Into the bleak mid-winter

winter sunset with geese flyingI have a confession to make. I love the bleak mid-winter. There’s a hymn about it, that sounds like a funeral dirge. The first verse starts off with a not-so-perky extended complaint:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow…

It’s actually a religious hymn about the birth of Jesus Christ, and I don’t want to get too faith-based here, but the bottom line is, the start of the song sounds pretty dire, but it ends up in a happy, light-filled place. If, that is, you’re a Christian believer. Everybody else will probably be left as cold as the first verse sounds.

Regardless of religious conviction, however, the point of the song is that despite the cold and gloom of the winter months, a light comes into the world. And that transcends it all.

Personally, I like the bleak mid-winter, because it slows everyone down. All the running around and chasing after things during the spring, summer, and fall… well, it all gets a little tiresome, after a while. Our systems aren’t really built to keep going at top speed, all year long. Or even all day long. We need our sleep. It cleans out the gunk that builds up in our brains, and it helps our systems restore their balance.

The idea that you can get up at 4 a.m. and push-push-push for 18 hours, till you collapse, and then get up and do it all over again, is a dangerous concept. Some people can do it, sure. But they’re the exception. The vast majority of us really need our sleep to function. And that includes me. A lot of us could also use a nap, each afternoon. That includes me, also. But I only get that on weekends and my days off. All the other days, I have to keep up with others.

Of course, getting enough sleep is more easily said than done for me. Lately, I’ve been pretty anxious about some work issues, and I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. instead of 6:30 or 7:00. So, I’ve been losing sleep. I’ve also been staying up later than I should, watching the tail-end of movies that I really like. It’s irresponsible, I know, and I need to stop it. And I will. But right now, my focus is on making sure I’m functional for today… not focusing on the evening at the end of my day.

But I’ve digressed. I love the bleak mid-winter for its cold, which slows us all down, as we have to deal with more layers of clothing. I love it for its long nights, which help me rest and relax. I love it for its crazy weather that keeps me on my toes. I don’t even mind the snow so much, because it gets me active and out and about. And I love how other people slowing down makes it easier to shop and go to the gym, because people are not feeling up to working out (especially after the initial rush over their New Year’s Resolutions has passed), or going to the store at early/late hours of the day.

The bleak mid-winter solves a lot of logistical issues for me, slows things down, gives me a break from the onslaught of constant go-go-go, and it gives me space to move and think instead of having to constantly negotiate the world around me.

And that’s fine. It’s just fine with me. So… onward.

Busy weekend, quiet morning

toolsI had a busy weekend, doing a lot of work around the house while my spouse was out of town. Lots of lifting and moving and hammering and drilling and lugging things around. And in the end, I’ve finished some of the biggest items on my to-do list — which were also the ones that I couldn’t seem to do for months and months.

And it’s all good.

I’m really foggy today. I was really foggy yesterday. I’ve been feeling really “draggy” and dull, lately, and it’s not fun. But I keep to my schedule and I keep doing the right thing(s) for myself, and it all seems to work out okay. I haven’t been getting to bed at a decent hour, lately, so that’s probably a determining factor.

But at least I’m functional on average. And I can rally to get a bunch of stuff done when the opportunity arises.

Now it’s quiet. The sun is shining, and the kids have all gone to school. Time to get ready for work and see what the day has to offer.

This week, my goal is to get myself back on track with my sleeping. I see the neuro one last time this week, to see about possible neuropathy in my feet and legs. I’m guessing there’s none, but I’m going to follow through with it. Then I will probably just drop the whole neuro thing and look into having my ears checked.

And possibly my eyes.

Or whatever.

The day awaits… onward.

Long day today – will Ruckpack help?

This caught my attention, the second time around

I re-watched an old Shark Tank episode where a Marine (former Special Ops) was pitching his energy drink Ruckpack.

One of the big selling points for him was the caffeine-free formula that did not produce jitters.

When I first saw it, I didn’t need a caffeine-free solution for my own personal energy crises. But now I do. Based on what the Marine said, this might be just what I’m needing.

I found a store that carries Ruckpack, and I picked up a couple of bottles (the caffeine-free mix), just to see. Today is a long day – I started at 6:00 a.m. with a support call for work, and I will be going till10:00 tonight, at least. I have meetings all day – booked solid from 9:00 a.m. till 4:00, when I need to drive an hour to my neuropsych for my weekly appointment. Along the way, I need to run some errands. And then I have a networking meeting in the evening.

So, I will need some extra help today, most likely.

I’m going to try Ruckpack to see how it works. If what they say is correct, that it provides steady energy and nutrients “for every battle”, and it does so without caffeine, then this might be something I can actually use.

