You do someone a favor…

I love to help others, but I never know what it’s going to turn into…

… and before you know it, it’s taken over your life. That seems to be where I end up a lot. Maybe it’s my impulse control issues cropping up again.Maybe it’s my tendency to get consumed by what I’m working on.Maybe it’s that the “simple” favors end up being quite complex because A) I have to work harder at them to get them done, and B) I find all sorts of things that need to be fixed along the way, and being the perfectionist I am — actually, no, I just want to get it done right — it’s got to get taken care of.

This doesn’t just happen with favors. It also happens with my own projects. I start out with a simple idea,and before you know it, I’ve complicated things beyond recognition, and I build out a whole life-altering drama around a simple project I started because “it seems like fun”. Again, I find additional things to focus on (all of which seem quite important) and everything balloons into something incredibly huge and complex.

In both cases, I tired myself out,and then I make sloppy mistakes and have to double back and try again, thus spending about twice the mount of time I originally intended to spend on it.

The irritating thing is,I don’t realize it until much farther down the line, when I have used up a lot of time and energy. As they say in Peanuts… Arrrrrrggggghhhhhh! It’s so frustrating. Especially when I get tired and I mess up other people’s stuff. Fatigue is such a Pain In The Ass. It turns me into an idiot — and I don’t realize it until much farther down the line.

In the end, though, I do these things, and they help other people. And it’s good practice for me. It’s no good, hiding away and not doing anything, because of fatigue. I just have to work through it, and learn from each time.

So, I’m trying to wrap up a project I’m working on for a friend. And I’m trying to wrap up TBI S.O.S., which actually does need to be “built out” a lot more than it is. I’ve got a lot of it written, which is great. But there’s a bunch of stuff that’s hidden inside that I need to sort out. and I have a feeling that when I start digging into it again (after a 2 month hiatus), it’s going to stir up a bunch of “stuff” with me.

Which is probably why I have taken a break from it for this long. Yes, I have some other projects I’m working on which have pulled me away for very good reason. But I’ve also been really struggling with some of the things I talk about, and it’s not always easy for me to function well, when I’m emotionally upset. And that’s even more emotionally upsetting for me, which turns the whole thing into a downward spiral that’s both mentally taxing and physically exhausting. When I get upset, I tend to get UPSET, complete with an internal storm (which may not be immediately visible from the outside) that throws me off for days.

When I’m “emotionally hungover” as some of my friends call it, I feel marginal for days. I have a hard time thinking and handling basic things, and I feel like I’m in a haze. It’s no good, when you have to really function at a very high level on a regular basis. Having a history of solid achievement in my professional life is a double-edged sword, which makes life … interesting, shall we say.

On the one hand, it puts me in an enviable position at work, where people look to me and rely on me for support and strength and reasonableness. In the midst of the madness, I project a demeanor of calm, cool, collected level-headedness, and people confide in me, at all levels. I’m discreet, so they know they can talk to me without it getting out to everyone.

On the other, it makes it all but impossible for me to be able to “slack off” (or even adjust my pace) in my life, to catch up with myself. Sometimes I just need to adjust — so I don’t wipe myself out and plunge into abject misery — but I really can’t back off my level of effort and my facade at work (and at home and in the world at large), because people are depending on me, and they need me to be something I can only be under ideal conditions.

The rest of the time, I’m faking it. Which is great for others, but really a pain in the ass for me… and ultimately for others, when I get tired and start to make stupid mistakes.

And then comes the scramble to adjust for those stupid mistakes and do damage control

Which, again, is tiring. And takes more of the energy from me that I need.

And all the world gets dim and grey and a lot more taxing than it should/could be.

And the inside of my head and world nudges a little closer to the edge of that abyss I spend so much time trying to avoid.

But nobody really knows or believes the extent of my efforts. So, it must all be easy for me, and I must be perfectly fine and have all this extra energy and surplus.


God, just thinking about how wrong that is, makes me tired. So I’m going to turn my attention — and the energy from all my frustrations — to writing some more. Doing something productive. Doing something meaningful for myself and for others. My hope is that I can get this book finished in the next couple of months, and then I can publish it and send it out to providers who think they know about how to address TBI, but aren’t factoring in the Sense-Of-Self issues. In all my reading and video watching and talking to my own neuropsychologist, I have not heard much reality-based talk about the effect that personal experiences with TBI has on prognosis of recovery and outcomes.

It’s not that people are idiots (well, some are, of course). It’s that they’re looking in the wrong place. And because folks with TBI are notoriously challenged at A) self-awareness, and B) articulation, what our experience is actually like, and how it affects the trajectory of our recovery, falls between the cracks and is lost — never to be found. Of course, you can’t look for something that you don’t know is there.

