How I am today

I didn’t get much sleep last night. Things have “blown up” at work, and a project I was managing and thought was fine, is NOT fine. It’s crashed (not quite burned), and now I have to get it put back together and back on track.

I’ve done this before at this job, but on a much smaller scale. This one is very big and very high-profile. And the (over)reaction to the date slipping is making me reconsider taking a permanent job there. I had been thinking seriously about going permanent with these folks — they had hinted at it a number of times — and everything was looking good.

Then things went wrong, and the reactions of people outside my group have caused me to reconsider my plans. It’s one thing for me to screw up this badly — which I may or may not have done. There are some things I could have done very differently, which would have helped. But I honestly didn’t realize I needed to do them, and even though people were around to help me, I wasn’t aware I needed to ask for help.

Now I know.

But the folks outside my group, who are the ones making up the unrealistic deadlines, are having little hissy fits and flipping out. So, the whole grand progressive business world ideal of “failing fast” and “learning from mistakes” is just a bunch of B.S. — what matters is that you meet your dates — and ONLY that you meet your dates.

Yeah, that works out really well, for sure. Talk about sucking the life out of your work.

So, now I’m back to considering myself a contractor who’s just there to do a job. In a couple of weeks, we’re moving to a new office much closer to home, and that’s what I’m focused on — being close to home. I’ll be able to go home for lunch and take a nap. I’ll be able to just roll out of bed and go to work. I will be closer to everything that makes up my everyday life, and that’s what matters.

The simple fact is, I need to not get attached to my visions of how I think things will eventually turn out. I had been thinking that I would just sail through this first set of challenges, and all would be well.ย  Untrue. I’ve had a number of things blow up in my face, and I’ve had to scramble a number of times. As my boss said, “It wouldn’t be a real project, if there weren’t a fire.” Everybody else I work with has been through this to some degree or another, so now it’s my turn. But what this means for the long term, who can say?

Anyway, I’ll get what I can out of the situation. I’ve been on a roller coaster for the past two days — no, the past two weeks — and my world pretty much turned to sh*t in an instant. All the miscalculations, all the drama. Who needs it?

Then again, just because everyone else is all worked up about things — or my boss is saying they will be, in order to motivate me and get me moving with a kind of panic-anxiety booster fuel… I don’t need to lose my cool over it. Their stuff is their stuff. I’ll just keep going, to get it all done, and keep steady at work.

If nothing else, people are impressed by how calm and composed I am in the midst of it all. This calm, composed demeanor is genuine, and it comes from years of managing outright panic in the face of very real crises. It comes from all my years of living in a sea of confusion and overwhelm, and figuring out how to function, anyway. It comes from years of walking around in a fog and doing a damn’ good impression of someone who’s mellow and chill.

And the good news is, I’ve got it all together. This is the first time I’ve been able to hold my sh*t in the face of very real problems, since I fell in 2004. I’m not melting down, I’m not losing it at work. I’m not flying off the handle, and I’m not flipping out, throwing things and slamming shit around on my desk. It’s cool. I’m cool — on the outside. Inside, I feel like I’m dying — like the Allman Brothers song:

Sometimes I feel… Sometimes I feeeeeeel

Like I’ve been tied to the whipping post… tiiiiiied to the whipping post… tiiiiiiied to the whipping post

Oh, Lord I feel like I’m dyyyying…

But I’m not dying. I know I’m not. It just feels that way. And in another couple of weeks, I won’t feel this way anymore. So, I’m dealing with it, walking through the pain and agony. Every breath pains me, and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. My demons are flailing around — overtime — and while I can see my way through, who knows what will pop up along the way?

Whatever does, I’ll deal with it. I can do that. That’s how I am. It’s who I am. I used to be like this — in the most trying of circumstances, I would remain calm and prevail. I’m doing that again, and although it feels excruciating… f*ck it. I’m here. And in the midst of this all, I feel like my old self again.

Which hasn’t happened in a very long time. And I thought it would never happen again.

But surprise — there I am again. That side of me is back. It’s partial, and it’s struggling, but it’s there. And that’s good enough for me.