I’m going to wait till later this afternoon to try it. I’ll report back.

If it works for me, it might work for other folks struggling with mental fogginess / TBI / headache / migraines, who have to steer clear of caffeine, as well.

Let the experiment begin.

Go away, uber-uber-boss, go away

Yes, please.

As a person, our uber-uber-boss is a great individual. They are interesting, caring, personable, and they have everyone’s best interests at heart.

As a boss — especially an uber-uber-boss  — they are a train wreck. Seriously, this person is just about the worst boss I’ve had the misfortune of reporting to, however indirectly. They are so intent on “connecting” with us, making sure we feel cared about and supported. But they have no idea what we do, they are about 15 years behind us in proficiency and familiarity with the business we are in and the work we do, and all they do is hold us back and subject us to their profound ignorance.

Holy crap, I can’t wait till they go back. I’m working remotely today, so I don’t have to be around for their last day, and I can actually get something done. I’ve been making great progress on work I have to get done at the office, but I’ve been so swamped with handling collateral damage from the uber-uber-boss’es visit, that I have had no bandwidth at all for doing anything other than work-work.

I’m tired. And when I’m tired, I get really distractable. And then I lose my way and end up wandering around in a fog for days on end, unable to remember what I was supposed to be doing. Oh hell, that’s what this whole job has been like for the past three years — one rush job after another, peppered with distractions out the wazzoo that just drain me. Big time.

I think I’ll update my resume this weekend. That will make me feel so much better. I’m going to finish up this massive deadline, then I am going on vacation for a week, then I am going to finalize my next job details, give notice, and I should be out of there by mid-October at the latest.

In the past, I was in a huge rush to go. Now, I am just moving at my own pace and confident that when the time comes I will have the right opportunity at the right pay level, and I’ll be able to extract myself from this distraction marathon that has been this *)%$(&^ job source of pain, activity, and income in my life.

To be fair, this job has taught me a lot, and it’s brought me out of my shell a great deal. I do feel like I’ve become a lot more social, as a result of working here, and I do really like and care for the majority of the people I work with. But the company itself is run by buffoons who have no truly loyal people reporting to them. Everyone just tells everyone else what they want to hear, and the trickle-down results are sad. Very sad.

Oh, well. In a few more months, this will fall into the category of “not my problem”. I’m actually learning a lot about certain disciplines that I can turn into more $$$ along the line. And I’m learning a ton of things that I can apply in my own work and personal projects, as well.

The main thing is keeping myself rested and well-fed. I’m doing well with the nutrition piece of it, I believe. I could do better with it, though – I don’t eat enough vegetables. And I’ve been having some weird skin reactions, so I think there’s something I need to fix. I have cut out wheat from my diet, which was actually easier to do than I expected. And I’ve been doing good about not snacking a lot in the afternoons, when it seems to not metabolize at all. But I need to eat more rounded meals, that’s for sure. I’ve kind of crossed over to the meat and potatoes and a pile of green beans side of things, and that’s not at all balanced. I do feel better, not eating a lot of junk food and keeping away from bread, but something seems to be missing for me.

I’ve heard a lot about people taking pre-natal vitamins for an extra boost — women take them to strengthen their hair and nails, and men take them because they supposedly help keep hair from thinning. As I get older, I notice changes happening in my chemistry — especially my skin and hair — so I need to do something about that. I’m going to try pre-natal vitamins and see how that works.

Changes, changes. Just little minor tweaks to my life, that make all the difference. And now that the uber-uber-boss is going away, I will have more psychological bandwidth to deal with things. One of the nice things about them coming to town, is the huge relief that comes when they leave. Seriously, it’s like a huge block of time and energy gets freed up, and it feels amazing. Expansive. Ah, freedom.

It really is amazing, just what a drain the uber-uber-boss has been, all this week. They started being a drain last week, with the team anticipating their arrival. Chit-chat and drama about what they’re going to do next… woo hoo. Then they arrived at the office, stirred things up with their big plans that have nothing to do with anything we actually need to get done (and are probably never going to happen, anyway), and whipped everyone into a frenzy with their bogus posturing and promises. I wish I could just block them out and ignore them, but they’re right there in front of us, and we have to deal with them. I’m hoping we can all just go back to work next week and not have to think any more about them. That’s all I want. Peace in the kingdom and quiet, so I can get these last few projects out the door. And then leave in October.

