A good night’s sleep… and a new direction

zelinsky-eye-info

Eye-opening info on the visual systems and the brain-body connection – click to read this

I had a very taxing day, yesterday. In the midst of telling my manager that I was leaving (and having them freak out, albeit in a professionally muted way), and also trying to get work done, so that I can wrap everything up for folks before I go, I had the constant interruption of people stopping by or sending me messages or emails or whatever, so that they could find out what was up… process… congratulate me… etc.

Everyone has been really great about it. Of course, we’re only in the early stages of grief.

Denial… Anger… Bargaining… Depression… Acceptance.

We’ve only gotten to the first stage (though I know everyone handles loss differently, so the order can be mixed up), and I’m expecting anger, bargaining, and depression to ensue before long.

As long as I’m prepared, that’s the main thing.

The issue is, all the interruptions, all day long, the emotion, the storytelling — getting the sequence of things correct, so that I’m telling a consistent story and don’t sound like I’m lying to people — it’s exhausting. Trying to focus, while people are all worked up and want to talk… good grief, it’s tiring. And by the end of the day, I was wiped.

Which is part of the reason I burned supper… then had a minor meltdown when my spouse started yelling at me… then got all bent out of shape about that signalling the permanent end of my marriage, because I just couldn’t take being yelled at when I’d had such a demanding day…

I felt a nasty migraine coming on, and retreated to my bedroom with the lights off and focused on my breathing and slowing my heart rate, to head the migraine off at the pass. It worked. And my spouse came to find me to talk things through because it made no sense for me to go to bed angry. And then I went downstairs and watched “Happy-ish” which is my new favorite show, because there are so many parallels between the main character and myself.

In the end, we finished the evening on a much more normal, loving note. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up to a glorious day. Glorious! as my elderly aunts used to exclaim, when I was a kid.

I miss those venerable elders. I miss them a lot.

Anyway, while reading The Ghost In My Brain, I found a lot of similarities to the author’s experience and my own — the nausea that sets in when people are talking to you… the balance problems… the fact that driving is actually okay, when you’re not cognitively drained (it’s actually a relief)… preferring blurry eyesight to glasses that make objects sharper, but don’t address the full spectrum of vision issues… and having everything be in slow motion when talking, because there are all sorts of additional processes that need to take place in the background, while you’re working through what someone is saying to you… and then there’s the trouble planning.

The author talks about how he had regular appointments with a Dr. Miller to work through daily logistics with TBI, and he was often not 100% sure he was supposed to be there. I used to do that all the time with my neuropsych, for a number of years. I was pretty sure I was supposed to be there, but I wasn’t 100% confident, so I just went — and if I was supposed to be there, then that was cool. If I turned out to be there on the wrong day, I was prepared to turn around and go home.

Fortunately, we always had appointments on Tuesday afternoons, so it was consistent. If it was Tuesday, then I’d go to their office and wait in the waiting room. Sometimes I would sit in the waiting room for quite some time, if I got there a little late. I wasn’t sure if I should go knock on the door, or if they would come out to find me. Eventually, I got in the habit of knocking on the door — the thing is, I now realize, I would avoid it, because it hurt my ears when I knocked. Driving an hour through evening rush hour traffic really took it out of me, so my hearing was on HIGH. I’d just suck it up, though, and knock. The discomfort of the knocking, though, was actually preferable to the auditory shock of hearing their door open suddenly. It always startled me, because they have one of those noise-dampening brushes across the bottom of their door, and it makes a really loud noise when it opens.

At least, it’s loud for me.

Anyway, all the discomfort aside, I’m considering following up with a neuro-rehabilitative optometrist to see if I actually have vision issues that are making my symptoms worse. After I was hit in the head with the rock when I was 8 (a year earlier I’d fallen down a flight of stairs and temporarily lost the ability to speak), I developed double-vision (diplopia, I think it’s called). I was taken to an eye doctor who prescribed reading glasses, and I’ve worn them ever since.

In recent years, I’ve actually opted for not wearing my glasses whenever I can. It’s more comfortable for me. My glasses help me see things in the distance just fine, but I prefer to do without them. Sometimes I will even drive for short distances without my glasses (if no one is around and the road is empty and runs straight ahead). I have been thinking it’s because I just can’t stand having them on my face… but now I’m wondering if maybe they are actually making it harder for me to see, because they are not allowing my eyes to get the kind of light I need to get.

Reading The Ghost In My Brain, I am finding so many similarities — especially with how vision and balance are so closely connected — that I think it makes sense to follow up with my vision. Just get my eyes checked out for that other aspect. Apparently, there are three ways our eyes help us — regular straight-ahead vision, peripheral vision, and then connections with sleep-wake cycles, balance, hormones, neurotransmitters, posture, etc.

And I wonder if maybe so many of my logistical problems — which I have never been able to articulate well to anyone, because they make no sense to me or anyone else — might have to do with vision issues. From the time I was 8. So, for over 40 years. If this is true, and my visual systems have been impacted, then it makes a lot of sense why I perform so high on visual-spatial tests. I’ve had to develop more abilities to offset the deficits I got from those TBIs. Add to that even more blows to the head, and you’ve got yourself quite a recipe for a very interesting life.

