Hello Monday, my old friend

Boat on the water with sunrise behind it
What direction am I rowing, anyway?

I’m very different from most people I know, in that — every now and then — I am so relieved it’s Monday. I actually love what I do for work, so that makes it easier to get to work and get moving. Also, there’s a pool at one of the nearby offices, and I love my afternoon swims. I rarely swim for more than 20 minutes. That’s all I really need. But it does me so much good, to step away from my desk and make my way back and forth across the Olympic-sized lanes.

I had a really full weekend, taking care of a bunch of errands that have been needing done, for many months. I just put everything aside on Saturday morning, and dove right in. And by the time all was said and done, I had cleaned out and rearranged a couple of formerly junked-up spaces, cleaned out my car (which was a few weeks overdue), as well as picked up a bookshelf for my spouse, which they have been needing for a while.

And that feels pretty good. I also organized my study a little bit, making more room on my sit-down desk to work. I wasn’t using that old monitor, anyway. It was just taking up space. And the view out my window is now unobscured.

Then, Sunday, I took care of some projects that required extended concentration. I was a little tired from all the running-around, so I welcomed the chance to just sit down and focus on what was in front of me. It took longer than I expected it to (the 2-hour job turned into 3 hours in the morning, and another 2 hours at night), but by the time all was said and done, the result was far better than I’d expected (or have been able to do, at other times).

One really nice thing I’ve been doing, lately, is reading. It feels so great, to be able to read again, after having that disappear for several years. I always loved to read, as a kid, especially adventure stories, nature books, and guides for outdoor living. My favorite book when I was 10 years old was a survival guide, in case you ever decide to move to the wilderness. Instructions for building your own log cabin, snaring rabbits, setting up a fish weir, tanning hides, butchering a deer (or bear), and foraging for nuts and fruits and wild plants you can eat (or use medicinally).

I think I may still have the copy around somewhere (I lifted it from my parents’ house years ago – they weren’t using it).

Now it’s Monday. My boss is away for the week (woo hoo!). That makes me happy, because my boss is a contentious sort of person, and they bring drama with them, wherever they go. They are very politically connected (and disconnected), and they are “on the outs” at work, among people Who Get Things Done. My boss has an excellent eye for picking out potential problems that need to be fixed, but everyone sees them as an obstructor, and someone who isn’t a good team player… when they are really the best type of team player you can ask for — someone who knows where all the “land mines” are while you’re marching across a wide open field, so you can avoid getting blown up.

People where I work don’t like to be cautious. They don’t like to take care, up front. They like to charge forward — full speed ahead. And then they get blown up. And they race around in circles, desperate for a quick fix to their self-made problems.

And while my boss is brilliant in those sorts of assessments, the net result of their position on most everything, is that they’re seen as a “blocker” and someone who just says “NO” to everything. No fun. Not rowing in the same direction as everyone (well, no, when the boats rowing towards the edge of Niagara Falls). And it’s always some drama with them. So, having them away for the week gives me a break from all that.

It will be interesting to see who stops by my cubicle this week, while they’re not around, “to chat”.

In some ways, the week is easier for me to handle than weekends. It’s predictable. And compared to the self-styled rigor of the weekend, it’s pretty laid-back. I did a lot of heavy lifting and moving stuff around, and now I’ve got bruises on my arms. It felt great to be doing heavy lifting on Saturday. Really, really great. Now I need to rest my body and let it recover from the stresses and strains I put it through. That will happen. And a good swim this afternoon will help work out the kinks, as well.

Anyway, there it is. A new week ahead of me… counting down to the corporate merger later this summer… wondering what’s to become of me… along with everyone else I’m working with. I’ll probably write up some stuff for my resume, so I can get it read to GO, should that time come. I’m also scheduling my vacation this fall, so it’s not going to keep me blocked in my current job much past September. I know I don’t want to stay at the new company — it’s notorious for outsourcing work, and also being cheap and not providing good benefits.

It’s also too “old” for me, as I’ve learned over the past year. The division I’m with (which I hear will be kept in place) is full of folks who are my age, or older. When I first started, that was fine, because I was sick and tired of all the “young whipper-snappers” running roughshod over common sense and experience. But now, after being surrounded by people who are just counting the years (or months or days) till retirement, I really see that I need to be surrounded by individuals who are excited about their work, who have vision and the optimism to pursue it, and who aren’t just sitting around, waiting to permanently head out to the golf links.