Okay, back to it. Suck it up and wade back in.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No, we are definitely not alone

We’re all in the same boat, kind of

My job went well today. I have good days, and I have not-so-good days. But there is always another day to come. I was quite rested from the long weekend, and because I don’t have a short 4-day week, this week, I can work regular hours and not have to “bulk up” on my hours, so I can come close to breaking even.

I also canceled an evening appointment tonight, too, which turned out good, because we had heavy rain storms this evening, and I would have been caught in a nearby city in the pouring rain, if I had gone in. But I didn’t. I took my time getting home, and I saw some very impressive downpours and washouts.

Ah, summer.

Anyway, now I am on hold with the insurance company, because I messed up my coverage election, and I am currently without health coverage. This could be a real problem, but I’m not letting it get to me. I just need to jump through some hoops and deal with it. I can’t get all anxious about what *might* happen. I need to focus on what is and is not happening, and just stick with the details.

I noticed at work today that there are a lot of people in my same boat — we’re new, and we’re figuring things out. Some of my coworkers are ultra-helpful and bend over backwards… while others are more cliquish and don’t want to extend themself to the “newbies”.

At least there are a bunch of us who are in the same boat.

And I think about how many people there are in the same situation as me, hassling with paperwork they do not understand, trying to get help from people who aren’t very interested in helping them on the phone, hassling with devices and whatnot. I hate talking on the phone, because it is hard for me to hear and process things quickly, without seeing the person I’m talking to. It’s very stressful for me, but I have learned how to keep the person on the line until they have answered all my questions at least 2-3 times.

I make them repeat what they said, then I repeat it back to them, and ask them to confirm what I understand.

It’s awkward and difficult, but I get the answers I need that way.

You do what you have to do.

And if I let it get to me, it would make me NUTS at how convoluted and confused everything is. If you don’t have 100% clarity of thought, or if you’re distracted or you have some other cognitive issues, the system is pretty much stacked against you. That means a ton of people aren’t served very well by much of anything we have in place in this country.

I am definitely not alone.

But instead of getting all tweaked about it, I’m going to write up my notes from my call, gather my wits about me, and warm up my supper… and have a nice evening relaxing and reading.

It’s all good. It’s just a real pain in the a$$ sometimes.

 

Sweet relief – the end is in sight…

So, I’ve been out of sight for a number of days, buried in my work-work, and those two massive deadlines that finished up yesterday. Well, “finished up” is a bit of a stretch, because no matter what, there is always some other detail to manage.

But the bottom line is, I closed out the lion’s share of the work on Monday, after breaking my back – and shoulders – and wrists – and head – from sitting and working very intently for most of my waking hours for weeks on end. That final push started last week, and it’s been a roller coaster. Most things have gone right. A few little things have gone wrong. Of course, people are focused on the little things that went wrong, despite the mass of big things that went right.

We’re all just very tired, I guess.

And we are that.

This is a good way to close out my tenure at this job. Now that these two deadlines are done, I can start looking in earnest for another job. I’m going on vacation next week — taking the whole week off to go somewhere with plenty of nature, open water and sun… and nothing that I have to do, other than relax. I’ll probably give a lot of thought to where I want to go next, but I won’t start talking to recruiters again until after I get back. Then I can take my sweet time… and look forward to getting away from the situation I’ve been in. I’ve been steady and loyal through all kinds of crap, for the past couple of years, and now things are at a place where I can move on.

Part of what makes it possible for me to move on, is that I’ve put in place a lot of best practices that other people are now doing as though they’ve always done them, and there was never a different way. I’ve coerced/convinced people to standardize many of the things they do… put systems in place that will help them do their jobs… create and enforce deadlines for things that were chronically late for years before I got there… and I’ve helped to establish policies that are just good practice (but were nowhere in sight when I first started there). I think the fact that people think things have always been done this way, is the biggest testament to my success. I changed things for the better at this job, and the changes are so pervasive, people don’t even remember how it was before. Even if people don’t realize this fully and I don’t get full credit for hanging in with everyone, secretly pulling my hair out as I explained to them for the 80th time why we need to do things a certain way… the fact remains that I’ve made a positive difference. And that’s something I can take with me and feel good about — even as the rest of the crowd descends into panicked anarchy over organizational changes.

