Finding the energy

I’m about the last person who likes to admit that I don’t have the energy for something. It’s like a dirty little secret I carry around with me, that I rarely, if ever, discuss with others. When I tell people I’ve run out of steam and I can’t manage to do something because I’m beat, they often look at me like I’ve lost my mind – how could I run out of energy before the day is through? How could I fizzle out when everyone else is going strong?

Yah, well, they must not know what it’s like to work their ass off at just about every little thing that comes across their path. That’s what it pretty much feels like for me, day in and day out — a whole lot of energy being expended on things that others just take for granted. Everything from getting out of bed in the morning to making breakfast to figuring out what to wear, takes a monumental effort.

And it’s not that I’m coming up with anything exotic. I eat the same breakfast each morning. I have my routine that I follow. I have five work outfits, which I wear on the same days of the week. It’s all very boring and predictable, but it’s super easy to deal with, first thing in the morning when I am getting ready for work. Especially when I’m tired, this predictability is very important. Even when I’m not tired, having the same routine each day relieves my brain of the need to have to think through everything.

Now, the problem is, I don’t want to have fatigue run my life. And it’s seriously bothering me, that I’m so down and dragging all the time. So, I’ve been on a quest – of sorts – to find a way to tap into the energy that I know I have in my system — in my cells, in my muscles, in my bones — and put it to better use. I feel like I’ve been wrangling with details and annoyances and surprises and problems for so long… all my life, really… that my system is a bit tangled up overall. And I have the sense that within me there is a LOT of stored energy that I just can’t get to for some reason. It’s out of reach — because my way of living has been so geared towards troubleshooting and damage control, that I’ve been more focused on fixing what’s wrong, than making things right.

So, on this quest, I have been looking around for ways to free up the energy. Morning exercise is probably the best way I can think of. The thing is, I need something I can do every single day, the same way, but the exercise routines I did before led to over-training and over-use, and I ended up feeling bad — no, crappy — and also getting strains and pulls that held me back. With those kinds of exercises I was doing — lifting weights and bodyweight exercises — I needed time off to recover.

And that interrupted my daily routine.

So, I needed to find something new…. which I did, totally by accident last week.

I have a new exercise routine — the Five Tibetans — which I have been doing each morning for about a week and a half or so. There’s a video of it at the top of the page, but the version I do it not quite as formal as that. Basically, I follow this fellow’s description and instructions: The Fountain of Youth – http://members.ozemail.com.au/~clauspat/spincop.htm. It’s actually made a huge difference.

Now, I don’t know about the fountain of youth claims, but I do know this: since starting to do this each morning, I am feeling world’s better, and I actually have more energy, I’m less tired, and I am doing things that I didn’t feel like I had the energy to do before — like get up at 6 a.m. and go for a walk under the moon and stars.

The best thing is, the exercises don’t take a long time to do, but they are sufficiently strenuous that my muscles are a little sore, and by the time I’m done, I’m warmed up… even a little tired. Then after I make my breakfast and recover, I feel a whole lot better, and I’m ready to take on the day.

This is pretty much what I’ve been looking for — a simple, predictable way to warm up my body without undue stress and strain and a whole lot of time. For folks who spend hours at the gym, God bless. But I have a lot more important things to do with my time than work on my form and get a good pump going. I’m busy. Pumping iron for hours and hours each week, while appealing to part of me, is just not practical for me at this point in my life.

Now, while I’m not sure about all the chakra and energy body stuff that goes along with this, the simple fact is, The Five Tibetans are exercises I can do easily and without rushing myself in the morning. And since I started doing them each morning, I have to say my energy has really improved.

It’s pretty amazing, really. I feel a lot more stable and calm, and I don’t feel thrown off by things all the time. And if these exercises will help restore my youth, so much the better. I’m a skeptic by nature, but I’m seeing results I can really relate to, so I don’t need to over-think this. Just do it. If it works, great. If not, move on to find something that does.

It seems to be working. And it seems to be doing exactly what I need to do — unlock the latent energy that’s in my system so I can access it and use it through the course of the day. I can do this simple-style, or I can do it complicated like the guy in the video. Either way, it’s helping me, so that’s fine. So long as I’m feeling more energized and more able to keep up with everything around me on a daily basis, I’m going to keep doing this. Apparently, doing it over the long-term has been hugely beneficial for people, changing their energy levels as well as their confidence and self-image.

I could do with improvements in all those areas.

So yeah – I do believe that there is a ton of energy we all carry around inside our cells, our muscles, our bones, our minds. Tapping into it and unlocking it is the first order of the day, for me. I am so sick and tired of my own personal energy crisis, and I’m so sick and tired of being told a million different things by a million different people. I found something that works for me. And that’s okay.

Onward.

 

Finding full range of motion

This week has been crazy. I’m six weeks away from leaving this wretched job, and I’m full-speed-ahead on finishing everything that I need to finish, so I can go in good conscience. I friggin’ hate the company and its hare-brained policies. Not the people.

Well, most of the people I work directly with. The folks at HQ elevate being an a$$hole to an art form. They really seem to delight in it and take pride in it, which is not very smart on their part. I guess they didn’t get the memo that you can’t treat other people with disdain and disregard, and still be productive and get things done.

A$$holes.

Anyway, enough about them. I’m done with them in seven weeks — less than two months. Ha. No longer will I need to be hindered by their lack of vision and foresight. No longer will I be held back by their delusions and autocracy. No longer will I be subject to their silly little games and jockeying for position in a domain that is nothing to get excited over.

Seven weeks, and that’s it. I’m done. Finis.

