The bathroom ceiling looks fantastic – Woo Hoo!

Here’s how my bathroom ceiling now looks:

No, it’s not a typo. My bathroom ceiling is no longer gray with patches of brown. The paint’s not peeling off it anymore, threatening to send chips down on the bathers below. It’s completely white. Sealed. Clean and crisp. As it was intended to be.

I really did a great job with the painting, if I say so, myself. I was systematic, deliberate, detail-oriented, but I didn’t obsess over things that used to derail me — like getting the painter’s tape lined up exactly right along the edge of the drop-cloth and the ceiling.

I’m really proud of myself — even over this “simple” job. Last spring, I did a lot of painting to deal with winter leaks in my roof that messed up the ceilings in a couple of bedrooms, and it was a laborious and painstaking process. I did okay, but it was a loooonnnnngggg job that lasted twice as long as it could have.

I think it was just lack of practice that slowed me down — and also having no energy from a very rough stint at work, my spouse’s car accident which knocked them out of commission for months and turned our home life pretty much upside-down, not to mention how hard last winter was and how much work I had to constantly do to just keep up with everything. Yes, there was plenty to slow me down, this past spring.

I’ve done other painting jobs in the house — the ceiling of the kitchen has a dark, peeling spot from leaks dribbling down from the bathroom above. That bathroom has always been an issue – it had spongy walls when we bought it, and it’s just always been an issue. We have a second full bath with a shower stall upstairs as well, but that’s been out of commission for years — the toilet seal leaked, the tiles popped out of the shower stall (and little shards of tile got into my diabetic spouse’s foot (we’re still pulling them out, as they work their way out, years later). We haven’t had the money to fix it all.

If I hadn’t fallen in 2004, these would not be issues. I could have kept my job. I could have cashed in the full value of the bonus shares I’d earned. I would not have spent all our money on … sorry, I can’t remember exactly what I spent it on. All I know is, hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings and hard work ceased to be in our bank account, within a few years after my accident.

If I hadn’t fallen, not only would we have had the money to fix it all, but I would not have been derailed and unable to piece ideas together in a logical sequence. Even more debilitating than the lost money, is the lost executive functioning, where I was able to make plans and make decisions and take action in a logical fashion. After my fall, everything turned into a jumbled mess.

And yet, all my MRIs show nothing of interest to neurologists or doctors of other ilk.

It’s pretty cruel, how that goes.

Anyway, now I’m back doing things in my house that I used to do before I fell. I’m making repairs. I’m patching things up. And the bathroom ceiling looks amazing. Yesterday after I was done, I would just go into the bathroom and look up at my handiwork, loving the smooth glossy finish that caught the light. It’s so satisfying. So amazing. After such a long, long time of looking at gray and brown splotches, this is magical.

Even more magical is the satisfaction I feel at being able to once again do things that I had thought I’d lost for good — or couldn’t actually remember ever having had. So, I’ll enjoy this while it lasts. This painting thing went extremely well, and I’m going to make the most of my appreciation while it lasts.

One of the weird things about how my brain works, is that I lose sight of things I have done before — especially the things I’ve done well. Life with a Swiss cheese memory is definitely interesting… and sometimes it takes me a while to remember past experiences and accomplishments that went really well. It’s not amnesia, exactly — just a very “reluctant” recall.

I may have done something a thousand times before, and I may have done it really well, but I don’t recall. So, I assume I need to re-learn how to do it. And then when it goes well, I’m elated. Overjoyed. Simply because I’ve performed in a manner true to my level of ability.

Funny how that works — but at least I have joy and elation. In some ways, it probably makes my life a lot more exciting and rewarding than it might otherwise be — if I could remember in excruciating detail everything I ever did and said. That would be unpleasant, I’m sure.

Anyway, I’m riding high on the results of my work. My spouse is delighted, as well.

It just looks so great, compared to before.

And with that,I shall start my work week.

Onward.

