II. Let it be thy earnest and incessant care as a human being…

solitude-image

… to do whatever you undertake with true and genuine gravity, natural affection, freedom, and justice.

As for all other cares, and imaginations, find a way to relieve your mind of them.

And that will happen, if you go about every action as if it were your last… free from all vanity, all passionate and wilful disregard of reason, and from all hypocrisy, and self-love, and dislike of those things, which for whatever reason have happened to you.

It doesn’t require much more than that, for you to build a prosperous and divine life.

– Marcus Aurelius – Book 2, Paragraph II (my version)

 

This is a good reminder for me to stay involved in my own life. To live my life to the fullest, no matter how “trivial” things may seem. To take myself and my well-being seriously, and do my best to be the best person possible, in any given situation.

I needed this reminder today. I hope it helps you, too.

Chronic Blogging – Getting Properly Setup – Blog Configuration Basics

I like WordPress. A lot.
I like WordPress. A lot.

The first order of the day is to get your blog properly setup and configured. This is not nearly as difficult as it sounds, and what you do here, can really help you in the long run.

The first I’ll discuss is the basics of setting up your blog to make your life easier. With technology, it’s easier than ever to complicate everything — to the point where you just don’t want to do it, anymore. I’ll keep things simple here. I also won’t cover every single topic I can think of — just the basics you should consider.

There are a lot of great books and websites out there that can offer you in-depth tips and tricks. Use them as much as you can. There are lots of smart people who share really useful info with the world.

In this guide, I’ll talk about using WordPress, because after years of blogging and using different systems like Blogger and Typepad (and some others I can’t recall the names of), WordPress is my favorite for a number of reasons.

  1. It’s stable and well-supported. It’s not just a side project of some folks who needed to do something fun and fulfilling on the weekends (that happens more often than you think). It’s managed by real people who do it for a living. And it’s actively supported. Sometimes they make changes to the interface that drive me nuts, but overall, it’s worth the hassle. There’s a ton of help and documentation about how to different things, but you can do a lot with just a little bit of information. There are many, many themes (designs) that give you a lot of different options, and they are also well supported.
  2. You can do a lot with a little — for free. You can sign up for a free blog and be publishing your work in a matter of minutes. There are a lot of different customizations you can do, but you don’t have to do many at all, to get a functioning blog that looks good. Simplicity is important, if you just want to focus on your writing, instead of configuring your “technical platform”. And it doesn’t need to cost you anything other than your time and attention.
  3. It has a lot of SEO stuff already built in – like “human-readable” urls, correct html, consistent page designs, and the ability to optimize your images so search engines love you. That is so important — I think one of the reasons I rank pretty high in Google, is precisely because I am on WordPress.
  4. You’re automatically connected with a wider community. WordPress has a ton of bloggers on it, and they’re all connected via the Reader feature. You can easily find others on WP who write about the stuff you’re interested in, and they will show you the tags that people are using, so you not only find out who’s writing, but what they’re writing about the most.
  5. They make it really, really easy. Signing up is easy. Setting up is easy. Blogging is easy – and you can also password protect and schedule your posts, if you like. Promoting is easy, too. For example, if you want to tell the world whenever you post to your blog, you can hook up Publicize to post to FB and tweet automatically whenever you publish. That’s important for your wider community.

I could list many, many more reasons why WordPress is my blog platform of choice, but the five above should be enough to convince you to give them a try.

In this section, I’ll talk in some detail about the basic things you want to do for proper setup.

  • Picking the right theme (design)
  • Setting up your blog with the most important elements – sidebars, widgets, sharing, and pages
  • Making your blog readable
  • Managing publishing, comments, and ongoing discussions
  • Making sure search engines can find you

You can read the tips and tricks in order, or you can take them piece by piece in whatever order you like. You can skip around and do what you please, and any one of these changes can make a positive difference. We don’t need to “boil the ocean” here – dealing with chronic health conditions is a big enough challenge, let alone adding a regular writing practice to the mix. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like, but even in its simplest form, a blog can make a positive difference in others’ lives.

Chronic Blogging – Good voices needed by good people

It doesn't take much to get started
It doesn’t take much to get started – you just have to keep going 😉

Dear blogger – I want to help you become better at what you do.

