Taking good care of myself

Sometimes….

Well, my spouse has done it again. We were supposed to leave for our vacation today around noon, and now they tell me that they’re not going to ready in time. They may — may — get up by 11:00.

That’s pretty disappointing. But then again, we are taking two cars, so I’m not going to be dragged down by their sluggishness. I have to come back home on Sunday night in order to be at the office from Monday through Wednesday. Wednesday night, I’ll head back out to the condo we’re renting, a few hours from home, and I’ll work remotely in the morning on Thursday and Friday, then take afternoons off.

I’m not sure why this “change in plans” surprises me so much. Maybe because my spouse is picking up another friend to join us for a few days, and that friend’s family is going out of their way to drop them off half-way. It seems incredibly unfair to everyone (except my spouse), that everyone’s schedules need to be re-jiggered to accommodate them. People have better things to do, than wait around to find out when they should leave the house.

If anything, it seems a bit sociopathic on my spouse’s part – like nothing matters except them and their own wishes and needs. Then again, they do have neurological issues, as well as some cognitive impairment and possible dementia, so they may not even realize that they’re being selfish. The whole neurological decline thing is a real drain, and if you forget what’s going on with them, it can be maddening. When they’re challenged, they get really angry right off the bat, possibly because they get scared at being caught unawares and not being able to think right away. They lash out and yell and threaten and cry and so forth. On the one hand, some people think they’re being manipulative, but I think it’s also a sign of cognitive decline. They really do get scared — and then they use their anger and blustering to stop me from saying or doing anything else… and that way they buy some time to catch up.

The thing is, once they get past their hemming and hawing and blow-harding, they re-orient themself to what’s happening, and then they calm down and can carry on a usual conversation.

The main thing for me is to not take things personally and get really upset when they start acting out. That happens all too often, and I forget that they’ve got cognitive issues. I take it personally and get so upset and bent out of shape — everything balloons in my mind, till the argument is not about what’s happening right in front of me, it’s about everything and anything that’s possibly related to my frustration at that point in time. My own brain goes haywire, too, so we feed off each other — and not in a good way.

Fortunately, I am getting better about checking in with myself and telling if I’m starting to get too wound up. Then I can back off — just walk away and cool off, and give us both a chance to simmer down. It’s just both our brains going haywire, and we both get scared. And we lash out. It gets to be a little much, to tell the truth, and some days I just despair about that downward cycle. But if I can step away and have some time to myself and get enough rest, that helps.

Taking care of myself really needs to be my top priority, in dealing with my spouse. When I get tired, my brain doesn’t work well, and of the two of us, I’ve always been the more functional — by a lot. I’ve been their caregiver, pretty much, for nearly the whole time we’ve been together. Their health has often been bad — especially their mental health, and after a serious neurological illness they had back in 2007. They’ve got a ton of history behind why they’re so mentally ill, and there’s plenty of reasons why they have the issues they do. Panic. Anxiety. Depression. Paranoia. Verbal aggression. A real roller coaster of emotions — with very little calm in the meantime.

Does it get old? Oh, you betcha. But they’re the love of my life, so you take the bad with the good.

And you take care of yourself.

So, this “vacation”, I need to be really clear about what I will and will not do. I need to not bend over backwards for them, just because they’re on vacation and think they should be treated like royalty. They’re not the only person who deserves a break, and I need to get some rest, too. In some ways, coming home from Monday to Wednesday is going to be a real relief for me. I’ll have the house to myself, I’ll be able to eat whatever I like — actually much healthier than how my spouse will eat. And I’ll be able to get to bed at decent times without that late-night drama they love to stir up.

So, it’s all going to work out for the best, I believe.

I just have to remember that my spouse is actually impaired in some significant ways, and I need to adjust and adapt and plan ahead.

And not get my hopes up for things that have never happened before, and will probably never happen, period. Like getting on the road at the pre-agreed time. Or having a low-key and very no-nonsense sort of trip.

The main thing is that I find a way to really enjoy myself, take care of myself, and actually get some rest. The condo where we’re staying has three floors, and I’ll be downstairs in a quiet, dark bedroom with couch and desk and its own bathroom, while my spouse will be up on the top floor. It works out well, and it leaves room for both of us to move at our own paces and have some freedom from each other. We’re both getting older and a lot more set in our ways — and a lot less willing to compromise.

More rigid? Yes. But also more discerning, and not so willing to give ground on things that really matter to us personally.

I think a lot of couples find this as they get older. They either split up, or they stick together and find a way to peacefully co-exist, whilst pursuing different interests that are all their own. I know I’m at that point in my life, and it’s not worth hassling over. It really isn’t.

So, I just need to take care of myself and have the vacation I want. Whatever my spouse does, is on them. No skin off my teeth. Not if I don’t let it.