So, it’s good that I’ve had this year to get a taste of this.

Being surrounded by 50- and 60-somethings is not preferable to being in the midst of “whipper-snappers”, I now realize. It’s not better or worse, just different… and it’s not my preference.

So, all that being said… as usual… Onward!

Good start, focused start

Memory test for today. Let's see if I remember the shapes by the time I'm done writing.
Memory test for today. Let’s see if I remember the shapes by the time I’m done writing.

I’m off to a pretty good start, this morning. I’ve been grappling with some serious clutter in my study, which is making it hard to focus and keep my attention on the Main Things I should be doing. I’ve been pinballing back and forth from different ideas and different projects for some time. I’ve also been bouncing around between different directions I want my life to take.

Not being happy in my job, not being connected with my work… that’s a complicating factor, and the anxiety that comes with it is compelling me to flit-flit-flit from one idea to the next. I just need some relief from the anxiety, and that means I spent a lot of time clicking around to different websites online, I get all swept up in Twitter, and I have — yet again — an even more brilliant idea than yesterday, about what I should be doing with my life.

cluttered office
My office isn’t quite this bad – but it’s been close…

It gets to be way too much, after a while. And my study has shown the effects of it. I’ve had piles upon piles of papers that I didn’t quite know what to do with at that instant. Also, bags of stuff I brought home when I changed jobs… and never put them away… books I’ve picked up and meant to read, but never got to.

It’s been quite the challenge, keeping things in order, but I’ve been working at it gradually, moving away the things I never use or look at, to make room for the things I DO use and look at.

I do it when I can, and I did some last night, just getting piles of papers off my desk and onto a nearby chair. This morning, I spent the first 30 minutes of my day sorting through the stuff on my chair, throwing away things, organizing others, and putting stacks of papers that aren’t immediately pressing, but need to be sorted, onto another pile that’s not in the middle of everything.

I have some serious prioritizing to do — and that includes my entire life, not just my to-do items for the day, week, or month. I need to make some choices about what direction I am going, and how much energy I’m going to spend in the process. I need to make some choices about what I’m NOT going to do, so I can free up energy for what I AM going to do. In some cases, it means leaving behind dreams and goals I always had, and was particularly fond of, as a kid. It’s hard. But I have to do it.

I’ve already started that process, making some decisions and taking some plans off my plate. There’s more to come… and it’s quite a challenging process. I hate having to let go of long-loved dreams. But I’ve got to do a reality check — and also realize that some of my dreams are blocking my reality.

So, that’s the excitement for this morning. I’ve got a full day ahead of me, planning for my business trip next week. I’ve got my list of things to handle, and I’m taking them one at a time.

So far, so good. And with the right mindset and a good pace today (as well as a nap this evening), things should sort themselves out just fine.

Onward.

Now, let’s see how I did with my memory test:

memory-test-4-30-16

Now, that’s interesting… I had it flipped the wrong way. Got the elements right, but the orientation is wrong. The single line is a little short, too. And the hatch marks. But the circles at least are the same size and pretty much similar in dimension, along with the connecting lines.

Memory test for today. Let's see if I remember the shapes by the time I'm done writing.This is what I did at the start. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could build on the designs from prior days — if I could “trick” myself. And yes, in fact, I did. Ha ha.

Taking it all in

When the fruit is ripe - pick it... and enjoy
When the fruit is ripe – pick it… and enjoy

Constantly striving and struggling takes a toll. It takes an enormous toll, in terms of energy and insight and being able to enjoy your life. When you’re constantly GO-ing, when you’re focused on being active and reactive and pro-active, you lose sight of the good that you can let in.

Sometimes you lose the ability to let it all in. There’s a lot of good in the world, but we can be so busy fighting and pushing, that we’ve got nothing left for just sitting back and letting the good things be good — and enjoying the fruits of our labors. It’s no fun, being literally unable to reap what you’ve sown.

It’s like being a farmer in a country that never has a summer or fall. It’s work-work-work, year-round, without any hope of harvest. I used to know a farmer who lived in a northern area that had something like three months of growing season.  There was snow on the ground from September till May, and then the ground had to thaw. He was not a happy farmer. He was exhausted. Eventually, his barn burned, and he had to move.