Especially if you blog about chronic health conditions (spanning mental health to physical conditions), you’re in a great position to help others who share your same situation and concerns. Many folks with chronic health issues are housebound and don’t have a lot of contact with the outside world. Some are isolated by their conditions, and many have lost their social support network because their one-time friends just couldn’t deal with their problems.

You know first-hand what it’s like to be hampered by chronic conditions, so your voice can help others to better understand their world, as well as feel less isolated.

When they first started picking up steam, about 15 years ago, blogs were a novelty. They were something only egomaniacs bothered writing, and only voyeurs bothered reading. They were dismissed by “serious readers”, partly because the medium had not had a chance to mature. But over time, the depth and breadth of blogs written by genuinely good writers, has won over countless readers. And some bloggers share the same regard and influence as well-known journalists – some of them enjoy even more.

I’ve been “chronic blogging” about my ongoing recovery from repeat mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI/concussion) since around 2008, and it has been a long, slow process developing both the blog and a readership. I started out wanting to just help others with information I gathered, as well as sharing my experiences. And there were times when I just didn’t write very much at all. Also, at the start, I was very verbose… rambling… overly emotional… kind of a mess. But some of my readers complained, and I stopped whining constantly.

I wanted to do something really useful, not just vent all the time. And so I changed things up, tried different approaches, and I learned from my mistakes and successes alike. As of this reading, my blog Broken Brain – Brilliant Mind (brokenbrilliant.wordpress.com) has had 433,743 views from 192 different countries. That’s a result of posting nearly every day for the past several years – 2,615 different posts since 2007.

10,000 foot view
10,000 foot view

By far, though, the most gratifying thing has been the feedback I’ve received from others. There are a lot of people like me out there, who feel isolated and alone and without access to support. Their feedback has been so welcome, so fantastic, so heart-warming. It’s not always easy to hear people’s accounts of their own difficulties, but knowing I’ve helped ease their pain – even just a little – makes all the effort worthwhile.

It’s still an occasional challenge to keep from whining – and sometimes I don’t manage to suppress it very well. But I’ve found a lot of satisfaction from researching my own health issues and sharing what I find with others, as well as publicizing the work of other brain injury and chronic health challenge bloggers. There really are a lot of great folks doing fantastic work out there – and we can always use another strong voice.

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own blog, or you’ve got one going and you’re looking for ways to increase your exposure and grow your readership, I may be able to help. I have been working with this “web stuff” for 20 years, now, so it’s second nature to me. But it’s not obvious to most folks. SEO, in particular, is shrouded in unnecessary mystery (probably to keep consultants employed), however you’ll probably find that common sense trumps gimmicks every day.

Ultimately, it’s really about building community – reaching out to others who need your help or could use a friendly voice – and making us all stronger in the process. I’ll do my best to provide truly useful tips and tricks, without overwhelming you.

Try doing some of this a little bit at a time, and really give a lot of thought to each piece of the puzzle. It’s a discovery process, and it may take months for things to turn around for you, but I believe that these changes can really help you a lot in your blogging.

If you’ve got something to say about managing a chronic health condition, and you want to help others, by all means, join us with your blog. It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of dedication and discipline, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.

A little pain… for a lot of gain

The more you put into things, the more you can get back
The more you put into things, the more you can get back

Sorry in advance for the rambling nature of this post. I’m very out of it — haven’t been sleeping well, and lots has been going on.

I’ve been watching videos and listening to podcasts by Dr. Rhonda Patrick while I work out, lately, and I’m learning a lot – especially about the biochemistry of the brain and how to augment it. She talks a good deal about brain health, nutrition, exercise, the benefits of sauna, and hormetic stress (where you introduce a bit of stress to your system to kick in adaptive responses that actually make your system stronger).

I’ve been a big believer in the hormetic approach for years – stress inoculation fascinates me, and hormesis really appeals to me, as well. And then you have the Stoics, who were all about training your system to not get worked up over the things that don’t matter, so you can better attend to the things that do.

It’s just common sense to me, and it’s great to find people online who are on the same wavelength.

I got a good dose of stress yesterday. But it looks like it’s going to pay off in a big way.