Politics. Yeah. I am so over them. That’s why I need a contract. More money, less politics. I just want to show up, do the best job I can, and not have to worry about who I impress and how I phrase things. Please. I have better things to do with my life and energy, than fiddle with all that static fluff.

I also need a job where I can go home at the end of the day and not take it with me. During the past weeks, I have had late conference calls with folks in Asia every few nights, and troubleshooting till 11 p.m. each night is not my idea of a fun time. It also keeps me from getting decent sleep, which is a real drain. With this job, I’ve been so invested, so intent on making a difference, that my health has suffered, and I’ve definitely aged. Not good. I can reverse that trend with some changes, but I need to get out of this situation and stop the 14-hour work days first.

It’s wild – I have been pushing so hard for so long that I almost don’t know what I’d do without being on an “electronic leash” 24 hours a day. Three years isn’t forever, but it’s felt like it, and it’s more than enough time spent on a company that frankly doesn’t give a crap about me or my future. In fairness, they’re not a welfare provider. It’s not their job to make sure I’m doing alright. That’s my job. It’s their job to provide me with opportunities and let me move into the ones that suit me best. But once upon a time, the company was small enough and close-knit enough that the organization truly gave a damn about how people were doing, they recognized contributions, and they stayed out of our way and let us do our jobs.

Now, it’s just some big monolithic profit center. That’s fine for some, but I need something that recognizes the humanity of employees — and doesn’t use that humanity against them.

Vent, vent… I’m not saying anything unique here. I am seriously tired, so I need to focus on how to get un-tired. That will happen next week. And this week, too, I think. I can take some time to unwind a bit, catch up on some things that are outstanding, and figure out how to get my life back.

Normalize… normalize… I need to return to my “ideal performance state” — with all the pieces in place that support me in my daily work:

  • Routine
  • Lists of items that must be done, ranked in order, so I don’t waste a lot of time
  • Regular bedtime
  • Good food
  • Lots of water
  • Regular exercise

I’ve been doing pretty well with the food business, cutting out morning carbs (I have an egg instead), and keeping my junk food intake to a minimum. I snack on raw almonds now, instead of candy bars, and I have been drinking plenty of water. I haven’t been moving as much as I need to, but that’s changing now that I’m done with my deadlines. I started out this morning with a lot of aches and pains and creaky bones and limited motion. But I did my exercises and light lifting as soon as I got up, and within 20 minutes I felt a whole lot better.

I have also been working with my activities lists, and that’s been helpful as well.

And I can now get back to my routine, which is the key to how I can do so much in so little time. Other people would drown in the work I’ve got going on — a full-time job doing the work of three people, another side project which involves producing something every week by a certain deadline, a new project / business venture that I’m firing up, and of course this blog. Routine and lists of what needs to be done are my secret weapon. And all things considered, I am incredibly productive through it all. Not always well-rested, but still productive.

Well, speaking of being productive, it’s time for me to get on with my day. I have reached the end of these two massive projects, and as soon as I catch up on my sleep, I’m going to feel great about it. Right now, I’m way too wired and fried, to fully appreciate what I’ve accomplished, but logically I know it’s a big deal, which nobody else in my group could have pulled off as well as I did. I’m headed back into the office in an environment that’s just bubbling with political intrigue, and I’m thinking about reading Marcus Aurelius to give myself some perspective and remember that these kinds of situations have been happening for eons, and it’s nothing to get worked up over.

I’m wrapping up my tenure there, and it feels good. I’ll put the finishing touches on everything, collect all the relics of all the work I’ve done, so I can show it to headhunters, and I’ll secretly say my good-byes to the people in the place I’ve called my home-away-from-home for the past 3+ years.

It’s poignant and it’s bittersweet, but it’s time.

Is it ever time.

Onward…!

Long day. Soon off to bed.

Pretty rough day, today. Started early – up at 5:30 – and went till 10:30, when I met my spouse at the emergency department, where they were getting a jammed (possibly broken) thumb tended to. The injury, it turns out, is not serious. A simple splint used for several weeks should help.

That’s good.

Things went pretty dicey today. There were all sorts of snafus and glitches, and it would have been the icing on the cake if the smoke we saw out the office building window had indeed been a car on fire. Not quite. Construction work with smoking asphalt.