I’m a bit like that farmer — but sort of by my own making. I have been pushing and striving and struggling for such a long time. Damage control. Chasing my dreams. Making the products of my imagination become real. And all that pushing has seriously worn me down… to the point where some days I can’t see the point of anything, anymore.

Then something occurred to me yesterday, when I was feeling down and blah:

I am actually living my dream.

See, when I was a kid, all I wanted to do, was be a writer. I wanted to write things that were helpful to others and provided insight into everyday life. I also wanted to be free of editorial control, so others would not tell me what to write, what to say (or not say), and I could do so on my own terms.

My goal for many, many years, was to become a freelance writer. And for a while I was doing that. But I ran up against problems with editors and schedules, and I could never seem to finish a job properly. Whether it was a freelance editing job, or it was technical writing, I was just not good at being independent and keeping it together.

I wanted to be independent. How I wanted that! And for a while, I was. On and off, I have “done my independent thing” and taken contract jobs, while managing freelance projects on the side. That’s what people did in my world of technology. And that’s what I did, too.

But it was always a struggle. And my writing wasn’t helped by the pressure to make ends meet.

For so many years, I felt like a permanent job was a millstone around my neck, that I was going to be pulled down by companies that didn’t know how to run themselves. That was actually the case for years, because I worked at companies that just couldn’t seem to figure it out. Now those companies no longer exist.

And for some reason, I thought that ALL companies were like that. Because that’s all I’d ever known.

So, for a long, long time, it was a double-whammy of pressure to make ends meet with companies that couldn’t keep their act together, the pressure to make it on my own — on m own terms — and the struggle to find the time and opportunity to write. I have written almost daily for decades, now, and it’s the one constant in my life. So, dealing with the pressures at work and all the existential difficulties that go with trying to make ends meet, keeping the dream of writing alive was pretty much a challenge.

It’s not that I couldn’t write. It just didn’t feel like I was a writer. It felt more like a task, than an art, and I lost touch with so much insight, over the years, because I was so stressed. If it wasn’t problems at work, it was  problems after another concussion — and the two fed each other, actually. I didn’t have the same sense of writing that I’d had in my 20s, before I had the mortgage and disabled spouse to provide for. It was nowhere to be found, and I thought the only way to get out of that was to get going on my own terms and live the dream of total, complete independence.

Well, now things are very different. And although the company I’m working for now is going through its own reorganization (who isn’t?), and my job and position may be very different in another 6 months, I feel more independent than ever before. It’s not so much the company, as it is my position. The job I have now is truly on par with the work I’ve done in the past, which is nothing short of amazing. I thought that sort of position would never come ’round again. I thought I was toast. But now I know I’m not, and I have the opportunity to focus on a whole new type of work that demands expertise and skill in much the same way that my programming did in the past.

And the best part is, while I am bone tired by the end of the day, it’s a good tired, and while it does wear me out, it also energizes me and gives me real hope for my future.

Plus, I can write again. I mean, I have been writing — a lot — for a number of years on this blog. And there’s no lack of projects I have in various stages of completion. But now it actually feels like I’m writing. It’s actually sinking in.

It’s important to let it all in, if only every now and then. It’s the thing that lets us see that all we’ve been working for, is actually paying off. That there is something to show for our efforts.

It’s important to let that happen.

So our world can open up again, and we can know that all is not in vain.

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.

Taking a break, breaking it up

All the colors are brighter, these days

This has been a heck of a fall. And winter is on the way. But now with my new job, I can take a bit of the logistical pressure off, and I can focus on projects that I haven’t been able to make good progress with.

I’ve really chafed under the “stranglehold” my commute had on my life, for what feels like so many years. That, and the frantic-ness that came with handling all the stressors from my attention problems, sensitivities, etc.

It’s amazing what extra sleep and a shorter commute will do for you. Simply amazing.

It’s giving me time to think… and dream… and plan… and take action.

Imagine that. After all those years of really battling to keep my dreams alive, it turns out that the missing piece was really reclaiming the time and energy that got sucked into my commute.

It’s tough to dream and plan and follow through, when you’re exhausted all the time. It can be done, but it’s better with rest.

So, this is good. I’m taking a break from some of the crazy appointments I’ve had to drive to, after work, and I’m taking time to read and write and just chill out — no pressure — make a nice supper … do some yard work … lift weights in the morning before getting into the day … rekindle my interest in different meditative practices that fell by the wayside.