Additionally, I’m looking into the Feuerstein Method, which is a way of “learning to learn” — finding your strengths to offset your weaknesses, and restoring functionality that I really need to have, but which has eluded me.

My neuropsych has been incredibly helpful to me, in terms of helping me sort through all the psychological clutter, helping me retrain my executive function and beefing up my gist reasoning. The thing is, they take that approach, which is psychological, and the physiological aspects fall by the wayside. At least, that’s how it seems to me. And anyway, I do a really poor job of communicating everything that’s going on with me, at times, because I have a long drive to get to them, at the end of usually challenging days, and I’ve been so stressed out over the years with all my old sh*tty jobs, that I haven’t had as much bandwidth as I’d have liked to.

I do a danged good impression of someone who’s got their act together. Because I have to. If I don’t, I can lose my job. I can lose my house. I can lose everything, and my spouse will lose it all, too. So, keeping up the appearance of being on top of everything is my top priority.

Of course, that can backfire, because then you can’t always reveal the areas where you need help, when someone is there to help you.

But anyway, that’s another blog post for another day.

Right now, I’ve got some new lines of inquiry to follow, and that’s super cool. I also have some exercises I can do to help me — Designs for Strong Minds (the site of the rehab person who helped Clark Elliott retrain his brain) has a bunch of exercises at http://www.dsmexercises.com/, and I went ahead and paid the $13.99 for the full suite of exercises. It’s easier and quicker than trying to piece things together for myself. Plus, it’s a deal, because individually, the collections of challenges are $9.99 each.

Even the most basic ones pose some issues for me, although I’ve been scoring 87% or better. A number of my choices have been lucky guesses. I won’t be happy until I can score 100% without doubts. Then I can move on to the next batch. There are exercises for NASA rocket scientists, and other pattern matching things.

And that reminds me about my Dual N-Back training I used to do regularly. I need to try that again. I was doing Dual N-Back training when I was learning to juggle. Now I know how to juggle, and I wonder if my Dual N-Back training is “sticking” as well.

New tests for a new day.

Interspersed with lots of rest.

I’m pretty happy about the progress I’ve made in my life, relative to where I was 10 years ago. Relative to where I believe I could be — and should be — I’m not happy. I know I can do more and I know I can do better. Getting there is the challenge.

And it finding out if I have vision issues that can be fixed, could be an important next step.

Onward!

Woke up in a funk, then I decided to do things a little differently

It’s a choice

So, I woke up at 6, after getting, oh, about 6-1/2 hours of sleep. Not great. I’m still thrown off by the overnight work on Fri/Sat night. Ugh.

And I had to get some things done, that I had neglected for … oh, months.

And I was in a funk about my spouse always snapping at my heels about every little thing. It’s like living with a bee constantly buzzing around my head, sometimes. You know, how you’re sitting there, relaxing and enjoying a sandwich, and then this bee shows up and starts buzzing around you, trying to get a bite of your sandwich, and you don’t want to get stung, but you can’t get rid of the bee… and you try to ignore it, and you try to make space for it, and you try to not be bothered… but it’s still there, buzzing around… buzzing… buzzing…

That’s how it was, pretty much all weekend with my spouse. Aside from a few times when we were able to just sit and be and enjoy each other’s company, it was pretty much of a drain. Constant complaining. Constant worrying. Constant coming up with more things that need to be done — that I need to do.

Holy crap, was it tiresome. And all I wanted to do, was get away. Just leave. Put all this behind me. The constant complaining, the moaning, the worrying, the fretting. Oh my God, when will it ever end?

And it occurs to me that I really don’t want to live this way. I can’t spend the next 25 years of my life marinating in someone else’s misery. No way, no how. Every time my spouse starts to complain and bitch and get all dramatic, it has the same effect on me that someone lighting up a cigarette does. I used to smoke, 25 years ago. I know and hang out with smokers. But I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes, when I can’t get away from them. And that’s what it’s like, every time my spouse starts to complain and find fault and pick at every little thing.

Like they’re chain-smoking. And I’m getting a lung full of 2nd-hand smoke.

I think I’ll buy a pack of cigarettes, and every time they start up, I’ll just light one. They hate cigarette smoke — about as much as I hate their constant complaining and whining and blaming. So, to give them a taste of what it’s like for me, I’ll step outside and light up a cigarette whenever they start to complain and find fault and vent — basically throwing up emotionally all over me.

There’s a reason I have a constant headache. And it generally gets worse, whenever my spouse is around.

I think I need a shield. Or full body armor.

So, this morning as I was trying to get things done — and my spouse was yelling at me for being to loud and waking them up (I get clumsy when I’m tired and out of it, and I bump around a lot), the thought occurred to me that I could just walk away. I don’t have to stay in this situation. I could carry on elsewhere, on my own, and I could be very happy alone. I’m the one who does most of the work in this relationship; they’re pretty much freeloading on me. So, stepping away and just living my life without someone draining the life force from me would be a welcome change.

