Greetings from the island of missed opportunities

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.

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It’s always good for me to check myself

surfers coming out of the end of a tube
I can do this

On Thursday afternoon, I was a nervous wreck.

Most of the day Friday, too.

Then, by Friday night, I realized that the recent re-org is potentially a really great thing. For me, anyway.

See, for the past three years, my boss has been pressuring me to do a job I don’t want to do, and I have no interest in doing. They’ve been urging me to be more socially pro-active and get out and drum up political support for the program I run. Go network. Hob-nob. Make my presence felt in the world.

I, on the other hand, really just want to get things done. Because no matter how much I politic and get people “in my corner”, if people aren’t doing the job right, none of it is going to pan out.

And, in fact, a bunch of things didn’t pan out over the past three years — partly because I was so divided in my attention that I missed things. Some things I missed so terribly, I was sure I was going to get fired. I didn’t, but the whole experience was pretty terrible.

Anyway, on Friday I was talking to a co-worker about the re-org, and it looks like that whole hob-nobbing, uber-politicking aspect of my position is going to get offloaded to other people. And that’s fine with me. I hate doing that. With a burning passion. And now it looks like I won’t have to do it, anymore.

Praise be.

So, lesson learned (yet again) : Don’t jump to conclusions about what stuff means or what’s “destined” to happen. Because it might not. And I don’t want to waste my energy, getting all freaked out about things that will never happen.

I need to save my energy.

Speaking of which, today’s a bonus day — cold and rainy and grey and quiet. A lot of people are out of town for the Memorial Day weekend. And I can move at my own pace. Tomorrow, too. Long weekend. Good thing. I’ve been needing this.

Yeah, it’s all good. It usually is, I just don’t always realize it.

Onward.

Long weekend… coming up.

boat on beach with cliffs in the distanceMemorial Day weekend is just around the corner, and I can’t wait. Having three days off work — and tomorrow I’ll be working from home, just like everyone else who’s able to, who doesn’t want to get stuck in Friday afternoon holiday traffic.

It’s unfortunate that I feel this way. Once upon a time, I loved my work. I couldn’t wait to do it, each and every day. I didn’t like weekends, and I even worked on my skills on Saturdays and Sundays.

No more. The things I once loved to do are lost to me – ever since my TBI in 2004, the way my brain processes information changed, so I can’t do the level of coding  I once did. I also get tired more quickly, so that keeps me from working long hours at it, as well.

Oh, well. I have other things in my life that brighten my day. And I’ll have three days to do them, this weekend. Work in my garden, work around the house, work in my yard. Lots of outdoor activities — providing the weather holds.

That, and catching up on reading, maybe doing some writing, and working on some projects I’ve recently revived.

I’ve got plenty to do. I’m just feeling a certain sense of loss over not counting my day-job as something I look forward to doing.

I sometimes dream of winning the lottery. But then I get depressed. So, I try not to do that, anymore.

I just keep going. Just keep going. Till I get where I’m supposed to go.

It’s going to be great, having the time to myself, this weekend. Time to think. Time to rest. Time to move at my own pace. Bliss. Sheer bliss.

But until then, it’s work-time. And I’m about to launch into that in another 25 minutes. Just enough time to get myself prepped for my first conference call.

Onward.

Taking things as they come

merry go round with city in backgroundLife has been a little too exciting for me, lately. Lots going on, lots to do, and not nearly enough time to recover from it all.

Work needs to be done on the house. So I’m doing it.

My yard needs tending. So I’m tending it.

My job is extremely demanding. So, I’m stepping up to meet the demands as best as I can.

My spouse is doing okay – one day good, the next not so good. So, I’m dealing with that.

My car has been making strange sounds. So I took it to the mechanic.

The loaner car they gave me is terrible. So, I’m driving the van instead.

It seems like each and every day, I’m presented with challenges. More of them now, than usual, it seems. Or maybe I’m just tired. Or maybe I’m just needing a break. It could be all of the above. But for now, since I have no other “escape plan” that’s possible right away, I’m dealing with everything.

As it comes.

As it goes.

Onward.

Spring is finally here

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!

At last.

The snow has all melted, and the rains have come, and now everyone’s yards are turning green.

I bought myself some grass seed and some moss killer, because my yard is getting way out of control with the mossy stuff. Grass needs to grow. So, it’s time to take action.

I’ve got some gardening to do, too. I bought flower seeds for the various flower beds around the house, and this weekend I’ll have some time to work on them. My spouse is away for four days, starting Thursday. So, as of Friday, I’ll have the place to myself (I’m helping out on Thursday, so it won’t be a day off for me).

