I grocery shop almost every day on my way home from work. I do this for several reasons.
I hate to eat defrosted frozen food. I like meat — and vegetables — to be fresh when I cook them. I don’t own a microwave, and I hate dealing with frozen foods. They don’t taste as good, and they don’t seem as healthy as fresh food. We used to eat a lot of meals “out of cans and boxes” — cans of soup, ready-made meals we heated in the oven, frozen combinations we stirred up with cooked pasta. But since my spouse got ill back in 2007 and I started doing all the cooking, I just can’t bring myself to do that. I need real food. Fresh food. And I’m happy to shop every day to get that in the house.
Shopping every day keeps my shopping lists short, so I don’t lose track of things and I don’t end up wheeling around a cart piled high with stuff in all sorts of directions, when I remember that I forgot to get something on the other side of the store. If I have a list of 10 things, I’m good. I can manage that. More than 10 items becomes a trial and a test, and by the time I get to the checkout lane, I’m in a terrible mood. It also makes it easier for me to go through checkout more smoothly, without a lot of anxious fumbling with the card reader and getting turned around about which way to leave the store.
Buying fewer items lets me go through the self-checkout lane. Cashiers and baggers are helpful, but I’d rather do it myself, thank you. I don’t have to interact personally with a machine. I don’t have to exchange niceties and keep an eye on the bagger who was never taught that you put the heavy things at the bottom of the bag, not on top of the fragile/breakable things.
It gives me extra time to chill out before I get home from work. It’s a stop off that lets me recalibrate and reset with strangers, before I interact with my spouse. And that’s helpful for both of us.
It’s on the way home. Literally. It’s just off the highway, and there are actually three different choices of very different — and good — stores on the way. So, if I can’t find something I need at one, I can always go to another. Stopping off to shop also gets me out of the worst traffic at the worst time of day, so that’s a major plus, as well.
It’s familiar in a way that reminds me of when I was younger. Years ago, I lived in Europe, and it was back in the day before there were a lot of preservatives in foods. I got in the habit of shopping daily, just like everyone else, and I really miss those days. Doing my grocery shopping every day, nowadays, makes me feel like I’m 20 years old again. And that’s a good thing.
So, shopping every day actually works well for me. It not only helps me handle my own personal “combination” of issues, but it also adds something positive to my life. It’s all about making the most of things, despite my shortcomings — even using them to my advantage.
I just made myself the most incredible dinner. It was so good, I ate a little too fast, and now I need to rest… while I digest.
I’m flying solo tonight, which means I can make myself meals my spouse doesn’t much care for. I like spicy foods and strong tastes, but my spouse prefers bland foods without much seasoning.
Since I’m on my own tonight, I went out and bought myself some food I almost never eat — and have never cooked for myself. I got myself a really nice swordfish steak (probably previously frozen, but still looking good), some tart dark greens, and some long-grain wild rice. I sauteed up some onion and mushroom and red pepper in olive oil, then I laid the swordfish steak in the pan and arranged some of the cooked rice around it. I covered the lot with the tart greens, covered the pan, and I let it cook for about 20 minutes.
I turned the steak once, about 10 minutes in, and it looked great. It smelled great, too, which was encouraging. I’ve had some bad experiences with buying fish around here, but this time it was just right.
So, I had my dinner. It was delicious. I had to really hold back and not cram it down my gullet… especially with the side of sweet pepper relish I added. Pretty awesome, if I say so myself.
The great thing about this cooking, is that it’s something I can do myself, when I’m on my own, and it’s really, really good for me. It does wonders for my timing, my coordination, and my sense of time flow. It keeps me on my toes, and it keeps me fully engaged. It’s good for me in every conceivable way. I can make what I like, I can experiment, and I get to enjoy the results. Even if things don’t turn out perfect, I still eat it. I’m not a picky eater, actually. But I sure as heck do enjoy a really good meal.
And that’s exactly what I had tonight.