It would be so nice to just have some peace. It really would. And I’m at the point now, with my birthday just around the corner, where I can’t figure out why I stay around, to get dished the same helping of neediness and negativity, every waking hour.

I’m not staying because I have to. I’ve stayed for 24 years because I’ve wanted to. But I want to less and less, with each passing day.

I do all the work, and they sit back and enjoy the ride.

Am I missing out on all the good that’s possible for me, because of some misguided loyalty to a person who just uses me, day in and day out, and then tries to make up for it by setting up a nice birthday for me? It doesn’t make sense.

So, what do I do?

I don’t really want to leave. It crosses my mind. I don’t have a spouse. I have a dependent. A ward. And I’m sick and tired of it.

Then again, this is a terrible time to make any decisions. My birthday is right around the corner, and that’s messing with my head. I also want to keep things stable for the next while and enjoy my time away, next weekend. My work projects are coming together, and that’s feeling good. I’ve also realized that I really don’t want to leave my current job. If the people I’m talking to actually offer me a buttload of money and benefits that make it all worth it, of course I’ll consider it. I might even do it. But I don’t have to leave. I’m good where I am, and I can stay here for the duration of my contract till the end of next March and be good with it.

The main thing is, I need to adjust my own attitude and how I relate to the rest of the world. If my spouse is miserable, that’s their business, not mine. I don’t have to get dragged down by it, and I don’t have to let myself be tainted by their negativity. I can live in a completely different world and leave them to theirs, without needing to turn our lives upside-down. If I did go, where would I go? What would I do? I like where I live, and unless I moved out of the country, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live.

So, enough of the burden that I take on, myself. Enough of that. I have a choice about how I will live my life and think about things. And I choose to be happy and stay the course. If my spouse chooses to join me, then fine. But I’m not choosing to join them in their abject misery. I know what it’s about — it’s because of their upbringing. I did not have that degree of abuse and neglect in my life as a child, so why should I experience life the same way they do? We both know how to deal with panic/anxiety — why should I suffer because I’m the only one who’s making the effort to use the tools?

I work hard to keep positive and  productive, but they can’t seem to be bothered.

It’s not fair to me. And it’s not realistic at all.

Happiness is a choice, and today it’s my choice. My spouse can do what they please, and they can live as they choose. It’s literally killing them in front of me, which is incredibly painful to watch. (And it’s probably a big driver behind me wanting to leave – so I don’t have to watch them in the final stages of their mental/physical breakdown/demise.)

As for me… I’m going to live.

End of subject.

Onward.

Finding work that soothes

The other day I was pretty riled up. Something just pushed me out of my Zone of  Chill, and I felt like I do when I’m on prednisone – punchy and rarin’ to grouse.

More people are leaving my employer, which is not a surprise. At the same time, it’s making everything more “dynamic” and uncertain, so there’s a fair amount of tension and cliquish “circling the wagons” and whatnot.

I’ve pretty much removed myself from those inner circle types of cliques – I don’t go outside with the smokers to “debrief” about the latest developments, and I have stopped eating lunch with folks who are gossips. I have been eating lunch with folks whose company I enjoy, plus I’m taking time to myself, to think about making lasting changes to how I do things in my life.

Like the kind of work I do.

I’ve been working with people pretty intensely for about five years now, being a lot more social and involved with people than I’d been in years.The thing about working with people all day — especially the ones who turn to me for answers and rely on me for support and guidance — is that it’s exhausting. I seriously need a break.

Plus, people can be so incredibly nonsensical and self-destructive at times, it makes my head spin.

Part of it is age. People 15 years younger than me may just not know any better. Come to think of it, most of the stress is about  people not knowing any better, regardless of age.

Anyway, instead of getting sidetracked in a rant, let me say that I have rediscovered an old passion of mine — data mining from public sources. It’s amazing, how much raw data is available on public websites, including government ones. There is so much info freely out there for anyone to download and analyze. Plus, there are new data visualization tools that do a fantastic job of helping you make sense of it all.

In my last job, one of my favorite things to do was compile data and analytics, make dashboards for marketing managers, and help them make sense of things. It was the perfect combination of skills and activities for me, and it was all good. I didn’t get to do it as much as I would have liked, because it wasn’t my main job (and the person whose main job it was kept pushing me out of the way), but I did really enjoy it, when I could do it.

Working all day with people, trying to motivate them, keep them on track, managing projects… good grief, how exhausting.

Working all day with data, trying to compile and parse it, make sense of it, and then construct stories out of it… now that’s exciting.

It’s also very soothing for me. I don’t have to figure out anything special to get a machine to cooperate with me. I just need to figure out how it works, and it’s going to work the same way each time (provided I am consistent, myself). It’s not going to have moods, it’s not going to hold a grudge, it’s not going to be emotionally distant. It’s just going to be a machine and act like a machine. And I can deal with that.