But I’m here to say that personal experience (or phenomenological influences, if you will) CAN and DOES have an enormous impact on recovery from TBI. And when you have providers who have not experienced it themselves, well then, my friends, we have a problem.

Time to do some writing. Onward.

Here’s some traveling music for you:

The most magic 30 minutes of my day

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Yesterday I had a nap. I stepped away from my desk for about half an hour to recharge my batteries. I walked 5 minutes to my car, which was in underground parking quite a ways from my office, put the seat back, put the headphones on, made myself comfortable, and I did my progressive relaxation.

I even got about 15 minutes of sleep in the process.

And when I woke up (which was 2 minutes before the alarm I’d set), I felt amazing. Refreshed. Alive. Human.

Then I collected myself, walked the 5 minutes back to my office, and I got on with the rest of my day.

I have heard it said that naps can disrupt your sleeping pattern, and it’s better to keep yourself awake and go to bed early. They obviously do not push themselves to perform at the level I do, from the moment I wake up in the morning. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I’m in GO mode. I have to be, because getting myself up in the morning is a monumental task that takes everything I have, some days.

Anybody who thinks I can make it through my day on a night’s worth of sleep has obviously never experienced the kind of exhaustion point I get to, around 2:00 p.m. each and every day. It is pretty brutal. By the time the afternoon rolls around, I’ve been going full-tilt-boogie for 6-8 hours. I can continue push through, sure, but I am good for nothing, the rest of the afternoon. Seriously, good for nothing. Even the things that I love doing — and that I push myself to do — turn out to be a waste of time.

Wheels spin. But they get no traction.

But if I can sleep… that is another story.

Knowing that I can sleep later on, and that I’ll be able to recharge my batteries, also makes it possible for me to push harder at the beginning of the day. When I think I’m going to have to pace myself… that my energy stores from a night’s sleep are going to have to last me all day, I hold myself back in the mornings. I’ve just now realized this, actually. When I wake up tired

Today is a completely new day — or so I keep telling myself. I’m a little tired this morning, to be honest. It’s been a long week, and I’m tired already at 7:00 a.m. I will pick up speed later today, when I am working. I’m not going into the office, so I have more time to focus on working, and less to spend driving. I also have more time to spend thinking about my own projects and making some good progress on them — without the pressure of daily performance of way too much work in way too little time.

So, there is hope for me today. I don’t have to be subjected to the upset and uncertainties of all the people around me (I came back from my nap yesterday to find my teammates huddled in a corner bitching and complaining about working conditions.) I can set my own pace and do my own work, without others interfering with their emotional incontinence.

It’s a relief not to be at the office, because the environment there is pretty depressing. It’s just a constant pressure cooker of uncertainty and chaos. When I say “chaos”, I mean there is a total lack of recognizable patterns to anything that happens. That is to say, there is no regular cadence, no regular pace, not much that’s predictable at all, from a day-to-day standpoint. It’s constant interruption and constant uncertainty. It’s not like I need any guarantees in life. But it would be nice to be able to not have everyone around me intent on interrupting my train of thought to ask me questions they can answer themselves.

It’s almost as though they are just stopping by to feel a little relief from their uncertainty.

As a matter of fact, I think that’s exactly what they’re doing — just stopping by to get a little boost to their self-confidence and sense of belonging. Because that’s what I bring to the table — respect for others, the ability to calm people down when they are all worked up, and a certain sense of calm in the center of the storm.

On the bright side, it’s great that I’m able to do this for people. On the downside, it doesn’t help me get my work done… and it’s actually keeping me from making progress in my own workload. Other people not being able to manage their own internal state, is probably the biggest hurdle to my own productivity. It’s not that their frame of mind is upsetting me. They are literally keeping me from doing my work, because they keep running to me and interrupting me and hijacking my workflow, to answer questions they never should have had to ask.


Anyway, in another 13 weeks, this is going to cease to be my problem. Oh, hell — if I can get things wrapped up before then, I’ll be free to go even earlier. I don’t have to be locked into a specific timeframe. I have had this July deadline in my mind, because that’s when I’m scheduled to be done with my big-ass project. But I might get things done even before that.

