Happy Belated Memorial Day to All
Thank you for your service.
Last weekend, I had every intention of taking care of essentials. Getting my hair cut, mowing the lawn, going for long walks down the road, blogging on Memorial Day to thank veterans and their families for their service.
I got a fair amount done on Saturday. Then it rained for two days, and the rest of my plans were shot. The naps I was going to take didn’t materialize the way I’d hoped. I was still tired from last week, and I was irritable. I was off my regular schedule, which made me antsy. And I had too much time on my hands to think about how my life had taken so many wrong turns, and how I couldn’t seem to get it back on track.
When I’m tired and I can’t catch up on my sleep, problems happen. I cause them, of course… and then I need to fix them.
So, that’s how I spent the weekend — dealing with my self-made problems.
Fortunately, a lot of stuff got worked out, and I’m on better footing than I was, last week.
And life goes on.
The thing is… Sometimes things need to fall apart before they can get fixed. I’ve been kind of limping along on, for months (maybe years) at work and at home, trying to make the most of bad situations and challenging conditions, without knowing what to do about them. Either I was too tired, or I didn’t have all the the information. Or things (politics at work) were out of my control. And I just made the best of a problematic situation. Of course I did. That’s what I always do.
I tend to complain a lot on this blog, but to be honest, that’s mainly because I don’t whine about a lot of things in my everyday life. I keep that proverbial stiff upper lip. I make the best of things. I keep positive and can-do, as all Americans are taught to do. Being anything less is an affront to everyone around you and a sort of blasphemy in this country. Of course I can do it! Of course I’m capable of figuring things out! I’m an American. By God.
Every now and then, though, I just have to let that go and indulge myself in a little realism — how I really feel. How things really seem. It’s not giving up. It’s just being honest about how I feel about the situation… before I rally to get myself back on track.
I always rally. No doubt about that. I’m still here, after all.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about missed opportunities, lately. I’ve missed so many, due to slow processing speed, foggy thinking, and of course fatigue. The kind of tiredness that wipes everything messy, like all the class notes being smeared on the blackboard (or whiteboard, as they have now). And nothing makes sense, anymore.
I think about all the dreams I’ve had, and how logistically impossible they’ve all been. I have responsibilities. I have a household to maintain. Insurance to keep. A job (or two or three) to do, each day. The things I always wanted as a kid… most of them haven’t happened, in large part because I just didn’t have the capacity to keep up the pace required to do them all.
And there’s a sense of loss to that. A deep sense of … I dunno… deprivation? Failure? It’s hard to put my finger on it.
Then again, when I look at my life and all that’s happened, I can’t feel badly. Not for a moment. I’ve been able to experience some amazing things, and I’ve really had a great run. I continue to, as well. Even more now, than before, because I know so much more about my limitations and how to work with them. Ironically, my life started to come together after I learned about how limited I am. Only then, could I put systems in place that offset my difficulties. Especially with regard to memory, sleep, and prioritizing things in my life.
I learned how to listen to people, how to talk to people. Before I knew that my short-term working memory was horrible, I thought I could keep things in my mind and interact with people by just being quiet. Now I know better, and I know that I have to keep engaging with people during our conversations, or I’ll forget what they said just a few moments ago. Not only does that help me remember, but it also makes me a better conversationalist. By far. And I’ve gotten over my self-consciousness, I’ve quit telling myself I was an idiot because I couldn’t remember sh*t.
I’m not an idiot. I have organic limitations to my memory, and I just have to work with them.
I also learned how to pace myself and take care of myself on weekends. I used to push myself constantly — keeping a steady level of stress in my life, to boost my “tonic arousal”, keep myself alert and aware of my surroundings. I realize now that while the stress is tasty and energizing like junk food, it’s also terrible for me. Like junk food. I’ve given it up, and I go to extra lengths to get as much sleep as humanly possible. My spouse helps, too, not pushing me so much to stay up late watching movies and late-night t.v.
I just can’t go without sleep for long, without there being serious repercussions. And the changes I’ve made have been hugely helpful to me, my spouse, our marriage, and my work life. It’s a win-win all around.
Most important, perhaps, is how I prioritize things in my life and say “yes” or “no” to things. I pushed myself really hard, up until about 10 years ago, just driving-driving-driving towards my goals. In a way, it worked wonders for my career. It built up my skills. It won me recognition and respect. But it also fried my nervous system. I was chronically over-committed in so many areas, working long hours, driving a long commute, doing extra jobs on the weekends, and pursuing my hobbies. I traveled a lot. I was always juggling a lot of balls in the air. And I could do it. For decades, I did it.
Until it undid me. My fall in 2004 was directly caused by being overcommitted, over-tired, under-rested, and not paying attention. It was nearly fatal to every aspect of my life, a kind of delayed reaction payback that forced a reset in my life that permanently altered so much.
I lost a lot in the process, including my ability to drive-drive-drive.
And along with that, so many opportunities disappeared. Just evaporated.
But when I think about it, I’m not so sure that’s a terrible thing.
I’ve gone from quantity to quality, now. I pace myself better. I pick and choose. I know I can’t do it all, nor do I want to (anymore). I realize just how much time and energy I wasted in all the rushing around, all those years. I was driven by a long history of TBIs / concussions that scrambled my thinking and set me careening through life without good systems in place to keep myself on track.
And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a very good thing, in fact. I don’t need to be doing all that stuff, at every turn. I don’t need to over-extend myself, every week and every weekend. Sleep is good. Rest is essential. And actually enjoying my life… well, that’s a concept I’ve gotten used to.
So, all in all, missing opportunities isn’t nearly as terrible as everybody makes it out to be. I’ve gotten over my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), to the point where I actually look forward to missing out. I see that the rest of the world can easily lose its mind by racing around at top speed, without stopping to think about what’s going on.
I have my music. I have my books and my house. I have my marriage. I have my steady paycheck. And the work situation seems to be sorting itself out, at last. The most important opportunity is still available: to appreciate and enjoy it for what it is, each and every day.