Concussion symptoms got you down, this holiday season?

head form of metal meshYou’re not alone.

The holidays can be tough for anyone who’s got extra difficulties, due to chronic illness. And with TBI / concussion, sometimes the worst thing is being around people who don’t understand what it’s like to have your life turned upside-down by a “mild” blow to the head.

As I’ve said many times, there’s nothing “mild” about a concussion or a traumatic brain injury. That momentary alteration of consciousness means that something “in there” got injured. And no amount of positive thinking or motivation or … consequences… is going to change the functional ability, unless you have adequate time to recover and rebuild your wiring.

You have to keep the stress down, to do that effectively. It takes time and practice and sometimes a bit of luck, to rebuild what you once had. And being pushed and prodded by people who don’t understand TBI or “get” why concussion can turn your life upside-down, doesn’t help with that.

The holidays can be stressful, to begin with. Then you add all the people, the expectations, the increased pace (a lot of us are racing to finish year-end goals at work, at the same time we’re shopping and figuring out holiday party logistics), and money pressures… and it just gets worse. Cognitive reserves that were already in short supply, get even less… and meanwhile, everybody expects you to KEEP UP! KEEP UP! WHAT’S THE HOLD-UP?!

Some of my own challenges have been:

  • Remembering what I’m supposed to do at work. I’ve forgotten a bunch of stuff I was supposed to do – and I even forget to write it down.
  • Dealing with depression. It comes and goes with me. This year, it seems to be coming more than it’s going.
  • Keeping cool with my spouse, when tensions get high.
  • Staying on my exercise routine.
  • Eating sensibly, and not “stuffing my face” with all kinds of candies and cookies. I’ve done well in terms of candy, because I can’t have chocolate (sets off migraines with me), but I’ve eaten more bread and cookies than I should.
  • Getting enough rest, and keeping on my regular sleep schedule. A tired brain is an irritable brain, and boy, do I get irritable when I get tired. I’ve had a hard time keeping on my sleep schedule, these past weeks, and I really have to concentrate on getting that sorted out when I’m off work next week.
  • Not pushing myself too hard. It’s easy for me to push. I know how to do that. But while it used to work okay when I was in my 30s, now that I’m past 50, it’s just not the same. I need to remember where I am… and act accordingly.

Basically, keeping myself together during the holidays is like an extra part-time job. It helps that I haven’t spent a lot of time socializing with friends and family. That takes the pressure off. But for many, many other people, they don’t have that option. And my heart goes out to them.

Still and all, it will be over soon enough. Just a few more days till Christmas, then another week till New Years (which isn’t much of a holiday for me, anyway). Then I can get back to my regular life.

And start the year fresh.

Onward.

And the list gets a little bit shorter…

Some steps forward are not so simple
Some steps forward are not so simple

I’ve been trying like crazy to whittle down my list of Things That Must Be Done, and over the weekend, I made some good progress.

I actually got the basement sorted, just a little bit more. Many months ago (was it actually a year ago? that’s possible), I un-boxed a ton of stuff we’ve had in our basement for years and years. This is stuff we inherited when my spouse’s parents passed away… stuff we packed up over numerous moves, and then never unpacked… stuff we just couldn’t deal with at the time, and put down on a shelf, to decide about later.

Later never came.

Oh, actually, it did come. The decision part just never followed.

So, being concerned about the “stash” becoming a condominium for mice, I went on a multi-day campaign last year to unbox everything that was packed in cardboard and wrapped in newspaper, and I re-boxed everything in soft paper towels and clear plastic containers that have sealable lids.

And it was good.

Except, for that last piece of the process — the collection of trinkets and tschaschkes that I didn’t have a container for. I put them all out on a big folding table, planning to box them up when I picked up some additional containers. I got the containers. But I never boxed them up. And as a result, I’ve been “threading the needle” in my basement, just to get to the water softener when I need to refill the potassium chloride. It’s been a pain in my a**, and I’ve wanted to do something about it for months — actually, more like a year.

But I couldn’t.

Well, this weekend, I decided I’d had enough, and I decided to make a go of it. I told myself I’d only spend 30 minutes working on the task, and that made it easier. I got myself a nice sweet juice drink, and I took some music with me to listen to while I worked. And as I got into wrapping everything up and placing it carefully in the container, I found I was making good progress, so I didn’t need to stop at 30 minutes.

And in fact, it took me less than an hour to get it all done.

So, I’ve been inconvenienced (along with the workmen who’ve needed to get through my basement to fix the furnace and water heater), for a year, over something that took less than an hour to sort out.

Yeah, that would be me, sometimes.

Because it wasn’t just about the job. It was about this nagging sense of failure I have at everything else in my basement — the vestiges of projects I started and then could never finish… the building supplies and handyman remnants of my past life, when I was so strong and with-it, and I had all these plans that I could follow up on… before I fell and got hurt in 2004.

