This is how I know I need to slow down and take better care of myself

snow covered buildings

Like many places across the country, we had snow, this past weekend.

I went outside. I shoveled. I scraped. I roof raked. I waded around in the snow, taking care of business.

Then I went back inside.

I’ve been tired, and I can tell I’m over-tired, when I don’t want to go outside. Or I avoid it. Or I go outside at night, instead of during the day. I’ve been so caught up in the job situation and dealing with deadlines, that I didn’t realize just how worn out I was.

But when I avoid going out into the snow… I know something is wrong.

I love the snow. I love the cold. I feel best, when it is below freezing. I don’t feel cold when it’s the coldest. My internal thermostat kicks on, and I feel warm.

But not when I’m worn out. When I’m overtired, I get more sensitive to light — so going out into the bright snowy day isn’t any fun. I also get less coordinated — so, walking across slippery ground is very dangerous for me. I can’t afford to fall, so I avoid going outside. If this happens when we just got six inches of beautiful fluffy stuff, I know there’s something wrong.

So, I have to take better care of myself. Give myself more time to do things. Take more time to sleep. Relax. Put down the smartphone. Just relax.

I haven’t been doing enough of that, lately.

But I can start now.

Because we got our Christmas decorations up. I put up the tree and we hung our ornaments last night. The boxes of unused decorations are back down in the basement where they belong (some years, I don’t take them downstairs for weeks, even months, so this is progress). The driveway is cleared, and my schedule at work is going to be pretty mellow for the next couple of weeks. I only have seven more work days before my break, and I’m stoked.

Completely stoked.

Woot.

I just need to take care of myself during my time off, give myself a break, catch up with myself.

And take some time to enjoy the beautiful snow.

Advertisements

Sitting tight and getting my priorities straight

So, I got the job offer last week. Friday, while I was running errands, the recruiter called me and let me know that the company wanted to bring me on as a contractor first, then potentially hire me permanently.

And it gave me pause. It was actually happening. I was actually being presented with a job opportunity that I’d pursued, that had actually gone well, interviewing-wise, and was about to deliver exactly what I was looking for, career-wise.

Except…

The commute would have been about an hour each way. That is a huge discourager, because I already have fatigue issues, without risking my neck on a commute into some of the worst traffic in the area. No thank you.

I wouldn’t be able to work remotely whenever I want. That’s another huge problem, because sometimes I can’t make it through the day without a 20-minute nap. And the idea of having to drive in, every single day (except on those occasions when I have an appointment), drag my a** through the entire week, and then deal with evening traffic in terrible rush hour conditions… Yah. No.

I have no guarantee of what the ultimate terms of employment would be. I don’t know what salary they’d offer me, exactly, and I don’t know what benefits they’d have, what the vacation policy would be, what kind of accommodations I could get to keep functional… As much as they made it sound like I was practically guaranteed a permanent spot, there’s no guarantee of that, and I’m just not prepared to take that chance.

They’re not paying me what I’m worth. The recruiter was very cavalier about telling me the parent company typically doesn’t pay the full market rate, and I’m sick and tired of being told that. The thing is, over the years, one position after another like that has set me back. Because everytime you start to negotiate salary, they start from where you are currently. And that puts me at an immediate disadvantage. I’m sick of playing that game and losing, over and over.

When I did the math, the whole deal just looked worse and worse. I’d need to cover my own insurance for 6 months, my commuting costs would go up, and lifestyle issues just canceled out any benefit I’d get from the technical boost. It just didn’t pan out. If anything, it would have been a step back, which is something I’ve done far too often in my career.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had to make accommodations for my employers and grant them concessions because of my TBI issues. I’ve had to pass on really great jobs, because they demanded too much. Or I had to leave okay jobs because my health was suffering and I was shorting out. But at last, I’m working at a place where I can build my own accommodations into my job, and I’m a “known quantity” in the ecosystem.

So, it’s really not so bad, after all.

And I’m staying put. I’m better off at this company and exploring job options within its vast corporate complex, than venturing out in to the rest of the world, where everything is a big question mark.