I’m back into doing my daily exercises, with a somewhat different approach than before, when I was really focused on cardio and strength training and specific exercises to strengthen specific parts of my muscular structure. As it turns out, even though I am stronger than the average desk jockey, my range of motion sucks. I’ve got a lot of pain that I need to get rid of, so I’m taking time in my mornings and evenings (when I get home from work), to stretch and do some light yoga and body-weight-bearing exercises. I’m making it a priority to MOVE first thing in the morning, no matter how creaky and painful I feel. Just moving, getting the blood going, getting the muscles moving over bone, and getting all the tendons and ligaments engaged… it’s made a big difference in how I start my mornings.

Back a few years ago, when I was working out every morning, it really gave me a boost. Then I hit a plateau and I didn’t want to shake things up. I was comfortable and familiar with the routine I had in place. It helped me get going, and it was a valuable jump start. But after a while I got locked into that routine, and it actually started working against me, limiting what I was willing to do, physically, first thing in the morning.

Now I’ve got this focus on movement. On seeing how my body feels, first thing in the morning, and doing something about it, if I’m not liking how I’m feeling.

The first step is being able to tell how things are going with me, physically. In the past, I have had a hell of a time actually feeling what was going on in my body. I tend to be so “up in my head” that I don’t pay any attention to how I’m feeling physically. This is also the case because I have been in pain for so long, and I haven’t been able to do anything about it, so I just ignore it and move on. Seriously, what’s the point in “getting in touch with my pain,” as so many have encouraged me to do, when there’s not a damn’ thing anyone — including doctors and chirpractors and all sorts of experts — can do about it?

Trust me, I’ve checked. They either don’t believe how much pain I am in each day and tell me I’m exaggerating, or they launch an all-out pharmaceutical offensive on the offending experience, doping me out of my mind in the process — and accomplishing nothing, other than destroying what quality of life I have left.

It’s infuriating — not least of all, because they have a mixture of hubris and cluelessness about how the body actually works, that makes them uniquely qualified to completely f*ck up my life, along with the lives of countless others who have the great misfortune to cross their path. And magically, it doesn’t seem to bother them that they’ve done far more harm than good. Hey, at least they tried, right?

Idiots. The scary thing is, I have relatives who are freshly minted doctors, and you can see the “Stepford” progression with them — they just become so taken with themselves and so enamored of medicines and chemicals and what-not, that it totally blinds them to any real ways they could help.

But enough of my ranting and venting. That’s just how things are, and the one thing I can do about it, is remove myself from the presence of any offending individuals. I’m actually in a good space today, and I’ve got a ton of energy (hence the energetic ranting).  I have a full list of activities planned for this weekend, that are all interesting and engaging and will take me down a path to something better than where I’m at today.

Now, plenty of people will pooh-pooh me and say, “Be careful what you ask for… things don’t get better, they just get different” but they can go pound sand.  My life is getting better. My memory is for shit, I’m completely wiped out half the time, and I’m having a hell of a time following conversations, but that’s largely a function of me putting a whole lot of my energy in specific areas and not really making the effort to pay attention to the same-old-same-old that I’m getting away from. I’m nominally functional in tons of ways each day — but that’s for a very good reason: because I’m hyper-functional in a few select ways, and I need to save my energy.

Save my energy and build it up, too. With my morning (and evening) exercises. I also nap regularly — not for long periods — maybe 40-60 minutes at a stretch, tops. I just step away, lie down and crash into darkness, then get up and get back into everything. It makes a huge difference, and when I come back from my naps, I feel like a whole new person, ready to do what needs to be done.

You know, it’s funny. It’s nearly 10 years after my last TBI — the one that nearly did me in. I still don’t really “feel like myself” and half the time I feel like I’m walking around in a daze, trying to figure sh*t out on the fly. Nothing I plan actually seems to turn out the way I plan and expect it, but I am adapting much better and much more quickly than ever. And in a way, I feel like I’m adjusting to that state of being. It’s not throwing me for a loop anymore. I’m learning to expect it. I can’t say that I’m all that happy about it, and I can’t say that anyone is actually helping me deal with this loss of my old self and the experience of walking around in a life that feels so foreign to me, nearly every waking moment. But it’s not taking me by surprise anymore. And I’m finding moments where I can have some actual peace in the midst of it all.

What’s more, I’m finding ways to get where I want to go… I’m discovering new ways to identify and pursue my dreams, and deal with the surprises that crop up, every single day — sometimes by the hour. And despite not feeling like “myself” anymore, and not recognizing the person I have become, I am a whole lot more functional than I was 15 years ago, when I was struggling on a daily basis with the long-term after-effects of multiple mild traumatic brain injuries. I was really, really struggling. Even though I was making good money at a good job, and I had all these “secure” situations around me, my head was a mess, my relationships were superficial and extremely rocky, I got roped into doing a heck of a lot of crap I had no interest in doing, and I struggled on a regular basis with debilitating panic/anxiety, violent mood swings, crippling depression, and suicidal thoughts.

I was no friggin’ fun to live with, at times, I can tell you that.

Now my situation is completely different. Learning about TBI and how it affects me, has literally turned my life around.  It gives me information I can use to manage my situation, know what to look out for, and continually improve. It’s not just learning about TBI and all it brings with it — it’s also learning how I individually experience and react to my TBI symptoms, and learning how I can do something about it. There’s a ton of room for creative problem-solving in this new world, and the results I see are often instantaneous. It’s really gratifying — like mowing my lawn and seeing how much better everything looks after the fact. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of effort to make a big difference.

