Good to be home – and figuring out next steps

That feeling of being all alone in the crowd... is shared by many
That feeling of being all alone in the crowd… is shared by many

It’s been a good week.

A challenging week.

But still a good week.

Sometimes you just need to step away to get some clarity on your priorities in life, what you want to do with yourself, how you want to do it… and perhaps most importantly, how badly you want to do it. There are some things that I’ve been meaning to spend more time on — projects that actually do look like they have good potential to widen my employment prospects, as well as bring in some money on the side.  And it’s given me more motivation to really work on them.

It’s also important to figure out what you don’t want to do, and this trip made that abundantly clear. It was a pain in the neck, dealing with all the prejudice and pressure — the prejudice that came out when people started drinking and stopped being on their best behavior, the stifling biases against women and gay people, the “jokes” about so-and-so having romantic relations with someone of their own sex, when they’re not even gay – har-har-har (not funny for gay or straight people)… as well as the constant pressure from my boss to stay up late with everyone and party, even though they know I don’t drink… and them joking about getting me drunk (I wouldn’t put it past them), which is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

I don’t know which would be worse for me – to lose too much sleep, or to get drunk. In both cases, I can fall, which could be catastrophic. In both cases, I can get in trouble with other people, including the police. And it’s not the sort of trouble that I can just get out of easily.

When I get in trouble — I get in trouble. As in, get combative towards law enforcement and other authority figures. And at the conference, I was not shielded by local folks knowing who I am.

I was also not shielded from sensory overload — all the crowds, the noise, the lights, the big open expo hall where I was working, and the constant movement and hustle. I felt like a zombie, much of the time, and it was miserable at moments, but then I got to step away to the restroom, or to get something to eat, or walk to a quieter part of the expo hall. There was music pumping, lights flashing, constant streams of people walking by who I had to engage and hopefully bring into our booth, and it was cold in that hall. I felt like I was going to lose it, a couple of times, but I regrouped and chilled myself out by focusing on something specific – like checking my email on my smartphone.

The area that the conference was in, was crazy, too — all the lights and motion and crowds and music everywhere. It’s perfect for sensation-seeking people, but for me it was just too much. At the concert they had on the last night, I thought I was going to flip out and hit someone. I was pressed up against the very front of the cordoned-off area, with people pushing in close behind me, whistling and clapping right beside my ears, and all of them wearing some sort of perfume. I’m not terribly sensitive to scents, but when I’m tired and overwhelmed, I get that way — and yeah, I got that way. I had to leave early, when I realized that I was on the verge of punching someone — anyone. That wouldn’t have been good. Plus, there were security guards about 10 feet away from me.

So, I skipped out and got in bed by 9:30 that night. Pretty good, I have to say. Considering that I had to fly out, first thing in the morning, it was ideal.

The main thing is, I managed to make it through the week without A) drinking, B) losing too much sleep, or C) getting in trouble. I held my tongue and didn’t respond, when intoxicated people were running their mouths about stupid things. They probably don’t remember saying it, anyway. I also didn’t let it get to me personally too much. All the “frat boy” shenanigans, which I have never related to, anyway, didn’t throw me. Mercifully, “frat boy” types have usually ignored me, instead of singling me out and beating me up. So, I just kept clear of the grown-up versions of “nuggie”-giving football players, and stuck with a few other like-minded folks.

Most important of all, I made it home in one piece.

And that’s a huge accomplishment for me. Not only did I navigate all the alcohol-soaked dinners and social events without so much as a sip of booze, but I also got in bed by 9:00 p.m. on two nights… at 10:00 on one night… and not long after 11:00 on another night. All in all, I think I lost maybe four or five hours of sleep over the whole five days, which is pretty amazing, considering that my boss was telling me I had to stay out with the team till 3 a.m., and then stumble back to get a few hours rest before morning.

Yeah, it was amazing that I got out of all that B.S. in one piece.

I just wish it didn’t have to be so amazing.

Overall, though, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress and everything I accomplished. Unlike other similar conferences in the past, this time I did not freak out, I did not lose it back in my hotel room, I did not space out or check out. In other years, at these big user conferences, I was fried by the end of the first day, and I was isolated and alienated for the rest of the trips. But this time, I was all there, I was just “riding” the situation, and I got some good things out of it, as well.

My big discovery at this event is that I am actually really, really good at engaging with strangers and getting them to open up to me. I have a ton of experience and a lot of “war stories”, and when I share them with others, they open up about their own experiences.

It’s funny, because I never really thought of myself as that kind of person – outgoing and engaging – because I am such an introvert. But even introverts can be engaging and outgoing, when we are in the right situations. And in fact, I was interacting with a lot of introverts, myself — one of whom was pretty drunk at 11:30 in the morning on the last day of the conference… probably completely overwhelmed like I was, and using the mini-bar in their room to ease the pain.

