And now I feel it for the next week

work sign showing person shoveling a pile of dirtI had a busy day, yesterday. A quiet day, too. I helped my spouse get ready for their event, drove them there, unpacked the van, chatted with people at the venue, hopped in the van, and drove home along back roads (because the main roads were packed).

I had some lunch when I got home. Nothing huge, just a sandwich, potato salad, chips, pickles. I had a handful of things to do, so I ordered them according to the weather. It was amazing weather, yesterday — sunny with passing clouds, a nice breeze, in the mid-60s. Couldn’t ask for better mowing weather. So, I pulled out the lawn mower from the back corner of the garage, topped off the gas, and got mowing. It took me an hour and a half, but I got the front and back yards done. I also raked up leftover leaves from last autumn, swept out the garage, replaced a down-spout that had fallen off my gutter, and trimmed back some underbrush that was blocking the view from my driveway.

I used the leaf blower to clean off my driveway, stairs, and deck, and then I ran my snowblower till it ran out of gas. It’s best not to let it sit with old gas in the engine all winter. I’ve had the snow blower nearly 15 years, and it’s held up well, but I need to be smart about storing it over the winter. At last.

After that, I had a snack, took a shower, and put up a new huge bookshelf in my study that I got from the neighbors for almost nothing. I’d been needing a new bookshelf, and the timing was perfect. It took a lot longer than expected, because I don’t have a lot of room to maneuver in my study, and I had to put it together in a very small space. I also had to partly take it apart, because the way I’d assembled it first made it impossible to turn upright. Eventually, I got it, but I was not expecting it to take me three hours to do it.

Ah well, so it goes. I now have enough shelf space in my study, so I can get rid of some of the piles. I also have a lot of books I want to get rid of. I was interested in a lot of stuff, years ago, that just doesn’t have anything to do with my life, anymore. And I need to get free of all of it.

I also need to get rid of some of the computers I have. I don’t need to hang onto them. There’s no point.

Lightening my load. Getting my life in order.

It feels like I’ve been doing that a lot, lately. Picking and choosing and prioritizing. As it should be. I can’t do everything in my life, and I don’t have unlimited energy. So, when I do find something I care about that matters, I need to make the most of it.

I’m also getting clear about where I want to go with my work in life. Future directions. Areas where I need to focus.

I’m sore as anything, today. Just aching. But it was worth it. I got a ton of stuff done that I’d been needing to finish.

Whatever I do, and however I do it, I just want to make it count.

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For June: Do one positive thing a day for myself and my dreams

road leading into the distance with a flat horizon
Just keep steady, in a good way

Let’s just face it.

I’m stalled.

I’ve been stalled for months, even years. Even longer than that, actually. No matter how I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to break free of the rut I feel like I’m in. It’s just felt like one problem after another that I’ve handled… that is to say, other people’s problems. And in the process, I solve my own.

I get paid to solve other people’s problems. I get paid pretty well, too, so that solves a lot of problems in my life. I need money to survive. I need a certain amount of status and security to stay healthy and not die. I know people who treat money like an optional thing. They don’t want to get entangled in it. They have more important things to worry about.

And I’m happy for them. I really am. If they can make it — or survive the stresses of not having enough — that’s a quality I admire. But I can’t do it. The stress throws me off too much. It disrupts my sleep, and when that happens, I can’t function. Even worse, my behavior takes a nose-dive and I lash out. Yelling. Slamming things around. It’s not good, for me or the other people around me. I’m stronger than people realize, and I can do some damage, if I let it all loose.

So, I need to keep things well managed, in a steady state of balance. That means getting enough sleep. And that means not getting so stressed out that it starts to wreck my life.

I keep myself in a pretty regular routine. And it works for me. I manage to get enough sleep, most of the time. I eat regularly, exercise regularly, take care of my responsibilities, hold down a job.

But I’m in a rut.

So, I need to get myself out of it. I need to take action on my own behalf, to at least create the impression that I’m taking care of myself. I’m so busy taking care of everyone else, I get lost in the shuffle of my own life. And that needs to change.