I’m kind of wiped out today. Yesterday I bought a new (to me) car — it’s a small 2006 SUV that lets me sit up higher than I have been in my little compact commuter car. It’s got everything I need — which is not terribly much. The biggest change is that it has power locks and windows, as well as A/C. My old car has crank windows, manual locks, and no A/C, and it rides very low to the ground. It hasn’t been a huge problem, over the past 10 years that I’ve had it, but when it’s been a problem… it’s been a problem. There’s only so much you can do on hot-hot days — and when you’re driving through the heat to important appointments, stopping along the way to pay tolls or just get out and stretch your legs, not having any A/C or power windows and locks and having to climb in and out of your car, can be pretty taxing.

In a way, it’s been good for me. It’s forced me to work at things that others take for granted. And it makes me appreciate luxuries like a good view of traffic and air conditioning, all the more.

But it’s also been a pain. Literally and figuratively. It’s so low, that I had to build up the seat with folded towels and a pillow, to keep my hips and legs from cramping in excruciating pain.

It’s become increasingly clear to me that I need a “grown-up” vehicle. And I got one on Saturday. I now have a car payment, after 10 years of being free of that. So, that’s a change. But with the money I’m saving on insurance and other cost savings at work, it’s not going to sting terribly much. It’s going to set back some of my home improvement projects, but that’s okay. I needed a new car.

So, today I need to clean out my old car, find the title to hand over (I’m trading it in for a pittance – but then again, there are a ton of issues with the vehicle that all add up to thousands of dollars of work), get the garage cleared up, so I have a place to park, and make sure money is in the right account(s). I have to shuffle a bit of dough between the mortgage account and the everyday expenses account, which I’ll take care of later this morning when my bank opens at a local supermarket. I love these 7-days hours. It really saves my bacon.

Anyway, that’s the excitement. I’m pretty wiped out from yesterday, because it took a lot out of me. And then I found some pieces of furniture that were on sale at an antiques place for a fraction of what they usually cost. That involved more running around, making arrangements to move them, etc. I got them home, at last, and I need to clean them up in the coming days. But that may need to wait till next weekend when I have the house to myself for 3-4 days.

With all the activity that’s been going on, I am really looking forward to a few days of solitude and peace. As much as I love and adore my spouse, they are a lot of work, and it’s going to be great, not being the one and only person who has to do all that work.

It will also be nice to catch up with myself and kind of level-set on my life. Getting this new car is like another piece of proof that I am getting better, and that I have something to show for all the work I’ve done. I’ve had this car about as long as I’ve been struggling with TBI issues after my fall in 2004, and there are many, many parallels between driving that car and keeping it on the road, and recovering from TBI. All the challenges, the difficulties, the extra work I’ve had to do… It’s been very much like driving a car without any power controls or A/C or reliable heat, and needing to go about your everyday life.

Getting this new (to me) car is yet another sign that I really am getting better, and that I am able to recognize and enjoy that for what it is — real progress. And that’s hugely gratifying.

Best of all, the vehicle is rich gold color, which makes me feel rich in countless ways.

Well, it’s turning out to be another beautiful day. I think I’ll go for a walk in the woods before I run my banking errands.

I physically feel like crap from being so wiped out from yesterday, but I know things are going great, so that balances it out. And I’m hoping a walk in the woods will clear the cobwebs.

Onward.

Yes, indeed, onward.

The useful discipline of simple things

What holds you back can teach you a lot
What holds you back can teach you a lot

The last five weeks have been a whirlwind tour.

It’s taking a lot out of me, as you may be able to tell from the slow-down in postings on this blog.

I just don’t have the energy I had in the past – not yet, anyway. And I need to find a new cadence to work by. I’ve been very sensitive to perceptions about my performance – especially when I arrive and when I leave for the day. It’s a small thing, I know, but it makes an impression.

Fortunately, my new boss does not micro-manage how I use my time. So long as the results are good… that’s what matters.

I can’t let myself get too tied up in sticking to a timetable. Yes, I do need to show up at work “on time”. But that can range anywhere from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 am.

In any case, today’s a light day, as most folks are disappearing from the office around 1:00. For me, that’s like Christmas, because it means everyone will be gone, and I will have some uninterrupted time to focus and really concentrate on my work. My boss encouraged me to work from home, but I actually prefer to work at the office. I have two computer monitors at work, and I have all the water and light I can ask for. There’s nobody asking me to do anything that they can actually do themselves. And I can be in my own world.

That’s good.