So, I’m collecting data and organizing it.  Cleaning it up and finding patterns and creating different visualizations. Doing my modeling and design, and seeing what’s there. It’s such a relief. Plus, I’m using skills I haven’t been able to use in quite some time. And I’m learning some new technologies which are incredibly cool — and may help me find better work, on down the line.

The best thing, though, is that this work really soothes me. It gets me settled down and calms my excitable system. It keeps me focused on tasks for extended periods of time — it holds my interest, and it keeps my brain learning, which is a good thing.

I’ve been pretty low, over the past month or so. I think the winter was just so long and dreary, plus everything has been so up-in-the-air with work. I haven’t been exercising like I should, and that’s depressing me, too.

Now it seems things have turned a corner, and I’m feeling good. I found something to do which lifts my spirits and recharges my batteries. It’s all good.

Onward.

Finding my zone again

Gotta get there

An odd thing has happened with me, since I had my contract renewed at work. After being relieved and elated that I wasn’t going to have to go searching high and low for another job, the surge in energy left me feeling pretty depleted… and also depressed.

That happens with me — I run a lot of energy — I “run hot” — and then when I run out of steam, my energy ebbs, and my mind gets to thinking that I feel like crap because my life is crap, and everything is wrong and nothing will every be right again. It’s sorta kinda like bipolar stuff on the surface, but fundamentally, it’s about me being tired, my brain getting irritable, and my head jumping to wrong conclusions about how crappy life is in general.

It’s not true. It’s just me being tired. And getting a lot of extra rest solves that issue — which is what I did this past weekend. I rested. And my depression went away.

Anyway, last week I got upset that I’m no longer a technical whiz, that I’m not doing the type of programming I used to do, and that I kept (and keep) getting calls and emails from recruiters about technical jobs that I want to take, but can no longer do.

The money is better in technical positions, that’s for sure. And it’s a simpler way of life that doesn’t involve navigating the choppy waters of human interaction. But I just can’t do it, anymore. My brain doesn’t work like that anymore. I’m out of practice. And even the simplest examples which are given for “dummies” don’t make any sense to me.

Insert giant sad-face here.

The thing that gets me even more than the money and type of work, is that ever since my fall in 2004, I have not had that kind of immersive focus in my work that I used to have. I used to have a “zone” I would go to, when I was deep in coding, when I was deep in the experience and working smoothly and confidently. But that hasn’t been anywhere in sight (except for some occasional times), for over 10 years.

And that’s the loss I feel the most keenly. It’s heart-breaking. I used to love that way of working and feeling, and now it’s gone. Like a pinkie finger that got cut off. I can live and work without it, but I like all my fingers, and it just doesn’t feel the same.

So, rather than wallowing in that unhappiness and marinating in my discontent with something that isn’t likely to change in exactly the way I want it, I did some research. And I came across a book called “Flow” by a psychologist whose name I cannot pronounce. I watched some videos on YouTube and found the book at a local library, and I’ve been digging into it, a little bit at a time.

See, the thing that I miss is not so much the technical work, as it is the experience I used to have while doing the technical work. And after reading “Flow” a little bit, I now realize that what I miss is being in the “zone” — being able to concentrate completely on my work with total confidence and skill.

That’s what made that work magical, not just all the bits and bytes and algorithms.

So, that’s what I’m working on, these days — getting back to a zone state. Finding where I am really confident and skilled — even in the little things like washing dishes or fixing things around the house — and doing those things “in the zone”. Not zoning out, where I’m not present and I’m ignoring everything and everyone around me, but really being caught up in the amazingness of what I’m doing.

Finding that amazing quality to the world I live in, and really relishing the details — no matter how small.

Even the littlest thing, like brushing my teeth or sweeping the floor, can put me in the zone, if I have the right frame of mind. Or bigger things like doing my taxes or completing a project at work… that can give me a sense of Flow, as well.

It’s really the quality of experience I’m interested in. And out of that can then come a sense of mastery, which in turn feeds the desire for mastery in other areas of my life.

But I have to start somewhere, and then build from there.

So, that’s what I’m doing. I know what I’m missing, and I have a good idea how to restore that “zone” sense, that feeling of flow. It’s probably going to be different, of course, because my new work is different from my old. But maybe it will be quite similar.

We shall see.

Up and at ’em

I’m not depressed anymore.

I was depressed for a number of weeks. Just feeling down.

But now …

Something has lifted off me. For the past several days, I’ve been very active – making out my lists of things I wanted to get handled, and handling them… all in good order.

I’ve taken care of some things around the house I’ve been wanting to do for years. Simple things, really, that I just couldn’t get started before. Covering up the air conditioners for winter. Cleaning out leftover pots and containers that were sitting in a corner of the back porch for some reason. Organizing things around the house

And exercising, first thing in the morning.

I guess I was pretty depressed for a while, feeling poorly and also feeling sorry for myself.