That’s one thing I’ve figured out in the past few days.

The other thing I’ve figured out, is that I need to quit worrying about developing commercially viable products on the side. I’ve tried to “monetize” my blog, I’ve started websites, I’ve launched initiatives, I’ve written eBooks, I’ve dug into all sorts of entrepreneurial modes of working and thinking. I’ve been pretty focused on doing that for over 10 years, because I didn’t feel like I could really function in the 9-5 business environment as it existed. The long commute. The long hours. The rigid rules and office politics. It just sucks the life out of me.

I was right. I can’t function in those conditions. But the solution is not to strike out on my own to make my own way in the world, launch startups, forge a new path through the jungle, etc. Rather, it’s to find a decent steady job situation that gives me the stability, insurance, paid time off, and flexibility in hours that allow me to function at my best.  To have the best of all worlds. And quit worrying about all that work-for-myself intensity that I’ve been wrapped up in since 2006.

I’ve found a situation that works for me now. Who knows how long it will last, because supposedly they’re laying off a lot of people. But the part of the company I’m in, isn’t one of the ones where there’s a huge amount of redundancy. And anyway, getting laid off would involve a package of some kind, so that will be helpful.

But whatever. Bottom line is, I’m taking the pressure off myself and ditching the whole go-it-alone mindset. I realize it’s taken a lot out of me, to constantly be pushing myself on my side projects, and it’s consumed a lot of my time that I could be spending on things like blogging here and just enjoying my life. Catching up on my reading. Actually thinking about stuff at my leisure. I used to do that, before I got caught up in the whole entrepreneurial craze, and I miss it. I want to just relax, for once. More than anything, I need to wean myself from the whole stress thing, give myself time to breathe, and develop the habit of just living well.

Writing what I can here. Minding my own business. Taking care of my home and my health. Getting strong and healthy for the long haul. ‘Cause in the end, nobody’s really going to take care of me like I can. Nobody else knows what I need, like I do. And I’m done with chasing castles in the sky.

I’ve got my own realm here on the good earth.

And there’s plenty to occupy me here.

Just a few weeks left…

… in 2017. It’s been quite a year. Very, very busy. Too busy for my liking, but that’s been out of my control, for the most part.

I am getting more leads on other employment opportunities, and I’m doing a better job of not getting emotionally invested in a certain company or a certain position. No matter how transparent companies are, there is always additional info the interviewers leave out.

So, I have to make up my mind based on actual objective facts — length of commute, salary, stability of the company, vacation time, insurance and benefits. The rest of the people stuff and roles and responsibilities is “ephemera”. That gets worked out in the process of just doing the job.

This is one of my favorite months of all time. I have time off — leftover vacation time I need to use up, as well as a week off between Christmas and New Years — which will let me catch up on a bunch of stuff I need to wrap up before the end of the year. The weather is getting colder, too, which is great. I don’t do well with the heat, as I get older. And I sleep better when it’s cold.

I’m also getting a lot of things done at work — at the job I’m hoping to leave. It’s a roller coaster. Every day, it’s either really great, or it sucks beyond belief. One day, I can’t wait to get out of there, the next, I could stay forever. If I find a situation that’s vastly superior to where I am now, I’ll go for it.  But I’m not under a ton of pressure to go. That’s more a personal preference.

In the meantime, I’m plugging away at my work. Just keeping going. Talking to recruiters, doing my own projects, and keeping my head down, overall.

I’ve got time to relax and think things through… or just sleep.

I might just do that.

Second interview, second thoughts

handshakeI had an in-person interview for a new job on Friday.

All in all, it went well, I think. We seemed to connect well, and it’s the kind of work I want to get back into. I pulled together an updated portfolio of my work in a big hurry on Sunday morning. I had a lot to do, this past weekend — including an all-day event on Saturday and a ton of yard work and other chores on Sunday — so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked.