Moving into this new job, I have been forced to make some significant choices. I can no longer spend hours and hours on my other creative projects. I have to pick and choose. I just don’t have the time or the energy to follow up on everything I used to work on. Whatever I do, I have to make it count – like living a haiku life.

I have constraints — not as much time, not as much energy, not as much inspiration, but lots of constraints. It’s probably a little like living in Japan — all those very busy people doing very BIG things on relatively small islands with limited resources. It forces you to make choices. And the results are not necessarily worse.

It’s all about economy, now. Focus. Getting things done in a very brief amount of useable time.

This is useful discipline. It pushes me to do more with less, which is a very good thing. No more excess and largesse… no more taking things for granted. Do one thing at a time, and do that thing to the absolute best of my ability.

And rest.

Get plenty of rest.

And move.

Get plenty of movement.

I think in TBI recovery — or really any recovery where you have less after the incident, than before — this is a useful mindset to cultivate. Going easy. Keeping focus. Holding to a simple pattern, and getting as much out of that as humanly possible. It teaches you much.

And that’s good.

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.

Fasting day today

Every now and then, it’s really good to go without

So, now that I’m exercising again, I’ve had some time to read — while I’m riding the exercise bike, first thing, before lifting or doing resistance exercises. I’ve been combing the Web for material on the benefits of exercise for the brain, and I’m rediscovering a lot of pieces I read a few years back that slipped into the nether regions of my memory. Yes, BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is stimulated by exercise. And intermittent fasting can be good for your brain.

I have an easy day today — I’m telecommuting, and my afternoon appointment will probably be cancelled — so I don’t have a lot of energy demands on me, and I can safely get through the day without being in danger from hypoglycemia or not having enough energy to get by. When I’m commuting and I’m on my regular schedule, I need to have all pistons firing, which means I need a steady flow of energy to my brain, so fasting is not possible.

Today, though, I’m good to fast. I’ll drink my water and tea, get some intermittent exercise, and probably take a nap later this afternoon. Pace myself, and let my body take a rest from eating. I won’t fast into the evening. I just need to be without food till about 8:00 tonight, which probably won’t be a problem. I usually don’t eat until after 8:00 anyway. I ate my last snack last night around 10:00 p.m., I think — a natural fruit popsicle. So, a 22 hour fast will do the trick.

I learned about intermittent short-term fasting at the blog Getting Stronger, which discusses hormesis, or making your system stronger by introducing small bits of stress that test your system and increase its capacity for performance. I have tried to fast in the past, but it went poorly — probably because I had issues with behavior and emotional regulation, and my diet was pretty crappy, so I was all set up for hypoglycemia that made me a bear. So, I never did much with fasting after a few little tries.

Intermittent short-term fasting, which is where you go without food for about 20 hours, every now and then (some people do it monthly), actually offers a lot of benefits, without the intense stress and strain of prolonged deprivation. I aspire one day to being able to fast longer than 22 hours, but that may actually never be necessary, as reduced calorie intake is also a proven way to help you be healthier.

Anyway, I have been looking for opportunities to fast, but I’ve either been pretty active, or I have completely forgotten (like over the week between Christmas and New Years) that fasting might be a good idea. So, now I am remembering it, and it looks like this is a really good day to do this thing. And I shall.

I know this may prove challenging later today, when I am looking for my lunch around 11:30 a.m. – that’s when I usually eat. And then there is the afternoon snack that I usually have around 2:30 or so… Doing without them, especially when I am working at home with lots of good, healthy food within easy reach, may be a challenge. But I have to keep in mind that I am doing this for a good reason — and it won’t be forever.

I’ll break my fast tonight, and that will be that.

The big challenge today will be keeping my mind on my work and not getting pulled in a bunch of different directions. I’ll spend some extra time today exercising or sitting and breathing, instead of eating. At times when I am usually having snacks or lunch, I will do a little stretching or sit and count my breaths. This could be a really good way to get that extra meditation time I’ve been wanting.

I’ve felt myself jumping quickly into a state of knee-jerk reactiveness, over the past months, and that has not been good. I can’t just snap over every little thing. I need to be more mindful and also better about managing how I behave with regard to my emotions. I know this is an issue for me. So, sitting and breathing and working on my self-restraint while not eating will be a great opportunity for me.