I’m going to digest a while, then have some ice cream in a little bit. Not too much — just enough to reward myself for a day well-spent… and get ready for the week to come.
I was flying solo last evening, moving at my own pace and enjoying having the house to myself. I watched a bit of t.v., then realized what a huge waste of time it was. I hate watching t.v. alone. So, I got online and started doing some research. One thing led to another, and eventually I looked at the clock and it was nearly 1 a.m.
And here I’d planned on getting to be early…
Well, it’s no biggie, because I took care of most of my chores yesterday, so I would have today free. I have a full day ahead of me, pretty much wide open without a lot of stuff I have to do. I’m thinking of taking a long walk. I exercised this morning on the stationary bike. Worked up a good sweat and got my blood pumping. That was helpful.
Yesterday was a pretty good day. I got some work done around the house, I went for a short bike ride, and I had a nice nap in the afternoon. I could have slept longer, but I didn’t want to wreck my sleeping schedule by sleeping too long.
We see how that worked out.
In any case, my goal today is to stay active enough this morning to tire myself out early this afternoon and have another nap to make up for the lost hours — and not sleep so late in the day that I wake up at 7:30 like I did last night.
That clearly does not work.
I’m also looking forward to lying in bed and reading. I’ve really gotten into a lot of reading, these days, now that I can. I’ve missed it. And I’ve also missed being able to read narratives — fiction and real-life. For years, the only thing that held my attention was scientific papers. That’s fine, if you’re a scientist and understand everything in them, but I’m not — and I didn’t. At least it was something to read. And I was under the impression that I “got it” in some way.
Whatever. It did me a lot of good. It got me reading in small chunks that seemed to make sense to me, and that were informative and very motivating.
Now I’m reading fiction. I read while I’m on the exercise bike — it gets my mind off how incredibly BORING riding an exercise bike is, plus it gets my brain engaged, along with my body. I’ve been able to ride longer and also read more, thanks to this combination. It’s really a brilliant solution to what can be prohibitive. Plus, I’m reading real-life stories (or fiction that’s based on real life), so there’s a reason for me to pay attention to what I’m reading.
I’m learning a lot in the process — mainly about how people go about their everyday lives in foreign countries. It’s like a vacation from my current life, which is really a nice break from that crazy old global deal I used to be in. I don’t have to be on European AND Asian time zones all the time, but I actually miss the variety… So, I read about those places, watch Anthony Bourdain, and think about cooking food.
I’m seriously considering taking up more active cooking. I do most of the cooking at home, because my spouse isn’t up to it. And over the past years, it’s been pretty much maintenance cooking — just getting the basics on the stove, with reliable, predictable, dependable recipes that don’t have a whole lot of excitement to them.
I think I need to change things up a bit — especially because it now feels like I’m/we’re just eating to get food in our stomachs, rather than really enjoy what we’re eating. I need some different tastes, and some different textures. I also need us to eat a wider variety of fresh vegetables. It’s summer, for heaven’s sake. Now is the time to get fresh fruits and veggies. The more organic, the better — the less chemical taste to them, the better, that is.
Food is becoming my favorite vice… or rather my salvation. Cooking does wonders for my sense of timing and pacing — my sequencing — as well as my frustration tolerance. On top of it, when done properly, a well-cooked meal feeds all the senses, which is incredibly good for the brain.
It’s the kind of activity I can really get behind. It does the body, brain, and spirit a whole lot of good.
So, I took a long look at my study, trying to see what books I can move out now, and what papers need to be filed in what places. As it turns out, this is not the simple job I thought it would be. Scratching the surface (which I really haven’t done in years), there’s probably about 15-20 years of accumulated interests all vying for space there. And I’ve got a bunch of boxes stacked in the corner of my bedroom that add to the items I need to figure out. I need to make some comprehensive decisions about what to put where.