No more. Something has shifted with me — probably the prospect of a week and a half off work for the upcoming holidays. It’s got me moving again.

And it feels pretty good.

Well, anyway, off I go. The day is waiting.

Onward.

Depression and TBI

I’ve been pretty depressed, for the past couple of weeks.

Just feeling low, not having much interest in doing the regular things.

And it came to a head, yesterday, when I bagged pretty much everything that I was supposed to be doing, until late afternoon, then went out, ran my errands, and returned home to make a half-assed dinner and veg out in front of the television.

It’s fair to say, I feel like crap. Or rather, I just don’t feel very much at all. I’m walking around in a daze, a hazy world where nothing really interests me, and everything seems pretty futile, overall.  I’m having trouble spelling, I’m uncoordinated, I’m having trouble remembering things, and I really don’t want to be here where I am, right now. I’d rather be riding a train through France, surrounded by people I cannot talk to (because I don’t speak French), left alone to my own devices, to just sit and watch the world roll by.

A lot of people probably feel the same way that I do. I think it’s normal. For what I’ve been through, over the past month – deaths in the family, my spouse’s mental state becoming less stable, pressures at work mounting, even though we’re supposed to be in the “easy” part of the year, and lots of travel back and forth to places many states away – small wonder, I’m fried.

Small wonder, I don’t feel like doing much of anything.

I’m just so baked.

And on top of it, my memory and coping skills aren’t exactly helped by the pressures. Life just happens. It’s just there. We can’t always stop the madness, but we do need to deal with it. Someone I used to know said that I complain too much — I’m not complaining. I’m trying to understand.

Why is that so hard for people to get? I just need to understand, so that I can do something about this whole deal I’m living with.

Geez.

Oh, screw it. I’m just having a rough month (or two). It’ll pass.

Next week I’m traveling to see yet more family, and it will be fun — exhausting, I’m sure, but fun. In December, I get a whole week off, and I’m going to use it well. Until that time, I’m going to stay steady, just keep going, and do what I can to live my life. I don’t have to be un-depressed to be effective and get stuff done. I don’t have to be in a perky, chipper, can-do attitude, to just go about my business and discharge it as best I can. I can put on a good face and act like things are awesome, while knowing full well that I’m struggling behind the scenes.

Nobody else really cares about my frame of mind. Not really. They care about themselves and how they feel. No – that’s not true. A few people do care about my frame of mind, though that’s as much about them and how they feel about themselves as it is about me.

It doesn’t really matter, in any case. What matters is that life goes on, there are ups and downs, and the holidays are the #1 season for cultural depression. But of course. More on that later.

The good news is, depression doesn’t need to destroy me, and it doesn’t need to wreck my life. I know how to function really well, despite how I’m feeling inside. I just do my thing, and it comes together. And in the end, I usually feel better as a result.

I always feel better, in any case.

These things pass.

A good sign

Starting the day off right

I started off this weekend, last night, planning how many things I would do today. The parts of my projects I would undertake and finally complete — so I can move on to other things… the tasks from work that I didn’t get around to — so I can get them off my mind… breaking down the hours I’d spend in my head, so I would free up some time to do other things.

Now it’s Saturday morning, and all I want to do is go about my life in a continuous flow, not blocking off time to do anything specific, not allocating hours for one definite undertaking or another. I just want to flow. See where the day, the weekend, takes me.

It’s raining today. Gray and a little dreary. It’s chilly, too. Not the best weather for running errands, as everyone will be out and about in their fast and powerful cars (think about how much more powerful and speedy our cars are, compared to just 20 years ago), running their errands, on a mission, taking care of business, after the business work week has ended.

That’s not where I want to spend my time. Not in the least. I want to steer clear of that whole big, busy mess, and just have some peace. Just have some peace and quiet.

That’s what I want most. My spouse has been on a rampage for the past month, getting ready for this business trip. It’s been very trying, to tell the truth. Every spare moment has been caught up in them spinning their mental wheels about things that don’t actually exist. And dealing with business associates who are even more delusional than they are. What a strange thing, to see people who are so capable of living well, getting caught up in lives that don’t actually exist.

Sad.

Other sad things — a friend of a friend died suddenly last weekend. Another friend of a friend passed away from cancer that went undiagnosed for two years. A friend of a friend was raped. And a good friend of mine is struggling with health issues. Actually, a number of friends are dealing with health issues — among them, mental health. And that’s a particularly tough one, because it’s hard to know how to help.

But to get too caught up in that sadness, is a trap I can’t afford to dwell in. It’s been like a martial arts exercise, day in and day out, dealing with the depression and dementia and delusions and the plain old craziness that goes along with one human error leading to another… to another… to another… each one snowballing into a rolling batch of crazy.

Lord, yes, I do just need to take a break this weekend. I need a break from everybody else’s stuff that has nothing to do with me, really. I need to not get bogged down in the sadness that others feel… not stay caught up in others’ drama, rehashing it in my own head… not staying stuck in the whirlpool of others’ imaginary crises, spending a lot of time thinking about it. In my own life, there is no such thing, and if I weren’t living with someone who brought that to me each day, like a weird-ass soap opera, I wouldn’t even know it existed.