So, there’s some leeway there. And I’ve just thought of a way I can speed things up — some of the stuff I’m depending on others to do for me, I can do myself. They’re not experienced (or actually smart) enough to figure it out. Plus, they friggin’ hate my guts for reasons that are all about their crappy self-regulation, their incompetence, their jealousy, their brown-nosed politicking (which cannot stand the glare of objective scrutiny), and their sad work ethic (or lack thereof — I actually expect them to do their jobs, ogre that I am)… as well as shoddy management which just lets them get away with anything they damn’ well please.

So, the inmates are running the asylum. In a very big way.

And I have less than no confidence in them.

But the happy and sane part is, it doesn’t matter. They can be all pissy and pitch their hissy fits from their corner of the corporate cosmos. I can just work around everyone, and actually get sh*t done. I don’t have to be dependent on them to get their acts together, in order to move forward. And on top of that, I can be sharpening some excellent skills of my own in the meantime.

This task is a huge opportunity, but those idiots are not seeing it. I can see it plain as day, and I can hear the trumpets from heaven loud and clear. Their ineptitude is opening a door for me to step through, and that makes me incredibly happy, now that I think about it. For that matter, I can spend my weekend working on this, and actually get it all done in time for Monday — AND have it be an excellent investment in my future.

So, that’s good. And it’s giving me a big boost. It’s not all a waste of my time. It’s not all an exercise in futility. Far from it. It’s actually a positive thing, and turning it around in my mind to see the opportunity and the door opening a little more to my fantastic future is the first step in the right direction.

As long as my head is clear about this, and I’m rested and energized and keeping my batteries charged, it’s all good.

Later today I will have my nap. My magical 30 minutes to recharge my batteries. But for now, it’s…



Doing it for myself

Just trying to enjoy the ride…

It’s been a roller-coaster at work, lately. I’m in that weird in-between place where I’m smack-dab in the midst of some very exciting times… and at the same time, I’m lining up all my ducks in a row to get the hell out.

Things have been very “eventful” at work. People are going to great lengths to be difficult, and scuttle each other’s projects. There’s all kinds of maneuvering, and part of the problem is that my interim boss is a people-pleaser and also is an operator and manipulative little shit person who creates drama so they can “solve” it later. What an ever-lovin’ waste of precious life force. I mean, it’s just ridiculous, and everything they do and say just throws more gasoline on the fire of an already difficult situation.

Divide and conquer. Well, at least I see what they’re about. And I see how ambitious and self-serving they are… how willing they are to just push others out of the way for their own gain. I used to consider this person a friend, but no more.

I am glad I found out now, instead of investing yet more time and energy in that relationship. Looking at the connection I thought I had with them, I see yet another one-sided “friendship” that serves them more than it serves me. This person has a habit of screwing other people and stepping on them to get where they’re going. They also think that “doing you need to do” to get ahead is the way to go. Fine, you can do that. But when you’re later in life — and completely alone — how much good is that going to do you? People can tell who has a good heart, and who doesn’t, and if you keep up that kind of behavior, you will eventually train your heart to not beat with a good sound.

And people will avoid you like the plague. Which is about the last thing you need when you are alone and old and vulnerable.

Do I want that kind of person in my life? Nope. Not now, not ever.

I think that everyone at work realizes I’m getting ready to go. They just don’t know when that’s going to be. I’ve really disengaged with a lot of the drama — although I’d do that anyway, even if I were staying — and I’m doing my best to keep a pretty even keel about things.

As much as I can, anyway.

The past week has been extremely demanding on my time and my energy. In fact, the past months have really put some miles on me. I took a good look at myself in the mirror last night, after I got home from work, and I looked like hell — haggard, pale, dark circles under my eyes… an ashen, drawn look that could have fit right in, superimposed on an Industrial Revolution background, or in a WWI foxhole.

And it kind of pissed me off. Because all of this was for what? What was the friggin’ point? I’m leaving this job, I’m getting the hell out, and I’ve only got four more months here, anyway. Why wreck myself over this?

The thing I have to remember, through all of this, is that I’m not wrecking myself for “this” — meaning a job for someone who owns the most productive hours of my day. I’m working for myself. For my future. For my peace of mind. For the experience of doing a good and thorough job with my energy, each and every day. I have to stay engaged in my current job, because that’s the only way I know how to live. I can’t just shine everything on and skate to the end. It’s pointless to do that. No matter how long I have in a position, I need to be involved in it. I need to be involved in my own life.

It’s for me, not for “them”, that I’m doing this. And if I let the alienation and disengagement get to me, then I am cheating myself of the kind of experience I want in my life. It doesn’t do them much good, but it does me even less.