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If you never stop, you never fail

It actually comes in handy

So, I’ve had a lot to think about, the past week. The job is weird, the projects I’m working on are taking turns in unexpected directions, and every time I turn around, there’s something else to do and get done. My to-do list is a many-headed hydra. No sooner do I check off one thing, than a bunch of other things pop up that need to be tended to.

I want to just quit. I want to get in my car and start driving. I could go to Canada. Or I could go to Mexico. My passport is up to date. Hell, I could even go to the airport and find a standby flight to get me out of here. I don’t have a lot of money, but I’m sure I could figure something out. Even if I just go away for a weekend… Actually, that’s an idea. My spouse is going away next weekend on a business trip, so I could coordinate that and take 3 days to myself, somewhere else.

I wouldn’t even need to fly. I could drive. Of course, then there’s the gas… but anyway, I’m sure I could figure something out.

Not that this is going to happen. Next weekend are my three days to do some project work that involves a lot of drilling and hammering and painting. If I skip town, I lose three extremely valuable days of time that’s 100% uninterrupted by someone who is sensitive to noise, dust, and the smell of paint. It’s a window of opportunity that I’m really looking forward to. So no, I won’t be driving to Canada. Or Mexico. Or flying to London for the weekend.

I’m staying home and doing smart things, taking steps, one at a time, to get where I’m going.

I’m going to keep going.

I’m not going to quit. I’m not going to flee from things — I’m going to flee TO them. Rather than bagging it and ditching the whole lot of people who are either not supporting me or getting in my way, I’m going to hang tough and stay steady and find other and new ways to move forward the way I see fit.

I’ve had a lot of opportunity to contemplate this, this past week. I had big plans for one of my projects, and by this time, things were supposed to be crazy-busy, with money and other support rolling in, and my phone ringing off the hook. That’s what happened a number of years back, when I announced another one of my projects — the response was so crazy and overwhelming, I was swamped by the feedback and I kind of lost it (that was within a year after my last TBI, before I realized what was going on with me and how badly I’d been hurt). I was a victim of my own success, and I was fully expecting something similar to happen this time.

This new project is a lot more interesting (and fun) than that prior one was, so I had every expectation that this would make waves. My current announcements to friends, family, and the press (aka marketing push) were supposed to make a big splash and get people all excited about what I’m doing. But it just didn’t work out that way. Not in the least. Everybody looked at what I announced and said, “Cool!” and went back to what they were doing before. So much for that big idea.

In a certain light, you could certainly say that the Big Announcement was a failure. It did not produce the results I was hoping for – not even close. It has gotten some attention, here and there, but not on the scale I expected. And in the back of my mind, I’ve had this big neon FAIL! sign blinking in bright colors that light up the night sky. Seriously, it’s been waking me up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat, and I’ve felt like a blithering idiot for thinking this could work. I want to don a disguise with a beard and glasses and head for the border, incognito.

But let’s not be silly here. This is but one step in a direction I am going, and the things I’m learning now are going to be incredibly useful later on. Plus, my whole existence doesn’t hinge on the success of this one announcement. If anything, my existence (and the success of this project) actually hinges on DOING, not discussing. People want to know when the project is done, not when I’ve started it. They want to know when I’ve got something final for them to get. Not what fantastic ideas I have about how to make that happen. And frankly, I don’t blame them. I’m the same way, myself. I need to see something concrete and finalized, not a work in progress. I’m a busy person, and like so many others, I have my own concerns and projects to think about.

In retrospect from a certain angle, I could have predicted this — my project is a work in progress, and the people I made the announcement to are mainly interested in finished projects.  But at least I tried. At least I put it out there. ‘Cause there’s always a chance that I’m wrong about my suppositions. And it could have just as easily have gone “my way” — if I’d never put it out there, I never would have found out.

The bright neon blinking FAIL sign has gotten progressively dimmer over the past days, almost to the point where it’s gone away. The important thing is that I’ve tried. I’ve given it my best shot, and I put it out there. And the things I’m learning from this are really going to pay off in the future.

And when I think about it, I realize that if I just keep going, there can be no failure. Ever. It’s all just experience. It’s all just lessons to learn, and I’ll be able to use each and every thing I learn in the future. Learning hard lessons is the toughest thing about succeeding. You sometimes have to go through so much to get where you’re going, and not everyone can keep going under those circumstances.The only thing that’s happened, is my attempt didn’t have the results I was expecting. I didn’t “fail” — I tried something and found out my expectations were not met, and I realized there were some things I overlooked. There’s no crime in that. The real crime would be not even trying at all.

So, rather than feeling down on myself for things not turning out like I had planned and hoped, I’m feeling pretty good that I put myself out there and went through the steps of making the announcement. I’m learning a whole lot as I go, and it’s all going to be fodder for me later on. That knowledge is going to be priceless. And it’s well worth a little disappointment and surprise along the way.

Heck, if I want to get in my car and drive far, far away, I can take the long way to the hardware store.