Then I can get some work done. Make a racket. Make a mess. I’ll clean it all up, of course, but it’ll be good to just clunk around the house without worrying about bothering anyone else.

Happy Spring. Indeed.

 

Back in my own space again

laptop with blank notebook and pen on a desk
Today I move at my own pace – blank slate

I’m back in my home office again.

It’s been months, since I was in here regularly. I had been working downstairs in the dining room, where I have better wireless connectivity and I can move around the downstairs without disturbing my spouse.

But nowadays, I really need to get back into my office. My study. My refuge. Everything in this room is here because I want it to be. I need it. I value it. That’s not to say I don’t want and value what’s downstairs. I do. It’s just not all mine, and it’s shared space with not only my spouse but anybody else who comes over to the house.

Granted, there are not that many people who come by, anymore. I can’t deal with having a lot of people in my home. Not anymore. We used to have company over a lot. But in the past several years, that’s faded away. I’m too tired, by the end of each week, to deal with people. And when I do have extra social activities on the weekend, it really takes a lot out of me. I hate that it does, and I do plenty to offset it — like working on my stamina and pacing myself better during the week — but it’s still an issue.

A tired brain is a cranky brain. And when my brain is cranky, it’s not much fun to be around.

Truly.

And too many other people have found out. I’ve gone ballistic on some folks whose only crime was being in my house when I was too tired to interact with them. They were friends, and they considered me a friend. But now they don’t talk to me. Oh, well. So it goes. At times, my life is easier without having a lot of regular friends in it, to tell the truth. Does that sound sad? It’s not. I need my peace and quiet. I need my rest. There’s only so much of other people I can take, even on my best days.

That being said, I’d been able to work downstairs in the dining room, because we rarely use the room for eating, except when we have company.  We use it to store things — boxes we haven’t decided what to do with, yet, as well as other packing materials. Papers and mail that isn’t time-sensitive and just needs a place to “sit” till I figure out what to do with them all. Books. Books. More books. Things we’ve moved from other rooms, to make space for our everyday lives. And there’s room for me to set up a workspace at the dining room, which is exactly what I’d done over the winter. The dining room is warmer than my study in the fall and winter, in any case, so that’s part of why I moved my “operations” there.

But not having my own space has gotten to me. I need to close a door behind me and settle into my own frame of mind — the mentality that sets in when I’m in my own space. I have my books around me, my music, my artwork, my papers. It’s all here. All my fascinations from over the years. And all my neurology info. Especially my neuro info.

So, now I’ve moved back into my study, and I’m looking out the window at the bird feeder and the falling snow. We got more snow last night, and now the wind is up, so it’s cascading off the trees, so it looks like we’re having a blizzard. We’re not. That’s just the overnight snow being tossed by the breeze. But it looks pretty intense at times.

It’s Sunday. That’s good. I have a whole day to pretty much do as I please, and that’s a welcome change. It’s not that I’m going to indulge myself… it’s that I have a lot that I want to do, and not having other responsibilities driven by others’ needs is making it possible for me to make some headway.

Write some blog posts. Read some papers. Get the word out about brain injury recovery being both possible and probable. I’m on a mission. And having my own workspace makes it easier for me to focus on that.

So, yes. Onward.

Brain injury awareness doesn’t just work for March

brain injury infographicMarch is winding down, and Brain Injury Awareness Month (March) is disappearing into the rear view mirror.

Again.

My feelings about “awareness months” are mixed. It’s good that additional focus is brought to some issues. But they don’t stop being issues when the month is over, and it sometimes feels like the information then gets eclipsed by other kinds of awareness months.

One of the things that really bothers me about it all, is that it’s so virtual. A lot of it is online, so you get this information download about a topic, but you don’t really encounter real people who are affected by it. No matter how aware you may be about a subject, if you don’t have real-world experience with it, and you can’t put a face and a person to the name of the issue, there’s only so much good it’s going to do you — or us.

Maybe I’m being cynical. Or maybe I’m just being realistic. All I know is, organizing my thoughts and activities around a specified topic that someone else decides on, doesn’t sit all that well with me. Especially because I live with this every single day. Not just for the month of March.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful that people are educating. But I also hope that the education actually goes somewhere and accomplishes something more than… just awareness.