I also need to remember that no matter how taxing things are right now, tomorrow may be a very different experience than today. I need to not get completely derailed by upsets that happen at one particular moment. I can’t let temporary setbacks balloon into permanent situations. I really have to work at that. My head gets locked on what’s happening NOW, and I can’t seem to get free of the idea that whatever sucks at this particular moment is going to suck forever. I need to work on that.

At least I’m aware — which is a good place to start.

So, yeah. It’s a new day. Saturday, to be exact. And I’m actually feeling pretty good about things, my work life notwithstanding. When I think about it, pretty much everything is temporary, anyway. I need to remember that. Things pass. Events come and go. Situations rise and fall. And it doesn’t make much sense to get all worked up over it, when everything is passing, anyway.

It’s kind of a relief.

The one continuous aspect of all of this, is me. It’s my experience. It’s my peace of mind (such that it is). No matter what happens with jobs and work and what-not, as long as I’m around, I still have myself. And that’s the thing that matters.

So, today, I’m off to a good start. I have a full day ahead of me, with running errands, picking up friends at the bus station, shuttling some people around, doing some grocery shopping, and taking care of some important stuff that has to get done. Some of the things I need to do are time-sensitive. Some of them are due in a week. Others are overdue. It’s been a hell of a week — exhausting and depleting and demoralizing. But it’s my own damn’ fault if I let it get the best of me. And it’s my own damn’ fault if I let things get out of hand.

So, I’ve got to get things back in order and clean up my act. I need to rest, most of all. That’s the one missing thing in all of this — good rest and serious sleep. I need to beef up on my energy reserves, so I can live better with myself. Doing that becomes that much easier, when I’m doing the right things for the right reasons — taking care of myself for myself, just for today.


How quickly things can change

July is nearly over. August is soon upon us. Back-to-school ads are starting to play on television and radio, which always makes me nostalgic as well as a little melancholy. Back-to-school time was always hard for me. I loved the summers, being free to come and go as I pleased, being able to stay in the woods at the end of our street, or playing sports with the rec league, having the freedom to do as I wished, as well as balance out my summer jobs with other things I wanted to do.

School was so contrived, so challenging, so threatening for me. I was bullied intensely in school – during my 5th and 7th grade school years, at two different schools – and I anticipated the start of the academic year with a mix of excitement and dread. I never knew how things were going to turn out, but I soldiered on and tried not to make things too difficult for my parents.

Looking back, I realize now just how much everything got to me. I tried not to let on that I was having a hard time with things. I’m not even sure if I fully realized how hard things were for me — it was all I knew, so I just kept going, tried to keep interested and engaged in life around me, and did my best under the circumstances. But it was so hard. I’m sure it is for everyone — I just didn’t know how to handle it well on the inside. I was so confused and so frustrated, so much of the time, but I just kept going

I just kept going.

One of the things that makes my memories of back-to-school so poignant, is how hard-up my family was, just trying to make ends meet. I hear all these stories, these days, about how hard things are for people, and I have a mix of feelings about that. On the one hand, I understand how difficult it is to not have the means to provide for yourself. On the other hand, I don’t understand how people can treat smart phones and expensive clothing and shoes and eating out like they are “staples”. When I was growing up, my parents had very little money, and we supplemented by growing our own food and making our own clothing and cutting corners wherever we could. Back-to-school was not about fashion and school accessories. It was about getting one pair of jeans, two new shirts, two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, and every few years a new belt if it was needed. My mother sewed a lot of our clothing, and we inherited a lot of hand-me-downs from cousins who had more money than we did. Brand new clothes were a luxury we did not take for granted, and we mostly bought them from a catalog, which sent the shirts and pants individually wrapped in clear plastic and packed into a cardboard box.

Looking around at the world today, I’m astounded at the glut of consumer items that are on the market today. It’s as mind-boggling as it seems pointless to me. So much that we have is little more than an expensive distraction from what we really need to deal with, and we can actually get by on very little, if we pick and choose carefully.

I grew up with a lot of scarcity – we had a big family, and my parents both worked jobs with small salaries. We made ends meet, and we didn’t starve. We had plenty of things to occupy our attention and keep us busy, and even though growing up was very hard at times, I still made it. And I learned a ton of valuable lessons in the process.

Probably the biggest lesson I learned, was how to seem rich even when I was poor. I came from a very poor part of town, but because I knew how to learn and I stood out as a smart kid in school who was also good at sports, I ended up hanging out with the rich kids a lot. For some reason, I’ve always ended up hanging out with rich people, even though a lot of days I don’t have two quarters to rub together, and I’m in constant danger of getting something turned off. There have been lots of times when I had almost nothing, I was dealing with debt collectors and lawyers, I was getting nasty-grams from the mortgage company, and utilities collections people knew me on a first-name basis… and I had to come up with hundreds of dollars to pay for car repairs or somesuch. But I always ended up hanging out with people who were doing really well.

