for a few hours, starting at 8:00… and then I was on-call for the rest of the day.

I also had errands to run, in advance of next week’s Thanksgiving vacation (which actually won’t be much of a vacation, because there will be so much travel, family stuff, and tiring activity). It’ll be good to be away from work, but the change in schedule brings its own stresses.

But all in all, things are good. I know that, even though it’s going to be challenging, I have the tools and the skills and the capacity to handle whatever comes my way. This is a huge change from before.  Monumental. And the fact that my last nasty concussion was at Thanksgiving in 2004 (13 years ago), always brings up the reminders of how my life was turned upside-down, starting around this time of year.

I’m managing all the different things I have to “juggle”. Getting errands done in advance. Doing up-front planning for when to travel and what to do along the way to keep from being destroyed by hours and hours in the car. Regular stops are called for. Stretching and exercises by both myself and my spouse. Taking our time, so we don’t suffer too intensely from the whole trip.

I’m actually pretty concerned about the physical effect this trip will have on us. We’re both in king of rough shape, physically. My spouse more than me. And it’s tough, because they’re not very active, to begin with, and that makes it harder for them to recover. Plus, the reactions of our families, when they see just how limited they are with their mobility. People can be both insensitive and cruel and alarmist. What’s needed, most of all, is for people to be strong and positive and supportive. Not despair and think all is lost from what really could be a temporary condition.

Time was, I was pretty crippled, myself. Intense chronic pain that seemed like it would never go away. A state of mind that was defeatist and full of despair. I’m not like that, anymore. And frankly, I think what I did has as much to do with it as anything that I thought or told myself

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I managed to put my life back together… how I managed to restore my Sense-of-Self. I had a lot of help from someone who talked sense into me each week. But I think even more than that, what brought me back was effort and action — consistent effort and action.

Taking action and then giving a lot of thought to the results… and then taking more action… that’s done wonders for restoring my sense of who I am, and getting me on solid ground again. The thing about TBI is that it takes away your sense of who you are — that unconscious, instinctive trust in yourself. And when that goes away, it makes life that much more stressful. Which means that you don’t learn as well as you could under less stressful conditions. And that means your recovery gets delayed. I know mine did. For years.

Because I didn’t recognize myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore. And I became unrecognizable to the people who used to be my friends.

But as I just got on with my life (kicking and screaming, the whole way), and I worked through one situation after another, I came to recognize myself again. Through repetition. Through keeping to a schedule. Through regulating myself with checklists and strategies that made repeat experiences possible and re-taught me to recognize myself.

I think rehab people vastly under-estimate the impact of that loss. And as a consequence, they (and we) lose valuable ground, without realizing it. Without ever understanding why.

After TBI, you have to re-discover who you are. People do that in different ways. For me, it came through action. Taking action. Again and again. And soldiering through the failures and frustrations to build up a better understanding of who I was, what I was about, and why things mattered to me.

Action, in addition to thought, brought me back.

But sometimes we get it backwards. I know I did, for years, up until the post-TBI symptoms were so bad, my life was about to implode. People still do it. All the time.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who’s been having a lot of trouble getting their life together. They said they wanted to understand the underlying nature of their confusion and lack of direction, in order to go in the right direction. I suggested that rather than trying to figure out the mental background of it, they simply move forward, take action, and do the things they want to do. If they wait around to understand what’s going on, they may never get started making the concrete, substantive changes they need to make, to get their life in order.

They’re in a state of “analysis paralysis”, in any case, so just about anything they do to move forward will be step in the right direction.

I’m not sure if that sank in with them, or even if it made any sense. But they seemed to get it.

And I hope they can take the steps they need to take.

Anyway, that’s on them. I have my own life to worry about. But I’m too busy doing things to worry much, these days.

Life awaits.

Onward.

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Work lots, rest more

lone rower on waterYardwork has been my life for the past 2 days.

Now I have cleared almost all the leaves from my front and back yards, and I’m feeling it.

Oh, how I’m feeling it.

So, it’s time to rest. Recuperate. Take a few Advil and let sleep do its restorative work.

This feels incredibly good — not the pain I’m in, rather, the state of having gotten a whole lot done in the past 22 hours. I still have a ways to go, but I have made incredible progress. And my body will eventually get back to where it should be. More muscle for the winter. I can use it.