Nice.

In a way, it’s like I’m on a sort of vacation. Being able to get the sleep I need, and not be stressed out about when I get to work… being able to take time to run errands during my lunch hour… and knowing that I can get where I need to go in 15 minutes or less… it’s absolutely priceless. And it frees me up to break up my routine and “paint outside the lines” of my life. I can try new things, read new books, chill… and also spring into action whenever something interesting comes up.

It’s better than a vacation in some ways, though, because it’s structured and it’s social. It gives me the chance to be around people for a set time each day, to orient myself outside my own head, and have meaningful interchanges with others. Left to my own designs, I tend to pull back and keep others at a distance. At work, that’s not possible. I have to talk to people, and they have to talk to me, so it’s good for us all.

Of course, I’m not opposed to a real vacation — and that will be coming during the week between Christmas and New Years, when things quiet down, and my spouse and I stay home instead of driving all over creation to see family, many states away.

This is good. It’s shaping up nicely. The colors are brighter, the day is looking better with each passing week.

And now, off to work I go.

Onward.

Who am I today?

Summary / Bottom Line

I don’t feel like myself, these days. I haven’t felt “like myself” in a long time. And all the hopes and dreams I once had as a kid, seem so far from me. But maybe, just maybe, I am truly living my hopes and dreams… I just don’t feel like I am. And that changed sense of myself is keeping me from realizing how much my life really does resemble my onetime hopes and dreams. Restoring a sense of self can be a huge challenge with traumatic brain injury, and adjusting to how things truly are, versus how they appear to be, or feel, is one of my biggest challenges.


I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my identity… who I was when I was a kid, who I am now, and who I’ve been along the way. I recently had a birthday, and while I don’t feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis, I still have been thinking a whole lot about whether I am where I expected / hoped / planned to be, when I was younger.

I know that “life happens” and we can end up very far from where we wanted to be when we were younger. And to be honest, I’m not even sure if I had specific plans about the trajectory of my life, when I was younger.

I do know that what I wanted more than anything, was to become a scientific researcher. I wanted to go to school to get a bunch of degrees, and then focus on research. I’m not sure what kind of researcher I wanted to become — I just wanted to study, collect information, synthesize it, and publish it.

I also wanted to be a writer. Maybe more than being a researcher. Being a writer is what I always wanted to BE. Research is what I wanted to DO. In a way, being a writer is like being a researcher – it’s not the same type of science, but there’s a sort of science to it — observing, drawing conclusions, testing your hypotheses, etc.

Over the course of my life… well, life happened. I got hurt. A bunch of times. I fell and hit my head a bunch of times. I got in car accidents a bunch of times. I was attacked. I did stupid things. And I got hurt. I also had a lot of chronic pain that knocked me out of the running when I was in my early 20s. And I got in trouble with the law and some rough characters, and I had to go on the lam when I was in my late teens, which limited my future prospects.

Now, looking back, I see how so-so-so many opportunities have been out of reach for me, because of everything that happened back then. I have done my best to patch things up over the course of my life, and relatively speaking, I’ve done extremely well for myself.

But am I really where I want to be today?

I’m not sure. This life I’m leading doesn’t look and feel like I hoped it would. It feels strange and foreign to me. Hell, I feel strange and foreign to me. I feel like a stranger to myself, half the time. I don’t have that feeling of being “comfortable in my skin” that people talk about.

Now, I used to have that feeling. I used to have a clear sense of who I was and what I stood for. And I didn’t let anyone hold me back. Even when I was getting in trouble with the law and then went underground, living overseas till things quieted down here, I had a clear sense of who I was, and what I stood for. I had to change my life for a while, and I couldn’t do a lot of the things I had once enjoyed doing — like going anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted. But it didn’t feel like I’d lost a part of myself. I’d screwed up for sure, but I was determined to fix things.

When I was in all that crippling pain, 25 years ago, I had to let go of a lot of activities that had once meant a lot to me. I had to stop exercising and spending time outside in the sun. The diagnosis that the doctors came up with was probably wrong (I never had tests that confirmed or denied it 100% — they didn’t have good tests, back then). But I had to take steps in any case. As it turned out, the things that I was told not to do — exercise a lot, move a lot, test myself physically — were exactly the kinds of things that I needed to do to alleviate my pain. Movement and staying active was NOT going to hurt me. Being sedentary was.