In the end, though, things got done. And that’s that.

Tomorrow it’s back to what I was doing today, but in a slightly different way. The first Big Deadline was met — rock on — and now there are two left for me to tend to. Big Deadlines. Very Big.

But it’s happening.

Just gotta keep moving. Keep on keepin’ on. Vacation is just around the corner. The beach awaits…

Deadline’s done. Now, back to life.

All set

So, that’s that. The project is finished and now I get my life back. There are a few outstanding things to take care of, but other than those, we are good to go. And my regular life and regular schedule can resume.

It’s been a huge challenge, putting massive demands on my head and my body. It’s going to take me days, if not weeks, to get back to equilibrium again, but it will happen. Sleep will happen. Relaxation will happen. Good food and rest will happen. I did good work over the past months, and now it’s time to sit back and replace the resources I depleted.

And replace them, I will. With long, deep breaths that take in all that life has to offer around me. The scents of the autumn rains starting early… the sounds of swollen, dangerous rivers roaring past, through, over vulnerable, immobilized towns… the odor of pungent rot on a forest floor going through its cycles of death and revitalization… the sight of the finished project on the computer screen in front of me, actually live and moving and making its presence felt in the world beyond my desk… It’s all part of it. All wonderful and terrible and joyful and horrendous and as invigorating now as it was excruciating then.

My head is aching, and I’m still dizzy and feeling sick to my stomach. Breakfast as usual didn’t calm things down, nor did second breakfast. I’m a little more stable than I was at 6 a.m., but I have a ways to go before I build back up.

But build back up, I shall. I know my nervous system is pretty fried. I’m strung out, and I need to get back to rest-and-digest, out of that fight-flight cycle that’s been dominating my life, lately. I need to take in, not just spend and expend and go-go-go. I need to feed myself again, after starving myself for weeks and months. I need to feel something again, not just think-think-think.

And so I shall. And so I do.

See, here’s the thing… All the running is very well and good, but so much of it is just plain anxiety – not knowing, not being sure, not certain, being afraid of getting it wrong, being afraid of being penalized for getting it wrong, not feeling any leeway to screw up and live to see another day, not feeling like “I can do this”… not feeling up to the job at hand… not feeling up to much of anything. Tired, tired, and more tired. Because I’m running.

And half the time I don’t even realize it.

An amazing thing happens, though, when I realize this. When I am present and aware that this is what is going on with me, it ceases to have a hold on me. And I can choose how I want to handle things. I can choose how I want to react to it — get away from the fear, get away from the anxiety, and just settle in to take care of the things that are making me anxious and fearful.

And get some perspective. Open my mind, open my heart. Sit and listen. Spend some time talking to people I never get the chance to talk to. Spend some time reading the words of writers I used to love, who were lost to me for a number of years after my last TBI, because I couldn’t handle reading. No I can read again. And I find myself coming back to the words of writers I used to love — getting inside access to the spirit that moves them, the spirit that moves us all…

That spirit, that heart, those words… they feed me. And it is good.

Even when things were crazy and busy and frantic, they were good. It’s not a bad idea for me to push myself, now and then, and learn from it. I’ve learned a lot, namely, that I can push myself and I won’t fall apart. I’ve held myself back a lot, over the course of my life, thinking that I couldn’t handle things, when I never gave myself a chance. Things are even more challenging now, because I’ve got this brain stuff going on. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let life pass me by, because of what I think I can or cannot do. If I try something — pour myself into it with all my might, and I fall flat on my face — or worse, on my head — then I learn. I would rather test my limits and take my chances, than only play it safe.

Granted, it’s no good to put myself in harm’s way. That will never do. But the real limits of what is and is not possible for me, aren’t always true in my mind. It’s a skewed up, screwed up hodge-podge of conceptions I have about myself and my life, and while I do acknowledge I have issues and areas I need to watch out for, the fact remains that there are also areas I am too careful about, and when I push the limits of those areas, I learn a thing or two.