So, I’ll do one positive thing a day for myself. Something that brings me happiness, not just maintains my steady state. And I need to prioritize it over everything else. Yes, I may need to do other things, first thing in the morning, to get myself going — exercise, eat breakfast, take care of my spouse — but then I need to just take a little time on something that contributes to me. And my future.

There’s a lot of stuff I can do for myself. I have a bunch of books I’d love to read. I’ve been wanting to read them for a while, and I will surely get around to them. And there are other undertakings — writing, designing, artwork — that I want to get back into. My legendary (in my own mind, anyway) projects take on a life of their own, and they bring me a lot of happiness. But I’m stalled between a number of choices. Each of them has benefits. Each of them has downsides. I might be able to do any of them and be happy about it. But I have to pick one. And move on. Get going with just one, so I can get out of my rut… make some progress.

So, that being said, I’m picking one project and doing something positive about it, each day in June. I may not blog about it, every single day, but I will have that focus. I’ve made the commitment to myself, and now I’ll carry through.

The main thing is to have a deliberate focus in my life. My job is… fine. But it’s not how I want to spend all my free time. My marriage is on good footing, although it seems to be getting more challenging each week. My health is pretty good (though I could stand to lose 15 pounds). Overall, my life is… fine. But I need a specific focus on something that is mine and mine only, so I don’t feel like I’m just evaporating into the mist of everyone else’s dreams and ambitions.

I can do that. I will do that. I am doing it.

Onward.

Yeah… and so it starts again

drift-boat-in-rapids
How my life feels, right about now

I’m going to restrain myself and NOT refer to the people managing the company where I work as “Lying sacks of sh*t”. Let’s just say, things have apparently changed, since they last told us that the rounds of layoffs were over, a few months back.

They’re not over. Not even close. And they will continue to happen, because the deal that’s supposed to be so sweet, is becoming a bit sour.

I just heard that there are supposed to be more layoffs in another 4 weeks or so. Wonderful. That will give me time to spruce up my resume.

Please, please, please, may I get a decent package and be released into the wild. I know I’m supposed to be careful what I ask for, but the way I figure it, I am eminently replaceable. The company that’s buying mine already has people working with the technology I work with, and they look to be 20 years younger, which means they are cheaper — and easier to let go, at some point. Now’s the time when they can let me go and not get dinged for it.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe.

Who knows? All I know is, my patience has run thin, and I really don’t feel like doing anything for anyone, anymore. The whole thing about trading my time and talents for a paycheck just seems like a bad joke. I’ve given enough. I’ve contributed enough blood to the cause.

It’s a strange feeling. I feel as though I’m in a motorboat, crossing a swift river. And my motor has died. I’m trying to get it started again, pulling and pulling on the starter cord, but I can’t seem to get my motor to start. And the river just keeps flowing.

I really feel like jumping overboard and swimming for shore… and getting off the river. I feel as though that’s what the whole corporate scene is like — going on a boat ride down a river. You can’t control the river, you can try to maneuver around rocks and through rapids, and you can alter your speed, but as long as you’re in the river, you’re never getting to the other side. Even the people running the show aren’t getting to the other side. They’re swept along, the same as the rest of us.

So, I think I need a different river. Or a smaller one. Once again, I remember why I always prefer to do contract work. People who run things at “stable” companies often seem to have different priorities than keeping the business running smoothly – especially when they’re huge. I’ve been working at top-10 multinational corporations for most of the past 30 years, and it’s always the same.

On it goes. I work with a bunch of people who have been through this a bunch of times. I’m not sure how they do it. Living with a sword of Damocles always hanging over your head… not fun.

So, it’s time to take action. Decide where I want to go, and what I want to do, and just do it. I actually have a project I was working on about a year ago, that sputtered out. But I really think it needs to be revived again. I have a handful of projects — all organized around a central theme — that I think could be good and useful for other people.  And I could also do some public speaking about it, as well. It could be an additional way for me to make some money, and it might even expand into something bigger. Now than I think about it, I actually have a number of things I can bring together… and actually build a business out of it. Heck, I have the start of an eBook that actually has a lot of really great content in it. I can use that as a starting point, and work from there. I know there are some places in the area that can use this — and I might be able to branch out, as well.

