A second bowl of cereal and another break before the next work stint

I just finished my 2nd (of 3) extended work session.

I look outside — oh, it snowed… and then it rained. I hadn’t even noticed. I was buried so deep in my work that I didn’t even notice the snow falling.

Well, in all fairness, it was dark outside for most of the time.

Yesterday was pretty intense. I worked from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., went to bed for a little bit, then got up at 2:30 to work from 3:00 till just a little bit ago. I got a break, this last time, because it was only 5 hours, instead of the 9 hours like yesterday.

Be thankful for small favors.

Another small favor is that it’s cold and damp outside, so there’s no great rush to go anywhere. I do have to run an errand later, before I get on my last work session later this afternoon. But for now, it’s time to kick back, have another bowl of cereal, drink some water, and read a book until I go back to bed to rest some more.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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Serious, not serious

serious-not-seriousI’m feeling better today – much better. Thank heavens for that. This bug I’m fighting off is likely just a sinus infection, but the aches and pains and sore throat had me down. I woke up in the night feeling really sick, choking on my coughs, the back of my throat burning. I wanted to get up and gargle with warm salt water, but I couldn’t rally. So, I rolled over and went back to sleep. My body’s been in a lot of pain, over the past weeks, what with all the driving and the disruption of my schedule over Thanksgiving – AND the break in my daily exercise during November, when I was so busy, each morning.

I’m paying for all of that. I thought I was doing fine and I didn’t need to keep up with my “maintenance”… but I was wrong. So very wrong.

I’ve been having a bit of trouble, lately, with my memory and reading. I’ve been mis-reading emails at work, which isn’t good. I put people through all kinds of extra work, because I don’t understand what I’m reading, or I miss some details. I need to just get in the habit of reading an email three or four times before I respond to it. Maybe I should read them out loud to myself.

I also got a text from a former co-worker last week, and I completely forgot who they were. They were at a conference I was supposed to attend, but couldn’t because of my dentist appointment (it went well, by the way – but my spouse wasn’t feeling up to eating out, so we just came home and I cooked us some fresh steaks, which was just as good as eating out — maybe better). Anyway, I got this text from someone saying “Are you here? We are –” and then they listed the names of the other people I used to work with. But because they didn’t put commas between the names, I thought it was all one name, and it didn’t look familiar to me. And didn’t I look like an idiot, texting back “Um, I think you have the wrong number. I have no idea who you are.”

So much for that.

I dunno, I kind of feel like I’ve been going backwards over the past weeks and months. My memory isn’t as great as I’d like it to be, and I keep missing small details in conversations. I also have lost ground on the stuff I’m managing at work, and I’ve gotten lost in the weeds of all the details. Big picture thinking is not my strong suit, these days.

Of course, it doesn’t help when you’re being threatened with layoffs, and you don’t know where you’re going to be in a few months’ time. I totally dodged a bullet on the most recent round of layoffs, but supposedly there will be more. And it’s tough to not let it bother me. I’m the sole breadwinner for my household. I have a mortgage and bills to pay, food to buy, and my spouse’s business to keep stable. My spouse does a good job at what they do, the market just isn’t always there for their products & services, and there have been issues with customers not paying, so that’s a problem.

I like not being homeless. Been there, done that, not going back ever again. When I was a little kid, I once struck up a conversation with a little old lady who was buying dog food (I used to be a really outgoing kid, before the TBIs started happening). I asked her what kind of dog she had, and she said she didn’t have one… and then she ran away from me. I asked my mom why, and she said the lady was probably going to eat that dog food, herself, because she didn’t have money, and dog food has a lot of good protein. I’ll never forget the look of shame and distress on that little old lady’s face. And I swear to God, I will do whatever it takes to prevent myself and my spouse from ever having to experience that.

It made an impression, to be sure.

So, that’s my focus in life – just keeping us housed and fed and healthy. Of course, there’s only so much you can do for someone who won’t help themself. And that’s where my spouse is — just neglecting themself and letting their health go to hell. Watching the love of your life fade away because they would rather die than provide themself with a sense of being loved and cared for, is not easy. But that’s exactly what’s happening. If someone isn’t waiting on them, they don’t feel loved. So, in order to feel that, they play helpless and victim, and they wait for others to wait on them… which is about the worst thing you can do for yourself and your health.

I blame their friends. They are all of that ilk. And it’s killing them all. Not good.

So, that’s adding stress to my life. Just a bit.