So, this weekend, I’m going to live as though it never did exist. Because it didn’t, outside of the imaginations of everyone involved.

I’m going to read the published personal notebooks of famous writers. I’m going to catch up on some of my own reading. I’m going to work on some of my own writing. And I’m going to live my life… let it just go, without trying to control it or slow it down or stop it. Just let it flow.

And leave it at that.

If I’m tired, I’ll lie down and sleep. If I’m thirsty, I’ll drink water or hot tea. If I’m hungry, I’ll … stop and ask myself if I’m really hungry, or if I’m just low on energy (in which case, I need to sleep), or I’m just bored (in which case, I need to do something that piques my interest). I may do some cleaning. I may clear out my bedroom and get rid of the dust bunnies. I may run out and get an air filter for my bedroom, which has a bizarre amount of dust in it. The main thing is that I’m moving at my own pace, without the intrusion of others’ delusions.

I’ve got enough delusions of my own to deal with, thank you very much.

So, it’s good.

And so am I.

Onward.

I must be getting better… a lot better

Sometimes you have to bring your own light

Got back last night from my return drive home. Found my spouse sitting in a dark house, watching television. Now, that’s depressing. They were really happy to see me… but it only took an hour till they started digging into me and my family about in-law pet peeves.

That’s par for the course. I’ve been hearing this same litany of complaints against my side of the family for over 20 years. The thing is, it hasn’t bothered me in the past, and it was kind of a semi-annual ritual for my spouse to complain bitterly about my family being the way they are. It really is my spouse’s loss. My family isn’t perfect — whose is? But they are my family, and they helped make me what I am, so you can either spend your time getting all revved and riled about something that cannot and will not change, or you can look on the bright side, find the things that are good and positive, and focus on them.

That’s what I choose to do, and it has made life more than tolerable for me. I’ve been able to find good in even the most miserable conditions. Now, miserable is miserable, for sure. But there’s always something good to concentrate on, that keeps you from getting all worked up and unhappy about things.

In the end, it’s my spouse’s loss that they can’t see the good in my family. And the fact that I’m not willing to dive into that old back-and-forth, and I managed to keep it from sliding downhill into an all-out fight… well, that’s signs of progress.

I need to remember that my spouse always starts to get “revved” around midnight, which was when we started talking about the trip. That was a killer for me, because I should have been in bed by then, but they wanted to find out about the trip and hear the details. The thing is, because they start to “rev up” around midnight, they wanted to fight, which made it really difficult for me to wind down and get to bed. It was just a poor choice on my part. The poor choice was all about me forgetting that my spouse gets anxious and aggressive and wants to fight, around midnight, and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Mistake. Note to self — no matter how optimistic you may be about your spouse’s mental health at midnight, every single time, they prove you wrong, and you end up getting the short end of the stick. As in, not nearly enough sleep — like five hours or something like that. If I’d had my wits about me, I would have just turned in and said we’d talk about the trip today, after I had some time to let it all sink in — and catch up on my sleep.

Also, last night showed me pretty clearly that I really am getting a lot better. I’m in a good space… while my spouse is not. If anything, they’re getting worse. They really do seem to be slipping away from me… fading away, wallowing in outrage and upset, and just getting worse and worse. I think what’s happening is that they are blowing out their system — they’re not watching what they eat or getting adequate exercise, and because of that, their vascular system is not holding up. So, when they get all worked up over things and their blood pressure gets up, it blows out the little capillaries and connections in their system — their brain, possibly their kidneys — people have talked to me about this, and I didn’t really want to come to terms with it, but being away for a few days just makes it all the more obvious to me that they are not well.

But I am.

And I’m getting better. I’m getting much, much better — each and every day. I’m focused on it. I’m working at it. I’m making it a top priority. Part of my motivation is seeing how sub-par my spouse is functioning. Seeing them going downhill so steadily is a great motivation for me to do more to keep myself fully functional — and even improve. I know in my heart and mind that we have more “say” about what happens to our bodies and our brains, than popular conventions give us credit for. I also know in my heart and mind that even if I am going downhill, it’s not going to be by default. They’re really going to have to work at killing me, to take me down.

I’m not going down just because “that’s what happens” when you get to a certain age.

Another thing that’s really motivating me, is seeing the rest of my family and seeing how they’re living. That’s not how I want to live, at all. They are constantly on-the-go, and it’s really exhausting. They just go-go-go, and they don’t spend a lot of time to stop and think things through. They’re all on auto-pilot, doing what everyone around them does, and that’s pretty depressing in its own way. They do have connections with a larger community, and they do have a strong sense of belonging, but the community they belong to, leaves a lot to be desired, in my opinion.

If their community were so great, I’d still be there. Note well, that I am not.