That being said, this morning moving exercise routine of mine is really working out well. I do something different each morning and evening. I have a few core exercises I do, and then I improvise around the others. It gets me out of my head and gets me “in touch” with my physical sensations — which in turn helps me for the rest of the day, because the clues that I am becoming tense or stressed or frustrated, are physical clues — before anything else.

So, knowing how my body feels and being able to “check in” to see how I’m doing, helps my mental health and my interactions with other people. Each and every day. So that my range of motion improves — not only physically but also socially as well.

Speaking of motion, it’s time to get going. The day is waiting.

Onward.

Timing is everything

Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race

So, it’s back to my regular life — getting past the upheaval of the past few days, saving my energy for just taking care of business — and working on overcoming my difficulty getting started with things.

I have a personal project going on that really has me motivated and inspired. It’s very exciting, and I think it’s going to have some good results. And it gets me out of my head. I did a bunch of work on it last weekend (and it cost me some hours of sleep), and I made good headway doing some sketches and writing up my notes… but it is turning out to be a lot more work than I originally anticipated.

Which is often the case

So, I have this project that I’m very excited about, and I have very clear steps to follow to get it done. It’s all mapped out for me, and I know what my steps are.

The challenge I face now is just getting started on each of the steps. Sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

A great example is yesterday – I had a lot of time in the evening work on this, but I frittered away the hours looking at social networking sites and reading news. I had enough time to really make some good headway on my project, but I blew the evening, pretty much, on distractions and heady entertainment. It puts me in a bind, for no good reason.

Truth to tell, I was pretty tired yesterday. I was feeling sick and out of it most of the day, and by the end of the day I just wanted needed to take a break. I have been pushing myself a lot, lately, so in all honesty, I did need to take a break. I just didn’t plan it that well. And I ended up feeling badly about “wasting” my time.

Now, feeling bad isn’t always such a bad thing — regret, as I’ve said before, can come in handy and provide me with more motivation to get going. That happened this morning, when I woke up at a decent time and then got up to do some of the things I meant to do last night.

I got a lot done, too — more than I expected to. I had expected to do only one sketch, but I ended up doing four — and then I scanned my sketches and transferred them from one computer to another, which is a critical next step. And this happened with less than an hour to work, vs. about five hours last night, when I had the time to be systematic and really concentrate on things without distraction.

So, how is this possible? Well, I think that timing really is everything. Having a sense of urgency matters with me, and if I don’t have at least some pressure around a task, I often can’t get started. Last night, there wasn’t an intense sense of urgency — at least in part because I was pretty tired and couldn’t muster the energy to sketch, but also because I thought, “Well, I have time… I can do other things first…” But this morning, with an hour before I had to get ready for work, I was able to sit down and just start one step. And once I got going, that one sketch turned into four… and then I was able to take care of yet another critical next step.

So, on a fraction of the amount of time I had last night, this morning I was able to do five times the work (maybe more), and I did a pretty good job, too, if I say so myself.

I think the thing was, I didn’t give myself hours and hours to get it all done. I gave myself an hour – tops – to do this, which didn’t give me endless time to confuse myself and bog myself down in endless details. I just didn’t have the time to supply all those details that came up in my head last night. And I also didn’t have the time to psych myself out and overwhelm myself with the whole progression of … stuff… I need to do… all those details…. all those steps… all that detail…

Also, I really need to finalize things by the end of this coming weekend. I have a deadline for submission of this project, and I have to get it all together and make sure everything is in place. This is a preliminary submission for a larger project, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, but there are some things that need to be covered. So, not everything matters, but enough does that I need to pay really close attention. And that gets overwhelming. And everything that could possibly go wrong, is coming to mind. And everything that could go right, is also coming to mind. And it’s a lot to parse.

If I give myself the time to parse it all out.

So, that being said, I realize (yet again) that things work so much better, if I don’t devote a ton of time to them. Once upon a time, I thought I could spend hours on something and go from one step to the next to the next, and ultimately I would have a finished project, and I would feel great about it. That’s what I thought, anyway. But in reality, I would start all kinds of projects and spend a lot of time on them, and I would get nothing done. Because I would get overwhelmed and would drop it all. This is the thing that earned me the reputation as a “quitter” when I was younger. It’s been a long-term problem – from as far back as I can remember – and I’ve struggled with it for so very long.

Now, though, with so much on the line, money being tight and my job situation being a lot more precarious than ever before, and my energy far, far less than it was in the past, I have to change my ways. I have to actually give myself less time. This is a good change, even though it feels rushed and confusing at times. It scares the bejesus out of me at times, truth to tell.

But it’s how I have to do things. The old, long, meandering way doesn’t work at all. I need to break down the things I need to do into small bits, and do them a little bit at a time with a lot of energy and focus, blocking everything else out. It can be tiring — which means I need to rest more, in the meantime — and it can be anxiety-producing, but when I get past the internal dramas, things have a way of working themselves out. I just need to have faith that they will.

Timing is everything – and as it turns out, not having much time at all is the best thing of all.

Jealous with my time

So, I had planned to spend this evening with some friends, but I really have a lot I want to get done today. And on top of that, I need to get a good nap this afternoon. So, I am opting out of the social activity tonight, and I’m focusing on just getting things done that I want to get done — that will serve some larger purpose for my life.

As much as I want to be able to do all those things, the fact is I need to keep rested and relaxed and also not over-extend myself. It is so hard saying “No” to people, especially when I want to do those things. But half the battle of getting to an enjoyable “yes” is working with responsible “no’s”. And in the end, having more energy and time for a few things, sure beats spreading myself too thin on many things – no matter how much I enjoy them.