But I got it all together within a few hours on Sunday, and I’m fairly happy with the end product. It also lit a fire under me to really pull together a good portfolio of my work. That’s the one thing I’ve been missing, all these years. To be honest, I never actually needed it before, because at the level I was operating at, and based on the companies I’d worked for, everybody just knew I could do the job, hands down.

Now things are different, though. We’ve got all kinds of people making all kinds of claims about what they can and can’t do, and the job market is glutted with posers. So, a portfolio is the first and last line of defense for both job seekers and employers.

Even if the job doesn’t work out — and I suspect it won’t, because I believe they have an open work space floor plan, and that doesn’t work for me. I’m a really “visual thinker” and rely on the part of my brain that processes imagery to do my job. So, if my line of sight is not blocked and I’m constantly being visually interrupted, I can’t do my work.

I learned that lesson loud and clear years ago. And I’m not going back to any environment that’s even remotely “open workspace”.

I’m also not a huge fan of long-ish commutes. My commute right now is pretty good, and the route also includes a number of stores, so I can shop on my way to and from work, without disrupting the rest of my schedule. That matters. It makes a huge logistical difference in my life.

I also can’t work full-time in an office. I need to work from home at least two days a week. I might need a nap, and I need to be at home for that.  Additionally, not having to drive my car every single day makes a big difference in my fatigue levels, as well as the cost of fuel.

Plus, the company wants me to come on as a contractor first, then get hired. I’m not sure I’m okay with that. It leaves a lot to chance, and while they may say they’re stable and supported by their parent corporation, I’ve been around long enough to know how quickly that can change.

Anyway, I haven’t heard back from the recruiter yet. Who knows what will come of it… But if it doesn’t pan out, that will be a relief, too, because I won’t have to make any more changes for a while. I can sit out the holidays and take my time off… and not worry about anything other than a few little projects I have going on.

That, and building out my portfolio.

Who knows what will happen? It’s impossible to say. But whatever happens, it’ll work. I’ll make sure it does.

What we lose after TBI… and what we can get back

woman standing with a leaf in front of her faceI’m feeling really grateful, this morning. I’m tired, but I’m content. I’ll have my nap later, and everything will get even better.

I spent yesterday doing some of the things I love the most: cooking, eating, writing, reading, napping, and watching football while eating non-dairy ice cream… all with my partner, who has been really struggling with mobility issues, lately.

I bought us a collapsible massage table a couple of weeks ago, so we can both take turns stretching out and do horizontal exercises without having to get down on the floor. I set it up last night for my spouse to lie out flat (major plus) and do the exercises their physical therapist prescribed. The floor has gotten too cold to lie on, plus, it’s hard for them to get up and down without pulling something or hurting. So having the table is a huge benefit. Plus – bonus – I went to bed at a decent hour after a long day of lots of work

And by the end of the day, I realized just how good I have it. I realized that, after all the years of struggle, all the years of incredibly hard work, all the pain and frustrations and perseverance, all the dead-ends, all the plans to just give up, and battling all the despair… I have come through to another side, and I am in a place where I am good.

It’s taken years for me to get to this point. And it feels like this is the first time I’m really settled into this good-ness in a way that I actually believe. I’ve spent so much of my life confused and confounded, thwarted and hurting… without much of any clue about why that was, or what I could do about it… I had started to think that’s just how things were going to end up for me.

Permanent disablement. Permanent screwed-over-ness. And I just needed to get used to the experience and accept if for what it was.

But that feeling has completely changed, just in the last 24 hours. Things are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. There’s a lot of stuff that’s going really, really wrong in my life — and the world in general. And there are lot of unanswered questions in my mind. Still, I feel like I’m in a state of mind (and body — fitness is so important) that I can handle whatever comes my way.

No, my thought process is not perfect. I still get turned around and confused, and lately I’ve really been struggling with memory issues and misplacing things that I can’t afford to lose. I still have my intense lows, when I completely despair and lash out at the ones closest to me. I still have my moments of feeling useless and unlovable. I still struggle with crushing fatigue and not being able to do things that plenty of other people can.