So, on both ends, I can see that I’m doing well. I’m doing better than ever. And while things are rough and rocky, here and there, the fact that I can see that things are not how I want them to be, is a great sign of progress.

Once upon a time, I would get sucked into the fights and arguments and bitch-fests with my spouse, and I’d feel all the more alive and invigorated from it.

Once upon a time, I could not spend any time around my family without wanting to kill myself. Literally.

Now, neither of those are true. I’m finding a healthy middle ground, and it’s good.

Now, it’s time to get on with my day.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just being grateful solves a lot

I’ve been struggling a bit, lately, with some resentments and frustrations. Starting a new job and feeling like I’m new all over again has been a little tough. I want to know what I’m doing. I want to have expertise. But I have to go through the process of doing that. And after being alive and learning so many lessons for around 50 years, now, there’s a part of me that feels like I *should* know more than I do.

I know I need to learn in my current position. I need to learn who the people are, how to use the technical tools, how to navigate the political landscape, and so on.

I just get tired, I guess. I’ve been having some long days, lately, and things at work have been quite frantic, with a deadline suddenly looming, where none was just a week ago. It’s been a bit of a fire drill, to tell you the truth, and it’s taking a lot out of me.

I am also going to be traveling this weekend, so that means I have to do more to get ready. Sigh. At least I slept till 6:30 this morning, instead of waking up at 5:30.

Of course, I didn’t get to bed till after 11:00. Oh, well. At least I got about 7 hours of sleep. That’s better than I’ve been doing regularly, for quite some time.

So, the good part is, I’ve gotten some sleep. And another good part is, this seems like a company I can be productive and happy at, for the long run. It doesn’t feel like a contract, right now. It feels like the beginning of a permanent spot, and for the first time in years, I’m happy for that. I did feel that way, to some extent, at the last company I worked at… until they moved the office farther away, mixed up the organization, and screwed everything up.

I actually do miss my old friends from there — I’ve really been feeling that, lately. But I don’t miss the company. I’m just so glad to be done with them.

Anyway, back to the present. I’ve realized that with all my struggles and difficulties — feeling tired and disoriented and harried and a bit stressed over adjusting, not to mention a bit of political drama (already… it only took me 2 weeks to screw up) — the one thing that helps the most is gratitude. Sleep helps a bit, but it can wear off. Fatigue or restedness are not things I can will into or out-of existence.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is something I do have control over. I can change my frame of mind and change my attitude, and reach a place where I am really, truly grateful for everything I have around me. I look for the good, and I look for the benefits to the situations I’m in, and it really turns around my outlook and mood. In my darkest times, making a list of all the things I’m grateful for — especially good things that are buried in the midst of tough situations — brightens my outlook and lifts me up out of my funk.

Things at work right now are pretty challenging. I have a bunch of things on my plate that I need to sort out, and it doesn’t feel like I have the time or updated ability to do them properly. But they are big opportunities. So, today I’m starting out with gratitude and focusing on the things I can do, the lessons I can learn, and I’m concentrating on the positive things that will come out of it.

People at work are starting to warm up to me. And I’m learning the lay of the land. So, things are looking up. I just can’t let myself fall into a funk over stuff that’s transitory. The sources of stress and strain right now — the unfamiliarity, the uncertainty, the lack of connection with people — will all sort themselves out over time. I just can’t let the tone for my work be set by that temporary state. Not when a better permanent state is just around the corner.

I never know when things will turn around. So, I’ve got to keep steady and positive. And look to the brighter tomorrow. For so many good things that haven’t even come to me yet, I am truly grateful.

 

Keeping that warm fire burning

It’s up to me to feed the fire

I’m in kind of a raw place this morning. I’ve got a phone screen interview for a potentially great job, later today, and I’m starting to get nervous. The last phone screen I had went really badly. And the last couple of interviews I had didn’t go that great, either.

So, I’m nervous. I need to change jobs, and this could be a great next step, but I’m pretty raw from my past experiences, and I’m concerned that I’m going to screw it up all over again.

It’s disheartening. I want to do well, and the last few times, I intended to do well, but I just couldn’t manage it, and things just tanked on me from that point. It’s been a while since I had what really felt like a win for me, job-wise.

I’m probably making it worse than it is. I know I am. My perception of myself and my abilities is much inferior to what others think of me, and when someone pays me a compliment, I have a hard time accepting it. I have a hard time accepting anything for myself that isn’t criticism and blame. I want to change this, but it is extremely hard. I feel like I have to be pretty hard on myself, or I won’t perform. I won’t pay attention. I won’t be sharp, if I’m not being stressed and put on the spot.

This is when TBI becomes a real issue for me. Or rather, the real issue is the reactions of people around me to my abilities and behavior after all my TBIs. I’ve been getting injured since I was pretty young, and people have never been particularly generous or forgiving about the problems I had with attention and memory and figuring things out and just knowing where I stood in the world.

It really blows chunks, to get beaten up on all your life, because of other people’s stupidity and failure to realize what the problem really was.

It just sucks.