This is a sign of huge progress for me. In the past, I would just push and push and push and wear myself out, make myself so very tired — because it infused me with all sorts of stress biochemicals that provided relief for the pain of my daily struggles. Now I am making choices that reduce the stress, not add to it. Now I am taking action that, while not popular, serves me so much better in the long run.

The fact of the matter is, I live and work with people who do not “get” my need for sleep and rest, and who don’t understand what it’s like to have to function while you’re bone-tired, day in and day out. They don’t know what it’s like to be constantly stressed over stupid crap, and not be able to filter out too much light, too much noise, too much activity. They thrive on it. They love it. They absolutely soak it up, while it just ruins me. It. Just. Ruins. Me.

And I can’t have that. Everybody else can go do their thing. I need to pace myself and not let the dizzying frantic-ness of all my friends and family get to me. I need to protect myself. Yes, even from the people I care about the most.

So, today it’s going to be taking care of chores around the house, running some errands, getting a good long nap in, and checking some items off my list. I may work on my taxes a bit, too. I got my federal taxes filed yesterday, so now I need to do the state ones… and for some reason they always seem more complicated, even though they’re based on the federal numbers. I’m looking forward to my nap, this afternoon.

And tonight it’s going to be a bit of studying, a bit of practice, and relaxing on my own time with a movie I’ve been wanting to see. And getting to bed at a decent hour, so I am fresh and rested for tomorrow… and my new life.

Keeping focused

Eyes on the prize

Thank heavens – I actually got eight hours of sleep last night. They weren’t all consecutive – I fell asleep while watching a movie at 9:30, slept till 11:30, then went to bed at midnight and slept till 6:00 a.m. So, 2+6=8, and I’m focusing on that.

I am definitely doing better. I started to obsess about my boss having it out for me, then I started asking Whoever-Or-Whatever to care for and support them, so they can get the answers and the help they need in life. I started to get bent out of shape last night, then I managed to get myself back on track in a good way — and I was able to get to sleep. One of the things I tend to do is “use” agitation and anger to get me going in life — but it backfires on me because I then get all riled and worked up, and then I can’t relax.

But last night I managed to relax. I managed to let it go. And that tells me I’m dong better.

Another thing that tells me I’m doing better, is that I am returning a bunch of library books I checked out last week, intending to brush up on my skills to change jobs. I realized this morning, being rested and refreshed, that I was taking on way too much and casting too wide with my skill-building. I need to stay focused and specialize in the area that I have my greatest strengths, right now — NOT go out and try to acquire new skills where I’m starting from scratch.

I need to be smart about this, and I was not doing that, last week.

So, the library books are going back.

Thank heavens for good sleep. Even one night of increased rest makes such a difference.

So, this weekend I have to laser in on the things I need to do for my job, for my impending change. I have realized that I’ve been frittering away a lot of time doing extraneous things, and I have not done a good job of managing my time or my energy. I have been taking valuable hours out of my weekends to go do things that I could be doing during the week, on my way to or from work. I like to work out at this park that’s a half hour drive from home, but when I do it on the weekends, it takes 2-3 hours out of my mornings to go do it. It’s a least an hour of driving, round trip, plus the hour it takes me to work out, plus any extra time I spend chilling out in the process. I do want to be able to enjoy my life and I do need to work out, but I need to find a better way to use my time, than driving to and from a place that’s actually on my way to work.

Ideally, I will use the time I have on my weekends to do things I can only do at home, and I will do the things that are on the way to work, while I’m on my way to work. I just need to get up a little earlier — or get up at the same time — and focus on incorporating those workouts into my day. They have locker rooms at work, so I can shower and change when I get there. It will work out much better, and I’ll get some really good exercise during the week.

I don’t want to get too obsessive-compulsive about this and “optimize my life” down to every spare second, but some things I’m doing are really sucking up valuable time, and I need to change them.

… Things like getting books out of the library that don’t really serve my primary purpose. I have other books that are specifically about what I need to be studying, not what I suspect I may need to learn.

… Things like driving around and losing time on the road that I could be using in studying and working on my skills, and generally enjoying my life at home while I am able to be at home. If I need to work out, I can do it at home with my weights and exercise bike (which I did this morning).

The poor use of time has got to stop. Poor use of time translates to poor use of energy. So, I’m stopping it.

I can still do all the things I need/want to do. I can still find places for them. I just need to be smarter about how I do it, and I need to understand why.

Yesterday, I sat down and made a list of all the things I need to learn and become familiar with, in order to be a viable job candidate for the positions (and the money) that I want. There is a lot that has happened in my field, since I made this detour into positions that were related to it, but not exactly IT.  And I have some catching up to do. It’s pretty exciting, because a lot of this is stuff I had hoped to be able to do in the past, but the technologies weren’t all mature enough to support these kinds of things. Now the technologies are mature, and we’re able to do more and more — which means I need to learn more and more.

And that’s fine. Because I can.

This is a relatively new thing for me — I mean, it’s a relatively re-newed thing for me. When I fell in 2004, one of the things I lost (temporarily) was my ability to learn new things. Hell, I couldn’t even read, let alone keep my attention on the pages of a book long enough to let things sink in. That’s changed dramatically over the past 7 years… I’m better now than I’ve been in a long time, and it just keeps getting better. It’s very encouraging, and each day I learn even more… it builds on itself.

