Eggs are great – with a few small exceptions

Soft-Boiled-Eggs1
Aaauuugh! That drip makes me crazy!

Every morning I have my egg. I soft-boil one after I finish my workout, at the same time I make my coffee, and by the time all is said and done, I have coffee and egg (and some fruit or gluten-free granola) for my breakfast.

People are often alarmed to hear that I have an egg every single morning, but my triglycerides are all of 38, and my good cholesterol is 104 (40-60 is the good range, so I’m way above that), so that offsets my LDL cholesterol level of 142. My Chol/HDL Ratio is 2.4, which is well within the 1 – 3.5 range, so I’m good. No harm from those eggs, apparently. If anything, the Omega-3s are helping to lower my triglyerides. I only eat pastured/free range vegetarian brown eggs, sometimes with extra Omega-3s. They seem to taste better than the white eggs my mother always got when I was growing up.

Today was no exception to my routine. I rode the exercise bike (sometimes I lift weights – but today is a rest day for me), then made my breakfast. I really like the ritual of it all… especially running cold water over the hot egg, setting it in the egg cup, and clipping off the top with a quick chop of a butter knife. I get my salt and pepper and hot sauce, and I scoop out the first part of my breakfast carefully, so the runny yolk doesn’t drip down the side. And then I eat. Very carefully. Taking my time. Adding more hot sauce as I work my way down to the bottom of the shell. What a neat little package, an egg is.

One thing about eggs that I hate, is when they run, splatter, or drip. That happens pretty regularly, and it makes me nuts,Β  because then everything gets sticky, and I cannot stand sticky things. Must be a sensory thing with me. Especially lately. For some reason, my hands are really sensitized to everything they touch. And touch is a big way I both navigate my world and also soothe myself when my nerves are frazzled. When I am off-balance, my sense of touch allows me to right myself. It’s extremely sensitive, and it’s what I rely on, when I’m on sensory overload, with my hearing screwed up by tinnitus, my eyesight focused on straight lines so I don’t fall down, and my sense of smell and taste practically non-existent. If my sense of smell and taste are almost nill, and my hearing is stopped up by tinnitus, and my vision is engaged with keeping my balance and making sure I stay upright, then that leaves my sense of touch to keep me connected with the rest of the world.

Plus, when I am stressed out, I tend to “stim” — or “self-soothe” — to calm myself down. Touch is a big part of that. I will either wring or rub my hands or run my hands over nearby surfaces. Once, I was visiting relatives and I was completely whacked out by the long drive, the sensory overwhelm of travel, not to mention fatigue from the drive, and I went for a ride in someone’s new BMW. I hopped in the back seat, and immediately started running my hands over all the surfaces. Leather interior. Soft and smooth and clean. Nice. My spouse had to explain to the driver (who was watching me curiously/weirdly in the rear-view mirror) that I’m “just really tactile”. And that was that. I felt like I couldn’t resist running my hands all over everything around me. It was incredibly soothing.

Yes, being able to directly contact the physical world around me, balances me out — in more ways than one.

So, when things are sticky or slippery, it makes me anxious. And few things make me more anxious than runny eggs that have escaped the container they’re supposed to stay in.

Runny eggs on a plate of bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns, are welcome. I can deal with that – so long as they stay on the plate.

Runny eggs dripping down the side of the egg cup are not.

Runny eggs splattering on the counter where I’m eating… makes me want to snap. Throw something. Break something. I don’t. But I sure as hell feel like it.

So, it’s always a balancing act, when I’m eating my breakfast. I need to be very careful, to keep the egg from dripping and splattering, and when I get it right, it’s beautiful. When I don’t, it’s yet another opportunity to practice keeping my wits about me and not losing my temper.

So, either way, I get what I need.

It’s just not always pleasant.

Anyway, it’s Sunday, and I have a lot on my mind. A friend of mine hit their head a few weeks ago, and they’ve really been struggling with behavioral issues since then. All over the map, emotionally and logistically. Forgetful. Impulsive. Explosive. They’ve been struggling, and they’ve been telling everyone to leave them alone so they can heal, but I’m not sure they even realize how they’re supposed to be healing, and from what. They’re clearly in stress, and their system is telling them to GO-GO-GO, even while they just need to slow down… stop. Catch up with themself.

I need to write to them. I’m not sure if it’s going to help, but I need to at least try.

Oh, and I also need to call my Dad, since it’s Father’s Day. I kept forgetting to get his card, last week, and it’s probably not getting to him till tomorrow.