It’s funny — I had actually started to build out this business, in the few months before I got approached by my current employer, and it looked like I was going to be able to knock it out of the park. But when I got this new job, I put everything on hold, because I wanted to focus on this job. Now things are changing again, and it’s actually the perfect time to revive that business idea. Not only does it give me a good way to “channel” my anxious energy, but it also gives me something to work towards.

The more I think about it, the better this sounds. It really, really does. And I had forgotten how much work I had put into this, in the months before I started this new job. It’s pretty amazing, really — and once again, my “blinkered” perception rears its head. I get so hyperfocused on what’s in front of me, that I lose sight of the larger picture — and things that occurred in times that I’ve forgotten about. It’s a good thing I store everything on my hard drive — and on an external one, as well — and online in my web storage space. Otherwise, I’d just forget all about things.

Yeah. That’s it. I need something that’s actually mine, that I can call my own. And this is it. Other people have kids… or pets… or some cause they rally around, that brings meaning and purpose to their lives. I have no kids, I have no pets (not since the last cat died, 4 years ago), and my causes are personal and private — not the kinds of things I bring out into my outward life.

I just need to get creative and pick the direction I want to go — then go there.

I’ve already picked it. Now it’s time to go.

Onward.

Choosing progress

Whitetailed Deer 4 Point Buck Closeup
Pick where you’ll put your attention

For years, I have been compulsively productive. Ever since I was a kid, there was a vast amount of ideas and creativity… and, well, product flowing out of my mind. I was always up to something, I always had ideas “cooking” in the back of my head, and of all the people I knew, I was the one with the most original ideas — and the most determined of opinions.

I always thought that my ideas would turn into something more than just my ideas. I thought they might actually bring me some income. I thought that all the stories I wrote would catch the attention of the reading public and make a name for me.That never happened — mostly because I could never fully finish a lot of the works that I started, and also because the ones I did finish either didn’t make a very good impression or never got much promotion from me. I’m a creator, not a promoter. And I’m a person who enjoys my solitude. So no, a life of fame was not in my cards.

I’m not sure that fame and fortune was ever my top priority, though. Nor was publicizing the steady stream of creative works that flowed forth. The main thing for me was that I could figure out what I thought/believed… and why. I wanted to have my own mind, my own thoughts, my own outlook — not something handed to me by others. And while it never made me rich, it gave me a freedom of spirit and heart, that I haven’t often encountered in others.

It’s a lot of work, making up your own mind about things. You have to be willing to suspend a lot of your beliefs and prejudices, in order to let the truth of your situation come through. It’s also scary for some people, to admit that things are not certain, that they’re in constant flux, and ultimately, we’re both alone in the world — and never alone. It’s a scary place to be, in a world that is pretty scary, in itself.

For some reason, though, it never scared me. It was scarier for me to go along with the crowd. It felt like I wasn’t making good progress.

I need to get back to that sort of progress again. I need a break from all the social media chatter.

The past weeks have been altogether too loud for my liking. All the violence, all the threats, all the arguing, all the name-calling. It’s just too loud. And it’s a little embarrassing, hearing all my friends and relatives resort to over-simplified versions of what The Truth is. And then demanding that others agree with them… or else. And doing it on Facebook lets you say all sorts of things you’d never say to someone’s face. It lets people feel bold and outspoken, when they’re really nothing of the kind in person.

Lesson learned — it’s not worth getting pulled into debates online. Objectively, I have absolutely nothing to do with the Paris bombings. I have nothing to do with the San Bernardino shooting. I have nothing to do with gun control or troop deployments or religious convictions. And if it weren’t for the news, I wouldn’t know anything at all about any of those things — and more.

So… It’s time for me to just step away from all that loudness. The name-calling, the accusations, the culture wars.

No more checking the news to see what foolishness people are up to, today. I’m cutting back on my Facebook activity, and I am not getting into any more discussions with people about hot-button issues. There’s no point. It’s just a terrible distraction that saps my energy and leaves me with nothing left. And for what? Nothing changes from talking alone. Nothing is made better or worse by anyone getting upset and pitching a fit. It continues on with a life of its own.