It’s hard to believe we’re already 2 weeks into August. Next week we’ll be in the teens of the month, which is crazy. Everything is flying by so fast, and I have so much to do. I set all these goals for myself, some more reasonable than others, and it keeps me busy. But I need to be able to shift and change and adapt to changing conditions and not get down on myself when things don’t turn out the way I expect them to. I need to be more flexible and factor in distractions and set-backs — like the uber-uber-boss coming to town and trying to “insert” themself into our process. I also need to be able to see past the immediate problems they cause and roll with it. I get caught in the weeds, so to speak, and I end up flailing around and getting all bent out of shape about things which will pass soon enough. That especially happens when I am tired, so things can escalate pretty quickly when all is not to my express liking.

Well, it’s all a lesson to be learned. One after another. The main thing is that I keep tabs on my mindset and keep myself from short-circuiting with unrealistic expectations and all manner of imaginary issues that are the invention of my mind alone.

The mind is such a powerful force. Using it for good instead of evil seems to be the chief challenge of the whole human race.

So, it’s back to work now, to get the last of the last done. I have some time to spend this morning looking at everything that’s in front of me that I need to get done, listing it out, organizing it, planning my “escape”, and figuring out the next steps to follow to get there. That in itself helps me regain my balance and not feel so out of whack. It gets me up out of the weeks and gives me perspective. And it’s probably one of the best uses of time I can imagine.

That, and not eating constantly. I had a lot of free food within easy reach of me yesterday, and I really over-did it. Now I’m hungry. Time to stop that slide into darkness…

Onward.

Surprise – a day “off”

I just “won” an extra six hours in my day. I was supposed to go see friends this afternoon and catch up after our holiday extravaganzas, but my spouse is sick, which is unfortunate. That is not good.

What IS good, is that now I have those afternoon hours back, so I can focus on some things I’ve been rushing to accomplish. It really takes the pressure off.

And now I can go for a short walk. And take a quick nap, before I start on my next “leg” of activities.

It’s not that I don’t want to see these friends – I do. I really enjoy hanging out with them, and I’ve missed being around them. But things are so busy now at work, it’s difficult to relax when I know how much is waiting for me on Monday.

I’d rather be relaxed and present, than rushing (and possibly resentful) over not having as much time to prepare for tomorrow as I need.

Despite the misfortune of illness, this is a blessing in disguise.

Sometimes it helps to make a bit of a mess

I spilled water yesterday morning, while I was making my coffee. Twice. Oh, well. It was easily cleaned up. And when I did wipe it up, I also cleaned the counter, which had the odd spot and speck on it.

After the small pond had been sopped up, the whole counter was cleaner, and so was that corner of the kitchen.

I worked most of the day yesterday. Catching up with things I’d fallen behind on. I got an early start and worked through the evening, till late. I took a nap around 4 pm and then got up and go at it again.

It may sound like a lot to do, but it’s actually really relaxing. I actually got to sort out all the things I couldn’t get to during the week, for sheer lack of time.

I love my job. I really do. And it loves me — so much, that I’ve got this never-ending stream of things I love to do… that I need to do. It’s kind of a drag, having so much to do, that you can’t enjoy the things you’re taking care of, but that’s kind of where I’m at. Not much time to relax and recoup. Management has some odd (and fairly uninformed) ideas about what makes people effective. They seem to think that constant change and shifting priorities are exciting.

If you consider adrenal exhaustion exciting, then I suppose it is.

Anyway, I did get a lot done, and I got to do it at my own pace — thoughtfully, mindfully, with an eye on the larger picture. Good stuff. When all was said and done, I didn’t feel like I’d been working — just doing my thing and enjoying it.

I’ve got a new sleeping approach that’s working pretty well for me — not worrying about getting a full 8 hours (and stressing about it, if I don’t), but taking intermittent naps, and pacing myself with time-outs that let me deeply relax. I’ve also found some stretches and pressure points in my neck and lower back that seem to be like “switches” that put me into an incredible state of full-body relaxation when I do them. It’s pretty amazing. I do progressive relaxation at times, working from my toes to my head… but these stretches and points are like an instant shot of relaxation.

Amazing.

Another amazing thing is that I’ve realized that it’s not so much the lack of sleep that wrecks me, as it is stressing about lack of sleep. Getting all tense and uptight just wears me out even more. Of course, it’s not optimal to be running around on 6 hours of sleep each day — and running at a pretty fast pace, too, I might add. But I find that if I don’t stress over it, and I incorporate things like regular stretches throughout the day, as well as naps when I can get them, I can stay in a pretty good space.

When I tense up and get all tight, it actually drains more energy from me. Even with 8 hours of sleep, if I’m stressed and tight, I feel/do worse, than if I have 6 hours and relax into the day.

Mindfulness, too — I have to stay mindful and present and pay attention to what I’m doing. If I get 9 hours of sleep but am just driving myself mindlessly through the day, things have a way of getting completely screwed up. In fact, there’s something challenging about being fully rested. I get so amped up, I tend to overdo it.