I just need to keep focused and remember why I am inconveniencing myself — and really celebrate at the end, when I get to eat again. It’s only 11 hours and 16 minutes away 😉

Each year better than the last – I hope

Looking back… looking ahead

Now that Christmas and Hanukkah and Winter Solstice have all passed, it’s time to start looking ahead to the New Year. Kwanzaa is still underway till January 1, and the Seven Principles that mark this time give me good food for thought, even though I don’t actually celebrate it formally. Yuletide is also underway till January 1 (or the 13th, depending what part of the world you live in), allowing everything to just slow down for time to reflect and look ahead to the new year.

I’m celebrating the spirit of Yuletide more than any other holiday this season. It’s been a quiet time, without a lot of travel, and minimal racing around to take care of presents and what-not. If anything, I’ve been pretty neglectful of others, this holiday season. But you know what? They’ve been totally neglectful of me, too, so we’re even. If anything, the past years have been about me and my spouse doing a hell of a lot more for them than they did for us — doing more travel, making more of an effort, going out of our way to keep everyone aligned and on track with coordinating our holiday activities. This year, we haven’t done all that — and guess what… nobody picked up the slack. So there you go — they must not care that much, so… what-ever.

It’s time to us to take care of ourselves for once.

And we’ve done just that. I’ve been in a pretty low-key frame of mind since before Christmas — all the excitement of work notwithstanding — so, it’s been a very “Yule-like” time. Things have slowed down. I’ve allowed them to slow down. I’ve taken time OFF from all the sense of obligation and duty and required activities, to just rest and relax and not race around like a chicken with my head cut off, as I did in prior years. I’ve done energizing things that are good for me, and I’ve been eating lots of new foods that support me and my brain, as well. I’ve cooked up some pretty excellent dishes lately, if I say so myself, and my spouse says I’m becoming quite the chef 🙂

Looking back on the past year, it’s odd — I can remember bits and pieces of it, but I don’t get an overall sense of how the year was. I know it’s been challenging, and I’ve been actively looking for a new job for much of that time — especially in the past three months. At home, things have stabilized somewhat — with less undercurrents of stress and strain, but some extreme meltdowns that have taken a toll on my marriage. I’ve been through a lot of intense challenges with my spouse, including issues with money and infidelity and physically unhealthy choices. All in all, though, I think we’re on the up-swing, and taking time out from all the travel to see family, as well as me getting my own “house” in order, has benefited us a great deal.

I feel stronger and more stable than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. And yet, there’s a constant sense of confusion and disorientation that is always in the background. I am more functional than I can remember being in a good long while, and the circumstances of my life are leveling out and becoming more “structurally sound”, but at the same time, I’m in a fair amount of general pain much of the time, I have tremors and shakes, and my brain is definitely not firing on all pistons. I feel like I’m maybe at 65% on a regular basis. 85% if I’m lucky.

And that makes me sad.

But I think perhaps I am acclimating to the instability. I’ve decided I’m going to just get on with my life, even though I can’t seem to get rid of the memory problems, the sleep difficulties, the constant sense of fatigue, confusion, distractability, getting things turned around, and getting lost and not knowing where I am for a few minutes at a time… and more.

My solution is to just keep going and not get sidetracked and depressed by what’s going on inside my head. If I can just keep going, keep working at things, and do my best to learn from my lessons and try again, this all doesn’t need to hold me back permanently. It might slow me down, but it’s not going to stop me.

I’m also coming to terms with the idea of not being Alpha in every situation at work — and beyond. At work, I have been long accustomed to being Alpha and being in a leadership position of some kind. But now that things are shifting and changing at work, I’m not sure if this is going to last. There are so many people at work who are a hell of a lot more possessed by the demons of blind ambition and greed, and I just can’t see competing with them around the clock. There’s all sorts of politicking — and if it takes politicking to get ahead, then I’m going to step back and not engage with that, and allow myself to simply be happy in the position where I am.

Now, I don’t for a minute expect that I’ll stay in that subordinate position for long, if I get the attention of the right people who recognize what I’ve got to offer. I do want to get ahead. I need a raise. I need a promotion. I need to really put what I know and have learned into action. But I need to be smart about it and not just charge forward into the gap, without understanding what’s ahead of me. If a promotion means I’m going to have to travel all over the world and not be home more than two weeks out of every month, then I’ll pass. There is that possibility. But who can say? Who can say…

Anyway, I can’t invest too much time and effort in thinking about what may be… inventing all sorts of dramatic stories about what that will mean for me. Who knows what will happen? I need to conserve my energy, because I continue to have some limiting difficulties — the headaches and the joint pain which suck a lot of energy from me… the confusion and disorientation that keep me guessing and demand even more energy from me to keep up and do my part… the vertigo and tinnitus that are just so damned distracting… and the attentional and distraction issues that interrupt what I’m doing with a regular dose of screw-ups.