I’m tired of the “emoting” scene — where people think that outpourings of prayers and good thoughts are actually making a difference. People seem to think that so long as they feel something, it matters. They care. They feel for people. They support them. They feel like they’re involved and invested. They post to social media and share and make their voices heard. But they don’t actually DO anything.

It’s become incredibly important for me to act. Do something. Don’t just talk. Take action.

And so I shall… Take care of myself. Get stronger than I am. Write to Congress. Treat people with respect and dignity. Get active. Do something constructive. Use my energy for something positive, not just running my mouth. I got some exercise this morning — and strained my hamstring a little bit in the process. Now I’m headed out for a walk to work out that soreness. I saw a little group of three deer, recently — a four-point buck, a two-point buck, and a doe. Maybe I’ll see them again today.

Because life goes on. We just have to choose what we’ll do with it.

Feel like crap, but I don’t care

This is my whole new attitude, these days. And it seems to be working. Ironically, when I stopped worrying about feeling like crap, and I quite trying to always get myself into a “good space”, I immediately began to feel better.

I got about 6-1/2 hours of sleep last night. I had a 2-hour nap yesterday afternoon, which helped me yesterday, but it left me feeling almost worse after I got up. I am really dragging, today — probably due to having lost a LOT of sleep last week (waking up at 2:30, not being able to get back to sleep), and not being anywhere near caught up. Another thing that’s dragging me down is a bunch of things I meant to do yesterday, but didn’t get to, for one reason or another.

Anyway, this morning I’m foggy and slow and “clunky” – about the only way I know how to describe it. I am definitely not sharp, and even a cold shower and some exercise didn’t perk me up. Part of it is my mood. I’m not feeling very positive about my life, right now. A lot of situations around me seem really messed up, and it’s completely out of my control. It wouldn’t be so bad, if it didn’t affect me, but people close to me — family and friends alike — are making incredibly bad decisions, in my opinion. Actually, no, it’s not my opinion. They really are making bad decisions that have bad consequences. It would be easy to sit back and say, “Oh, too bad – not my problem,” but ultimately it will fall on me to help them put the pieces back together — pieces that they broke, to begin with.

It’s all way too messed up, in my opinion. Especially with the stupid health decisions, some of which are landing my relatives in the hospital. People are seriously causing themselves a lot of suffering because of how they don’t take care of their bodies, minds, and emotions. So many things around me seem broken and sad, and I cannot do a thing to change them. I have friends who tend to see the world in recovery-type terms, and they love to go on about “co-dependency”. I don’t think I’m being “co-dependent”, wanting the best for other people and wanting them to make decisions that make them happy and healthy, rather than stressed and fried. I don’t think it’s a sign of a problem, for me to genuinely care about others… and also care about myself and my own limited bandwidth. I feel like I have to be on constant guard against people close to me, because they are so habituated to patterns of thought and action which do not help them in the least — if anything, they work against them.

Everybody seems so caught up in their illusions and confusions, and they apparently love it. I know how that goes — it makes them feel alive. But for me, it’s a total friggin’ drain. And the thing that drains me the most is feeling like people close to me are getting progressively worse, not better, and they’re on this downward slide into one form of madness or another. Meanwhile, they’re sucking up valuable time and energy from the things that I really care about and the things I want (and need) to do.

It sends me over the edge. Like last night, when I went out to pick up some dinner with a friend, and we ended up arguing and tossing f-bombs at each other in the restaurant parking lot. Nothing like a little public display and disturbing the peace to round off a really aggravating afternoon with this person who loves to get riled over all kinds of crap, is diabetic, overweight and they don’t watch their blood pressure. Not only are they becoming increasingly difficult to deal with, but they’re also one of my main supports. The restaurant staff were understandably wary — good thing we got the food to go.

Note to self: Make New Friends, because the ones I have aren’t taking good enough care of themselves to be around for the long run. I expect to be visiting this friend in the hospital within a few years — again. I went through a near-death experience with them nearly 10 years ago, and it wasn’t fun. The prospect of doing it all over again (if they survive this time), is one of the little black clouds that hangs over my head regularly.