I have my running list of prep work. I still need to get the snowblower serviced, and I need to call the chimney guys to clean the flue and get the leaves out of my gutters. But that will happen. Heck, I might even fire up that little generator to see how it does with the pump. If I don’t have electricity, I don’t have running water, and that’s no good. I got myself a generator last year, but I never fired it up. I should do that. And test out running the well off the generator.

It’s all happening.

And it’s good.

Onward.

Righted again

I’ve been home for a little over a week, and I finally got a full night’s sleep, last night. I’ve been working off of 2/3 of my usual “dose” since last Friday, and it doesn’t do me (or my work) any good.

Whenever I travel for work, for every 4 days I spend there, I lose an additional 8 days afterwards just to catch up. And I also lose a few days ahead of that, while I’m preparing and putting all the pieces in place to keep my (and my spouse’s) life going per normal.

Normal! Ha. That’s a good one.

Well, anyway, things are back to normal again. I got up after the sun was up, and I had my exercise and healthy breakfast. Now I’m organizing myself for the weekend, so I can catch up on the chores and activities I couldn’t do last weekend because of the fatigue and also competing activities.

I’m also looking for a new job that doesn’t involve travel. I’ve got a rich and full life, and I don’t need to be hauling my a** all over creation. Not after all these years of working as hard as I have. Surely, there are jobs that don’t require that.

Of course, the ones that do involve travel tend to pay better. But it’s all a tradeoff. And ultimately, if my quality of life takes a dive, is the money actually worth it? Not sure…

Fortunately, there are other options. I’m exploring them. And for the time being, as long as I can get decent rest and keep myself from getting too scattered, I’m in a good place.

I’m righted again. And now it’s time to do some yardwork.

It’s all an adventure.

Onward.

After #TBI – Give myself some extra time. Be generous to myself.

capacitors
I tend to run out of energy

It’s pretty easy for me to push myself past common-sense limits. I get my heart set on being able to do something or being able to do something a certain way, and then when it doesn’t work out, I spend way too much time being hard on myself about it.

That helps no one. It really doesn’t help at all.

So, I need to be generous with myself and give myself the extra time I need to do things.

I’ve figured out what to do about my work situation. It occurred to me, last week, that I’m 2.5 years away from being old enough to qualify for early retirement. It sounds bizarre to say it, but I am. I’ll be 55 in a few more years, and that means — in the high-tech industry — I’ll be “old”. And old enough to take a retirement package.

Does this make me happy? You better believe it. “Happy” is an understatement.

I mean, there are things I like about the job, but it’s just too demanding, and I’m not being properly compensated for what I give up, each and every day. I provide a sh*t-ton of value to my employer, and yet…

But in another couple of years, I can not only leave, but also potentially leave w/ a retirement package that’s a nice little golden parachute (emphasis on “little”) that can buy me some time and give me a buffer against any drop in income I might experience.

In the meantime, I’m working on a particular skillset that will allow me to either transition to a different kind of role, or allow me to consult. I’m downloading all my LinkedIn contacts, and I’m building a prospects list for people to reach out to in the future. There’s some danger that some of my contacts will “age out” of the industry (as some are older than I), and that I won’t have as many people familiar with my past work, who I can reach out to. But I have close to 1,000 contacts, most of whom are well familiar with my work. So, I’m pretty hopeful.

I just need to get everything set up ahead of time.

That means I need to:

  • Brush up on specific technical skills
  • Stay current with the part of the industry I’ll be working in
  • Figure out how much to charge for my services
  • Build up my portfolio of solutions I’ll be offering
  • Keep my image squeaky-clean and not do anything in public that will put me in a bad light
  • Update my wardrobe to be more professional and consultant-like
  • Build out my website in ways that put me in a really great light
  • And more…

I’m sure I’ll discover a lot more I need to do, as time goes on. But for now, this is a good starting list. I need to stay steady and systematic, and really pace myself.

I’ve tried to get my own thing going, many times in the past, but it never really worked. I think I just pushed too hard, too fast, and I wore myself out. I never factored in the effects of all those concussions. I had no idea they would even bother me. After all, in movies and cartoons, people were shown getting hit on the head all the time, and it never bothered them. So why should it bother me?