Yeah, it was overwhelming. But I made it through.

I realized some new (and important) things about myself and the kind of work I want to do. I also realized the kinds of things I can do, that I never thought I was good at, before.

So, that’s helpful. Despite the challenges, I still got a lot out of the experience.

So, that’s something.

Boy, oh boy, is it good to be home!

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There’s a whole lot there

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It's amazing what all goes on in there

So, yesterday I was supposed to go to a screening of a movie that a friend of mine created. I was listed as one of the contributors, since I provided an idea that they used to really build out the plot. I even got a credit 🙂 And the screening last night was to give everyone who contributed the chance to see the product of their creative inspiration.

I was planning on going, but yesterday morning, I bailed. I’d actually been leaning towards bailing for the past week, as things have been very busy at work and I am behind on my sleep. I probably could have gone — that is, if I had remembered it was actually last night, instead of Monday evening. But for some reason, I had it in my head that it was on Monday. So, when bailed, I bailed for the wrong date.

Oh, well. At least I got back in touch with the filmmaker before the date had passed. That would have been embarrassing.

Anyway, there was no way I could have gone yesterday. My sensory issues were acting up, and I felt very “off” all day. Like I was walking around on another planet or something. Off  balance. Jumpy. Spaced out. Feeling like I’m in a fog. Very sensitive. And in pain. My back and hips are giving me problems again – I may need to adjust the seat in my car some more.

Being around other  people was not an option. And anyway, my spouse was out of town last evening, so I had a lot of time to devote to myself and my reading. I found some really great articles online that I printed out, and I took a lot of time to think about them. One of them is a huge challenge for me, because it’s full of formulas and physics, which I don’t understand and can’t follow. I’m going to read it again today to see if it makes any more sense to me.

The interesting thing about formulas and calculations, is that I can look at them and not understand what they’re saying, but I still feel like I “get” what they are about. It’s like there’s a part of my brain that understands in a non-verbal, implicit way, what the formulas and calculations are about. I couldn’t recreate them to save my life, but reading them, they make sense. At least, to my thinking, they do,

So, last night was good. I got to spend a lot of time with myself and in the deafening silence that is my brain crunching through new information. My spouse says they can hear the gears turning in my head, sometimes, and I have to stop thinking so hard around them, because it’s too “loud”. Ha. So, the old machinery is still working 🙂

One thing I’ve noticed is that the way my brain works is very different from most people’s. It has been that way since I was a kid, and while it does not make it easier for me to interact with other people, it does make it easier for me to interact with information. Data. Formulas. Calculations. I can look at something and “get” what is going on there. Even though I cannot always articulate it or explain it or even replicate it, there is a sort of visual processing that goes on in my mind/brain that can process data at a glance and identify patterns in it.

I cant’t explain how it works, or even why it works, but it works. And I have  come to realize that much of the difficulties I have had over the years in school and work interactions have had to do with me trying to fit my thinking style into an approach that other people understand and can relate to. It’s a trap. Because when I try to wedge my non-verbal thinking into a verbally oriented way of processing information, I lose the very thing that makes me strong and capable.

I’m not sure if TBI has anything to do with altering how my brain works, but I do know it has a LOT to do with me trying to make myself into something and someone I am not. TBI makes my thinking rigid. It blocks my ability to see multiple possibilities. It makes me inflexible and I get stuck in a thinking rut that’s very difficult to get out of. And the ultimate result is that I think there is something wrong with ME and how my brain works, when the real problem is how I am thinking about myself and what I’m expecting of my brain.

I think maybe this is what my neuropsych has been trying to communicate to me, lo these many years. I have been so rigidly focused on being and thinking ONE CERTAIN WAY that really doesn’t suit me as well as the variety of ways I have to choose from. Now, years later, I’m getting it.

And it’s good.

So, that’s the deal for today. I am having a blast, reading these new papers, and I am also having a blast mapping out the ideas I get from them. I have a bunch of papers I downloaded over the years when I was really digging into scientific papers for the sake of idea density (I read a book about the Mankato Nun Study which discovered that having a lot of “idea density” in your  language/thinking correlated with reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and with my history of head trauma, dementia has been an ongoing concern for me). I have a ton of papers on TBI and related subjects, many of which I have not actually read in depth. I just scanned the abstracts, and that was good enough for me at the time.

Now it’s very different, and I look forward to digging into them again.

Oh, and there are the several works I’ve been working on that I think could really help people better understand TBI and the after-effects, so that we can treat the right underlying issues, instead of chasing the symptoms around the block and back again.

There’s a lot going on with me, these days. And it’s good.

Onward.