In those years when I was dealing with the pain, I lost of lot of things that meant a lot to me. I couldn’t eat and drink the same things anymore, and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. But I didn’t have a sense of having lost myself. I was still who I was, and I was clear about that.

Now things feel so strange and foreign to me. It’s hard for me to describe. Even though I know I’m doing better, and I have numbers and feedback from friends and family that indicate I’m improving, I still don’t feel like myself. It’s hard to describe — just that someone else seems to have taken up residence in my life.

I know my personality has changed a good deal, since my fall in 2004. And it kind of freaks me out, because that wasn’t the first mild TBI I’d ever had. I’ve had a bunch — probably about 9. I’ve been assaulted once, had at least 4-5 falls, got hurt a couple of times playing soccer, got majorly dinged while playing football, I’ve had a couple of car accidents, and so forth. But not until I fell in 2004, did it totally screw up my life.

Not until the past years, have I felt like a stranger to myself.

It’s kind of getting me down, too. At least, it has been. I try not to think about it, but it’s still always there… Who am I today? What am I going to do today that doesn’t seem “like me”? What am I going to feel and think and say and do that doesn’t seem consistent with the person I know myself to be?

That feeling of observing yourself going through life… it’s weird. Disorienting. I resolve over and over again, to hang in there and just keep plugging, until I see some glimmer of who I am. And sometimes it works. I’ve been feeling more like “myself” lately, which is nice. But at the same time, I don’t quite trust it. Like in Flowers For Algernon, when the main character stops taking the medicine that made him think and act like a normal person… and he drifts back into his old state. Whenever things are going well for me, I feel like I’m looking over my shoulder for signs that I’m slipping back into not recognizing myself.

I would like to stop this. It’s not fun, and it’s not productive. It serves no one, and being on high alert over it just kills my quality of life.

So, over the weekend, when I had time to think about it, I realized that maybe it would be better if I just acclimated to this feeling and let it be. It could be that I actually am getting back to my old self — I just don’t have the sense that I am. It could be that I’m even better than my old self. There’s a good chance of that, because my old self was majorly concussed and had all sorts of issues that I didn’t even realize. It could be that I’m in better shape than ever before… but I don’t have the sense of it being so, and therefore I don’t trust it.

I don’t feel like I’m myself, most of the time. Maybe all of the time. But maybe I actually am. Maybe the missing piece is NOT my personality and my identity, but the sense of my personality and identity. Just because the sense of being who I am isn’t there, doesn’t mean I can’t BE there myself.

Rather than getting all caught up in recreating that sense of myself, maybe I need to just get on with living, regardless of the sense of myself. Maybe I just need to trust it… not place such high demands on what qualifies me as me, or not-me.

And maybe — just maybe — the life I have now is exactly what I was hoping /expecting / planning / dreaming I’d have, back when I was a kid. Looking around at my study and thinking about how I live my life, I realize that I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do, when I was younger — reading and researching and writing and publishing. I write and publish this blog. I read and research TBI-related materials (especially concussion and mild TBI) and I spend a lot of time thinking about them.

I also read and research other subjects and write about them, though I haven’t published much of that … yet. I am getting to a place where I soon will, and then I will have that to my credit, as well. This is all done independently, according to my own standards. I’m not doing it professionally, but I have managed to help some people, here and there along the way. That much is clear from the comments on my blog.

So, even though it may feel like I’m one person, the objective facts reveal something quite different. And for me, it seems the challenge is to not let feelings of weirdness and alienation and failure stop me from just getting on with my life.

At some point, I just need to trust. I’m working on it.

Onward.
 

Just keep your spirits up

Create something to believe in!

I woke up this morning having the keen sense that over the course of my life, I’ve come through a huge number of obstacles. Emotional swamps, mental jungles, physical minefields, and logistical nightmares.

I’ve been on the wrong side of the law, and I’ve been on the receiving end of foolishness at that hands of those who have been far outside their rights.

I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve traveled my own path, and now I find myself actually doing better for myself… happier, healthier, more content, more optimistic… than most of my peers. I also have a much more engaged and involved relationship with my life and everything in it, than 90% of the people I know.