And of course, I struggle with the fact that I can’t tell people about my issues, because it will work against me in the larger world. It’s not going to help me get a better job, if I tell the hiring manager that I function best if I have a 20-minute nap at the middle of each day. That’s not part of the deal in the 9-to-5 world I operate in.

But these are all things I’m convinced I can manage effectively on my own. I can handle it. Because I have a much better sense of who I am, and what I can expect from myself.

People have said that “you can’t recover from brain injury“, but that was decades ago, and we know a lot more about brain injury than we used to. Also, we know more about how concussion really is a brain injury… and so many people have them, yet continue to live their lives.

I myself notice that there are some things I just can’t do like I used to. It’s not as easy for me to push through marathon tasks. I need to stop and take a breath… do something completely different. And it’s harder for me to remember what I was doing before I took that break. I lose things. I get lost, too. I sometimes look around and have no idea where I am — but that’s more because I tend to be so focused on what’s in front of me, that I don’t notice my surroundings, so I don’t think it’s one of those “On Golden Pond” moments where I’m literally lost and have no idea where I am, period.

I’m more forgetful about things that really matter to me. My home office is pretty much of a wreck, but in a Thomas Edison “genius-y” kind of way, and my work area has spilled into the dining room that we rarely use. I have been misplacing important documents I just can’t afford to misplace… and then scrambling to replace them. I have a harder time initiating stuff I know I need to do (like go for a swim at the pool), because it feels way too complicated and involved. And try as I might, I really mess up things I’m positive I’m going to “nail”. I’ve been feeling really ambitious about making new meals while I’m on vacation this week, but my cooking skills have really degraded, thanks to the bone-crushing fatigue and difficulty sleeping. And coordination? Yah, forget it. Don’t leave anything near the edge of a surface. I’ll knock it onto the floor, for sure.

I know I’m not as sharp as I used to be. I know I’m not as sharp as I’d like — or intend — to be. I can be downright dull, and the bummer is, I’m aware. Oh, lord, how I’m aware. It’s not the most fun thing in the world.

And yet… I’m happier now, than I’ve probably ever been. And even with all my limitations and drawbacks, I’m definitely more functional, all across the board, than I’ve ever been. I’ve got “the whole package” together, at last. Even with the TBI after-effects, the slowness and slipping, the exhaustion and intermittent sense of defeat.

See, this regaining of competence and practical functionality is the real TBI recovery I wish people would talk about. Not getting your coordination and cognitive quickness back, watching your memory and endurance dwindle, having all kinds of intense emotional ups and downs… some experts might consider those blockers to TBI recovery. They might say it means that a person has lost too much and can never fully recover from a brain injury.

But everybody on the planet has something they struggle with, TBI or no.

And in any case, the real loss for me from TBI had far more to do with my Sense-Of-Self and my sense of “agency” in the world, than any objective physical or cognitive limitation.

TBI/concussion isn’t debilitating just because it knocks out your practical abilities. It’s most impactful because it takes a chunk out of your understanding of Who You Are and How You Handle Life.

It strips our self-confidence, and in doing so, it hits us hard with a self-doubt that’s a huge source of stress and ongoing trauma. What does stress and trauma do to the human system? It makes it harder to learn. And since TBI/concussion recovery is literally an exercise in re-learning to live, so your brain can rewire with reliable connections, that loss of self-confidence is in itself a source of ongoing injury.

TBI / concussion is an injury to the Self. And until people start accepting that and dealing with that piece of things — as well as finding practical, common-sense, science-based ways to address those issues — TBI and concussion survivors will continue to suffer from their injuries as well as the limitations of the people who intend to help them.

My road back from multiple mild TBIs has been a long one. It’s taken me 13 years to get to this point (and today is the 13th anniversary of my last concussion). It’s been a grueling and winding path. Fraught with perils. It nearly cost me everything I worked so hard to earn. But I can honestly say, I’m finally on the other side.

I understand my situation. I also understand the nature of my injuries, and how they affected me. But most important of all, I understand what I can do about it. And while I do tend to whine a bit here at times, the most important thing is for me to focus on the positives and share the lessons I’ve learned, so others don’t have to suffer as terribly as I did.

