Sleep experiment – next day – 7 hours

Luck… or practice?

So, I’ve gone from 5-1/2 hours to 6-1/2 hours to 7 hours, last night, and I’m starting to feel better. I’m also feeling better about the job business, because I’ve been spending time brushing up on my skills and working with techniques that are in demand, these days. I’ve also been doing my market research to find out what people are looking for, and what they’re paying for.

Things at work have been difficult. There is a lot of tension in the workplace, and I have been so swamped with extra work that people have snuck in as a “favor”, that the framework I had for getting things done has pretty much fallen apart. People are jockeying for position and they are pretty frightened of losing their jobs and/or being yelled at by management, so the tension is high and the atmosphere is tough.

I’m working from home today – my spouse had a doctor’s appointment originally planned for today, then yesterday it got changed. I’m still working from home today – it will give me two more hours to get work done, than I would have, if I drove into the office.

I’m also collecting contact names and companies for my job search. In September, I will start contacting people about work, so I can start interviewing. I have almost three weeks of vacation time left this year, so I plan to take two weeks off in September/early October, and have some time to talk to people, interview, and brush up on my skills.

At this point, the biggest challenge for me is not getting distracted — by drama at work, by problems with coworkers, by indiscriminate, indeterminate fears that I will not be able to accomplish this, that, or the other thing. I am in the process of moving on, and I need to keep my eyes on the prize… not let people get inside my head and try to stop me. I don’t want to end up like an Olympic athlete who gets so caught up in the criticisms of bystanding reporters and drama-driven news cycles that it affects their performance. The static at work has been cutting into my focus, and I can’t let that happen. I need to stop it, stay steady, not let it keep me up at night, and just keep moving on.

I have great things to accomplish. I have to keep that in mind. I’m getting clearer and clearer all the time about where I want to go and what I want to do with myself, and I have to stay true to that, not get waylaid.

One thing that I’ve found surprisingly helpful is prayer. Yes, prayer. It sounds strange to hear myself saying this out loud, because my “prayer life” as my church used to call it, has been pretty much non-existent for the past 10 years or so. Especially since I fell in 2004, I haven’t had much religious inclination at all. It’s just kind of evaporated. And to tell the truth, I don’t actually believe in the same God that I was raised to believe in. “God” for me is less concrete, and less definite, too. In fact, what we refer to as “God” (or whatever other name you choose) I think of in more quantum physics terms — the personal God that my family believes in doesn’t exist for me. And yet, there is a spirit, a presence, that I recognize — and that presence in my life has always made itself known to me in many, many ways.

My life has been a series of miracles, no doubt about that, and the existence of “God” seems as rational an explanation for those amazing “accidents” as anything else.

Now, I was raised very religious. My parents both came from religious families, I have plenty of pastors and deacons and missionaries in my family history. Holiness was a top priority with everyone, and my grandparents used to go to a “holiness camp” each summer where they would go to revival meetings and worship services and live their entire lives around their faith.

That faith had no tolerance for my ways of thinking and living, however, so I broke with that tradition and I have lived a secular but “plugged in” life, for the past 30 years. When I fell in 2004, that schism was widened even more by a rapid loss of any religious or spiritual inclination. I just wasn’t interested anymore in that way of being in the world.

I’m still leery of that way. It just doesn’t seem helpful to me, and I have grown increasingly literal in how I  think about my life. I don’t know if it was the injury that did it, or if it’s been my life experiences since. I know that some people completely lose their faith after war or a terrible trauma. I think it might be both. I do believe that religion has a neurological component. Many neurological conditions are accompanied by “spiritual” experiences, like visions and revelations. And I suspect that having a neurological upset can switch those experiences off as much as they can switch them on.

I suspect that’s what happened to me. Or it could be that I’ve been so busy trying to keep up, and my brain has been so busy trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C without getting detoured through Points X, L, and T, that I just haven’t had the energy for religious experience.

Whatever the reason, a few nights back, I was lying in bed — awake — getting more and more freaked out that I could not sleep. I was all caught up in anger over things that were happening at work, I was bent out of shape over things that I was doing wrong, that others were doing wrong, and I was really upset about having to leave my current job. (For the record, staying is NOT an option — there’s just no point to it.) I was harboring major grudges against people who had slighted or worked against me, and I was really burned up about a lot of things — some of which go back two years, to when I started in this job.

I was pissed off at lots of people, including myself, and I couldn’t get my head off it.

Then these sentence came to me, from out of my religious past: “Love your enemies… Pray for them that persecute you.