Some of the things I learned are that dogged fatigue messes with my mind and memory and equilibrium like few other things do. But I also learned that — for a time — I can prevail and draw on reserves I don’t normally draw on. I also learned how dangerous it is to drive when I am that tired. I didn’t wreck, but I got lucky. I also realized, from reading the writings of people from almost 100 years ago, that people have been pushing the envelope of human experience for an awful long time. They get hurt, they get banged up, they get injured, they get concussions. They have all sorts of aches and pains, migraines and arthritis and dizziness, and more. And yet they keep going. They have always kept going. And some people have done a better job of taking their pains and traumas in stride, than others.

Whatever we do, however we do it, that’s life. We go through terrible times, and we suffer. We ache and we thrill and we keep finding out where the sharp edges of life are jutting out to snag us as we pass. We bleed and we vomit and we collapse from exhaustion. But we go on. And in the end, sometimes it does a body good to push it that far. When we push too far, we find out. For sure, we find out.

The thing is, as hard as we push ourselves, we need to allow in the goodness that life has to offer. I think that may be the biggest difference between how we are now and how we used to be, 100 years ago. Now, we are never, ever satisfied. There is always something else we need, something else we desire, something else we cannot live without. And we push ourselves without ceasing, ignoring the circadian needs of our bodies and souls, never stopping to appreciate the good that comes to us, always thinking that the good we have is simply not enough. It is never enough for some of us. And we put all sorts of conditions on our happiness, making our innermost selves eager victims of our own appetites.

Things come, things go. And we force ourselves to suffer, against all good sense and sensibility.

But I guess that’s just life.

But now, it’s time to sleep. Work will be waiting for me when I get up again. But for now, I need to rest. Relax. I may read, too. But mainly, I’ll sleep.

Geez – I have GOT to get out of my head

Source: images.wellcome.ac.uk

I am slowly but surely driving myself crazy. I am feeling depressed and low and forlorn. All the world feels like it’s pitted against me, and I feel like I’m slipping farther and farther into an abyss. I feel like I’m behind at work, I’m not meeting my deadlines, I’m saying/doing things that make people uneasy, and I’ve been ultra-edgy, the past few days.

This really sucks. I’m glad my spouse wasn’t around this evening — I had a little breakdown about the time I woke up from my nap. Over what, I can’t quite remember. Something about career disaster.

Now, I know I’m tired, and I know my mood takes a nosedive when I’m fatigued. I also know that the past three days — no, wait, the past week — has been extremely full — with change, new faces, new information, etc.

Despite needing to take it easy this weekend, I burned the candle at both ends. And now I am seriously overloaded, and I feel like I’m coming down with a cold or something. Ugh. I’m drinking my nasty “cold season tea” to head it off at the pass.

All the work was for good reason, mind you. I’m on deadline, and tomorrow is a hard-and-fast date I have to meet. No alternatives. I’ve missed a number of deadlines already, and it’s turning into a pattern I need to turn around. I must deliver the goods by tomorrow — but since I did so by this afternoon at 12:30 or so, I should be good. Have this nagging sense of “what’s missing?” however. I hate this.

Regardless of my best intentions on Saturday morning, the weekend ended up taking a big bite out of me.

And my head has been nudging at me, whipping me into a neurotic frenzy. It’s telling me I’m a screw-up and a slacker and I’ll never amount to anything, and if I have any sense, I’ll run away to Uruguay, which I read about over the weekend. Apparently, you can live there for very cheap. And you don’t even need to know Spanish. It’s getting cold here. I think the summer is starting there. Uruguay might be just the ticket for me, actually. Hmmm…

What is this world inside my head coming to? I had the house to myself this weekend, and I isolated with my work, didn’t get out much, and now I’m feeling both wired and weird. Good grief.

I want to run away. Seriously. The new job scares the crap out of me, and I’m convinced that everyone hates and resents me and they are out to get me. This is not good. I’m being silly and I know it, but I’ll be damned if I can stop these little “tapes” in my head that keep reinforcing all the crap that’s accumulated over the years.

This is not me.

These are feelings, not facts.

I'm being ridiculous.

Stop it.

Hey – wasn’t I supposed to have fun this weekend and kick back and relax? In a way, I did — I took care ofย  all that programming for my work, which is something I enjoy doing. But even fun in large amounts puts a strain on the system. And I was really haulin’ ass there, for a while. Now I’m feeling the effects.