TBI and concussion are “recoverable”. We might not get back every single ability, and we may be left with lasting challenges, but we can restore our Sense-Of-Self, so we can get on with living our lives to the best of our developing abilities.

We’re made to heal. We’re made to grow. Regardless.

Pacing myself for a good Thanksgiving Day

holiday dinnerThe bread crumbs are drying out, and the turkey is thawing in its cold water bath.

I have all my vegetables — yams, red potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, celery, green beans — and a can of jellied cranberry sauce picked out and stashed in the refrigerator

I have a tube of ready-made croissants also chilling near the butter that’s a main ingredient for the stuffing.

It’s  Thanksgiving morning, and I have my work cut out for me. I’ll start prepping in about an hour… melting the butter and sauteeing the celery with herbs for the stuffing… rinsing out the turkey and making sure it’s fully thawed… getting the giblets out and tossing them in a pot of salty water to simmer… cutting up the vegetables to roast with the turkey and in a separate dish on the side… stirring in the bread cubes… and then putting it all together to sit in the oven for 4 hours.

The fact that I can think all this through and have a good sense of the “flow” of things is testament to my TBI recovery. Years ago, I couldn’t even figure out how to reliably cook a full meal, let alone an entire Thanksgiving Day feast. It’s taken years of practice to not only get my pacing together, but also not lose my cool over things going wrong.

This year, I planned ahead. I prepped and did shopping several days in advance. I thought it all through, over and over, made my lists, and got myself set up to just relax yesterday before doing all of this today. I also have a roasting pan for the turkey, which I didn’t have last year. Last year, I completely spaced out on getting a foil roasting pan, and I spent Thanksgiving morning in search of a grocery store that had them. I was unsuccessful, but I did figure out that I could use one of my really big casserole dishes as a backup.

Then, after that potential disaster was averted, I just bought myself a roasting pan. Problem solved for posterity.

And it’s good. This year is good. I’m still really fatigued from the last few weeks of work, and I’m having trouble sleeping (and napping), but I’m in a good space. And that’s what matters. Because I can’t always control how I’m feeling (or how I’m sleeping), so the next best thing is to keep my cool and just deal with whatever comes along. Without drama. Without undue pain and suffering.

It’s all any of us can ask for, I think.

So, on this day of giving thanks, I am grateful. If you’re celebrating today, have a very Happy Thanksgiving. And if you’re not, I still wish you a most excellent day.

Being realistic about my next steps

I need to be realistic about how I piece things together. There’s a lot to consider, and I’m not doing myself any favors by deluding myself.

I had a good conversation with a recruiter the other day about a new job opportunity that sounds like it would be a pretty good fit for me. Well, partially, anyway.

I tend to get so focused on Making Things Work that I can lose sight of whether or not I really should make something work.

In this case, the positive parts of the job opportunity quickly took precedence. The job involves leading a team of web developers and redesigning a website that’s in need of an update, and having long-term prospects at a local company – instead of having to travel across the country on a regular basis just to remind people I exist. And those parts sound really appealing to me.

The thing is, when I checked out the website I’d be working on, and I checked out the company, I realized I’d be starting a really awful commute. It would take me into the thick of some of the worst traffic in the region, on a daily basis.

Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of the technology they use. I’m not sure I want to be using it, each and every day. Especially after a long commute from home, in terrible weather.

So, the shine has kind of worn off the opportunity. And I’ll probably respond to the recruiter that I’m not interested because of the commute. Right now, my commute is relatively easy, and I can work from home pretty much when I like. Plus, I get a week off between Christmas and New Years, so that’s huge. Paid time off that doesn’t count against my vacation time. I know it’s concession bribe from the Overlords to keep us happy, but it works. It does make me happy.