Well alright then. Interestingly, I haven’t really thought of my colleagues as “enemies” but technically they are. Someone who deliberately undermines you and works against you and sabotages your work on purpse, pretty much fits the profile of a sort of enemy. And I don’t like to think that others are persecuting me, but if that’s not what middle-management is doing, I’m not sure what they are doing.

So yeah, they’re acting like my enemies, and they’re persecuting me. Enough giving them the benefit of the doubt — let’s call it what it is.

And since I was completely out of practice with prayer, but I was also completely out of ideas for how to spend my time lying there in bed, trying to get back to sleep, I figured I’d at least give it a try. If nothing else, it would direct my thoughts away from my own pain and frustrations. I wasn’t very good at it, at first. I felt like I had to apologize to God for my “absence”, but then I thought about it and realized that no matter how distracted or otherwise occupied I’ve been, there have still been evidences of miracles and great coincidences in my life, so it’s not like that part of my life was completely gone — I just wasn’t actively involved in directly participating in it. Anyway, the whole religious experience thing is something I understand very differently from before… we all change with time. The important thing is not always doing the same thing, year after year, but doing the kinds of things that help… that work… in the ways we find most useful.

Long story short, I started to ask for help, and I asked that I be given the answers I need and the strength to do what I need to do. I asked to have the burdens of cares and worries lifted off me, and for my mind and spirit to be set free from all the terrible weight of it all. And a little while after I started to pray, I was able to fall asleep. I’m not sure I even got through a whole “prayer” before I was down.

A few nights later, I had the same kind of troubles getting to sleep. Problems with work, problems about work, worries and dread about what people were/were not doing to/for/about my work… After lying awake for an hour or so, the thought came to me again to pray, and I did. I asked that the people who were giving me so much trouble be reassured and supported in their work, that they receive divine guidance, and that their worries be eased by divine intervention. I didn’t think about myself so much as I thought about them. And like before, I fell asleep.

Last night, I got to bed an hour later than I planned. The Olympics were on, and for some reason, I had to watch platform diving. I got to bed feeling a bit pressured and rushed, and I was starting to spin with all my worries and concerns about work. So rather than get caught up in that, I started to pray for the people who have pissed me off the most in the past six months. There were a number of them — most of them on my immediate team. And before too long, not only was I feeling better about them, but I was also able to relax and get to sleep.

And I slept seven hours, which is the most I’ve slept in about a week.

Now, I don’t want to get all hyper-religious on you, and I’m not sure I’m even praying to the same deity everyone else is… but this “prayer” business seems to work in a couple of different ways.

  1. It gets my mind off myself. It forces me to think in bigger terms, beyond my own immediate cares and worries.
  2. It humanizes the people who seem hell-bent on making my life impossible. It makes them actually seem human and deserving of respect, dignity, and compassion.
  3. It gives me the sense that I can tap into a source of power that is much greater than myself and any of the cares and worries I have.
  4. It helps me feel not so alone anymore.

Each of these things alone would be enough to make my life better, but all together, they really really help. At least, they have for the past week. Now, I’m not going to go down the road of saying that religion and prayer are the cure-all for the ills of my world — or anyone else’s, for that matter. For me, this is a deeply personal thing, and it’s not even something I can describe and explain exactly the way I want to. I’m really uncomfortable with the “personal God” concept, and I do not like to imagine a human-like God, or even a god-like God.

All the same, the simple act of praying for those who persecute me, really takes the pressure off and lets me get on with my life — or my night’s sleep. I’ve even started doing this while I’m awake — when I start to obsess about what someone has done to me, I ask that they be given the love and support that they need, and that they get the answers and reassurance they’re looking for. If nothing else, the goodwill goes a long way towards easing the animosity that flares up and floods my head — and my behavior — and my entire life… Somehow, prayer has a way of chilling that out, of cutting it off at the pass and letting me focus on what’s truly important.

And God knows, I can always use that.

 

Exercises in frailty

… and humanity, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what I’ve recorded here in this blog over the past few years. It hasn’t always been pretty, it hasn’t always been very smart, and in places — looking back — it’s been downright embarrassing.

But it’s been human.

Honest, too.

We’re all just trying to figure things out. This is my way of doing it, within the context of my injuries.

We all have those — injuries. And we all have our burdens.

I heard it said recently that by the time you get to a certain age, if you’ve lived your life as a regular person, you’re bound to be a survivor of something.

Indeed.

Onward.

Wu wei

Source: hobo

Wu wei is a new theme from WordPress, and it’s an ongoing theme for my life.

Knowing when to act, and when not to act.

Action without action.

Just being the progress you want to make.

With any demanding path in life, it can be tempting to go all-out, all the time. Make a splash. Make an impact. Make your presence felt in the world. Maximum effect. Tons of effort.