But not just yet. This is going to be a lengthy and time-consuming process, I believe. There’s more to re-organizing my life than just moving things around. It’s also about identifying my priorities and seeing what truly matters to me NOW, and what I’m just hanging onto for old times’ sake. I have more stuff than I have space, so I need to make some choices about what things will disappear – temporarily or permanently. And that takes more energy than I have right now. I’m still pretty wiped out from my yard work yesterday. And I have a bunch of other things I need to do today, that won’t wait.
After stepping away from my office space, I did manage to do some overdue cleaning in some spots. Then I took a break and went for a quick walk, which was good. I kept myself on a schedule and didn’t just wander into the woods for three hours, as I tend to do. I kept an eye on the time and I turned around and went home, even though I wanted to keep going, farther into the forest.
Back home again, I did some more organizing in different areas of the house, did some other little chores, and then I made myself some lunch from leftovers in the fridge. I watched Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” “Parts Unknown” on t.v. last night — it was about foraging for food and coming up with interesting combinations. So, I did that with what I had on hand, today, and I made myself a lunch that was tasty and good for me, too.
Cooking has become increasingly important and and interesting to me. I find it very therapeutic — good practice for my timing and sequencing, as well as good for me nutritionally. By putting a lot of thought into what I’m going to eat, I feel like my life is much more meaningful, than when I would just open a box and heat something up in the oven. I’m sure it’s better for me, too. Of course, there are the unpleasant surprises, now and then, but at least I’m trying. And whenever I start to lose energy, I just watch Anthony Bourdain traveling the world and eating all sorts of different foods and talking to all sorts of different people, and good food and eating well are a whole lot more interesting to me again.
Now I’ve been up and going strong for about 6 hours, and I’m running out of steam. I still have some important work to do this afternoon, so I need a nap if I’m going to do it right. I may not accomplish all I intended to, this weekend, but that’s okay. All that stuff is not going anywhere. I can see to it this coming week — and the next… and the next. The main thing is that I take care of myself right now, when I’m wiped out and dead on my feet, and make sure I get rested. Work has been hard, lately, with job prospects not panning out the way I’d hoped, and that’s a drain on me. I also have a lot to do, that distractions have kept me from doing. So, I need to take the opportunities I can find to rest — whenever and however I can.
That being said, it’s off to bed for me. I can sleep a few hours and still have plenty of time this afternoon and evening to get things done.
For many, many years, I have swung from one extreme to the other — from euphoria to panic to depression — with intermittent periods of balanced moderation, where I caught my breath before going back into the fray. I’ve long sought out work situations which were crazy and stressful and stupidly health-endangering (which passed for “challenging” in the job-spin-speak of the tech world), because I needed that constant pump to keep myself going. TBI can slow down your processing speed and make you feel like you’re half asleep, so those stressful times passed for “wakefulness” and made me feel more alive.
In hindsight, I realize that I was pretty much a ticking time bomb and that it was only a matter of time before I hurt myself badly enough to be ejected from the “everyday world”. I have had multiple mild TBIs over the course of the years (at least 9 that I can recall — and there have probably been more that I can’t remember). So, the effects have been cumulative, and sure enough, back in 2004, I had another fall that eventually put me out of commission.
The past years have been about weaning myself off that need for drama and stupidity. I’ve become increasingly aware of how much damage it does to me, and I’ve been acclimating myself to the idea that I don’t actually need it all, like I used to think I did.
Now I feel like I’m in a good and centered space, where I don’t have to have it, but at the same time, I do need challenge. And even moreso, I need to be able to respond to challenging situations with a level head and a clear mind.
Looking back at my life when it was still dictated by after-effects of all those TBIs, I see how much my life was comprised of reactions. Just reactions. Not measured responses that were determined by me, according to what was best and right at the moment — but knee-jerk reactions dictated by fear, anxiety, panic, external circumstances, and others’ expectations. That’s no way to live. Surely, there must be a better way.
So, I’ve been headed down that road, of late, looking for ways to live better, live more fully, and to have the kind of life I want to have. I think about the things that hold me back, the things that I have done that have held me back, and the habits of thought that have prevented me from moving forward. And it becomes more and more apparent to me, as I think about it, that no outside circumstances have been The Culprits in my limitations, rather it’s been my own reaction and my own experience and my own choices that have held me back.