Anyway, I have to be really realistic about what will work for me. Diving into a whole new work situation that involves more driving and (probably) more frantic activity, politicking, and is pretty much of an unknown… That’s not the right move for me, right now. It makes no sense to get a better job that makes my life worse. It’s supposed to help me all across the board, not cut into my quality of life, for a few more dollars.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of “embracing my limitations”, this is one situation where it only makes sense to be realistic and not indulge in that against-all-odds thinking that I CAN DO THIS!!! Other people can fight the odds and prove They Can Do It!

I really just want my life back.

Onward.

Settling in for the winter

snow covered buildings
I’m actually looking forward to this

It’s going to get cold this weekend. Low double-digits, so I hear.

Good. I prefer the cold weather. I sleep better when my bedroom is cold and I have a lot of blankets on top of me.

I also prefer being cold and warming up with exercise and movement, versus being hot and not being able to get cool. It’s a lot easier to get warm, than to cool down.

Plus, I love the snow.

Good thing. Because I hear we’re going to get a lot of it this winter.

So it goes.

The time change is doing me good. It’s never easy to change up my schedule and routine, but the “fall back” really helps me. It gives me an extra hour in the morning to go about my own business before I dive into work. And I like having it dark-ish, versus having a lot of intrusive sunlight that I can’t get away from.

I rest better when it’s dark.

I sleep better when it’s pitch black.

And when I sleep better, everything gets better.

I’ve been sleeping pretty well, the time change notwithstanding. I’m tired when I go to bed, and I sleep soundly. Even if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can get myself back to bed. And when I wake up, I’m up. I might not always feel 100% refreshed, but I do feel ready for the day.

Especially lately. For some reason, I’ve been feeling more ready for the day, than I have in a long time. And I’m feeling more engaged in what I’m doing, than I’ve felt for a while. This massive deadline that’s looming… it’s going to come and go. And life will go on.

The Main Project I’ve been working on has been rocky and problematic for nearly a year. And there’s a lot of stuff that has just dropped off — including things we really needed to not drop off. At this point, my life is all about just getting to the finish line, tallying up all the stuff that didn’t get done properly, and then doing due diligence afterward to make sure that it all gets reported, and we find a way – somehow – to tie up the loose ends.

I’m working with a lot of people who don’t care about loose ends. All they care about is getting to the finish line, regardless of how it all turns out. That’s unfortunate. But there’s only so much I can do. And I’m not going to ruin my peace of mind over other people’s laxness and refusal to do what needs to be done.

I’m not wrecking my health over this. That would be silly and counter-productive. I’m taking care of myself, protecting my health and state of mind. Doing what I need to do, to stay level and stable. And not getting irrationally caught up in pipe dreams that any of this is going to change dramatically for the better.

I’m putting my resume out there, but nothing is happening. Not a thing.

I definitely need to expand my skillset and refresh some of my abilities. That’s something I can focus on this winter, while I figure out my next steps. It’s probably for the best that I’m not finding another situation quickly. It gives me pause… forces me to reconsider my approach and be more realistic about what I can expect from the job market.

And what I want to do with myself.

I’ve got a lot of insecurity about whether or not I can do it — when I fell in 2004, I lost my ability to focus for extended periods of time, to remember things, even to read and retain what I read. That’s changed dramatically over the past several years, and I’m starting to feel like I can get back on my feet with learning and practicing and re-honing the skills I used to use all the time.

I can use the winter to do this. Now that summer is past, all that frantic running around has tapered off, and the nights are getting longer, I can concentrate. And so I shall. One day at a time. One exercise at a time. One experience at a time… settle in. Get to work. Stead on.

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.

Seeing my skills for what they are – and aren’t

moon shining on tree in fieldI’ve been “back and forth” about my job, for the past few months. One week, I love it. The next, I hate it and can’t wait to get away. I supposedly got a sort of “promotion” a few weeks ago — more responsibility and more influence, but no more money. Doesn’t seem to be much of a promotion, right? My boss is making bad decisions and is pushing me to put their ideas into action. It’s pretty much of a train wreck, with all the people at the top fighting over their territory, making their minions represent them.

Ridiculous. I don’t agree with any of it. But somehow I’m supposed to make it happen?