But too often we find out, on down the line, that our striving has brought us to a very different place than where we truly needed to be. And it can come to naught. Or worse — unintended consequences. Deepwater Horizon. Switzerland: 1 Spain: 0.

Heartbreak.

One of the positive aspects of surviving brain injury and realizing the nature of your issues, is that it can give you occasion (and good reason) to distrust the chattering voices in your head pushing you to do such-and-such. After a lifetime of seeing some of my best-laid plans come to naught, and experiencing failure after unintendd failure (for reasons I often could not fathom), I have developed a healthy distrust of this brain of mine that is so certain, so cocky, so unassailably self-assured.

Because it could be wrong.

I have plenty of evidence to back that up. I have plenty of examples to cite in support of this agnosticism, this fundamental distrust.

Friends of mine claim I should be more self-confident, more self-assured. I tell them, it’s not ME I distrust, it’s the brain inside my skull that runs its mouth for evermore, that gives me pause.

Relatives of mine who are devoutly faith-based say their faith is what saves them. For me, it’s my skepticism that keeps me safe. Faith is good. Faith is fine. But you should have a clear understanding of what you’re putting your faith in, and why. I seem to remember a parable about a man who build his house on sand…

For me, trusting my brain without question or reserve, is kind of like putting your faith in the Touchdown Jesus that once stood along I-75. It looks impressive and may even look like the real thing, but lightning strikes and other acts of God can set the whole thing ablaze before I know what hit me. And then — as I’ve learned so many times — all that’s left is a hollow, charred shell of what once seemed so real, so promising, so reassuring.

Wu wei. Act without acting. Do without doing. Know when the time is right to take action… without ever “knowing”.

Surely, we must be eternal

I’ve been giving a lot of thought, lately, to the eternity of life. And the presence of mortality. The strange and bitter irony of going through a lifetime of exploration and accomplishment, only to reach the end.

How odd… Is this what it all comes down to, at the end of a striving, living, thriving, struggling, learning, expressing, loving, hating, fearing, courageous, hoping, dreading lifespan?

Why in heaven’s name would we go through all this, just to peter out to… nothing?

Since it’s Easter, and since I was raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, with my childhood steeped in the stories of the Bible, from Genesis on… through the generations of the Israelites… the prophets… the warriors… the sinners and saints… and on through the New Testament, with all its theologically labyrinthine teachings, well, it seems only fitting that I should dwell on the eternity of life at this time.

Spring is in the air — sort of.

New life is making itself known in the buds of trees and the emergence of lilies and tulips in the flower beds.

The deer are coming down off the mountain, hungry after the long, long winter and looking for fresh shoots in my gardens.

I have started a new job, am in the process of unraveling yet more health issue conundrums, and despite all that I’ve been through, despite all the roadblocks and the problems and the setbacks and discouragements… I’m still here.

I’m still standing.

Feeling a great sense of accomplishment, tempered with the acrid taste of mortality’s inevitability at the back of my mouth, in the back of my mind.

Surely, I have not come through all this for naught.

Surely, life must be eternal.

Now, not everyone ascribes to the Christian faith, I know. And different Christians have different interpretations of Easter. Different peoples all over the world of different faiths mark this hopeful time of year in different ways, each one revealing another aspect of the many aspected Divine jewel we call the Human Experience. “Eternal” can mean many things to many people, each meaning just a little “other” than the others.

And when I really think about it, as much as I want to believe in an afterlife, as much as I may be attracted to the idea of my spirit never really disappearing, but taking on different forms in different places, the fact remains that in the back of my mind, there is some small seed of doubt. Some folks shun doubt with all their might, as though it were a cancer or a pox. Others welcome it with open arms. I strike an uneasy balance with it, eyeing it from a distance like a hiker eyes a grizzly bear they’ve come across suddenly, foraging in the berry bushes in the fall.

I guess what it all boils down to for me, is that in whatever shape and whatever form I may ascribe to it, my life is indeed eternal. Whether I be spirited up to the heavens to join a personal lord and savior, or I be reborn in another place and time as a different person with a different set of lessons to learn, or I be turned into earth that then turns into new life of plants… which become the animals that eat them… which become meat for other animals… which become human life yet again in the eventual cycle of feeding… there must necessarily be an aspect of me that is eternal.

Perhaps my words will live on after I am gone. Perhaps the good deeds I have done, which made more life possible for others, will live through the lives I’ve helped in big ways and small. Perhaps the simple fact of my presence has been of assistance. I can only hope. And look for more opportunities to help some more — or at least do no harm.

In the end, it becomes far too vast and incomprehensible for me to follow, to untangle, to make sense of. So, I leave it at the simplest of statements that gleams with the faint sheen of faith:

Surely, we must be eternal.