Now, certainly, things like getting clunked on the head a bunch of times, being hounded and bullied in school, being mistreated by both my parents and teachers alike, and being raised without much money in a household turned upside-down by a drug addict sibling and their associates, certainly didn’t help. But those things didn’t keep me from doing the things I could have done to help myself. It was the patterns of thought in my mind that held me back — as well as the biochemical reactions to circumstances which short-circuited my choices and actions.
All those years, I certainly did take a beating. But plenty of people take beatings and get up and go back at it, like nothing ever happened. Not everyone interprets setbacks as signs of permanent disability. Granted, I wasn’t surrounded by people who were positive, pro-active thinkers who knew how to free their minds. But at any given point, I did indeed have the capacity to pick myself up and keep going, but the thoughts in my mind and the biochemical sludge in my system short-circuited a lot of the good that could have happened.
My constant biochemical state of intense fight-flight (which was made more intense by what I thought was happening — and never adequately questioned) made it all but impossible for me to imagine all that I was capable of doing, and over the years, and after all the injuries — especially the last one — my possible world became smaller and smaller and smaller, and I made myself less and less capable, in my own mind, of truly following my dreams.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Over the years I have done some Big Things, and I have had some big accomplishments that have gotten me awards and recognition. But these were all substitutes for what I really wanted to be doing. My One Big Dream that I had since I was seven years old, never “panned out”, and year after year, my resolution to do something about it drifted farther and farther from my reach. Until I just about gave up on it.
These days, things are very different for me, and I realize just how much biochemistry has to do with what’s held me back. And at the same time, it both absolves me of prior blame, and it also offers me the opportunity to change things.
In order to do so, I need to get a grip on my autonomic fight-flight response, which is what I’ve been doing, slowly but surely. I am now moving into the next stage, where I am testing myself a bit, here and there, to get myself familiar with how it feels to be on the verge of panic, and then walk myself back from the edge with the tools I have. I’m stressing myself just a little bit, here and there, to inoculate myself against the stresses. Some call it “exposure therapy”, and maybe that’s what it is. Having read about exposure therapy, it strikes me as more intense than what I’m doing. I don’t want to force myself into a seemingly dangerous situation and then have to sweat it out. No thanks.
What I am doing is similar to doing interval weight training — I’m doing “stress intervals” — intentionally stressing myself for a short while, then backing off and taking a good break. I know I’m going to push myself hard — and I also know I’m going to let up. So, there’s not that impending sense of doom that comes when I can’t see an end in sight. I know there’s going to be an end, so I can push myself — sometimes pretty hard — and not get freaked out about it.
This gets me used to the highs and lows. And it helps me feel more comfortable with the sensation of those highs and lows.
See, that’s the thing – it’s not the highs and lows that get me. It’s my internal reaction to those highs and lows — the physical sensationsof high energy or low energy trigger a dumb-ass (and extreme) reaction from me that sets certain behaviors in motion and put me into a certain mindset. Some examples:
I get back from a long and grueling trip to see both sides of my family, and I decide that I’m a worthless piece of crap who will never amount to anything. I’m physically and mentally and emotionally exhausted from a temporary situation, yet for some reason I’m convinced that I’m permanently damaged beyond repair. Accordingly, I slack off on my work and do nothing productive with myself for days, even weeks.
I work too hard and sleep too little, and I end up having a full-on blow-out/meltdown that fries my brain with a flood of raging emotions. Afterwards, I am exhausted, and it takes several days for the biochemical load to clear from my system. All during that time, I feel stupid and numb and dull and once again am convinced that I’m permanently damaged beyond repair.