It’s hard to know what things I should stress about, and which ones I should just take in stride. I don’t want to keep having these memory and cognition issues, but I also don’t want to make too much of it. I need to be objective and understand exactly where I come down, compared to where I want to come down, and then take steps. The thing is, I don’t get a lot of help from others, figuring this out. It would be nice to have an objective outside opinion, but my neuropsych is very much into the idea that we make the lives we want to have, and mild TBI is not the sort of thing that should hold me back. Especially the kind of TBI(s) that I have had over the years.

They seem to believe that because my test scores are pretty good, overall, and I have just a few areas of difficulty, I should be fine. And the thing that makes it worse for me, is my interpretation of my experience as something that’s negative, rather than positive.

I get that it’s important to be positive about things. Absolutely. The thing is, when I am having issues, I need to be able to be clear about them. I need help getting clear about them. And their influence doesn’t help me, because I get very stressed and very turned around when I try to explain to them, and I can tell they’re not taking me seriously.

It’s been infuriating at times, and many’s the time when I nearly didn’t go back at all. I have a hell of a time verbalizing my issues out loud. And when I come up against the “disbelief field” of their attitude, everything gets all jumbled up. So, I’ve often wondered how much sense it made for me to even go see them. But they’re literally the only person I know who has a grip on brain injury, as well as what’s possible in life, so I’ve used that experience as a way to be more clear in myself about what was really going on with me.

And of course, I have this blog. And my notes. So, I can write my way through all this and make sense of it in writing, even if I can’t do it out loud.

It’s hard to know what’s serious, and what’s not. And the thing that makes it all even more stressful, is having pressure on me to be a top performer, when I am lagging cognitively. So, I just do what I see others doing – I just keep going. I pretend that everything is fine, and I’m getting it together, and I don’t worry about how I look to others, or if it’s compromising my position.

Just keep going. Focus on the basics. Stick with fundamentals and keep everything very, very simple. Ultimately, things will work out, if I just don’t give up — and I keep learning my lessons properly.

Onward.

Winding down the week

Friday is here, and I’m happy to say, I wish it weren’t.

It has literally been over a decade, since I last felt this way, and the time when I felt this way in the past was short-lived. That was partly because my job changed, and partly from immaturity, and partly from TBIs messing up my head and making me a million times more stressed than I should have been.

People used to tell me, “Relax!” But I thought they were crazy. Who could relax under such stressful conditions?

The stressful conditions were created in my biochemistry, as well as my neurology by things I could not detect – things that people told me were no big deal. But they were a big deal.

A very big deal.

Well, anyway, now I understand. And I can do something about it. I’m trying to pace myself, because I’ve been held back for so long by organizations that were actually behind the times, and now I have the chance to really stand out. Take the lead. That’s my job, and it’s good.

What a waste… all those years, people were telling me there was nothing wrong, and I believed them. I took them at their word, because I trusted them. As it turns out, they were just trying to make themselves feel better, because they were invested in me being a certain person in their lives. And if I stopped being the person they thought I was, then they might be wrong about the persons they thought they were.

Funny how that works…

Anyway, it’s Friday. And my old friend actually DID write back to me… They remember our parting in a very different way, I believe. Or the just did a better job of coming to terms with it. In any case, we’re back in touch, now, and there’s the chance for us to interact as adults, with the full benefit of 50 years of living to make sense of it all. And we are actually in similar lines of work, so we can compare notes.

It’s fascinating. They sound so much more mature in their emails than I feel – or hear myself being in my emails. There is something a little stunted about them, though. Like they are reading from an “adult script” that shows how they should talk and think and relate. Still, their own personality shows through. It might also be due to them speaking about 4 different languages (English is not their first), and their expressions come out differently. I know that when I lived in Europe, many years ago, my expressions were different from the norm.

Then again, it doesn’t take living in a foreign country for that to happen. Oh, heck, I usually feel like I’m living in another land, speaking another language, anyway…

Ha. Funny how that goes.

And on that note… it’s off to my day. Onward!

Off to a great start this morning

I didn’t get quite as much sleep as I wanted, last night. After dinner, my spouse and I ended up watching a documentary about people who left a cult, and it was so fascinating, I couldn’t look away.

Kind of like a train wreck. But the film was really well-made and engaging, so it wasn’t all bad.

Anyway, I woke up around 6:30, which means I got 7 hours of sleep, and I rode the exercise bike for half an hour or so. I read a couple of little ebooks and listened to music and also lifted light weights while I was riding. I have a couple of wrist weights that slip over the handle bars of my exercise bike, that I can use to work out my arms.