I’m feeling positive, though, about what I got done. I just hope my coworkers don’t hold it against me that I worked over the weekend. They say it makes them look bad, and they give me crap. But I had to get the stuff done. Sometimes working weekends is the best way to go. Especially when you have a highly sensitive deadline… in another 15 hours.

I think the only sensible thing I can do at this point is head off to bed shortly.

So I shall.

And now for something that will make just about anyone feel more normal (or at least less abnormal) — http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

Read it and weep — while you’re rolling on the floor laughing your ass off ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday was a wash

… Just about.

I had carefully made up a list of all the things I needed to get done — I’m on deadline at work, and it’s vital that I get the things done that I started, and that I do them on time. But I never checked my list until about 3:30 p.m., and then it was too late to do a lot of it.

I was just exhausted from the weekend — lots of activity and staying out too late. It was fun at the time, but it took its toll. And the people I’m working with are not pleased.

I’ve just got to let it go. I can’t start out today feeling bad about yesterday. It’s a new day. And I also have to remember that I’m not the only one in my group who’s struggling with work, right now. We all are, pretty much. We’re a challenged bunch of people with divided attention, conflicting interests, and way too much going on in our lives, overall. We’re also getting used to working together in new ways. There’s old bad blood that keeps people stuck, and there’s new opportunity to move forward. Main thing is, keep moving forward. But yesterday that didn’t happen nearly as much or as well as it should have.

I have to do something about this. I have to get out in front of my tasks. I know better than to do this. But the part of me that was playing all weekend wanted to keep playing, so I ended up messing up some stuff — and feeling badly about it.

More than anything, what takes the biggest toll is the emotional stuff. Feeling badly about myself. Feeling badly about how I’m doing. Feeling incapable and incompetent. And then, even if I’m doing okay by most people’s standards, my performance is thrown off even more. Because I’m feeling badly about myself and my abilities.

But it’s a waste of time to feel badly. My brain is just different now, than it was before my fall in 2004. It just has different needs and inclinations, which I have to factor in and accommodate/adjust to, if I’m going to have the level of ability that I desire. If I’m going to accomplish what I set out to, I need to use my tools — my planner, my notebook, my to-do list.

And I need to have just enough things on my list to keep me moving, without overwhelming me.

The thing about lists, though, is that I have to keep all the items I have on my plate (short- and long-term) in front of me in some way. I have to keep all my priority items in plain view, or I just forget about them. Other people look at my list, and they get all freaked out.ย  They tell me “It’s too much!” But for me, it works. I don’t mind all that stuff in front of me. I’d rather have it there, than forget about it — which is what I’ve done in the past … only to remember that I’d forgotten things I seriously needed to remember.

Until I find a way to remember everything — or hire a secretary/executive assistant to do the remembering for me — the stuff I need to do eventually is going to stay on the list.

But back to yesterday. What did I do which didn’t work, that I can do differently today?

  1. I didn’t check my list, first thing in the a.m. — I’ve checked my list for today already, so I’m good with that.
  2. I got down on myself for falling behind — I’m not going to do that today… get down on myself. I’m going to try the best I can, and leave the rest to fate.
  3. I thought the whole problem was me — I know I’m not the only one having issues. It’s just that the other folks I work with are really good at covering up their shortcomings and problems, and so of course (since I’m very open about the areas where I am lagging), I end up looking like the one who’s bringing everyone down. Matter of fact, I’m not — in fact, one of the reasons I’m behind on my tasks is that the folks I’m working with made a total friggin’ mess of it before, and nobody bothered to sort it out, till I came along and said, “This will never do!”
  4. I didn’t take time to plan my day and catch myself up — Today I am taking the train to work, so I can read and prepare.
  5. I let myself lollygag around in the afternoon, when I was tired –– Today, I need to pace myself and do at least something in the p.m, when I hit my low point (as I always do). If I plan for my lull, and I do something like walk around the office or take a break away from my desk when I’m tapering off, I may have better luck. There is a common work area I can go to that’s far away from my desk — I’ll try going there today and see if the change of scenery helps.

These are just a few of the things I can do differently today. I already feel better.