I am incredibly excited about something that’s happening in my life. The sensation of all that adrenaline pumping through my system feels an awful lot like danger — it feels just like it used to feel when I was being hunted down by the kids who bullied me in grade school. Consequently, I stop doing what I need to do, to make progress with my goals. I also look for other things to work on that are less “stressful”, and my project falls behind.
All of the above are problematic, but it’s the last one that’s the burner. It’s the thing that’s kept me back, time and time again, and it’s the one I need to really focus on addressing.
So, to that end, I’m deliberately putting myself in exciting and tiring situations, getting used to how they feel while telling myself that this is just a feeling, not an indication of what’s really going on. And then I take a break. I have all but cut wheat and cheap carbs out of my diet to reduce the “junk load” from my system — which in itself is a little stressful, but has great benefits. I’m also doing things like taking cool showers to get my stress response jump-started for just a few minutes in the morning, and I’ve changed up my morning routine a little bit to heighten my attention.
And all the while, I’m using the techniques I’ve learned for balancing out my ANS and keeping the fight-flight response within a manageable, non-tyrannical range. I do it both — stress and relax. Intermittently. Not constantly, because that would be counter-productive, but at intervals.
I have to say it feels incredible. It’s tiring, at first, and taking cool showers instead of hot, is definitely an adjustment. But it’s really helping.
One of the things I’ve been actively doing, over the past months, is getting use to the highs and the lows that are just outside my comfort zone. I’ve struggled a great deal with panic and anxiety over the decades, which I believe has been connected to a hefty dose of post-traumatic stress (or PTS). The classic symptoms of “disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal” have been a regular part of my life for as long as I can remember. The strange thing is, my flashbacks and numbness have been related to events that many others would not consider that stressful — making a fool of myself in front of other people, having bad choices of words, doing stupid things, making poor decisions that got me in hot water with authorities (including the police), and so on.
I’ve been flashing back on things that others would consider “just embarrassing” for a long, long time, and I’ve been intensely stressed out over it, avoiding situations, and on edge (that is, ON EDGE) for as long as I can remember.
Until, that is a couple of years ago, when I really started to come out of my TBI fog and things started to fit together for me, better and better, like they never had before. To be clear, I didn’t just magically come out of my fog for no apparent reason. I did the following, which all helped:
Got myself on a daily schedule of doing specific things at specific times in specific ways, so I didn’t spend a lot of mental energy figuring out how to do things. This allowed me to develop the objective, observable 100% certainty that I could get myself up and cleaned up and dressed and out the door each morning in a predictably good way. It took the pressure off my mornings and let me relax about the details — because I didn’t have to think about them. At all.
Exercised on a regular basis. For several years running, I got up and lifted weights and did some light cardio, the first thing in the morning before breakfast, each and every day. I never wavered from that. It was my morning routine, part of what I Just Did, and the jump start to my brain and body made me feel worlds better than I had in a long, long time.
Started cooking more complicated meals. I have been the main cook in my household ever since my spouse got very ill about six years ago, and it made a great deal of difference in both our health. I got into a bit of a rut, and ended up making the same things over and over. When I started cooking more complicated meals, it pushed me to work on my timing as well as my sequencing. And it make our diet more varied, which was good.
I learned to relax. This took some doing, but with some guided imagery tapes that I combined with rest/nap time, I have slowly but surely acquired the ability to relax. And for the first time, I know how good it feels to do that. Up until a few years ago, that was not the case.
I started sitting za-zen (my own version of it) and doing conscious breathing. My version of za-zen involves just sitting and breathing, sometimes a short while, sometimes longer. I have come across a number of pieces of scientific literature talking about how this helps to balance out the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and get you out of fight-flight. It helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and get you back to a place where you’re not tossed about by every wind that comes along.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve changed how I do things — some of the things, like regular exercise and za-zen, I stopped after a while. I guess I just got bored with them and felt like they were keeping me from doing other things I needed to do. I also let them get rote and boring, and they stopped being any kind of a challenge. I need to be challenged, or I can’t keep my interest piqued. It’s a shortcoming of mine, I know, but that’s how I am.