But most of all, I need to to take a break. I intended to do that yesterday, but it ended up being a git-er-done kind of day. I did a lot and rested a little. Today I’m supposed to meet a former coworker who is starting their own company, and they want to get my opinion on a software program they’re designing. I’m going to take a rain-check on that. I really need to get back to center. Take a break. Get some more sleep. I think I got about 8 hours last night, but I’m still feeling wiped out. Still dizzy. Last week was a huge week for me. And this coming week is not going to be small, either, what with the finalization of my new job coming through. (Oh yes – I accepted the position, in case I hadn’t mentioned it.) And then I need to give notice to people who are really depending on me being THE ONE to handle certain key responsibilities through the end of the year.

Not gonna happen for them.

They really should have planned and prepared better. But that falls into the category of “not my problem”.

Onward.

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Officially starting the New Year

Time to get back to building things

This has been a weird New Year’s period. The holidays seemed all “out of whack” with some happening sooner than usual, and others happening later, and Christmas and New Years happening in the middle of the week.

Strange.

I have been taking advantage of this time by stepping outside my normal routine and doing things that I usually don’t have time for — sleeping and reading and spending a lot of time outside in the woods. I had a list of things I planned to get done, while I had time off from work, but as it turns out, I’m not really interested in doing them, when I have a choice. I have been doing a lot of soul-searching for the past several weeks, and it’s been good to just give myself time to decompress and see what else is going on in my head, that I don’t normally get to “indulge”.

So now it’s Back to Work. I have a list of things I need to accomplish, and I’m back in everyday mode. Things seem to have slowed down somewhat, compared to last year — at least, that’s how it feels with me. It feels less frantic. And although my list is long, I have a more measured attitude about it, and I’m feeling pretty good about being able to get everything done, that I need to do.

In the past, I have pushed myself intensely to get where I felt I needed to go – like a machine… a robot… I had my list and I stuck to it, and there wasn’t really much reward that went along with having gotten things done. Because no sooner did I get one thing done, than another thing would come up. That’s a pretty draining way to life, actually. There’s not much reward in it, so I need to modify my approach so I can get the dopamine and other neurotransmitters I need from my life experience. I’ve had my egg for breakfast, and now I’ll have a banana with my cup of coffee.

Recipe for happiness. πŸ™‚

It’s all learning. It’s all building.

Now, it’s time to go learn and build something. Onward.

Taking the day to myself

What a great way to wake up

I’m flying solo again for a few days. My spouse is out of town on a business trip, and I’m taking today off to catch up with myself. No office work, no busy work, just the things that I need to do for myself and where I’m going.

Ironically, I am probably going to end up working more today than I do under normal conditions, but that’s perfectly fine. It’s work that is my idea, not somebody else’s, and that makes all the difference.

I had planned on sleeping in and making up for some lost sleep from yesterday. I got about 3 hours of sleep on Wednesday night, because I helped a friend get to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. Nice thing about driving down the freeway at 3:30 a.m., is that there is almost no traffic. Just trucks. I was surprised to see traffic picking up around 4 a.m., but for people who work the early shift or are getting off the late shift, I guess that’s about right.

Anyway, today I had planned on sleeping in, but I woke up a little before 6 a.m., and I lay under the covers shivering and trying to stay warm. When I am tired, my body temperature is all over the place, so I can actually be hot and sweating but still feel cold. Or my back and head will be hot as hell, and my feet and hands will be like blocks of ice. I was feeling a little stopped up and fuzzy, coughing and eyes burning. Not a good way to start the day. I’ve been hoping to stay healthy as long as humanly possible… while everyone around me seems to be coming down with something.

After a little while, I realized my strategy wasn’t working. I was still cold, still feeling croupy. So, I pulled back the curtain at the head of my bed, and I was flooded with moonlight — the moon was right outside my window. It was such a beautiful night outside, I decided to go for a walk. So, I got up, pulled on some sweatpants and a fleece jacket over my hoodie, and headed out down the road with a flashlight — to alert passing cars that I was there.

What a phenomenal night sky — the waning gibbous moon was so bright, casting shadows on the road from the fallen leaves… the stars were clear and still so many in the sky, with the big dipper clearly visible… Orion’s belt… and all the other constellations that I am sure have names that I don’t know. The sound of small creatures rustling around in the leaves to the side of the road… The air was crisp and cold, and the walk woke me up properly. There were a few other folks out for an early morning walk, some alone and some walking their dogs, but we gave each other plenty of room. We were all there to be alone, and we knew it.