And things always turned around. It’s weird, because when I think, “Things are going to turn around soon,” I often get this image of a down-and-out “loser” or gambler or some other sort of con artist who’s ignoring all the obvious signs that their life is shit and is going nowhere, thanks to their piss-poor decisions. That’s a classic line from someone who banks on a big score, rather than a lot of hard work over the long run, to get them where they’re going. But in my case, it actually seems to happen for me. Things do turn around. They look up. I perk up. And I get out of my poor-me funk and can get on with my life.

Things change. They really do. That’s something I need to really concentrate on and keep focused on. Because right now, things are looking pretty dismal. I need to do some house repairs, and the bids I’m getting are pretty far over what I can comfortably afford to pay – and that’s not even considering the structural issues the contractors may uncover in the course of the job.

It’s pretty friggin’ depressing, all around. I know it’s a process, and I know that there’s going to be some negotiation that takes place, but the whole situation just dogs me. I wish I just had the money and could move forward with it. But that’s not the reality. And I’m not going to have the money until I can change jobs and get a decent contract that pays me what I’m worth on the market, instead of this pathetic situation I’m in at work. Yeah, it’s a process. A pain in the ass process.

But that can change. Of course it can. I’m being silly if I think it’s going to stay this way forever. Life – by its very nature – is about change, so whatever situation I’m chafing about now, will by definition not exist in another six months. In some ways it will be better. In other ways it will be worse. Whatever. It will be.

So, life goes on. I signed up for Angie’s List today and found several more contractors who can come and bid on this home renovation project I have to do. If they can come on Friday, that would be ideal, because my spouse is going out of town for three days — and I’ll have that time to myself, to sort things out and put a number of things in order. My spouse has been having a lot of health troubles, and that’s been a huge demand on my time and energy. They don’t take care of themself — or chores around the house or the bills — adequately, so I end up picking up the slack and doing damage control. They’re also having a ton of problems with anxiety and depression, so that’s another significant demand on my energy — just keeping them out of the pit of despair…

It’s been working, but it’s been a ton of work. Oh hell, I should do this kind of thing for a living – I’d probably make a mint. If I can keep my profoundly depressed and anxious spouse at least somewhat functional — and active enough to go on business trips — I must have some mental health mojo going on.

Then again, it’s challenging enough doing this at home during almost every waking hour. Doing it for a living would probably put me over the edge.

… and it occurs to me that perhaps this is why I have chosen to work with computers for the past 20+ years — they never get depressed, they don’t overeat and neglect their physical health, they don’t constantly nag and harass me over every little thing, and I don’t have to be constantly careful about what I say and do because of a wild-ass irrational over-reaction based on some fantasy about what might be happening and what that might mean.

Yeah – no – going down a mental health career path doesn’t interest me. I take it back.

Plus, the pay really sucks, from what I hear.

Anyway, life goes on. I am doing pretty well, under the circumstances, and even though I’m not getting everything done that I have been hoping to, I’m still making progress. I’m learning as I go, and I’m adjusting my approach as needed. I get to decide how I feel about things, and what I do with the information I get. My life isn’t perfect, but my experience of it can change in an instant, so that’s what I’m focusing on — the experience.

Very few other things are under my control. But what I choose to make of everything that crosses my path, most certainly is.

So… onward.


Halfway there…

I normally don’t mark the passing of time in terms of weeks and half weeks, but this is one of those weeks when everything feels intense and heavy and like a LOT of work. It IS a lot of work, I know. And when I’m in a groove, I don’t feel the burn so intensely. But still. It’s a LOT of work.

I’m coordinating a couple of big projects with a bunch of people – about 15 of them, in all. There are different parts of the projects that each person handles, and I’m at the center of it all, keeping things running. Me, of all people. It’s pretty funny to think of it — just a few short years ago, I was convinced that I was useless in this respect. That’s all changed, of course, but when I’m not up to my eyeballs in work-work-work, the panic sets in… I talk myself down… I get some food and/or some rest… and I go back into the midst of it.

So it goes. On good days, I feel strong and resolute and I feel like everything is coming together. In the tougher moments, waves of anxiety roll over me, and I am tired… so tired. But I know that it’s just the fatigue, as well as all the demons chasing around in my head, and those messages I’ve heard so often over the years that I have to just plain ignore, because they are not going away.