Well, the only thing I can do, is try to stay strong and positive in my own life, do things that make me feel like a real person again, and let me get my life back. I get sick of feeling like someone else’s sounding board/punching bag, when they aren’t being responsible with their own physical, mental, and emotional health, helping them pick up the pieces that they break apart and throw all over the place.

Call me “The Cleaner”. Only I don’t get paid for this job.

Well, I’m sick of bitching about everything. Vent, vent… whatever. I’m not feeling well physically, and I know it. That messes with my frame of mind, and it makes me touchy and edgy — things that I usually take in stride don’t get to me. I have another day to myself before I go back to that hell-hole of work. At least tomorrow I have all-day training that will help me get to the next stage of my working life. I think this is going to be good — it’s formal training in something I’ve been doing on my own, on the side, and it will give me a good idea of I’ve learned enough and if I’m expert enough to market that skill. It’s almost like a formality for me, but it’s an important one.

So, that’s a positive thing.

Summer is winding down, and I know that things can change in an instant with me and my outlook. All it takes is a little bit of good news, and I’m back. I know I’m tired, and I’m feeling crappy today, but that doesn’t need to derail my day. I have a wide variety of things I can think about and focus on, so if I can manage to get myself out of that bad headspace, it can only help.

At least I am centered and doing well in my own life and my own head. Public melt-downs aside, I’m doing pretty well, I have to say. I’ve been making good progress with my projects (marketing pains notwithstanding), and I’m feeling really positive about where things are going. I have a meeting coming up this week with some folks who may be able to help me reach some of my goals, so that’s encouraging. And I have other folks who have expressed interest in what I’m doing and may want to help in other ways. I just need to clear some of the extraneous stuff off my plate, take care of little to-do items that are hanging over my head, and just move forward.

Yeah, keep moving forward… Use the anxious, nervous energy I have for something that’s positive and pro-active. Don’t fight that energy, use it.

Which brings me back to the original theme of this post — feeling like crap, but not caring. When I stopped fighting feeling like crap and decided to just go with it… and use the energy for something positive… things started to really look up for me. There is an awful lot in my life that is just plain wrong, but rather than fight it or struggle with it, when I accept it and then take that anger/sadness/frustration and channel the energy into a positive activity, things really start to turn around for me.

And this is new. Because all my life, I’ve been in damage-control mode, where I had to have everything just-so, in order to do anything. Now that I’ve stopped caring so much about things being p.e.r.f.e.c.t. I have access to this store of energy I can use for other things. Instead of pushing it down, I let the anger/sadness/frustration just bubble up, and then I direct it towards what I want to do with it.

In the end, it’s all just energy. What I do with it, is my choice.

And right now, I’m choosing to go do something I meant to do yesterday, but didn’t get the time. I have the time now. So, let’s do it.

Using routine the right way

Like seasons - recurring, yet beautiful

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about the info I read recently about how making breakfast can make you more creative,  and I’ve realized that this approach has been helping me a great deal. I’ve been breaking up my established routines more, lately, and I think it’s been helping me learn better ways of dealing with my life in general, coming up with more creative solutions, and generally improving my performance at work.

I have to say, looking back at my job choices and performance in the years after my last TBI, I was nowhere near the level I should have been at. And my job choices showed it, too. I went from being a senior consultant type of person, to being a “plug and chug” person who could barely handle the most elemental of tasks. And a lot of them I didn’t handle. I just muddled through and hoped people wouldn’t notice that I was screwing up. And then I would take off when things got to be unsustainable and I was pretty sure everything was going to catch up with me, and they’d figure out that I was pretty impaired.

God, when I think back, I was just a WRECK at work. I just wasn’t doing a very good job at all. WTF?!

TBI, that’s WTF. One hell of a TBI.

It took me years to get back to a place where I was even capable of building myself back up. It took me years to stop screwing myself over and digging myself deeper and deeper holes I couldn’t climb out of.