I had a good, brisk walk, then I did some light exercise and stretching under the moonlight at a trailhead clearing just off the road. Phenomenal. Just phenomenal. I will definitely be doing this again — it could be my new morning routine. It stirred my blood, got me decongested, and it felt great to be out before all the traffic picked up, and I could have some quiet.

And by the time I got back to my house, I wasn’t cold anymore.

I was ready for the day. My head was cleared, and I had a few more answers to questions that had been dogging me lately, which was great. I made my coffee and fried egg, and I wrote down what had occurred to me before I forgot it… clearing the way for a day to myself. I also wrote down the sequence of things I’m going to be doing today — I have a handful of things I plan to do, and I need to not waste time in between, getting distracted and what-not. And I also thought of a few things I would like to do while I am out and about. I am going to be doing some traveling later today, and I want to make the most of my time out and about — going places and doing things that I normally can’t see or do because I’m not in that area.

Anyway, speaking of doing things, I’ve got to get going. The day is waiting, and I’m ready.

Onward.

The power of everyday rituals

There is magic in moments

This morning when I woke up, I thought a little bit about the idea of using rituals to heal from post-traumatic stress, including the trauma of mild TBI. And as I lay in bed, I got to thinking about what sort of rituals would make sense — something ancient, that warriors returning from battle would perform… or something more modern, with a focus on today. And as often happens with my mind, when I am behind on my sleep, or something catches my fancy, I started really getting elaborate with my ideas.

Then I got out of bed. I pulled on a sweatshirt, brushed my teeth, and I went downstairs to make some coffee. I didn’t eat breakfast yesterday — a rare occurrence — and I found the change of pace a little invigorating. Doing the same set of activities every single morning has gotten a little dulling for me. Get up, exercise, eat breakfast, get on with my day… ho hum… I thought I might repeat the performance and go without breakfast, and “break up my routine” a bit.

Then I got to thinking again about rituals — how they help, how they heal. And it occurred to me that rather than coming up with some exotic new innovation that directed my attention away from what was in front of me, perhaps I was best served by the established rituals that are already part of my life — that are parts of all our lives. And it occurred to me that rather than being a restrictive routine that dulls and numbs me, first thing each day, my daily act of getting a little exercise, making my coffee, fixing my breakfast, and then sitting down to eat it slowly and thoughtfully, was perhaps the best ritual I could ask for.

And it occurred to me that if I was starting to think about changing up my daily routine, maybe it wasn’t because the routine was flawed. Maybe the attention I paid to it (or the lack of attention) was the problem. And it occurred to me that if I was having issues keeping focused on the tasks in front of me, maybe the issue wasn’t with the task, but rather my focus. And it occurred to me that, much as I might think about moving on to other jobs, other employers, other work situations, there’s a very good chance that I would end up in this same situation all over again — losing interest, losing my place, losing ground — no matter where I was.

So maybe I needed to just re-focus and turn my attention to what is in front of me, rather than giving in to my inherent (and neurologically enhanced) desire to go find something more interesting to hold my attention.

That made a lot of sense to me, so I put some water on to soft boil an egg, and I did some light weight lifting and stretching while I waited for my breakfast to cook up. And I sat down with my toast and egg and coffee, and just focused in on the very act of eating — how I held the spoon, how I dipped the toast in the egg yolk, the taste of the egg with the buttered toast, the combination of smells and tastes and textures that came with my breakfast.

I’m feeling better now. And although I’ve still got a ways to go until I’m really back from the stresses of that massive project with the unmovable deadline — and I have a ways to go before the end of the year to turn around some of my performance issues at work (failure to complete tasks in a timely manner being the first order of the day) — and although I still feel ill, and I’m still not sleeping as much as I’d like, and although I am still a bit “off” and at about 70% of where I could be… at least I’m taking steps to improve and get farther along.

At least I’m doing things that help, rather than hurt — like focusing in on my morning ritual again, and making the effort to really show up for my life.

And that’s the key for me — showing up. Being 100% involved in what’s going on with me — whether it be “good” or not. Whether it’s pleasant or not. Whether it makes me look/feel good or not. I can’t get hung up on partial truths that seem like they’re EVERYTHING THAT IS, especially in times when I’m tired, my system is taxed, and I’m not thinking clearly. There’s a whole lot more to my life than passing moments of extreme experience, and I need to remember that, when everything feels like it is closing in on me. I need to remember that because of my TBIs and the effects they have had on my brain, my reactions tend to be more exaggerated and extreme — not because they actually ARE more extreme, but because they FEEL more extreme.