I need to keep going, and in order to do that, I need to take good care of myself and also practice things that will keep me sharp and make me sharper, while not using up a lot of time.

  • Ride the exercise bike or move and stretch, first thing in the morning to get my blood pumping and clear out some of the sludge that’s built up. (10 minutes a day)
  • Practicing juggling one thing at a time, tossing it into the air, and then catching it.  I do this with my toothbrush each morning, to improve my eye-hand coordination and also my focus and attention. (1-2 minutes a day)
  • Working on my balance and leg mobility with exercises on a daily basis. (5 minutes a day)
  • Doing my measured breathing that regulates my heart rate and keeps me calm. (5-10 minutes a day)
  • Allowing myself to really, truly relax on a regular basis — just letting myself collapse into bed or on the couch, and letting the fatigue just wash over me. (The first few minutes when I go to bed)
  • Increase my dopamine levels by eating more foods with L-Tyrosine and also taking the supplement… and also taking Oil of Oregano, to keep my body from breaking down the dopamine and seratonin in my system. (In the regular course of my day.)
  • Drinking plenty of water to flush out the sludge.
  • Studying anatomy and physiology, to help me better understand the inner workings of my physical life — and how to improve my health.

All these things are really good for me — and I can work them into my daily routine. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to do them as a regular part of my life, without up-ending my routine. That is totally do-able, because I can find time when my breakfast is cooking, and I’d just be sitting around anyway.  I just need to do it. And I need to not just take things for granted, because I’ve been doing them a while and it feels like I don’t need to do them anymore.

That’s probably the biggest threat to my well-being in the new year — getting complacent and just assuming that “I’m good” and I don’t need to keep up my routines and activities. That state of “good” can rapidly decline, as I’ve learned time and time again.

So, as I look forward to the new year, I’m thinking about the basics. Focusing on that, and not making myself crazy with a whole lot of dramatic schemes and Big Plans, like I have in the past. I’m settling in, in a way, and it feels pretty good. I just can’t get complacent. Gotta keep working at it. Each day.

Well, speaking of working at things, I need to get a move on and get my ass in gear. I have some errands I need to run before everything closes for the day.

Onward.

Stumbling out of Babble-On

Oh, lord, I am so tired. I have been waking up early – the good news is, I’ve been getting in bed earlier, too. But MAN am I tired.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t get my (re)testing done this past week, but it’s just as well. It gave me a day out of the office, when I worked at the local library and thought about the direction my life is taking… and I rekindled some more interest in a project I started working on, then forgot about.

I’m feeling a bit out of sorts tonight. Mostly because of good things. The work situation is improving, with better opportunities apparently around the corner for me. It’s taking me by surprise, the way things are happening, because the group I’m with — as unfriendly and sometimes hostile as they’ve been towards me — is apparently being diluted and possibly broken up (thanks, I think, to my boss’es boss’es hostile attitude towards HQ — you know, the people who can fire us).

It’s interesting. But it’s also a bit confusing at times, and to be quite honest, tonight I’m content to be just another TBI survivor trying to keep my system balanced in the face of a lot of stress and strain, keeping myself as chill as I can, because I’ve been babbling a bit more than I’d like to, lately.

People have been looking at me strangely, and I don’t blame them.

It’s time to rest.

After all, it is Friday.

Learning to learn again

So, the studies are going well. I have been working on some projects that are getting me “re-tooled” for my next steps. It’s pretty great, and I’m enjoying myself. One of the things I didn’t anticipate, though, is how exhausting it would be. Seriously.

I get up in the morning and spend about an hour studying and practicing, while I’m still fresh. Then I drive to work and think about what I’m working on, while I’m in the car. All the things that come to mind… it’s energizing and gives me such hope for my brain and my future.

It’s seriously exciting. And it’s intensely hard work. I had not anticipated how intense it would be, actually. I had been more concerned about the difficulty of learning… not the demands on my mind and body.