Despite the pain and suffering — some of which may never actually go away at all — I am here, and I’m in a very good space.

What’s the secret?

Keep your spirits up. Do whatever you need to do, to keep your mind and spirit alive and involved. Keep your body in good condition and don’t abuse it with bad food, drugs, too much drink… too much anything. But most of all, keep your spirits up.

Someone once told me that my journal writing over the years was a “Proustian” waste of time — a lot of navel-gazing that provided no apparent benefit. Likewise, I have launched many, many projects which ultimately came to naught. For years, I felt like I was a failure because I could not “make it happen” for myself, and I struggled constantly with so much. I thought for sure that if I did things the right way, I would eventually be rid of the pain, the suffering, the hardship, the challenges.

And my life would get better.

Now I realize that even though all the pain, suffering, hardships, and challenges are still around, the thing that has really changed is me. I have acquired the skills I need to meet the hardships that come from TBI … and to figure things out as I go. I am still learning — and each day offers me one more way to make right the things that are wrong in my life. I didn’t get here by accident. I got here by keeping my spirits up, by staying interested in life, by always having some activity going on that keeps me intrigued and engaged.

Even if I don’t “make it” with my projects and end up rich and famous, the simple fact of the matter is that it keeps my mind fully occupied, and it keeps me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I come up with some crazy concepts, too — many of them far beyond the scope of my actual interests and abilities. But I dream big, and I chase after those dreams as if they truly will come true.

When they don’t… and they often don’t… well, that’s not the point. The point is that I have been engaged on a very high level, and my energy has been good, and it has kept me from being my own worst enemy. Maybe someday some of my grand plans will pan out. But the main thing is the working towards them, and keeping my spirits high in the meantime.

Most of the things I dream of, I don’t tell anyone about, because they’re really just for me, to keep me going — and when others get involved, they tend to dilute the process and hold my mind and heart back.

To each and every one of you reading this right now, I encourage you to pick something big and crazy to dream, and keep that dream alive in your mind. Pick something that would give you so much pride to accomplish, and then secretly set about making that dream come true. Don’t tell anyone else about it — just figure it out for yourself, dream it big in your heart, and let that carry you through your days.

Any kind of recovery — whether it’s TBI or not — requires a huge amount of energy and stamina. I can take a monumental effort each day, just to keep going. So, find something to spark your spirit, then dwell on that, feed on it, let it bring you joy and happiness and encouragement, and stick with it like your life depends on it.

Because maybe it does.

Onward.

Making the most of my time

I had a very interesting experience yesterday. And today. I started practicing juggling a couple of balls, to rewire my brain and explore some neuroplasticity. I thought it went pretty well. I was able to juggle two balls for about 40 tosses. Then I would find myself getting distracted, and I would drop one of the balls. I noticed my scores were getting worse — from 42 to 35 to 34…

So I stopped for the afternoon and took a nap.

When I got up, I tried it again, and although I wasn’t counting, I was able to juggle the balls much more fluidly, much more easily, and I’m sure considerably longer than 34 tosses.

I practiced a little bit yesterday, then I tried again today.

And this morning I was able to juggle two balls for 136 tosses.

That’s amazing progress.

And the best part is, I didn’t have to force it, I didn’t have to push it. I just relaxed and let the muscle memory that had built up yesterday take over.

Sweet.

I have half of Sunday left, to rest and relax. I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted, last night, so I do need a nap. I’ve been reading some motivational info this morning, and it’s been really good. I’ve also been taking a long, hard look at the ideas I have about myself that hold me back and seem to be killing my dreams on a regular basis.

A lot of what I believe seems rooted in past impressions — not memories, exactly, because my memory is kind of crappy. But impressions and emotions I have about who I am and what I am capable of doing with my life.

At this point, I the best use of my time is to take another nap. Let the information sink in. Let my brain catch up. Don’t push myself so hard, as I usually do. Just let myself be…

And rest.

 

The trap of “good enough”

Your choice

I’m a bit tired today. Behind on my sleep, and with a lot to do on my plate. No worries. The long weekend is coming up, which means I will have time to focus on the things that I’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t gotten a chance, for lack of time and also illness. I’m bouncing back after last weekend, and it’s good. I’ve reached a kind of equanimity with where I’m at, in terms of busy-ness and productivity and 9-to-5 work.