My experience from one moment to the next is defined in many ways by my reaction to what goes on, and when I’m tired and on a temper hair-trigger… or I’m not seeing the bigger picture for all the small details in front of me… or I’m not fully understanding what’s going on around me and I’m doubting my own mental health and sanity… my reactions can get way out of proportion to what the situation really calls for. And my brain can turn a mildly annoying, passing experience into a semi-permanent source of pain and fear and agitation, if I believe everything it tells me.

Learning not to believe everything my brain tells me is an important part of my recovery. And doing things that help me chill out my system and be more self-determining in what thoughts I will believe and feed, is key to that learning. One of the things that helps me do just that, is tending to my morning ritual, my waking up, brushing teeth, exercising, and having breakfast in the quiet of my own kitchen. It’s not the most exotic activity. It’s not based on ancient rituals for injured people seeking a return to society. It’s not the sort of thing that others would even necessarily notice. But for me, it works.

Building up by bearing down

My breakfasts aren't this big, but they're not small, either. Gotta have it.

While I was having my breakfast this morning, it occurred to me that this morning ritual of mine has been one of the things that has really fueled my recovery. See, each morning — almost without fail (unless I have an early appointment or I oversleep) — I get up and make myself some breakfast. I usually do a little bit of exercise first, but no matter whether I ride the exercise bike for 15 minutes or I do pushups and squats or I do a bit of yoga, I always have my breakfast. I fix it deliberately, paying attention to what I’m doing, then I sit down and eat it, paying close attention to the whole process.

I don’t just pour myself a bowl of cereal and gobble it down, reading the paper as I eat. I really take the time for myself to really enjoy it while I’m doing it. There have been times when I have wanted to rush through, but I didn’t let myself. It’s important that I pay attention. If I rush, I tend so spill things and make a mess, and the last thing I need is to make a mess while I’m trying to start the day right.

This is important for a number of reasons.

First, I am investing time in taking care of myself.

Second, I am slowing myself down on a regular basis, first thing in the morning, which sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Third, I am paying very close attention. Even when I don’t want to, I practically force myself to. And I’m always glad when I do.

At just the time when I feel like flaking out, I force myself to bear down, and it helps me. Not only does it get me out of my head and get me thinking about something other than my own self-pity and self-defeating thoughts, but it also helps me build more brain connections. From what I’ve read, attending very closely to things builds synaptic connections — neurons that fire together, wire together — which means that my paying close attention to my breakfast builds up more connections in my brain.

Sometimes I notice different things — the way the egg and toast combine visually, or the way the butter and jelly on my toast tastes. Sometimes I mess up the whole process of getting breakfast together, and the toast is burnt, the egg is under-cooked, and the coffee is either too hot or too cold. And I have to regroup and focus in again.

But no matter what I notice, first thing in the morning, the important thing is, I DO notice. And that practice keeps me going throughout the day. In fact, I would say that even more than being a good way to satisfy my physical hunger, a mindful breakfast is a good way to satisfy my psychic hunger — my need to be involved in my own life and participate in the things that matter to me.

Paying attention at the start of the day sets a tone I can follow the rest of the day. And the more I attend to what I’m working on, the more synapses get connected, the more neurons that wire together, and the easier it is for me to live my life.

The great thing about this is, it’s very simple to do. It’s not always easy, but it’s simple. And I have to say, one of the key ingredients of being able to do this in the first place, has been lowering my anxiety levels so that I can slow down enough to pay attention to what’s going on. Once upon a time, the very idea of taking 20 minutes each morning to feed myself was about the farthest thing from my mind and my interest. But now that I’ve been at it, I can see how it’s helped me. And it’s something that just about anybody can do.

Even if you’re not into eating breakfast, anyone can start the day mindfully, paying very close attention to what’s going on in front of them. Something as simple as washing your hands can be a source of fascination. Or watching the birds at the bird feeder. Or the cars passing in the street. Or the clouds in the sky. But we never get a chance to see it all, if we don’t make the effort of slowing down and paying attention.

The good thing about it is, bearing down and making the effort to pay very close attention — no matter how small the detail — is never a waste of time — it’s an investment in our cognitive futures.

More morning brain boosts

I came to my senses and rode the exercise bike again this a.m., before I did anything else. It’s amazing to me, how much more awake I feel, after I finished my (relatively short) ride.