I just always pushed through — also, because I was using stress to numb my pain and confusion. The more confused I was, the more in pain I was, the harder I pushed. And it backfired on me, time and time again.

Well, this is my do-over. I get to do things differently this time, and I will. I have a healthy timeline ahead of me… enough time to get all my ducks in a row, set myself up to succeed, and get all the pieces in place for the future I want to have.

I’ve been helping to make a lot of other people rich for a long time, so why not at least give myself a fighting chance at independence?

It’s the least I can do for myself, after all these years.

Onward… at a common-sense, considerate pace.

Who am I again…? Oh, yeah… that’s who

I haven’t been myself, for the past two days. I was on a business trip, this past week, and my flight got in late on Thursday night/Friday morning. Then I needed to start work early on Friday morning. I was hoping to sleep in on Saturday, but this morning I had another conference call at 8 a.m., so that was … fun.

Kind of.

Actually, it was a good experience to have. And I held up my end of the bargain on the conference call, validating some results of a software release that happened earlier that morning.

It turned out well, which is good. Because then I had to run out and do my errands. Take the trash to the dump. Gas up the car. Go out and buy some computer stuff to keep my equipment running smoothly. That went well, too. Then it was back home to do more errands and help my spouse get ready for an event they were organizing. Everything seemed to be going pretty well, and they got on the road at a decent hour.

I got a phone call about 90 minutes later, that I had forgotten to load one of their main pieces of equipment in the van. Both of us had spaced out and completely forgotten to load it. WTF?

I never do that. At least, I don’t do it much, lately. I used to space out a lot and lose track of stuff. Either that, or I’d be so keyed-up that I’d be on top of everything and wouldn’t forget anything. Hyper-organized ‘n’ all that. But lo and behold, tonight, I did the unthinkable — seriously, it was that out-of-character for me. Then again, I was going on 4.5 hours of sleep the night before, and I’d had a full day already, on a Saturday, no less.

So, I threw the equipment in the back of my car and drove like a bat out of hell to the event. Got there before it started, which was nothing short of miraculous. I hit almost all the lights exactly right — either they stayed green, or I snuck through while they were turning orange to red.

Mission accomplished. Embarrassing, but I got the equipment where it was supposed to be. And that’s really what matters. I spaced out, but I made it right.

Times like this, I just have to shake my head. I am not “myself”, lately. Not even remotely close. I’m over-tired, stressed from work, taxed and alternating between overwrought and indifferent. It’s very strange to be me, these days. I’m pretty swamped at work and at home, so I don’t always recognize myself and my reactions.

It’s worse when I’m tired.

A lot worse.

So, the best I can do, sometimes, is just hang in there, keep plugging away till I see a signpost along the way that makes sense to me… and follow that.

Just keep going.

Speaking of going, it’s time for me to go to bed. I’m behind about 5 hours of sleep, including the hour of sleep I lost last night. Always an adventure.

Onward.

Today’s a new day

railroad tracks leading into the distance with "start" painted on a tieIt’s Friday. For many, that means a few days off.

For me, it means I have a few days ahead of me to put in some more work. Some thought. Some intention.

It’s precious, precious time to step back, reconsider what I’ve been doing for the past week, re-set my direction, if necessary, and also rest, recuperate, re-adjust myself to a life that’s more like “me” and less like how the rest of the world expects me to be.

My TBI recovery has taken me in so many different directions, but at the core, it’s reminded me of who I really am, deep down inside, and what I want from my life. I was frankly on a wrong path, back when I fell down those stairs in 2004, and although it cost me dearly, I’m now on a much better path.

My path.

My life.

Today is my day.

Onward.

Not so angry, tired, or frustrated anymore – Who I was then, versus how I am now

train in rear-view mirror
Looking behind can help me move forward

I had a very productive weekend. A lot of folks tell me to slow down and do less, and it’s important to keep balanced. The thing is, I actually am able to keep balanced while doing more. Because I know how to do things in a pretty efficient way.

Plus, I have a ton of experience that I can use — and I do.

Only I do it much, much better than ever before.