Currently, I’m back at the regular exercise. All I have to do is look at my skinny little forearms (typing isn’t nearly enough exercise for them) and look at myself in the mirror to realize that I need to do something about this sad state of affairs. Also, my endurance is way down for doing chores outside, which is not good, either.
As for the exercise, after laying off for a long (too long) while, I’m doing more strengthening in actual movements that I do on a daily basis — not the isolated types of movements that focus on a specific muscle group and are useful for bodybuilders. I’m building overall strength, not just specific muscles.
I’m continuing to do my rest/relaxation thing, stepping away from work during my lunch hours to listen to guided imagery and relax — sometimes sleep, too.
And these several pieces are important for what I’m doing now, which is pushing myself a little beyond my routine to challenge myself and keep things interesting. I’m training myself to handle my highs and my lows, and not let them get to me.
Okay, so the last time I wrote, the turkey was in the oven, and I was on track to an amazing Christmas dinner.
Then life happened. I’m not sure whether it was the ever-present concussion / TBI / post-concussion / sensory overwhelm / attentional issues mix that always seems to lurk beneath the surface, or if it was dumb luck. The thing is, this kind of thing happens to me all the time, so either it’s just apart of my life, built in to be annoying, or it’s a sign that — even after all this time — I still need to make an extra effort to ensure things turn out well. And it’s another reminder that I can’t get cocky and just assume things.
Anyway, what happened was… I finished writing my Christmas Day post, checked Facebook a bit, then went downstairs to check the turkey. I felt the glass on the front of the oven, and it didn’t feel warm. “That’s weird…” Then I opened the oven door, expecting to be blasted by a shot of hot air.
No such thing. The oven was faintly warm, but around the bird were pools of melted ice and blood, and there was no roasting to be seen.
I must have accidentally turned off the oven when I was resetting the timer after I got the giblets and neck out of the bird. There are a number of lights on the front console that are the same color and size, so I must have mistaken the timer light for the oven light.
So, there I stood in the kitchen, my (sick) spouse upstairs expecting a delicious, hot (and completely roasted) turkey in just a few hours. And I had probably lost a couple of hours of roasting time, if I turned off the oven when I got the giblets and neck out. What to do? My spouse is a pretty anxious individual, to begin with, and when something this important gets screwed up, they can go off the deep end. I wasn’t really liking the chatter going on inside my head, either, about what an idiot loser I am, and how I never should have thought I could do this thing today, when I was so sick and feeling off and tired and out of it.
Think… think… First thing I did, was turn the oven back on. The thought occurred to me that there were major bacteria growing inside that bird, and to proceed would have meant certain death. Then again, I figured the bird was still so frozen when I put it in the oven, it had probably kept pretty well. And anyway, roasting it another 4-1/2 hours would likely kill anything that might be growing. I thought about what people have done for eons — eating food that wasn’t prepared exactly to Betty Crocker spec… and they’ve survived. The human race has been eating crap we should never eat, for generations up on generations, and we are still here.
So, eventually I managed to talk myself into proceeding with the turkey roasting… as though nothing had happened.
But how to explain it to my spouse? The last thing I wanted to do was spend Christmas Day being barked at and harangued over my lax cooking skills, ordering out, and then never living that down. I would probably hear about that till the end of time, if I let on about what had happened. I decided, eventually, to use the frozen bird as the excuse for the extra time — it needed more time to thaw and cook… that’s what my story was going to be. My spouse was incredibly leery of putting an un-thawed bird in the oven, anyway, so they had been pressing me to cook it longer… and longer would better. Right?
That was my hope (and prayer) anyway. I wasn’t exactly sure what precisely to think, in any case, because maybe the danger from a weirdly cooked turkey was Real And Present… maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t have the time — or presence of mind — to Google it. I just winged it. Took a best guess, weighed the pros and cons, and figured if the turkey was really bad, my spouse would be able to smell it, because their sense of smell is, well, existent — and very acute at that. Where mine is, well, a lot less than that.