But even after getting back on my feet again and “normalizing” to where I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot every other day… looking back at the last 18 months I’ve been at this job, there are so many things that I was tasked with doing that I just didn’t “get” how to do. It’s embarrassing to think about it now, looking back. Things like sending certain kinds of emails to people, performing certain tasks that I have been doing for years and years, and generally managing my workflow. It’s been a bit haphazard and chaotic, I’m embarrassed to say. And I’m not sure why they’ve tolerated that level of performance in me… unless they figured that I was still on a learning curve…

Wow. That’s a pretty long learning curve. And yet, they keep me around… I guess I must be doing something right.

Anyway, I’m really doing so much better than I have been before, and I think I know why that might be.

Basically, it’s because I have developed routines in my life. From the first moments that I wake up in the morning, to my preparation for going out into the day, to my schedule at work, to what I do in the evenings… and the weekends, too… I have a routine I follow. It probably sounds boring and uber-disciplined, but it has been my saving grace. By establishing what I’m going to do each day, and doing it the same way each day, I have “offloaded” the burden of having to re-think everything I do, and I have more time and energy to think about things that matter more to me — like better ways to do my job, better ways to live my life. I have more energy to repair the damage from before, because I’m not having to figure out what I’m going to have for breakfast each day… how to dress for work… what route to take to work… etc.

The time and energy I save on not having to re-think my breakfast each morning, is time and energy I have for thinking about my day and planning things I’m going to do. The time and energy I save on having a routine for my morning prep for work is time and energy I have for thinking through what I need to get accomplished and forming a picture in my mind of how to go about doing what I need to do.

Getting rid of all the hashing through minute details frees me up to actually have some depth of thought and consideration, so while I may look like I’m on autopilot, I’m actually able to think more in-depth about what I’m doing and experience it, not just “git ‘er done”.

So, my routines have helped me tremendously. They’ve also helped reduce the amount of stress in my life. Having to re-think everything constantly takes a lot of energy and it can become quite stressful, which put me into a constant fight-flight state of mind/body… and that was no good. I was always on  and the adrenaline marinade from having my proverbial foot on the pedal-to-the-metal, day in and day out, was kicking the crap out of me, frying my system, making me way too jumpy — and not helping my thought processes at all.

Another the way my routines help me, is when I break up my routine a little bit, now and then, and do things differently — like in the article about how making breakfast differently can help you become more creative. With my stress level down, and my foot taken off the fight-flight pedal, my system has been able to balance itself out, and I’ve been able to relax a whole lot more… which also makes it possible for my brain to learn.

When you’re really stressed, your brain just doesn’t learn as well as it does when it’s relaxed. So, having a regular routine that gives me a sense of comfort and stability has been critical to my ability to improve and change. It’s like, you need a routine and some “boring” stability to get settled down. Then when you’re settled down and your brain is receptive to new ideas, then you can try new things and shake things up a little bit.

But having that routine in place first is critical. Because when you’re shaking things up, you need to have some sort of mental safety net you can fall back on, if things get too stressful. If things are too chaotic and confusing and unpredictable, it’s easy to go into a mindset of panic and anxiety, and you end up losing ground. But if  — in the midst of your innovation — you have a safety net to fall back on, and you can just go back to your regular routine when you’re scared or stressed, then you have more freedom to experiment.

And you have more freedom to grow.

But you have to have a foundation first. You have to have stability and a sense of calm and comfort, in order to make real progress. At least, that’s my experience.

And it works for me.

Now, I know a lot of people think that routine is the opposite of creativity, but I have found that routine supports creativity. How can you be truly creative, unless you have freed your mind from the truly deadening burden of re-thinking even the most basic activities of your everyday? I know people who insist that they cannot stand routine, that they need to be “free” to go to bed whenever they like and get up whenever they like, spend their money however they feel “in the moment”, and drift in and out of relationships “as the spirit moves them.”

It may feel to them like they’re being creative, but I see a lot of them really suffering with problems and issues that never, ever go away. They get stuck in these cycles of personal problems that they never have time to really think deeply about, because all their energy is used up “being creative” about the smallest of details in their lives. And the result is chaos — personally and professionally. They go from one crisis to the next, over things that could be solved if they slowed down long enough to really look at what is going on with them, and if they gave some honest, extended consideration to how to fix those things.

But honesty scares them. And so does the idea of routine. So, they end up stuck. And they’re not nearly as creative as they’d like to be, because all their energy is used up performing low-level activities that can be put on auto-pilot.