It’s wild, when I think back. In 2005, when I was dealing with all the TBI fallout and I was sliding farther and farther down into that black hole, I couldn’t figure out how to get from A to B to C. Let alone from A to Z. My sequencing was all messed up, and I could not figure out the most basic things, like the orders of instructions and how to use new programs. That’s a problem, when you work with computers. You have to constantly learn how to use new programs. But I was so out of it and so turned around, I was all but useless.

Even up until a year ago, I was still struggling with figuring things out — and it really showed at work. I would get so turned around and confused about how to do things, and then I would sit and struggle with them, thinking that there was something really wrong with me that I couldn’t figure things out. This wasn’t just me thinking it, either — plenty of other people gave me sh*t for not being instantaneously able to decipher new and unique stuff. It’s been very trippy, looking back on the things I did in the past two years, realizing how I just wasn’t clued into how things worked, and I was just pushing through, making the best progress I could under the circumstances, and totally clueless about why people were getting so upset with me. And they were getting really upset with me, because there were a lot of things I was struggling with, for no apparent reason — at least no reason apparent to them.

Now, I really feel like I’m doing much better. I’m more flexible than I was in the past, and I’m more actively engaged in problem-solving situations. I still have my problems dealing with a lot of my co-workers, who have their own issues (their issues are more motivational, than logistical — what I lack in native smoothness, they lack in will and desire). But I’m a lot more clued into what’s going on around me, than I was before.

It’s interesting — talking to my neuropsych, they seem to think that my issues are really based in stressing over things and being hard on myself. They tell me there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s kind of them to say so, yet I can tell a real difference between how I function now and how I functioned before. They are fond of telling me that my perception of my abilities in the past was probably a bit flawed, and I had an inflated sense of my own abilities.

Maybe, but I can still tell a big difference between how clueless I feel now, how much I just kind of muddle through, and the smoothness and fluency of my past abilities. That subjective experience is very important, no matter how much my NP tries to reassure me that there’s really nothing wrong with me. I appreciate their eagerness to reassure me. I think it’s helped me to really overcome a lot that I might have given up on, had I been convinced that I was permanently damaged and was never going to completely “recover”.

However, I have a very different perception and personal experience, and that has told me loud and clear that I have some areas to work on. My NP doesn’t seem to understand that my focus on fixing what is less than perfect is not because I’m down on myself — it’s because I truly believe that I can — and will — improve. But I can’t fix something if I am not aware that there’s an issue. So I have to keep an eye out for issues.

It’s like with Give Back – paying attention to brain injured moments, and focusing on fixing them. That’s my preferred approach, but my NP seems pretty intent on steering me away from focusing on what’s going wrong… and getting me to pay attention to what’s going right. I can see their point — it is so important to focus on what’s right and make the most of that — and replicate the experience. At the same time, though, it’s also important for me to see the areas where I’m coming up short and work through them.

I’ve gotten away from that over the past couple of years, and while it has been helping me to calm down and chill out and take the edge off… as well as improve my sense of who I am and where I fit in the world… it has also kept me from really truly improving in some areas.

And those areas are where I need to focus. Learning. Studying. Doing work properly. Completing my tasks. Delivering my work on time.

So, I still have my work cut out for me. And I need to keep aligned with the direction I’m heading. I have a bunch of stuff I have to do for work, and I have a bunch of stuff I need to do for myself. And I need to keep my strength and resiliency up. I have a plan — to strengthen my skills, find my next job (probably a contract, to start with, so I can get back into that line of work) and start looking for my next career step — another permanent job that is more in line with what I want, instead of this ridiculous treading water, just trying to stay afloat in a raging sea.

Please.

Anyway, the day is waiting and I have a lot of exciting stuff to think about. It’s time to get going, time to get on with my day. I’m feeling really good about this, and each time I sit down to work on my skills, I remember yet again why I got into this line of work — I just love it so much.

And that is good fuel for my focus.

It’s cold, I am in pain. Oh, well…

ice winter
Brrrrr... Ouch

My walk in the wood yesterday has reminded my body that it is out of practice going on hikes. I am really sore – in pain – and I feel cold today.

Oh, well.

Time to get moving. I was up early this morning, feeling energized and like I had a mission in life. It was good. The forgiveness I offered myself yesterday seems to have lightened my load. And now I’m rarin’ to go. I just need to make sure I don’t over-extend myself, as I often do, when I have a burst of energy. I need to be intelligent about this. Smart. Practice my zazen, and chill out my autonomic nervous system.

I spent a little time sitting this morning. Sitting and breathing. Getting my heart rate down. It was racing since I first got up. I’m better now, having done some reading and research online, after doing my morning exercises. I really do feel good, mentally and emotionally. So good, I didn’t notice the soreness or the cold till now.

There’s only one thing to do — a couple of things, actually. Get moving. When I am stationary for a long time, I get stiff and sore and cold. If I am up and about, I loosen up, and I warm up. I realize that I’m being stationary here while I’m writing this, but I did just get up to make myself a cup of hot tea and get some fruit to eat. So, I’m not completely ignoring my physical needs. I’m just postponing them..

First, I have to have a little more to eat and drink. Then I can go out for another walk. Not a really long hike, like before, but a walk down the road and back, just enough to stir the blood and get me out of my head.

And then I can take another nap later.

I have to make sure I don’t get side-tracked, though. I have things I need to do to get ready for this coming week, and the better job I do today, the easier it will be on me tomorrow. I have been having a lot of trouble with Mondays, getting swamped because I’m tired and I haven’t planned properly for my week. Then I get caught up in all sorts of drama on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and by Thursdays I’m wiped out. That’s no good. I need to be fully functional on Mondays, and not get burned out before Wendesday is even finished.