The one thing that saves me is remembering, this is all just a bunch of experiences – it’s lessons I need to learn along the way, and what I don’t know now, I will learn for tomorrow. It’s a process, it takes time. And it takes effort and application. It’s not going away.

See, here’s the thing — I need to learn… an awful lot, as it turns out. And learning for me is not always easy. I can be hard-headed and stubborn, set in my ways, and thin-skinned. I am quick to tell myself that I’m damaged, broken, incapable, a loser. It’s just habit. And breaking old bad habits is not always easy. But this is all learning, it’s all moving from where I am to where I’m going, and if that means I learn that it’s better to get to bed early and start fresh in the morning, instead of pushing myself till 1 a.m. (like I did last night), then that’s how it is. I have my limits, and I need to respect them. When I don’t, unfortunate things happen (like me feeling like shite all day today).

It’s all lessons. It’s all learning. It’s all experiences. Nothing more. I can make of them what I will, and I can decide for myself what it all means. I can choose to go easy and be my own best friend and advocate, or I can choose to ride myself as I’ve done for so many years in the past, and make myself miserable in the process.

Tonight, I’m choosing something that makes sense for me — common sense. I’m calling it a night early and getting some danged sleep. In the morning I will be better. But right now, I’m a little worse for wear.

So, off to bed I go. The folks I need to contact will still be there in the morning.

I’m sure they’d rather hear from me when I’m coherent 😉






Pick your own experience

Which side will you look on?

Something pretty important has become increasingly apparent to me, in the past week or so – namely, that I can choose my own experience in life. No matter what is happening, I can choose to think and feel any way that I want to think and feel about just about anything.

I don’t have to fixate on one side of things, and I don’t need to get stuck in only one outlook.

Everything has more than one side to it. Everything. From the most terrible events to the most fortunate experiences, if you look hard enough, you can find whatever you need there, to feel however you want about it.

Life is literally like a cut stone – it has many different facets that catch the light in different ways, and depending on which side you look at, it can be awful or it can be wonderful… or any combination in between. Usually it’s that.

The challenge is to not get caught up in what’s obvious on the surface — that something is GOOD or BAD, but just that something… IS. The other challenge is to not completely disregard the different qualities of a certain experience, because you’re invested in feeling a certain way about them.

Things like injury and hurt and harm aren’t the kinds of things you’d want to feel great about. That’s kind of like encouraging them and making them okay, which they’re not.

On the other hand, there can be good that comes out of those things, and if we overlook the learning that comes from them and dismiss the good things that came in their aftermath, then we lose out on half our lives — if not more.

That’s the stuff I’ve been wrangling with, this week. Coming back from my vacation and going back into the fray has been extremely difficult, and I’ve had some meltdowns along the way. It hasn’t been pretty, and I’ve been working my ass off, trying to catch up. I’ve been pretty down on myself, realizing that I still have a ways to go, before I can say for certain what I want to do for my next job, but I just have to keep moving, keep going, keep proceeding. And I can’t just run away from what’s in front of me, because it’s valuable experience that can help me. I still want to leave my employer — but the work I do? Maybe I don’t need to ditch that, as well.

When it all boils down, basically I’m realizing that whatever situation comes up in my life is an opportunity for me to learn and grow and get my act together. And that’s the truth. I’ve been having some tough times at home, behaviorally speaking. And at work I’ve been really on the hot seat. But these are chances for me to (re)learn how to handle myself under intense pressure, because this is certainly not the last time I’m ever going to be under this kind of pressure. Compare to what’s to come, it’s probably child’s play.

I believe it’s the Navy SEALs who say, “The only easy day is yesterday.” Googling it, I see that a lot of people say it, but it’s the unofficial motto of the SEALs. Hm. Those folks again… Is there a theme here?

It’s possible. Looking around at my world, I seem to be surrounded by folks who don’t have principles, who don’t live by any kind of a code, who are just drifting and following whatever moves them. They don’t seem to have any higher purpose than to follow what comes to mind. And suggesting that they find a higher purpose is usually met with resistance – some of it violent.

Don’t get me wrong – my relationship with the Almighty and the morals and ethics of my youth has really been tested over the years. And I can’t say I’m a perfect adherent to what I should or should not do in the eyes of others. But at some point, I have to choose where I’m going and understand why I’m going in that direction. And that often means putting aside my own selfish wishes and just getting on with what needs to be done — AND not paying any attention to others when they aren’t on the same wavelength as I.

How they choose to live their lives is their own business. It’s no concern of mine.