It’s not my fault I forgot things and didn’t realize it. I wasn’t lying. I just didn’t remember.

It’s not my fault I was easily distracted and I got confused and tired, and I couldn’t finish big jobs I was given. I just got turned around and couldn’t figure out how to keep going, and nobody would bother to help me figure it out.

It’s not my fault that light and sound and touch all hurt me, and I pulled away from people when they tried to make contact with me. It was so painful, and sometimes it felt like they were burning my skin.

None of that was my fault. I got hit in the head a lot. I fell. I had accidents. I got roughed up a bit. But rather than giving me the benefit of the doubt and helping me sort things through, all anybody could manage was criticism and name-calling and taunting.

The weird thing is, a lot of what used to happen to me is a bit blurry. My memory is definitely not what it used to be, and when I think back, I don’t have a lot of really clear memories about what all happened. I have some memories of bad stuff I went through and some memories of good times I had, but it’s all kind of jumbled together.

So, for all I know, a lot of good things could have been happening to me, but I can’t seem to remember them. The bad things are easier to remember.

And that doesn’t help me.

It really hurts me. It keeps me locked in a partial understanding of myself that isn’t at all fair. I have a lot on my plate and a lot of things I want to do with my life, and new people are coming into my life, so I need to not let that hold me down. I need to not let those old “versions” of me define the new life I am building for myself.

Why would I want those old tales that people told about me to limit the new life I’m building?

I don’t. So, I’m taking steps.

The first step is to realize that all the things people have said to/about me, have been more about them, than about me. My parents were young when they had me — in their early 20’s. So, they were living with very limited experience, themselves. Heck, they were just kids, themselves. What did they know? On top of that, they were living very responsible lives with a lot of duties and pressure on them, and the world was not kind. So, they took it out on everyone around them, including me.

They were literally doing the best they could, under the circumstances, and if they realized now what they actually did and said back then, I’m sure they would be distressed. My parents have selective memories about my childhood — it’s like we were living on two different planets. Maybe we were. But to go back and dredge it all up… what point would there be to that? Even if I did confront them about it, would they even remember or understand?

I doubt it.

So I’m letting that sleeping dog lie.

And I’m focusing on the positive — not getting mired in what went on before, but looking to what the future holds. The main thing I need to remember in all this, is that my memories of how things were is very spotty — and it’s biased towards the negative. It could very well be that I actually was the happy, active kid my mother remembers me being, but I just don’t remember much of that. It could be that I’m forgetting a ton of great stuff, for whatever reason.

So, if I just take my mother’s word for it, and I don’t let the old negativity about my father get the better of me, it works in my favor. If I just keep in mind that my memories of things, my recollections — my “cellular memory” if you will — is partial and slanted towards survival instincts and identifying and avoiding danger, that puts things in perspective. And I can not get hung up on all the old crap. Certainly, I need to face the old pain and accept it, but the fact is, there’s more to the story than that, and I should know as well as anyone that I can’t trust my memory when it comes to details about what was really happening and what it all meant.

It’s far more productive for me to focus on the things I can change — my present and my future — and not let those old misperceptions hold me back.

That means, each day I need to find something to be grateful for, something to keep me going. I need to seek out ways to focus on my strengths and keep my energy up. I tend to “run hot” and burn up my energy very quickly, so I need to keep a steady supply of fuel for myself — mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

A lot of this is really logistics — arranging my schedule each day so that I have enough time to focus on what I need to focus on, but not so much time that I can get distracted and pulled in a million different directions. It’s also about keeping my mind engaged in positive ways — reading things that motivate and encourage me and offer me new ways of looking at my life. I need to get plenty of rest, which I have been doing better at, ever since I got my new bed. And I need to eat properly, which I have been doing — especially since my parents left, and I’m not eating any more sweets that my mother loves to bake.

Most of all, I need to stick with the facts of my life — they speak for themselves. I spend way too much time talking myself down, making light of all the things I’ve accomplished, and brushing off compliments. I need to really “own” what I’ve done in my life, professionally and otherwise, and not let others’ insecurities drag me down. That’s a huge piece of it — because I seem to be surrounded by really insecure people who love to make me feel less-than. What they say and do towards me, is about them, not about me. And I can’t let them trash my life.

They would if they could — just to prove that what I’m capable of doing is not possible, and make themselves feel better. But why should they hold me back?

They shouldn’t. I’ve got to move along, and I need to do what I need to do. I have connected with some pretty cool people, lately, and I’m getting more socially involved in areas where I have a lot of interest and skill. This is outside of my workplace, which is pretty much of a creative desert. And it’s really pushing me to upgrade how I am in the world — with myself and others.

So, that’s good. It’s what I’ve been needing. Isolating all by myself is no good. And that’s what I’ve done for a long, long time. I was just so tired all the time. But now that I have my “rocket fuel” mixture of coffee and butter and oil, I’m actually in a much better place — and I have the energy to keep going, keep moving, and stay involved with the world.

May is almost here. I can feel a big and positive change coming. It’s good. It really is.