God, my hands are cold. The feeling doesn’t bother me, but not being able to move my fingers well enough to type, does bother me. About ten years ago, I suddenly stopped being sensitive to the cold. Before that, I was a total wuss when it came to the cold — if I wasn’t warm, I didn’t feel like I could ever get warm. Then, all of a sudden, one day I was shoveling my driveway, and I realized — Hey, I’m not cold anymore. Took off my hat and gloves, and felt fine. Felt great, actually.

Ever since then, cold weather has not really freaked me out like it once did. But now I get into the situation where I can get too cold and my body can stop cooperating with me, because it’s … cold.

Funny — I thought people were supposed to get MORE sensitive to cold, as they age. I seem to be going in the opposite direction. I’ll give it time. Who knows what will happen in another 20 years?

Oh, well. At least I’m aware of it. I’m not running around all paranoid about being defective — I’m just different than I used to be. And it’s not like I’m damaged or anything. I just have a different sensitivity to cold than I used to. And I need to check in, every now and then, to make sure my hands and feet are still moving well. So I don’t stand up and find myself on my face. Or I can keep typing.

Or better yet, stop typing (for now). I’ve said all I need to say for now, and it’s time to DO something about it.

More to come (as always).

Picking my battles

Boxing Gloves
Gloves on... or off?

Lately, I’ve been following some pretty lively discussions online, some of them heated, some of them not. These days, it’s pretty easy to find heated arguments cropping up online. Whether it’s a movie that people like/dislike, or it’s a social issue, or it’s the political races going on, there’s no lack of things to get upset about.

I managed to get a 3-hour nap today. I’m working at home, which means I was online answering emails at 7, I worked till noon, then I lay down and slept till 3… got back online at 5, and this evening I’ll work a few more hours to get my 8 hours in. It’s not your cut-and-dried work schedule, but it works for me — especially considering how sick and tired I’ve been feeling, the past few days.

Anyway, one of the things that came to mind when I woke up, is that I “need” to jump into this heated discussion I’ve come across online. It’s about a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and I have a lot of experience with it. I also would like to share some of what I have experienced, for others to consider. I came this close to jumping in.

Then I thought better of it. Much better. While I may have some things to add, I’m not willing to commit as much time and energy to the debate as would be necessary. I just don’t have that kind of time or even inclination. I have other things I’d rather be doing, besides. The argument I’d be joining can be an ugly one. And I’m not going to make it pretty anytime soon.

So, I’m moving on to other things. I’ve got a bunch of other interests that promise more productive results. And that don’t drain my attention and energy from the things that I really, truly care most about.

And that’s progress. ‘Cause I can get caught up really quickly in all sorts of distractions that seem like a great idea at the time. I’m most susceptible when I am tired, angry, lonely… when I am tapped out and looking for a fight to pick up my spirits and give me more energy. Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good skirmish to make me feel truly alive. But the results of it can drag me down greatly, in the aftermath.

And I have to remember that. Always.

This is progress — battles come, battles go. I don’t need to jump into each and every one.

Saving my energy

Well, I’ve done it again. I went off on a business trip and came back with a nasty upper respiratory infection. I suspect it was the air travel. Two packed flights across the country, each way. Next time (and I expect there will be a next time) I’m going to wear a mask. Maybe draw a smile on it. It might be the best thing, ’cause coming down with these infections after traveling is a huge PITA. And it doesn’t help me feel good about my progress, either.

Well, anyway, I can’t dwell too much on it. I need to save my energy to get better. I also need to save my energy to deal with the most important things in front of me.

See, this is the thing with energy reserves — and this goes as much for cognitive reserves as it does for physical ones. After TBI, especially, our reserves get depleted. I suspect it’s because we have rewired our brains and we expend more energy figuring out how to get synaptic connections from Point A to Point Z. When you’ve gotten “dinged” a few too many times (as though once or twice is not too many), cognitive reserves can go down. Which means you have less energy to do things. But you need MORE energy to do things that used to come quite easily to you.You get tired more quickly over things that used to be easy. And your temper gets shorter, your memory struggles, and all sorts of things start to break down. Because you’re tired.

The worst thing about it, too, is that when it happens to me, the more tired I get, the less well I think. So, it becomes a vicious cycle, a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I come down with an upper respiratory infection after a week of doing some pretty amazing work.

Not that I’m here to feel sorry for myself. Far from it. It’s all about figuring out what went wrong, and where, and then fixing it.

But that solution quest is going to have to wait, because I seriously need to rest. Despite being quite sick, I started working from home at 5:45 a.m. this morning, and 13 hours later, I was still at it. Oh, I took a break to go to the doctor and take a nap, but still, it’s a 13+-hour day. Oh, well.  That just goes with the territory. I’ve got a lot of responsibility on me, and nobody I work with is working any less hard, that I can tell.

Suck it up and move on.

And have some supper. And meds. Take it easy. Get good rest. And see how I’m doing in the morning. If I still have a fever, I’m staying home and working. I’m actually getting a lot done, far from the madding crowd.

Good news on the home front: My spouse and I have both resolved to be much more gentle with how we talk to each other. I think after 20 years, you can start to take each other for granted and not watch every word. But that’s not how we want to live. So, we’re stopping each other when we start to get revved, and we’re taking time-outs to chill out. It’s good. It’s important. I may be dealing with TBI after-effects, but I’m a grown-up, and I’m fully capable of taking responsibility for my behavior. I’ve been at this recovery business long enough that I have learned a few things about stopping myself in mid-freak-out. Brain injury doesn’t give me license to not manage my own behavior. It’s taken me years to get to this point, but now that I’m here, I might as well make good on it.