I have a pretty exciting weekend ahead – with lots of lounging about, going for hikes, and resting — and no, I’m not being facetious. I really am looking forward to being able to just get off the leash and kick back. Unwind. Not worry about much of anything. Work on some of my projects. Finish some things that I haven’t been able to finish… and spend time just hanging out with myself without any pressure or requirements, other than what I want to do.

Pure magic.

It’s funny… I was having a conversation with a co-worker yesterday afternoon. We’re both contractors at the company where we’re working, and we both feel a huge amount of pressure to constantly perform at our highest. They said, “I feel like I’ve been on a 2-year-long job interview,” and it’s the truth. There is such a cultural divide between the permanent full-timers and the contractors, it’s wild. And we are under constant pressure to perform, because we’re so marginalized.

One of the projects I’m working on this weekend, is putting together a portfolio of projects I’ve brought to life at this company. I really have done some amazing work, which nobody could figure out how to do. There were some projects that had gotten started, and then just died on the vine, because nobody followed through. But I stepped in and got it done. I’m not getting egotistical. I’m just saying…

And it’s happened a number of times.

Anyway, I need to collect the evidence of that, add a description of the situation, the hurdles, the challenges, and what the eventual outcome was. Some of the things are amazingly cool. Others are interesting only to the 15 people on the planet who care about the inner workings of obscure technologies. But they all show results, and that’s what I have to lead with.

I think, if anything, this is going to put things in better perspective for me. At least show me that I have something to show for all my work. Because in this company, everybody seems to have amnesia — except for when you screw up.

Folks remember that stuff forever.

And I need to send out my resume to folks I promised it to.

I need to have a standard response for all these recruiters who contact me. Kind of like a form to return to them that tells them what I’m looking for, when I’m looking, and how best to contact me. I’ll attach two versions of my resume – 1 full-length, 1 condensed – along with my portfolio of “solutions”, and have it saved to an email.

Then I can just reply back to all the recruiters who contact me and send this packet along. And I won’t have to think about it each time. Practically automate it. Or maybe I will set up another email address that has an “autoresponder” on it, that automatically delivers my package for me. And I can tell all the recruiters to go there, instead of contacting me at my main email.

Yes! That’s what I’ll do. That will make things a whole lot easier, so I don’t have to manually send out a new resume all the time. What a pain in the a$$ that is. And I need to update my resume on all the job boards to use that new email. It will simplify things considerably, I believe… save me from having to go back to my home computer after a long day at the office.

Sometimes, the last thing I want to do, is network after a long day. Or a long week. Or whenever.

….

Okay, I got that set up, and now I don’t have to worry about “stuff”. And I don’t have to get into digging up past copies of my resume, every time someone reaches out to me. That’s such a pain in the neck.

Anyway, yes, my day has gotten off to a good start. And now it’s time to wash up my breakfast dishes and go for a walk in the woods.

Watching within

“You’re feeling sleepy…” No, I’m NOT!

So, this year is off to a roaring start. I’ve already had a few situations of hurting people’s feelings — that escalated from people being super-sensitive to something I said, or how I behaved.

I will admit, I have come on very strong at times, and I have had a little “scorched earth” action, where I felt like I was either being threatened or disrespected.

Yeah, I’m not much for being threatened OR disrespected, and I will react if it seems like that’s happening. I have to watch myself, though, because that can cost me — in damaging existing relationships or nipping new ones in the bud before they get a footing.

The thing is, I need to make sure I don’t over-react, which I can certainly do. Especially if I’m not paying attention to what’s going on inside my head and veins and autonomic nervous system, I can quickly switch into survival mode over some interpretation. In some cases, I need to be in survival mode, but I don’t need to completely scorch the people who I perceive as a threat, like Smaug laying waste to so many Middle Earth towns.

Yeah, gotta watch that. Particularly when I am tired and stretched.

I had a couple of tricky situations this past week, during the conference. Even before I left the airport, I had sent an email to a colleague who is also a good friend, which really hurt their feelings. I was reacting to them running their mouth and getting me in trouble because they don’t know how to be discrete about sharing information with upper management before it’s been fully analyzed. They let a few little factoids slip, and the uber-uber-boss got wind of it and proceeded to tear my boss a new one, over what was really nothing.

Geeze. And this after I’d specifically told this person to NOT share information with the uber-uber-boss. God help us.