One of the things about TBI is that it can slow down the brain’s processing. That makes total sense, if the usual connections are sheared and the impulses need to hunt around for other ways to get where they’re going. It’s like the Loma Prieta earthqake in the SF Bay area back in the late 1980s – a former co-worker of mine spent 4 hours trying to get home from work, when the drive usually took them 45 minutes, tops. All the usually routes were washed out or diverted. And when they got home, their apartment was fine and there was no sign of anything having gone wrong… but all the dishes and glasses were lying smashed on the kitchen floor. Apparently, the building had rocked one way far enough to open all the cupboard doors, empty the shelves onto the floor, and then it rocked back and closed all the doors neatly.

I tend to think about TBI the same way — especially Mild TBI. Our world is rocked, and things get broken inside, but then we get rocked back into place, and as far as anyone can tell, we’re just fine. But all our dishes and glasses are lying smashed on the floor — and we have to tread carefully to not cut ourselves.

And the routes our thought processes normally take to get to and from where they’re going are also diverted and changed. So, it takes us longer to get where we’re going.

Absent restoring my brain to its original condition — as if there ever was such a thing, as I’ve been having mild TBIs since I was 7 — I can do some things to help it along.

This morning, I did some of those things — exercised, and then had a big glass of water, ate my breakfast, and took my vitamins. I am religious about breakfast — high fiber cereal with rice milk, a cup of coffee, and a piece of fruit. I’ve really cut back on coffee — I have a mug in the morning and another in the afternoon (no longer the 3-4 big mugs each day). And when I have it, I make a point of eating something while I’m drinking it, so it doesn’t upset my stomach.

This morning, I had a banana with my breakfast. I’ve read that a banana and coffee will help your brain work better. The potassium in the banana helps, and the caffeine helps with the absorption. Or something like that.

I also (amazingly enough) remembered to take my supplements.

  • B-Complex for my nerves — very important
  • Chromium Picolinate — helps my body manage insulin production and helps with how I use glucose in my system — also very important
  • Fish oil from Norwegian salmon — deep sea, algae-fed fish which have lots of good fatty acids and Omega-3’s
  • Evening Primrose Oil — for the Omega-6 essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), that is said to “support the body’s heart, nervous, immune and reproductive systems. The GLA contained in Evening Primrose Oil is a nutrient used by the body to maintain healthy cells and vital body functions. Evening Primrose Oil enhances the health and strength of cell membranes throughout the body, and promotes a proper inflammation response. Evening Primrose Oil is also used by the body to maintain healthy hormone levels.” (Note, I’m not including an attribution here, because it comes from a sales site… nevertheless, I think it’s interesting information. If you really want to know what site it comes from, you can Google the above sentences in double-quotes.)

Basically, my morning brain boost is about helping my brain get going in the morning and stay that way. I take the B-Complex to help my nerves, so I don’t get physically taxed by stress, which then fogs my mind. I take the oils for the brain and cellular support, and I take the chromium picolinate to help with how my body handles glucose.

The brain is the Number One consumer of glucose in the body. It needs it to survive — to think properly and to keep its energy level up. There’s good reading over at http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/carbs.html — I’ll post a tiny bit of it below, but please follow the link to get the whole story.

Brain Energy Demand

Your brain cells need two times more energy than the other cells in your body.

Neurons, the cells that communicate with each other, have a high demand for energy because they’re always in a state of metabolic activity. Even during sleep, neurons are still at work repairing and rebuilding their worn out structural components.

They are manufacturing enzymes and neurotransmitters that must be transported out to the very ends of their– nerve branches, some that can be several inches, or feet, away.

Most demanding of a neuron’s energy, however, are the bioelectric signals responsible for communication throughout the nervous system. This nerve transmission consumes one-half of all the brain’s energy (nearly 10% of the whole body’s energy).

Read More…

Interestingly, one of the points of this web page is that the brain needs carboyhydrates to function properly. It pretty much pointed me away from those low-carb diets that everyone is crazy about. Especially with my head injury history, I’m not going to deprive my brain of its primary source of energy — carbs. I’m just going to be smart about it.

As in, balance my carbs with other things — if I have bread, I’ll have it as part of a sandwich that has plenty of protein and extras on it, like lettuce and tomatoes and other stuff, if possible. If I have crackers, I’ll have an apple (fresh with the skin on) to complement it. And if I’m really craving carbs, that won’t be the only thing I have.

Well, anyway, I have a full day ahead of me, and I’m off to a good start.

It’s wild, how much of a difference just 15 minutes of aerobic exercise helps me. That, and my brain boost breakfast.

Stay strong everyone — and eat right!