In just over a week, I will be done with two major deadlines. And then I will have a week to sort one other thing out. And then I will be looking for a new job full-on. Not posting my resume on job boards and fielding calls, but updating my resume to look really, really good, and reaching out to recruiters who have jobs posted that are just up my alley.

My plan is to pick up a contract for 6-9 months and to use that time to also get a new business off the ground. There’s a lot of balancing going on, these days, with the new venture… setting expectations on all sides, working out working agreements, and positioning myself to get sales. I’m emailing people daily, calling them, touching base, and keeping pretty busy overall, which can be good, but it’s also very tiring, and I am still trying to figure out how to catch up on my sleep on a regular basis.

There is a LOT to do. One of the main challenges is to not let myself get overwhelmed and distracted by a ton of things I really don’t need to do. A lot of times, I get “in a groove” and I end up doing something way past the time when I should stop. It feels comfortable. It feels familiar. It feels like I’m making progress, but I’m actually getting stuck. Then I wear myself out, and I end up just dropping things, because they’re “good enough”.

Story of my life, thus far — focus on the wrong stuff, work like crazy on those wrong things, and then get exhausted and give up because it’s “good enough”.

It’s an exciting time, to be sure. It’s also a disconcerting time. Because here I am, not exactly a spring chicken anymore, looking back on a life that might have been very different, had I not gotten clunked on the head so often. Looking back to the times when I was brain-injured at age 3… 7… 8… 13… 15… 16… 23… 24… and 39…. I can very clearly recall being set back in ways that messed with my head in more ways than one, and set up patterns of defeat that I have not been able to overcome, till the past few years. Add to that all the times in between when I got slammed whilst playing sports or just living my life, and there were even more “sub” patterns to complicate things.

It wasn’t the mild TBIs that got the better of me. It wasn’t the concussions that make things worse. It was how things were handled afterwards — the confusion, the frustrations, the behavior changes, the logistical problems, the physical problems. It was the cascade of events — and the reactions of others — after the head injuries that did the job on me.

It was all the thoughts inside my head that told me there was something wrong with me, that I was emotionally or mentally damaged, that I was a broken individual who couldn’t be put back together, that I was a wreck, and there was nothing to be done about it. That’s what got me. The stress of it all, the trap of that virulent doubt, and the ultimate resignation to life being “what it is” — and that “what” being something that was a lot less than what others had, and (in my uninformed opinion) would never be more.

Well, now I know better. I’m working towards bigger things, I’m breaking out of that old pattern and finding a better way. And I look at my life, over the past many years, and I think about how often I have just settled. I ran out of steam. I ran out of ideas. I wore myself out. And I couldn’t go on — or so I thought. So, I decided “it’s good enough” and just stopped what I was doing. I dropped it all and went off to read a book or write a story or watch a movie, and never bothered looking back. Because it was over. Done. There was no point in going on. Because I couldn’t.

Well, now things are very, very different. Completely. I’m still tired, but I’m moving on, anyway. And looking ahead at my life, there is no way I want to stay in that same old place the way I was, for so many years… settling for less, and being surrounded by people who so eagerly settled for less, as well. Seriously, one of the things that’s held me back the most over the years, has been the people around me who were of the same opinion as I — that there was something damaged about them, that there was something so limiting and defeating, that resistance to it would be futile… and anyway, there was a lot of fun stuff in the world to entertain them and take their minds off their pain.

Looking around, it seems like that’s pretty much the theme of the world I’m most familiar with — don’t worry so much about doing big things. Just get yours, keep entertained, numb the pain with drugs or alcohol or junk food or a nice shiny toy (or social media on a smartphone), and keep going till you can’t go anymore.

It’s good enough, right?

No way, no how. Not for me, anyway. Once it was, but not anymore. Now I can see how there is so much more that’s possible for myself — and I can actually believe that it’s possible for me to do it. No, not just believe, but really know. Faith and belief have nothing to do with it. The fact that I can follow through and bring my ideas to life is a known fact — I have ample evidence that I can do it, and that I will continue to do it. Hell, I do it every day. I keep on, tired or not, because I can’t live with the thought of going through life with a shadow existence, never having pushed myself really to do the things my heart is set on, watching the rest of the world leave me behind as everyone else pursues their great dreams and visions.

Today “good enough” is nowhere near good enough.

Onward.

 

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.