But it is demanding. Very. And I’m finding myself running out of steam when I get home at night — just beat. Wiped out. Finished.

Part of it, I think, is that I haven’t been getting enough exercise. I have noticed myself getting winded when I’m walking up stairs at work, which isn’t a good thing. Five flights of stairs would conceivably tire me out. But two? That’s no good. I need to get back to taking afternoon walks that send me up and down stairs. Seriously. I can take 20 minutes to go for a walk. It would probably help my brain function better, too, when I’m in that afternoon lull.

You know, it’s interesting — TBI has so many physical and emotional complications that come with it. And along with it comes the worry that you’re never going to be able to get back to where you were before. I was that way with reading – I really couldn’t read for a couple of years, and I gradually built myself back over time, to where I can read now. It was incredibly bothersome, and I felt like a complete idiot (and mentally ill on top of it). I mean, who forgets how to read?

Um… I did. It was so disturbing to me, that I got thrown big-time and had come up with all sorts of around-the-barn alternatives for reading – like faking my way through things, and telling myself (sour grapes) that I didn’t really want to do the things that required reading.

Uh, yeah… {sarcasm}

Not quite.

It’s taken me some time to get back to where I feel like I can actually read with understanding again. Even then, I often have to read things several times over and really think them through, before they make sense to me. Used to be, I could read something and feel fairly confident that I got it. Especially technical things. But since I “decided” I didn’t really need to read… and I wouldn’t understand what I read, anyway, that’s been a sticking point with me. And whatever additional difficulties I have with reading and comprehension and learning have actually been made worse by keeping my distance and not using my skills and abilities.

So, I’ve kind of painted myself into a corner, over the past years. And now I need to un-paint myself.

So, I’m really working at this now. I’m carving out time to study and learn and experiment, first thing in the morning when I am still fresh and can think clearly. It’s no good, expecting to be able to study and learn and practice at night – I just get too tired, and then I get down on myself, which is no good.

I’s hard. It’s exhausting. But I don’t see any other way to deal with all of this, if I’m going to have any kind of a life. Seriously, I just can’t stay where I am indefinitely. I am capable of so much more – I just know I am – and I really, really want so much more for myself and my family. So, I have to find a way to do this thing called learning. And I have to adjust to the fact that I do get tired, I get worn out, and I need to rest extra, when my brain is going through a lot of gymnastics.

Because it is. Seriously, this is pretty big stuff for me — it’s back to work I was doing before I got hurt in 2004 — and I was convinced that it was cut off to me for ever more. I thought after I melted down in 2005, that I was never going to be able to go back. Not to the big time. Not to a serious company. Contract gigs, I could do. Basic, simple, rudimentary work, I could do (so I thought). But the really heavy lifting stuff? I was convinced it was never going to happen.

Huh.

Well, that’s fine to think that way, but I’ve been struggling financially and professionally for years now, and I have got to find a way to get back. I have got to find a way to learn again. Come hell or high water. No matter what anybody says about “TBI recovery” not being possible. I’ve got to find a way. Or make a way. Last weekend, a dude jumped out of a space capsule and fell 24 miles to earth… landed on his feet… and told the world about it. And I can’t recover from TBI? I can’t figure out how to learn again?

I call B-S on that. Major B-S.

So, now I’ve gotta get creative. And pick and choose. I’ve got to focus in on what I need to learn, because I’m working with a brain and a body that get tired much more quickly than before, and I can easily make myself crazy, telling myself all kinds of ridiculous things about what that fatigue means about me and my abilities. I need to get myself back in better shape, with better exercise throughout the day, not just in the morning. I can’t just sit there for hours at a time. I need to get up and actually move. Note to self: Practice that.

I’ve also got to keep myself from getting distracted and turned around and taking on more things before I’m finished with what I started. That’s a major temptation and sticking point with me. I get so excited and enthused about things, and I just want to learn and do and showcase everything. But I need to practice staying on-track. ‘Cause life isn’t going to get any less distracting over time, and I need to seriously build up that skill of sustained focus and lasered attention (I guess that means I need to go back to my focused breathing again).

Speaking of keeping myself on-track, I need to start getting ready for work. I wasn’t planning on going into the office today, but it’s Friday when most people work from home, and it’s going to be quiet there today, so I’m going to just go… and see what happens.

I’m sure it will be good. Along with my future.