Well, that was interesting… good times, bad times, good lessons

winter frost tree downThis is the story of my last three days. Snowstorm. Trees down. Wires down. Not much going on, other than winter. Storms. Electricity out. No heat, no running water, no television, not much connection with the rest of the world.

Living on battery power, using the mobile phone to contact the rest of the world. Staying close to the fireplace, keeping the fire going all night long, finding different ways to get meals and keep occupied. Waiting for the power to be restored. Hearing one thing, then another, then another.

Waiting, just waiting. Watching the snow fall. Moving it off the driveway. Off the roof. Off the back deck and stairs. Lots of snow. Half a meter’s worth. 18″ worth. Heavy, thick, packed snow.

And now I feel it. In my back, my legs, my arms, my shoulders. Bruises all over my legs, where I slammed against the snowblower. Cold. It was cold. And the all-over ache that comes after hours and hours of being tensed against the cold. Countless trips up and down the stairs to get more wood for the fire.

All in all, it wasn’t terrible, being out of power for two days. Longer than that, and it would have been a problem. We would have gone to a hotel, because my spouse can’t afford to get sick, and they’re more susceptible to cold than I am. We came this close to going to a hotel, then decided against it — the place we called said there were a lot of families checking in, because they lost power, too. And having a lot of kids running and screaming (’cause that’s what kids do, when they’re cooped up, let’s face it)… well, that wasn’t the most restful option.

Better to stay in our own space and try our best to stay warm and dry. Wait it out. Gather around the fire. Rest. Wrap ourselves in blankets and relax. Wait it out. Just wait.

And we did. Power was restored 3 hours sooner than they said it would be, and that was fine. In the bargain, I scored some major points at work for continuing on through with my work, despite having no electricity or heat or running water. I managed to logon to my work by connecting through my phone and then sitting in my running car to keep the power going to it, so I could complete some must-do tasks.

And now I have a reputation for being that much more of a can-do person, with total commitment to getting the job done. So, something useful came of it. Which is fine.

So it goes. I handled this storm considerably better than I handled others in the past. I kept my cool. I kept focused. I wasn’t a total jerk to my spouse. And I came out of it ahead of the game. I’m wiped out and would love to sleep for 12 hours, but I’m also keenly aware of how much good it did me to really move. And not spend all my time in front of a computer, like I’ve been doing for the last however many years.

It was good to have the enforced break. Away from the constant hum of machines, away from the low-level buzz of non-stop electricity. Listening to the wind. Getting out in the snow. Just living a very basic life, and being profoundly grateful for everything I have.

Now it’s time to go get some supper. The refrigerator isn’t smelling all that great. It stayed cold, but not cold enough. So, off I go to replenish it. And get something really good for dinner tonight. Something filling, substantial… and hot.

Just as it should be.

Onward.

Brain injury awareness month – again. This year, the focus is on #braininjury #recovery

brain-injury-awareness-month

It’s brain injury awareness month again. A few years ago, I think I didn’t even realize it until the end of March, so I’m ahead of the game, this year. Of course, the only reason I found out, was that I saw a sign posted on the door of an adult daycare center that’s located in the same building I had a meeting in, earlier this week.

For this month, I’ll continue my focus on recovery and rehab. Yes, it’s absolutely important to understand concussion and TBI and brain injury in general. What’s often missing, is the focus on recovery and the possibilities for getting back to a really great life.

Because even if things have changed dramatically for you because of brain injury, it’s still possible to have a rich and fulfilling life. Just because your brain changes, doesn’t mean your life is over. And too often, rehab folks or the medical establishment just give up on us. That’s partly because of insurance, but it’s also because they just don’t know about or see people who are actively recovering from brain injury.

We’re pretty much invisible, that’s for sure.

 

 

Movement is not optional – it’s gotta happen

pineapple splashing into waterMy left shoulder is still killing me. But I know how to fix it — for the near future and in the coming weeks and months:

Movement. Keeping mobile. Not letting myself sit still for hours and hours, like I have been for the past several weeks.

Or maybe it’s been months. I’ve had a lot going on, lately, and 90% of it has been in front of a computer. Yes, I’ve gotten a lot done, but it’s come at a price.

So, it’s time to change that up. Move my entire body (not just my hands). Get up and walk around the room, while I’m on the phone. Get my morning exercise AND build in additional movement (especially weight-bearing movement) throughout the day. Don’t just sit still for hours on end. That’s kicking my butt.

I’ve got a plan. Now, I’m going to get up and walk around a bit.

Because that’s gonna keep me knit together in one piece.

Onward.