Anyway, the email I sent was terse, abrupt, and pretty harsh. The situation called for it — something had to be done to keep them from continuing to run their mouth. But then they got all worked up over it and pitched a little hurt-feelings hissy fit, and then it blew back on me and I had to spend days patching things up. If they’d been able to keep their mouth shut, this never would have happened. But the individual who “over-shared” has impulse control problems. They always have. They get carried away and say and do things that make them extremely difficult to deal with. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s due to them having sustained a severe brain injury when they were younger — they got thrown from a motorcycle and landed on their face and spent the next week in a coma, then had to learn to do everything — walk, talk, function — over the course of several years.

When they get tired and out of sorts, all the standard TBI stuff comes up — impulsiveness, outbursts, emotionality, aggressiveness, confusion, disorganization… and last week, when I sent that email, they were coming out of an extremely long week that was a prime recipe for TBI meltdown — for both of us.

Because I was tired, too. And under pressure. And I wasn’t minding my P’s and Q’s, and I let things get out of hand. I wasn’t the bigger person, and I took matters into my own hands, and the result was not pretty. It’s human, it’s to be expected under the circumstances, but I don’t want to do it again anytime soon.

The second experience I had was at the conference, when I met up with some old friends whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. One of them brought their new love interest with them, because they wanted to introduce them to me and my spouse. After an initial contact at the hotel that was pleasant and friendly, I had to run out and take care of some more things, then I came back, and we spent more time all hanging out together.

That’s when things got dicey. The new Love Interest started telling us about themself, and the more I heard, the less I liked. First of all, they had dredlocks, which is a huge flag for me with white people. Something about white people wearing “dreds” pushes a bunch of buttons with me, partly because every white person with dreds I’ve ever known has come from a privileged background and they live their “alternative” lives scamming off other people. This is only my own limited experience, but every white person with dreds has given me attitude about being part of the “system” and selling out for my full-time job and my house and my regular life.

It makes me insane. Partly because I work in the “system” and have a full-time job and house and regular boring life, because it’s the only way I can function under my circumstances. I need routine. I need predictability. I need a full night’s rest, or I cannot function. At All. This isn’t by choice — it’s by necessity. Certainly, I would love to be able to come and go as I please and be all alternative and what-not and “live my dreams” and “embody my passion” however and whenever I like.

But for me, that’s a recipe for disaster. My brain is such that if I don’t have regular routine and predictability and a whole lot of really boring stuff giving structure to my life, I lose it. It’s not pretty. I become extremely difficult to live with — as the Love Interest found out.

So, there I am, hanging out with people I really love and care about, and here’s this dredlocked person making snarky comments about “white people”. As though they’re not white. And they start talking about their past, moving around here and there. Back and forth all over the world. USA – China – South America – Europe – Asia – back to the US – all over. I guess I got a bit jealous, because that’s the kind of life I would rather be living, but circumstances demanded different choices from me. It’s a little rough to move around the world all the time, when your spouse is disabled and ill, they depend on you to survive, and you can’t keep a thought in your memory for longer than 15 minutes.

According to my spouse, I got pretty aggressive with this Love Interest, firing off questions about where they lived and when. Thinking back, it was definitely an Alpha-situation, with me standing over them, like some interrogator, bombarding them with questions. At the time, I was so caught up in learning more – I actually wanted to hear more about what they did, and when. At the time, I didn’t intend to be aggressive. At least, I don’t think so. I was actually really interested in hearing what they had to say. I wanted to hear more.

But it wasn’t perceive that way, and apparently I made everyone in the room very uncomfortable. I was clueless that people were uncomfortable. I was just focused on hearing more, because my life has been so incredibly uniform and established for the past 20 years.

At the same time, though, there were some alarms that were going off in my head — so maybe I was being aggressive.

The first alarm was the dreds. The second alarm was the Love Interest trying to sell my spouse on their services doing “neurolinguistic programming” — a/k/a hypnosis — to solve some of their mobility issues. My spouse has some serious and long-standing mobility problems due to back and leg pain, and many people have told them it’s because of some emotional block or unresolved issues. Personally, I think it has more to do with them just not moving enough and not strengthening the right muscles to support their frame. They also need to lose about 30 pounds. Most healthcare professionals we talk to, feel exactly the same way. But lo and behold, here’s yet another “alternative healthcare practictioner” trying to sell my spouse on mind control techniques to solve their physical problems.