Yeah, I left the turkey in the oven… kept the heat where it was supposed to be, and said a prayer.
Around the time that I got the turkey squared away (for the second time), it was the hour to rise and exchange presents. We don’t have any kids, so we tend to sleep in on Christmas Day and don’t worry about being the first downstairs to open presents. And we were both pretty under the weather, so a slow start got even slower. It was a really nice time, I have to say – we didn’t get a lot of presents for each other, but we got enough nice little things that we could honestly say the gift exchange was a success (unlike in past years, when I totally spaced on the present-buying until the last minute, then couldn’t find what I was looking for, and ended up screwing up pretty badly – arguing and accusations of “You don’t loveme!” with tears included – not good).
Dodged that bullet this year, thank heavens.
So, after the presents were opened, I made us a little brunch, and I looked in on the turkey. It was getting there… but I still wasn’t sure. Another hour went by, and my spouse was remarking at how the smell of the cooking turkey wasn’t “filling the house like it usually does” which set off alarms and put them on alert. Another hour went by, and still the turkey didn’t have that pervasive, delicious aroma it “usually does”… so my spouse started to get really nervous about how “You never roast a frozen turkey,” according to their mother, and how this was dangerous and we might get sick…
I got busy making stuffing and popping veggies in the oven to roast. I figured, if worse came to worst, we could at least fill up on roasted yams, potatoes, and carrots, along with those fresh green beans. And of course there was always pie… Meanwhile, my spouse Googled “cook a frozen turkey” and got very quiet while they read all about it.
Nerves… frayed nerves. But I kept on with my work. I called my mother, too, to check on whether or not things were going to be okay. She reassured me that as long as I left it in longer, it would be okay. I took her word for it, and my spouse emerged from in front of the computer looking much more relaxed. They declared “Everything should be fine,” and we were back on again.
In the end, the turkey turned out amazing. I carved a side to check it, it looked a little pink, so I popped it back in the over at a higher temp for another 20 minutes, and by the time all the stuffing and roasted vegetables and green beans were ready, the turkey was ready too.
We ended up having Christmas supper, instead of mid-day dinner, but I have to say it was pretty phenomenal.
All was well, and the day ended well. Yeah, I felt like crap the whole day, I was out of it and foggy and anxious and frustrated and disappointed and nervous as hell, but that was just the backstory. The real story of the day was that it all came out extremely well – just at a different pace and with a different timing than originally planned. I think that was actually for the best, however. Who eats Christmas turkey as their very first meal of the day?
So, there it is… lesson learned — always check that all 3-4 lights are on the stove, when the oven is on: light for the timer, light for the oven, light for the “stove on”, and possibly the light for “preheat”. Especially when I have the timer going. Because when the timer is on, I can’t see the temperature. Bad design, if you ask me. But I’ll just have to remember to work around it.
Now, two days later, I still don’t feel that hot. I’ve been working a lot, these past few days — cleaning out my garage and working around the house. I’ve been using muscles I haven’t used in months, and I’m sore as hell… and feeling a bit off. I will make a point of taking care of myself today — get the extra sleep I’ve been meaning to get… empty the trash cans full of used tissues… do some laundry… and do a few minor projects I’ve been wanting to do. I have an idea for a snow-moving contraption that will save me a lot of work shoveling, if I can figure it out. That’s my big project for today – that, and rearranging my basement a bit, so I can get to all my tools. I have a ton of great tools in the basement, as well as a great workbench, but I have not made the most of it, especially since my accident in 2004, which really plunged me into concussion / TBI hell.
You know, it’s funny… being sick and not being able to travel this holiday season has been a real bonus in a bunch of different ways. I’m not constantly “on”. I’m not pushing to get stuff done. I’m not hustling and bustling and hauling ass, left and right. I’m taking my time doing things, and I’m figuring things out. And the crazy thing is, even though I tend to think that I function so much better when I’m “on”, I have felt better, these past several days, than I have in years. Even with the cold / sinus infection that’s got me feeling like crap, I’ve still had more energy and more will to do the things I’ve been meaning to do for years, but could never get my act together to do.