Well, it’s all an adventure and an experiment. I got a lot done over the weekend, which makes me really happy. And I found some techniques for instant relaxation, which makes me even happier. I never thought it was possible to feel this good about such mundane things. But I do.

🙂

Dangerously dizzy… but life won’t wait

I’ve been increasingly dizzy, the past few days. My left ear is squishy and has been making its presence felt. Pressure in my head, and fatigue… I haven’t had good sleep hygiene, for the past few weeks, and it’s catching up with me.

It’s a scary thing, because it’s so disruptive for my daily life. I have things to do and stuff to accomplish, but if I stand up too quickly or move too suddenly, the whole world starts to rush and spin and I get very sick on my stomach. It also makes me extremely irritable, so I snap out at every little thing, which makes me very difficult to deal with at times.

The only thing that really saves me, is being totally focused on what I’m doing, and not moving much while I’m doing it. Working at the computer is a perfect solution for me, because I have to sit up straight and stay focused on the screen in front of me.

The only problem is, it’s Saturday… a few days before I take off on my marathon trip to see family… and I have a whole lot to get done. Dizziness puts me in more danger of falling or having an accident. If I’m not careful, I can get in a lot of trouble. The last thing I need this holiday season is another concussion — most of my adulthood injuries have coincided with holidays, when I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off and wasn’t paying proper attention. I was fatigued and disoriented… and I fell or had a car accident. Not good.

Yes,  I need to be very, very careful, in everything I do.

I think a big part of the problem I’m having right now is the impending holiday rush. The prospect of driving through several states to see multiple families, over the course of nearly a week is making me a little nervous, and that’s setting off my schedule and my focus.

I have been doing really well with keeping to my daily exercise, which helps.  I just finished my morning workout, in fact, and I feel noticeably better than I did before it. I worked up a sweat and got my heart pumping, which in turn moved the lymph through my system to clear out the grunge. I love lymph. So basic, so essential, so useful. Without it, I’d be in a heap of trouble, and I count my blessings that I don’t have lymph drainag problems, like folks with edema do.

Anyway, I’m feeling better, and I have a full day ahead of me. But I’m pacing myself. And I’ve blocked off time this afternoon to sleep. I haven’t had a good afternoon nap in weeks, and it’s taking its toll. If I don’t nap at least once over the weekend, it catches up with me — and that’s what’s been happening.

And now I’m really dizzy, with a lot of stuff to do, and I regret doing chores last Sunday, instead of taking my nap. I had three solid hours to myself, to use as I pleased, and I frittered away the time on futzing around and doing little chores that took longer than I expected.

Ah, well,  so it goes. At least I’m aware of my dizziness, so I can accommodate it and work with it. When I’m really, really dizzy, I find that keeping my posture ramrod straight and moving very slowly and deliberately helps tremendously. Also, if I sleep a lot and drink plenty of fluids and avoid sugar, that helps, too. I’ve taken medicine for vertigo, but it didn’t help a bit. Anyway, it turns out the medicine is really just for nausea that results from vertigo, not the vertigo itself — at least that’s what the PCP I had at the time told me. Come to think of it, they could have been wrong. They were a bit of an idiot, by average standards. (And it was a scary six months in my life, when they were my primary doctor.)

But now I’ve got a pretty good PCP, and I trust them a whole lot more than the last several I went to. Trusting your doctor is good. It simplifies a lot of things, in many ways, not least of which is the office visit experience.

But more on that later. Right now, I need to stay focused on my dizziness.

Tracking back over the past week, as it’s gotten steadily worse, I have been looking for what I’ve been doing differently that has contributed to this. The one thing that I’ve been doing regularly, that is very different from before, is that I’ve been eating pieces of chocolate to keep myself going. Not just chocolate, mind you, but those little Dove chocolates with peanut butter in the middle. I thought that the peanut butter would give them more staying power, but what I’ve noticed over the past week is how much sugar is in those little puppies.

Zoinks! Who eats this stuff regularly?! They’re dangerous! Sure, they give me a little pick-me-up when I need it — like driving home late from work when it’s very dark, I’m very tired, and I’m having a hard time seeing. But I’m finding that when I eat one, I crave another one about 10 minutes later — like I spike, and then I crash and am worse off than before, so I need another “little” piece of candy to keep me going… and my system gets totally fried by all the sudden, extreme ups and downs.

Which contributes to my fatigue… and apparently my dizziness.

Not good.

So, while I’m doing my errands today, I’m going to remove the chocolates from my car — just throw them out — drink more water, eat more fruit, and be very, very careful when I’m out and about.

The last thing I need is another accident or fall.