Of course, it couldn’t be done in just one session. But after an “intake interview” they could continue to work over the phone at any distance. The rate was $100/hour.  No insurance coverage available.

So, yeah, here’s this individual who’s living on the margins, pretending to be something they are not, just flitting around doing as they please, subtly slamming people like me, and they’re trying to hard-sell my spouse into signing up for hypnosis, which of course I will be paying for out-of-pocket, if it ever happens. On top of it, they’re talking to my spouse about working together to create some sort of alternative event, and I’m getting a sickly deja-vu in the pit of my stomach about all the other marginal folks my spouse has tried to work with who started out seeming so alternative and progressive, and just turned out to be nutso, flighty, opportunistic users who thought they could take advantage of the “rich” people with the salaried job, the house, and the two cars in the garage.

Come to think, of it, I’m surprised I was as polite as I was, that night. If I had really been aware of how I was feeling at that time, I probably would have 86’ed them, or called it an early night.

But like I said, I was pretty clueless about just how threatened and aggravated and antagonistic I was feeling. I was in the “zone” — or so I thought. And my memories of the evening were totally different from how my spouse describe them to me later.

Anyway, the rest of that evening went slowly downhill. I was actually feeling pretty strong, that night, and I had a good time catching up with my old friends. But the Love Interest became increasingly withdrawn as the evening went on. They wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and when we rode back to the hotel, they made sure to sit far away from me. It was weird. I mean, I tried to reach out and talk to them, but they kept their distance. Maybe because I was a representative of “THE MAN”, and/or I wasn’t playing along with their alternative role-playing game.

In the end, they barely said good night to me, and they were obviously glad to get away.

I feel badly about the situation — mostly for my friends, who were obviously fond of the Love Interest. To them, they were wonderful, from what I could tell, and it seemed like they did really care about each other. But my shields went way up – to 110% – with this person around, and I was NOT going to have my spouse snookered into yet another boondoggle that was expensive, time-consuming, far from guaranteed, and happening on the other side of the country.

Yah, not gonna happen on my watch.

Looking back, I realize now that my instincts were pretty accurate. I was “tuned in” to what was going on beneath the surfaced, and I took corrective action without going ballistic. I could have gone ballistic, under the circumstances. The warning signs were written all over the situation. But aside from some pointed questions and uneasiness-provoking directness, I didn’t go all Rambo on the Love Interest. I just made it clear that I was not buying what they were selling, I didn’t just agree with every little thing they said. And I didn’t give a shit if I did piss them off.

My friends were certainly uncomfortable, now that I think about it, and they should be. Because here is someone they ostensibly love and trust, who is probably using them for their own selfish purposes. And I hate seeing that happen to anyone I care about. My friend who is dating them has fallen in with questionable people before, and they are extremely susceptible to users like this. I’ve seen it before, and it appears to be happening again. I think it has to do with some sort of guilt from their parents having money and being community leaders, and them wanting to reach out and help the less fortunate.

In my experience, the “less fortunate” can sometimes get that way because they would rather scam others than take responsibility for their lives. And I hate seeing good-hearted people used by those kinds of scammers. So, to stand by and do/say nothing and act like everything is hunky-dory… that’s not an option for me.

This isn’t a game, folks. This is life. I know that my friends come from money, so they will always have someone to help them, should things go sour for them. They can afford to fritter away their days and years without terrible consequence (like for me and my spouse). Their parents keep them well provided for, even well into adulthood. But can we really afford to squander our lives — our precious, precious lives — on people and experiences that constantly take, and do not give?

There is so much that needs to be done in the world, and it makes me absolutely NUTS to see the talented, gifted, intelligent people in my life frittering it all away on people who take advantage of their good hearts. They fritter it away to rebel… for entertainment’s sake… or because they don’t realize just how precious and rare their talents and gifts and intelligence really are.

What a waste.

Unfortunately, I can’t spare my friends from their poor choices in love mates. But at least, in this case, I didn’t allow the User to “attach” themself to my spouse and come home with us. Yes, people got their feelings hurt, and yes, people were really uncomfortable. But I can sleep better at night, knowing that there is no way in hell that predatory parasitic Love Interest is going to come anywhere near my family again.

They tried to work their NLP hypnosis magic on us, and it didn’t work. I saw through it and took corrective action. I wasn’t consciously aware of the details at the time, while it was happening, but I went with my gut and my instinct, and as it turns out, I was — as they say — Right On, Man… Right On!