And that being said, as I’m taking responsibility for my actions, I also need to take responsibility for my experience. I am the only person who can hold me down and make me feel badly. Nobody else can do that to me, unless I don’t take responsibility for my own emotions and thoughts. These aren’t just things that show up out of the blue. These are things I can direct and choose to disregard or pay attention to.

And the kinds of thoughts and emotions I choose to pay attention to are going to shape my experience. So in making conscious choices, I create my own experience. I create the world I live in.

Two people can be living under identical conditions — one is in heaven, the other is in hell.

Where do I want to live right here, right now?

What matters most

Check it out… ask yourself, what matters…?

There’s nothing like reading international news to put things in perspective for me. I’ve been reading news from Europe and Asia-Pacific, thanks in part to Google Translate, English versions of foreign news sites, Google Chrome, and the BBC News website.

Looking outside the USA for what’s going on in the world, it’s obvious that there is a whole lot more to think about and experience, than the current election frenzy that dominates all the news cycles. I’m not going to get into the political choices here – there’s lots of opportunity to explore that … everywhere else. What concerns me here is the narrow-sightedness of the the news cycles and the fractiousness of it all. It gets us so worked up, so jammed in political fight-club mode, that when all is said and done, rational thought doesn’t really have much to do with anything – it seems to be all about whose side you’re on, not the subtle and often gray-area issues of our time.

It’s a little depressing for me. Especially considering that all this focus is being put on the every-four-years contest at the expense of other everyday concerns that are much more immediate than political platforms and endorsements. I have a lot of friends who argue that this has everything to do with political platforms — that who’s in power determines who gets helped, and who gets screwed. It all depends who you talk to.

Anyway, looking at the news from around the world, New Zealand has been having earthquakes, and a teen was found dead after a night of heavy drinking. The makers of Thalidomide have apologized, but  British citizens find the apology “insulting”. In Germany, Arabic youth attacked a Jewish Rabbi and threatened the life of his six-year-old daughter. The Paralympics have kicked off in London, and in France there’s sport, politics, and fashion drama.

I haven’t ventured to look at news from Africa, for it seldom seems to be really good. Same with many other countries. Most of the world, in fact. Maybe it’s the nature of the news, that whatever bleeds inevitably leads. In any case, I have to take care about what I fill my head with. Especially when I’m sick and already feel like crap.

Being sick gives me some much-needed leeway to cut back on my activities and concentrate on the barest of basics — food, sleep, fluids, meds, and more sleep. And while it’s been entertaining to read the news, I’m in the mood for something more substantial, actually. Interestingly, I’m in the mood for sports and fiction — real life stories of contest and experience that tell me more about the human condition than a simple one-page news bite, burdened by my ignorance about what it’s really like to live in those places I read about.

Of course, with my presently ill state of body (and to some extent mind), there’s only so much I can do. There’s only so much I want to do. I know I need to do some work-work to catch up with what I missed yesterday, due to illness. And I know I need to study and practice my technical stuff. But beneath it all, there’s this very real need to, well, feel human again.

It’s an interesting feeling, this really needing to feel human. You would think it’s always there, but it tends to elude me when I am so focused on doing-doing-doing, on setting goals and achieving them. I get so caught up in the busy-ness of life, that I neglect to just stop and live my life — to experience it as it happens. And I forget to reach out to others and see what it’s like for them. It’s no good for me to stay limited to my own perspective, alone. Maybe that’s where reading international news helps me. It widens my perspective, and even when I read about things that seem trivial to me but are so very important to others (take fashion, for example), I’m forced to really ask myself what it must be like to live that kind of life, where such things are considered so very essential, even beyond the basics of everyday life, like food and water and shelter.

We humans are an interesting species, aren’t we? So much that matters to us for different reasons… so much that gets on our radar… or not. Ultimately, I think the important thing is not so much *what* we think is important, but whether or not we have those important things in our lives. Do we have priorities? Do we have things that really, really matter to us — and do we have enough things that matter, to have a handful of them that matter more than others?

It’s that quality of living that I am seeking out more and more as time passes. It helps my brain, it helps my spirit. Having things that really matter to me, and having some things matter more than others… and finding ways to keep that spark alive… that matters to me. And it matters more than money, more than material success, more than any tangible belongings. Now, obviously making money matters. And material success with its tangible results also matter. But you can have those things — I have in the past — and not feel much of a connection to them, or even to your own life.