The only benefit: it makes the situation crystal clear — I really need to get the heck out of that situation, brush up my technical skills, put my resume out there, and get ready to move after the new year. I actually have some old projects I’ve been wanting to revive, and now seems like a great time to do it.

I tend to have a pretty low opinion of myself, mainly because I know what else is possible, and I’m very clear about how far I fall short. Plus, always being tired, my self-esteem really suffers. Like today. I’m just not feeling that capable or worthwhile…

Except for something that happened last night.

I was on my way home from a meetup in a nearby city, and as I was rolling through the dark countryside, I saw a bunch of cars stopped ahead of me. I was coming up to a tricky intersection, where a hidden road crosses at the bottom of a long, gradual hill. The tail lights of the cars ahead of me weren’t moving, there seemed to be smoke in the air, and I could see people standing in the road farther up the hill, so I slowed down and pulled over, just to figure out what was going on.

When I took a closer look (I was pretty tired), I saw there was a car sitting in the middle of the road with its wheels splayed and its front-end crushed in. The interior was full of smoke, and the whole thing was shrouded in a gray cloud. I was worried at first about there being a fire and the vehicle blowing up — I’ve seen too many movies, I guess. But I couldn’t just sit there. It didn’t look like anyone was helping, yet.

I walked closer to the wreck – carefully. There was glass everywhere. Pieces of car. Rear view mirrors. Chrome and plastic. Halfway up the hill, I could see another car lying on its roof in the darkness. It wasn’t smoking. It was just sitting there, eerily motionless, as people gathered quietly around it.

The vehicle nearest me at the bottom of the hill was a tangled wreck. Once upon a time, it looked like it had been a pretty sweet Mustang. No more. The airbags were shredded. Drawing closer, I could hear voices. I could hear a woman’s voice and a man’s, so I knew someone was alive. I lifted up the “curtain” of limp airbag that was hanging over the driver side window, and behind it there was a driver with is face smashed in and blood all over him, talking to a woman on the remote assistance intercom — like those Northstar systems that come with cars to help you unlock your doors or call for help. The woman was talking to him like he was coherent, but he was really messed up. He clearly had a head injury, his movements were jerky and automatic — like I’ve been a number of times after getting clocked on the head. She kept asking him questions, and he was responding like he knew what he was talking about. He didn’t. He was in bad shape.

Beside him, there was a passenger whose left leg was bent weirdly. No wonder. The car’s engine had been pushed back practically into his lap. I didn’t get a close look at the other guy — who was talking a bit, too — because I was focused on just talking to the lady. And others had come over to help and were checking him out. I talked to the lady on the intercom, told her what I was seeing, and reported what others were seeing about the other guy.

I also “talked down” the guys in the car, who were trying to get out. The driver kept reaching down beside his seat for something, but I told him to stay putDon’t move. Help was on the way. The interior of the car reeked of alcohol, and one of the other bystanders who was helping said she’d seen drugs beside the seat.

The local first responders were there within minutes. The accident was just a few miles from the local fire station, and when the fire truck pulled up, I told the firemen what I knew. They were on it, and I got out of their way. Then I got back in my car and moved on.

When everyone else stood at a distance, I stepped up.

When everyone else couldn’t communicate and keep things in order, I could.

When a couple of seriously injured people were on the verge of potentially hurting themselves more, I kept them safe and kept things steady.

I’ve been in these kinds of situations a number of times. A co-worked who collapsed and was unresponsive… someone who’d fallen and hit their head… an elderly person who had a bad reaction to a medical trial they were participating in… a person pinned between their car and a fence, when they didn’t put it properly in park… I’ve come across those people who were badly injured or hurt enough that they couldn’t help themselves, and I’ve been there for them, till help came. Several times I’ve run for help, myself.

It’s what I do. It’s one of the things I do best.

And for all the foolishness that’s taking place at work, at least I know this is something I do. Handling reality. Dealing with a true emergencies.

And I need to remember that, as I navigate this scene at work… finding a path out… figuring out what’s next. There are some things I do better than just about anybody else. They’re just not part of my job description, right now.