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Seven hours and a splitting headache

So, I got seven hours of sleep last night — two hours more than I’ve been getting, for the past several days. I would expect to feel better, but I woke up with a splitting headache. It’s probably a change in barometric pressure, which tends to bother me. The weather is turning stormy over the next few days, so headaches are part of this season for me.

Not to worry, though. It doesn’t stop me from doing things. It’s just an annoyance. I’ve had headaches for so long, I often don’t even notice them, unless they’re affecting my vision or making me sick to my stomach. But even those, I can work through. I can’t worry about it. I just have to keep going, regardless, and get where I’m going.

I’m starting to loosen up a bit — knowing that I can now move on to another job, and that I’ve got some good skills to trade on, as well as connections with a number of good recruiters, I feel a lot more relaxed. Also, some of my business ideas are coming to fruition, and that’s very exciting. I feel like I’ve been stagnant for so long… just biding my time, hassling through all that crazy work overload with my current employer, never quite able to stem the tide of Things That Need To Be Done… never getting a break, even when we do reach the finish line… That constant level of stress and busy-ness for its own sake… it’s really taken a toll, and I’m now really seeing that clearly.

But it’s all going to change. That’s for sure. I’m getting my ducks in a row, putting my house in order. I moved a bunch of books off my bookshelf last night before going to bed, to make room for other things that are tucked away. I’m mapping out the path I want to head down, and I’m figuring out the steps I am going to take to get there. It’s very clear to me, what I need to do. And as I actually do it, even more becomes clear. It’s really good, this whole process. And it’s bringing me back to life.

Stagnation is the worst. When I get stuck in a rut with work and activities and the same routine, day in and day out, it makes me crazy. To some extent, I need to stick to a basic framework for my life — the essentials I can put on autopilot, like getting up and washing my face in cold water, brushing my teeth, and then making my breakfast of a cup of coffee and a fried egg. I also exercise a bit — stretching or lifting — and I think about my day. Having a loose framework for my daily routine is good. I just can’t have it get too rigid, or I start to lose interest.

It’s a fine line between automating my life so that I don’t have to think about every little detail, and getting stuck in a rut. Routine is so important for folks with TBI, but it doesn’t come without its “occupational hazards”. If we’re not staying engaged and interested in our lives, it can really hold us back. So, we need to find something within the framework of that routine that really invigorates us.The whole point of having a routine, is so you can devote more energy to the complex things, not just the simple everyday stuff. So, you need to fill in the gaps with things that bring you satisfaction and happiness.

My life, of course, is often invigorated by some unexpected and complex event or another. Things never stay the same with me for long. There is usually something not going according to plan… some unexpected turn of events… or something falling through the cracks. Or there is a pleasant surprise or a change of direction that I didn’t anticipate (not always bad). When I have my routine in place and it’s balanced and healthy, I can roll with those changes. When my routine is just a rut that isn’t bringing me anything interesting, and I’m bored out of my skull, just slogging away at the grind, it makes it harder — and it often feels impossible. Even worse, is when I’m feeling like I’m not in control of my own life, and I’m being victimized by the changes around me — like the job changes of the past several years.

The thing that makes routine less invigorating is getting enough rest. When I am not rested, and I am just pushing through without any mindful engagement in my life, everything feels like a chore, and it’s a total drain.  When I’m not rested, even the best things in life don’t interest me, and I take everything for granted. When I am rested, though, I can really get actively involved with my life, and I feel like I’m really making progress.

That’s kind of where I am today. I’m feeling pretty strong, despite my sleep deficit. It’s Friday, and I have a bunch of exciting things ahead of me for the next few days. I’m organizing myself and re-setting my direction, and it feels absolutely awesome. It’s like I’m free again. I’m still in that terrible job, and I still have a ton of boring-ass crap I have to do, and nothing is certain, but things are loosening up. I can feel them. Positive change is coming, and I’m ready for what comes. My head is hurting less, now, but either way I feel like this is going to be a pretty great day.

So, yeah – 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.