I’m fortunate that when I did have those things, I had a really strong connection to my life, and to the experiences of my life. I wasn’t just on a track to Get More Now. It was about living fully and living every moment of the day for me. And when I fell in 2004, and that went away, losing that sense of connection with my own life, and having my ability to really live curtailed by fatigue, confusion, anger, and crazy emotional roller coasters didn’t help matters any. In fact, more than losing the money, losing the jobs, almost losing my marriage, it hurt way more to lose that sense of connection to my own life. It was this huge hole that I couldn’t seem to fill or patch up or repair.

I really think it was because I was working so hard to just maintain, to rebuild those connections in my brain, in my life. I think I was funneling every last bit of energy into getting back to some semblance of functionality, of figuring out where I stood, where I was supposed to be, etc. that I just had no energy left over to just enjoy my life and experience it as it came. Nothing made sense anymore. It was the strangest thing. And it’s still strange, because even though I do have evidence that I’ve repaired a lot of what was broken, on some days, it just doesn’t feel like my life. It feels like a life I’m trying to build back… and it feels like there are all kinds of holes in it.

It’s really hard to describe, and if you haven’t been there, I’m not sure if it makes any sense. But I still feel like a stranger to myself in many ways. My neuropsych thinks its wonderfully exciting for me to be rebuilding my life and rediscovering parts of myself, but what about me missing the parts of me I used to know, but have now morphed into something else? What about dealing with the things about myself that I feel like I’ve lost and cannot seem to get back? Yes, it is great to be building back my life on purpose, yet it feels like a whole lot of work, and those new pieces just don’t feel very familiar or comfortable.

I don’t know what feels familiar or comfortable anymore. I just don’t.

Well, today is a poor day for me to be plumbing the depths of my soul, because I’m really sick and my head is foggier than usual, and I really do feel pretty bizarre, overall. I need to go back to bed and sleep, and I’ll do that in a few more minutes. I’m sure I’ll feel better when I get up — the meds have been working pretty well. And I’ll have some more of myself back — a sense of myself that is settled and okay and able to take in the feel of this day and this long weekend. It’s just a matter of rest. Of sleep.

I’ve cleared my calendar of everything except the most basic things, this weekend. I’ve got movies and books and the web to keep me company. I’ve got meds and tea and cough drops and tissues and sleep to help me mend. I’ve got an extra day to really soak it all in.

And soak it in, I shall. The experience of being sick, of being overloaded, of being fed up and motivated all in one. I shall soak up the pacing of the language of websites from far beyond my immediate world, and I shall see what is there for me to experience … really experience. It’s not all delightful. It’s not all fun and intriguing. Sometimes, it’s just plain boring, irritating, pathetic, and drably pedestiran as an old cracked sidewalk in a deserted coal town in Ohio. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes it’s not enough. But there it is. And that’s what matters most.

A brilliant opportunity

I woke up today thinking that the TBI survivor community has a great opportunity before it — with the power of the internet and new electronic publishing technologies like blogs and forums and emerging print-on-demand technologies, we really do have the ability to offer each other the support that we cannot (and probably will not) find from the “system” that’s supposed to help us.

The medical industry doesn’t seem to have much interest in helping us address our issues in a consistent and substantive way.

All that some can manage to tell us is, “Every TBI is different,” without mentioning the myriad similarities so many of us have — and can benefit from hearing/learning about.

And frankly, there’s not a lot of money in rehabilitating someone who is no longer “able” to function at the same level they were before…

So many of us just get sent out to pasture. We fall between the cracks. And people who are in public positions to change that, don’t seem to care. I’m sure, on some level, they do, but so much is not known about this condition, and so many other conditions are more obvious and more easily tracked and more easily conceptualized… and are less frightening to the average person, that TBI just isn’t on the radar the way, say, cancer and heart disease are.

Now, I lost one of my little sisters to breast cancer, 2-1/2 years ago. I sat at her side and held her hand during her last hours of dying, so I’m certainly not opposed to cancer getting as much attention and funding as possible. And people close to me have had heart issues, so I’m all for addressing that, as well.

But doesn’t anyone have any attention to spare for TBI folks?

Perhaps not — but we do. We, the survivors. We, the family and friends. We, the ones with the most to lose and the most to gain. We can — and should — be there for each other and pool our resources and experience and strength and hope, for the benefit of everyone concerned.

Ultimately, the very society which doesn’t have much time for us, will ultimately benefit. But that’s not something I can prove right now, and it’s not something I can substantiate with numbers and metrics, so society at large will just have to wait and see how well we can rebound… and how well we can serve one another in the best way humanly possible.

An opportunity lies before us, to come together and pool our resources and offer one another help and support — largely in the form of information that’s distributed across the world wide web. Our info can go a long way. We can do for ourselves, what others cannot do for us. So, let’s do it!

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