Pretty amazing, really. I’ve been wanting to clean out my garage for years, but couldn’t manage it till this week. Okay, so I’m only half done, and there’s still a lot of work to do, but at least I made a really excellent start. I’ve been wanting to design and invent some things for quite some time, but could never get it together to do it, till this week. And that’s pretty awesome. It’s all good. It really is.
What matters most is that eventually, it is all coming together. It’s taken me years, and I don’t expect everything to be completely sorted anytime soon, but it’s a start. I have to remember how far I have come, and not get down on myself because I am not as far along as I want to be. I will screw up, now and then. I will overlook things. I will come up short of my own expectations. I will probably mis-judge many situations over and over. But I can’t let that stop me from moving forward.
I am moving forward. What’s more, I’m actually enjoying my life. And that’s what truly matters.
What’s more, I have been realizing over the past weeks, that I have been able to take on more and more at work, and get a lot more done, than I have in a long time. It’s pretty amazing, really, how much I manage to accomplish. Some things get lost along the way, of course, but overall, I have a pretty strong reputation as someone who can juggle a lot of things and make progress.
Cooking, I believe, has helped me with this. The practice of preparing supper each night, going through the steps of organizing the ingredients and preparing more than one food item at a time, has helped me find a “flow” to my work, and that’s pretty amazing. I used to really struggle with getting the rice or pasta on the stove at the right time. I would miscalculate the timing, and one dish would be hot, while the others were cold. Or I’d completely forget about one of the dishes, till it was too late to start it.
This has gotten better. I have gotten better. Not only am I better able to handle my anger and agitation, but I’m also better at going with the flow and coordinating my activities. When I focus completely on the task at hand — preparing supper — it clears my mind and relaxes me, and I can get into a “zone” that’s healthy and happy.
And then I get to eat what I’ve made — which is usually a good thing 😉
Sometimes I’ll completely space out and screw things up, but that’s just one of the things I need to improve.
I think I’ll start looking for new recipes, actually. I’ve got the usual dinner down. I would like to start cooking a more varied selection of dishes. I expect this is going to be a bit of a challenge, but if I make the room for it and I plan for it, I think it can be good.
Main thing is to not overwhelm myself with the newness — give myself time to acclimate and get into it. But I think it will be a good thing to do.
Results: . . . Children with moderate-to-severe TBI, as well as children with mild TBI made significantly more errors in a Children’s Cooking Task (CCT) in comparison to controls (those without TBI).
What I’m going to use is the idea that cooking success (or lack thereof) can be a good an indicator of how well I do with basic executive functioning stuff like attention, comprehension, staying on-target, etc. The results (I’m sure) don’t just apply to kids. I’m sure they could apply to grown-ups as well.
Given that I believe that I can strengthen the areas where I have issues, cooking seems like a great thing to dive into more. In fact, how well I handle cooking (when I have the time to do it) is a pretty good indicator of where I’m at.
PLUS, it really appeals to the side of me that craves sensory input. It can be an excellent way to experience my life more deeply, charge up my senses, and infuse a deeper and more thorough quality into my life.
After all, I have to eat, so I’d rather eat the good stuff — stuff I make myself. And since I’m the one who’s going to be consuming what I make, it gives me more leeway to experiment – my picky spouse notwithstanding ;).
I used to cook a lot more than I have been, lately. And when I cooked before, it was not very varied or adventurous. When I did try new things, I often messed them up. But I probably wasn’t actively managing my issues well enough. Now, though, I am aware of my issues, so I can actively keep an eye on them. And with this new job, I will have more time in my days to make things I can take with me to lunch, and maybe I can coax my spouse into trying a new thing or two. Less tired is a good thing. Especially for cooking.
As always, moderation is the ticket. Take it slow and be systematic and smart about it. But do it.