And God forbid I suggest that they do things differently. It’s wild, seeing how intensely they defend their “creativity” when all it seems to be is a series of distractions that keep their minds off their troubles — troubles which never, ever go away.

Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. After all, I used to be like that. For real. I was so caught up in the low-level details of my everyday, that I never had any energy left over for the things that actually mattered or would let me get ahead. I was so stuck, and until I developed a routine for each day and stuck with it, I couldn’t get free.

Things are different now. Very different, indeed.

Routine is my friend.

The joy of messing around

Every morning I get up and get on the exercise bike and ride for about 20 minutes. While I ride, I start to wake up… and as I wake up, I think about the day ahead of me.

As I think about my day ahead of me, I make notes on a clipboard I always have with me on the bike. I save all the one-sided scrap paper that results from work I do — old taxes that needed to be re-run through the tax software and reprinted for filing… old projects that I started, along the way, then abandoned, once I realized there was way too much work for just one person to do, and I wasn’t up to finding more people to help me get the work done… old drafts of essays and articles and stories I wrote that never went anywhere, because I realized that I was writing them for myself, not really for anyone else…

My clipboard, needless to say, has a never-ending supply of scrap paper to fill it.

As I pedal on the bike, I think about my day and write down the things that matter most to me. It’s so important for me to do this — it involves me in my day — in my life — as soon as I’m up. And it gets me involved during the exercise that brings me to full living, breathing life. As I am becoming physically involved in my day  (through the exercise), I am becoming mentally, emotionally, even spiritually involved in my day, as well. And it is good.

One of the nice things about using a clipboard filled with scrap paper for planning, is that I don’t have to worry about making a mistake or messing up. My handwriting has become progressively worse over the years (it seemed to take a nosedive, after each of my accidents), and trying to read my scrawl can be a real challenge. Especially when it’s written during pedaling as fast as I can 😉  Seeing my cryptic scrawl on a sheet of paper in front of me can be a bit daunting. And when I try to write on a sheet of good notebook paper — or worse, a nicely bound journal — it’s very discouraging to see how bad my handwriting is, compared to how it used to be.

And I don’t want to write anything down. It just reminds me of my impairments.

My clipboard, on the other hand, is my “sandbox” where I can scrawl and mess up and write scraggly notes about this and that, and not worry about messing up something that’s nice. Growing up, I was always messing up nice things. My family didn’t have a lot of money, so we had to take care of what we had. That didn’t leave a lot of room for just messing around with writing and drawing and experimenting. Experimenting takes a certain amount of money, it takes a certain amount of existential largesse, a kind of reckless abandon, a ton of tolerance for “waste” … and that’s something my family just never had. So, I got in the habit, early on, of being careful. Of taking baby steps. Of not asking too much and not demanding too much and not taking too many risks.

That childhood experience colored the rest of my life, and when I climb on my bike, first thing in the morning, clipboard in hand, it follows me. It compels me to use scrap paper to scribble my ideas on. It warns me not to make too much of  a mess of my paper. It hovers over me, intruding on my mind and spirit.

Pain in my ass.

Anyway, I’ve found a way around that by using all the scrap paper I can find to write down my notes. And then, later on when I am really planning out my day, I transfer my scribbled notes into my computer, in a daily planner that is much more structured and much more neat. Typing up my notes gets me thinking about them in a different way, and it lets me organize my thoughts, so I can get on with the day without needing to hassle over the fine details of when I’m going to do things. Just figuring out how I’m going to do them, is enough of a challenge, thank you very much.

It’s really, really important to me, to be able to “mess around” first thing in the morning. It frees me up to think creatively, out of the box, on my own terms and at my own pace. It frees me up to experiment with ideas and make “mistakes” as much as I like. It gives me a ton of leeway and takes the pressure off. While I’m exercising, pedaling away, I can let my mind roam — let the proverbial wild little dog in the back of my head off the leash and let it run around the park to get its exercise before it straps on the pack to work the rest of the day. Plus, it gives me really fertile ground to dream from. Structure is very freeing for me… but so is a little lack thereof.

It’s all good.