Time to stop typing. Time to stop checking email. I’m tired and need to get better. Is it me, or have the bacteria been particularly virulent this year?

Work hard, play hard, and don’t forget to rest

A day into my week-long business trip, I’m getting my game-head on, thinking about how I’m going to play this week. The hotel where I’m staying has no coffee in the room, and I have to pay for internet connectivity, so I’m already improvising.

Hell, I started improvising yesterday. I got up when I was planning to and checked my flight, and a whole bunch of flights before it were canceled, due to bad weather conditions. I considered changing my plans, which the airline said I could do without penalty, but when I called the travel agent, they told me they didn’t know anything about that. It sounded like I had woken the agent up, too, which was a little annoying. It’s one thing to be woken up, but to cop an attitude and not be fully present on the job you’re paid to do… it happens, of course, but I wasn’t in the mood for it yesterday morning. So, after wasting 20 minutes dealing with that situation, I decided to just bite the bullet and head in. Traffic was surprisingly heavy for 6 a.m., and I barely made my flight. But I did make it.

Even so, the flight was delayed about 4 hours, for a variety of reasons. So, I took the opportunity to step away and find some breakfast, get myself a good cup of coffee, and catch up with myself. It wasn’t bad. I managed to sleep on the flight a little bit, and I made my connecting flight just fine. At the final destination, my luggage wasn’t on the plane, but fortunately it was on the next flight, so it only took 45 minutes or so to get that sorted. When all was said and done, I arrived at my hotel with a few hours of daylight left.

Last evening, I was fried. There was a group dinner that I attended, which was nice. But talk about loud. The restaurant we were in was very noisy. And there were lots of us at the table, so keeping track of everything going on was a challenge. I focused on my immediate surroundings and let other people do the talking. Fortunately, I was hanging out with the IT folks, who aren’t much for social chit-chat. They just want to get their jobs done. And there wasn’t a whole lot of witty banter going on. After, I headed back to the hotel with some folks, we headed off in the wrong direction, then I pointed us in the right direction, and we got back.

Today promises to be a better day, I think. I’m at my hotel, I have my appropriate gear and attire in proper order, I know where I need to go, and I know who to ask if I have any questions. It’s all good. I know I need to pace myself and save up energy for the day, which is full of networking and busy-ness, and just making things happen. A whirlwind tour, that to be honest has me a little concerned. I worry about not having enough energy to get through.

But the energy thing is something I can work with. I just need to make sure I eat properly and take time out to rest and breathe and gather myself. I wish it didn’t feel like an obstacle course, but it does. I should be happy and enthusiastic, and in a way I am — and once I get into the thick of things, I’m sure I will be even more. But it’s daunting.

One of the things that’s made it even more daunting,  is the head trip around this convention. It is a big deal, and it is quite the event, but the way people have been talking about it, it’s like it’s this monumental do-or-die situation. I know there is a lot riding on it, but I’m more comfortable settling in and buckling down and not talking a lot about how hard and challenging and overwhelming it will be. That just sets up this perception that it’s an ordeal to be endured and survived, rather than an energizing opportunity to learn and connect with people. That’s really the approach I’d like to take — a really positive, can-do type of mindset that sets me up for success, rather than failure.

Dwelling on the dread aspects of how hard this will be, isn’t particularly productive. It is also quite draining. I’m sure the people working on this have been increasingly tired, so their mood has gone south, but I just can’t go there with them. Not today. Not at all, in fact. If I start getting mired in the awfulness before this whole thing begins, and I let that tone take over, it’s going to be a looooooong week. And I haven’t come all this way to feel like crap.

So, I’ve done my morning exercises, stretched, and now I’m going to read and write a while before I go out looking for some coffee. I’ve looked at Google maps and have located a McDonalds within easy walking distance. It will be good to get out and stretch my legs. I’ll get my no-cheese-please Egg McMuffin and a medium coffee, and ease into my day. I’ll spend some time thinking through my day, planning it out, checking in with work a little bit, and just making sure I have everything in order, before I launch full-bore into everything.

And all along the way, I’ll be smart and pace myself. I plan to work hard and play hard, but I also plan to rest.

Life is good. It holds a lot of challenge and evil, but there’s plenty of good to be enjoyed.

And so I shall. With common sense and a good plan, I shall.

Hands down, one of the worst things about TBI

Fatigue… what a killer. It sucks the life out of you, beats you down, and how the hell can you escape it? You can’t. You try to sleep, but even with a good night’s rest, if you do anything even remotely approaching what you used to be able to do, you end up exhausted, dense, foggy, and about half the person you used to be. And that sucks.

Now, I really don’t want to start out the day on a complaining note, so I’ll change my tune for a little bit. I’m actually keenly aware, this morning, of how fortunate I am. Of all the thousands and thousands of people who experience TBI — especially “mild” TBI — and have their lives wrecked for no apparent reason (as far as anyone else can tell), I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to have gotten the help I needed, when I needed it. Okay, so, sometimes I got the help long after I really needed it, but I haven’t had my life irreversibly trashed. I came close, but I got lucky.

Times like this, I can’t afford to lose sight of that fact — how lucky I’ve been. Granted, luck doesn’t go far, if you’re not prepared to do something with it, but I have gotten some fortunate breaks along the way.

Anyway, here I sit, first thing in the morning before going off to work for my last day in the office for about a week. I’ve got another business trip coming up — this one is twice as long as the last one. I’m really looking forward to it, although it promises to be very tiring.