Once upon a time, I was constantly driven to go-go-go, to do-do-do. It was a heady, exciting way to live. But it wore me out. I got tired. And then I lost sight of what I was doing and why I was doing it.

Of course, I had no idea that my history of TBIs was driving me, or how it was affecting me when I got tired.

Now I know. And now I can manage my energy levels — lie down and take a nap when I need one… get up and get to work, if I have the energy… and really pay attention to the things that mean the most to me, all along the way.

I think I’m still as driven as I was before. Maybe I’m even more driven…

  • To heal
  • To help
  • To make a difference in the world
  • To be a positive influence, no matter where I am
  • To make dreams come true, for myself and others
  • To really, really help

Because more is possible than anyone seems to believe anymore.

Yeah, I know… the world is in a mess. Political turmoil. Drama. Threats of war — or outright war. Territorial disputes. Money, power, influence, control. Everybody’s churned up, worked up, and telling tales of doom and gloom.

And I used to get so bent out of shape about things like this. As though there were anything I could do about it. And it wore me out. It tired me out, it made me anxious and agitated, and that was no good.

I had no idea how fatigue affected me.

So, I couldn’t manage it.

Angry, tired, frustrated. I was always that way. If I wasn’t all three of them (which was often), I was at least one of them.

And that was no good. It just stopped me at every turn — the fatigue, the agitation, the distractions.

Meanwhile, I had no idea why nothing ever worked out for me, long-term.

I thought about this a lot, this past weekend, as I was systematically working through my list of errands. Things I had to do for others. Things I needed to do for myself. I thought about all the years I spent working towards my dreams, only to have them fizzle out. And then never understanding why that was.

Now I know why it was. I got tired. Fatigued. And then I got distracted and scattered and angry and defeated.

I’m not blinded to that, anymore.

Now I know.

Now I can manage.

I don’t have to settle for less, anymore. I can actually finish things I’ve started.

And this is a very good thing.

Onward.

Keeping the foundation solid

windrader foundationI’ve been doing better about taking care of myself, lately.

I guess I just got to a point where I realized that pushing myself constantly wasn’t paying off. I’ve always been driven. I’ve always been motivated. I’ve always wanted more and I’ve wanted to see what all I was capable of doing and being and becoming.

I’ve lost sight of the basics more times than I can count, but that gets old after a while.

So, I’m focusing on the basics. I’m keeping my routine going, getting my exercise every single morning — sometimes pushing myself a little harder, sometimes taking it a little easier — eating right, taking care of business as I go through my day(s).

The more I focus on the basics, the more I tend to my foundation, the stronger I am, the more stable I am. And it puts things in perspective.

It’s Friday. I got up early – couldn’t sleep, partly because of work excitement, partly because of being excited about the weekend. I’ve had a few hours of productive working on my projects. I solved a big problem that had stumped me for the past few days. I’ve had my breakfast. I’ve had my big glass of water. And I’m moving forward.

With my foundation in place.

Solid.

Stable.

Good.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. 13 years ago, my life was starting to fall apart. I’d gotten a nasty concussion about a year before, and I had no idea how it was affecting me. Things were just dissolving, and I didn’t understand just how much they were. All I knew was, life had gotten about 1000 times harder than it had ever been. All I knew was, I was stressed out more than ever, I was having so much trouble concentrating, I was emotionally volatile, my temper was all over the place, and life was increasingly impossible.

I nearly lost everything.

Nearly.

What turned it around was simple — focusing on basics. Developing a routine and using checklists to keep myself on track. Getting to know myself again and figuring out how to get through my day in one piece, without losing it over every little thing.

It was simple. But it wasn’t easy. It took constant work. It took sustained focus. It took years.

But it was worth it. And I found that taking care of the basics, being consistent (even boring) was the key to getting back… getting back to myself… getting back to my dreams… restoring my abilities that I’d thought were gone for good.

It was worth it.

And it continues to be.

Focus on the basics. Master the fundamentals. Keep working, keep refining, keep “iterating” from one improvement to the next… and stay steady. Don’t give up. Just be stubbornly committed to my goals and objectives.

And rest. Plenty of rest, good food, clean water. Restoration of my energy stores.

Keep on. I just keep on.

And it works.

Onward.