And I’m a little worried. Because tiring can mean trouble for me. And I’m going to need to be “on” all week. Ordinarily, I would be excited — I’m going to a city where I’ve never been before, and apparently there are lots of great sights around to see. Heck, I might even have an adventure or two. But I’ve been tired, and it bothers me. I’ve been really tired. That REALLY bothers me.

I don’t know what’s worse — being tired, or being concerned about being tired. Being concerned, of course, doesn’t help — it tires me out even more. That whole cognitive load business, and all… And when I’m tired from being concerned, it becomes this vicious downward cycle that propels me towards eating junk food, cheap carbs, and doing things to pump myself up that actually make me more tired, as I go along.

Hands down, the worst thing about TBI is the fatigue. I’ve been thinking and writing about sense of self, lately, and it occurs to me this morning that few things impact my sense of self like fatigue. I feel slower — I probably AM slower — I feel “off” and a little sick, and I have to really work at keeping up with the flurry of activity going on all around me. I’m not sure anyone else notices, but I’ve been spending an awful lot of time winging it… doing a damned good impression of understanding what people are saying to me, but not following exactly. I’ve also gotten lax about asking for clarification, which isn’t good. Things have been so busy at work, lately, I haven’t had the time to slow things down. Everyobody wants to move and a much more brisk clip than I’d like, so I fly by the seat of my pants a lot. And that’s exhausting.

I started out this week feeling good. I didn’t nap as much as I wanted to, over the weekend, but it turned out okay. Monday morning, I felt great and was ready to roll. But as the days have gone on, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy, I’ve gotten progressively more tired. And I’ve gotten progressively more foggy, which totally sucks.

Last night, I got almost two hours less sleep than I needed/intended to get, and I’m feeling it this morning. I’m doing things like getting turned around with doing my exercises and fixing my breakfast. On the bright side, I’ve learned how to not beat myself up over messing up little things. That’s not a big problem for me anymore, so that’s helped me a great deal in starting out the day right. But it is a little dismaying, to get basic movements confused — going through the different movements of my morning exercises, and finding I’ve turned in such a way that I can’t move — I’m supposed to lift my leg to the left, but I’ve turned my left side to the wall.

D’oh.

Aaaaah, well. So what? Big deal. Life goes on. You just turn around and move in the opposite direction. And try not to blow it out of proportion.

But geez — aside from (in addition to) that, I feel reallydopey this morning. Like I’ve been drugged. On Benadryl. Except I’m not on anything other than fatigue. I guess I’m probably no worse off than anyone else out there who’s working three jobs, has kids to raise, and a home and car to keep up, but I’m not fond of the feeling. And I’m worried about this business trip, if I’m really tired.

Okay, time to get it together… gotta get ready for work soon… I’m going on a trip across the country to work at a big event for my work. It’s not going to be a vacation, rather a ton of work. And it promises to be both exciting and very tiring. I would prefer that things were a little less frenetic, a little less pressure-driven. But they’re not, so there it is. I’ve just got to get my head around this.

Ugh… I’m worried. But I have to stop it. Stop it now. Maybe I won’t be able to get fully rested, during this trip. Maybe I will be running on adrenaline all week. Maybe I will be over-taxed and over-tired for the duration. But I can’t let that get me down. I just need to set that expectation, and find coping mechanisms I can fall back on. Like:

  • Make sure I eat right — and eat enough — to keep a good level of energy. Eat lots of healthy foods, not a bunch of junk.
  • Take time-out now and then to just relax and breathe. Maybe do a little mindfulness meditation work, here and there. I know there will be times when I’ll be sitting for extended periods, so I can use that time to just relax.
  • Connect with the people around me to keep in the loop and remember what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m concerned about losing track of what I’m supposed to do, so if I just keep in contact with people around me, that can help.
  • Stretch and breathe before going to sleep. This really helps me relax and gets me mentally prepped for sleeping, so I can get good rest.
  • Take my earplugs and eye mask so I can sleep through.
  • Remember that I’ll be home soon, and I’ll be able to sleep in another week and a half.
  • Pace myself — don’t try to do everything all at once. Give myself time before I launch into each day to check in with myself and see where I’m at.
  • Plan things out. I’ve printed out my schedule for the week, and I’ll have that with me, to track what all I’m supposed to be doing.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Get myself all geared up and packed ahead of time. I’ve already collected most of what I need for my trip. I just need to pack my carry-on tonight, and set all the alarm clocks in my house on extra-loud, so I can get to the airport first thing in the morning (it’s an early flight).
  • Don’t take on too much. Don’t expect myself to do it all, and don’t put pressure on myself to do it all.
  • Ask for help when I need it. If I get into a jam, ask someone to give me a hand with something.
  • Remember to breathe. Keep the oxygen flowing through my system, so I have plenty of fuel to keep going. I’ve read that 15 minutes of focused progressive relaxation is the equivalent of half an hour of sleep. Gotta keep that in mind.
  • Go with the flow. Follow others’ leads, and let them do most of the talking and directing, when it comes to getting things done.
  • Remember, I’ve done this before. I’ve worked at events like this in the past, and despite the deep concern of everyone around me, that things go exactly right, the fact of the matter is, this is very familiar territory for me, and it’s going to be fine, just fine.
  • Enjoy myself. Take in what I can, and leave the things that vex me on the sidelines. Life’s too short to lose it over something that’s actually a good experience.

All that being said, it’s time for me to get going. Onward. I’m sure it will be fine, whether I’m tired or not.