All the memories of years gone by just flood in, all my failures with family coming to mind, as I look at the items on the shelves, and remember how much I loved the people I’ve lost, and I think about how much of a challenge I always was for them. And it’s remembering all the ways that they (especially my in-laws) were challenges for me — the betrayals, the fights, the disloyalty, the gossip, cutting me out of wills and family news because I wasn’t “one of them”. I wasn’t from the world that my in-laws inhabit, and they’ve always kept me at arm’s distance, even though I’ve never done anything other than love and care for and support my spouse — one of their own.

Going down in the basement and spending time there isn’t just about stuff. It’s not just about organizing. It’s also facing my past — the disappointments, the frustrations — and all the stuff from Before.

But now, at least, I got that piece done. So I don’t have to look at it. I don’t need to constantly crawl over it… be reminded of it… factor it in. I am slowly getting my basement back. One of these years, I’m sure it will be in the kind of shape I want it to be.

Not just yet, though. Not just yet.

Soon over… the vacation that is never a vacation

group-boat-capsize
You try to keep rowing together, but sometimes the boat tips over

I have been “off work” for the past three days. I have another day off work today. I am looking forward to getting back to my regular life.

I have spent this whole time with my parents and my spouse, all of whom are at the center of their own universes, and who expect all the planets (and everything else) to revolve around them. We do things together and try to just be together, but it’s very difficult. My parents are extremely rigid and judgmental, and my spouse and I have a very different life than theirs. They can’t seem to simply let anyone “be”, and that adds stress and tension to every interaction.

Why can’t we all just get along?

I’m not hurting them, by having a different kind of life. And I really don’t need their judgment / pity / attempts at support. They look at my life and worry… but I’m doing really well. I’m just not doing it all like they would. So, that means I’m doing things “wrong” in their minds.

In my early adulthood, I avoided my family like the plague. They didn’t understand me, and they really gave me a hard time… about everything. They always treated me badly, when I was growing up. They continued to treat me like I was mentally deficient (thanks to my TBI issues, which were never properly addressed), even into my adulthood… the still do it. And they did not approve of my spouse, at the start. Too bad for them, I was married anyway. But my independence did not help our relationship. And if anything, it just made them think I was more mentally compromised.

It has been a journey, coming to terms with each other. We have all reached a state of tenuous balance, over the years, and now my parents are getting older, so there is all the more motivation to stay in touch. None of us lives forever, and since there were so many hard years, it’s really precious to have happy times with them. Still, it is not easy for me to deal with them. I have to be on constant guard, because my mother has issues with physical movement, and she slams into things without meaning to – one of the things is often me, which is painful. My father tends to attack what he does not understand, and he’s very “heady” and loves to discuss philosophy and religion. But he has a very narrow view, so it’s difficult to discuss anything objectively with him without it turning into an argument.

So, it’s a constant balancing act.

At the same time, my spouse is declining and is becoming more and more demanding. And when my parents are around, they become even more stressed and demanding. They constantly harangue me about doing this and that — asking everyone to do this and that and the other thing. All their demands and extra needs for attention come at a time when I am even more taxed than usual. My cognitive reserve gets drained very quickly, and I end up yelling. Upset. And looking like I’m the unstable one, when everyone else around me is being antagonistic and confrontational.

I am caught in between everyone with their demands. But I’m the one who ends up looking like the one with the problem.

When you love people, it can be extremely taxing. And painful.

You just have to decide if it’s worth it.

I know it is worth it. It’s just a lot of time and energy. At least today, we have some time to ourselves. My parents are going back home, first thing this morning, and my spouse and I will have the day to ourselves.

I’ll get some more sleep and do some more thinking about how I want my life to be. And take a break.

From it all.

And then I can get back to work tomorrow… and get a real break.

Keeping out of the slump

Gotta keep from getting pulled down.
Gotta keep from getting pulled down.

December is upon us.

Days are getting shorter — and colder. Nights are getting longer — and colder.

This is actually an excellent time of the year for me, when I can focus in and really think about where I want my life to go, and how I want to live it.

So long as I can keep out of the slump, which invariably comes with the end of the year.

Like many people, I look back on the past year and measure myself against my intentions of 12 months ago. Last year, this time, I was pretty sure how things were going to go. I had a 2-3 year contract, I was getting up to speed with my job. I was adjusting and fitting in pretty well. And things were looking up.

Till they weren’t. And then they were, again. My contract changed – cut short by a change in business plans that nobody really told me about. That freed me up to go looking around for What Else I wanted to do. And I found a fantastic opportunity doing the kind of work I wanted to do.

Now that may be changing, as well. I really don’t know. Because just like last year, they’re not telling us anything. And people at work are getting down and depressed. Nobody is wishing each other happiness in the holiday season. I wished everyone Happy Thanksgiving in an email before I left, last week, and only one person responded. Some would say, “Rude”. I say, “Existential crisis”.

So, I’m a little down in the dumps, these days. I’m drifting in and out of depression.

Fortunately, I’m not depressed as frequently as I used to be. I used to really battle depression on a regular basis, especially during the holidays. Some years, I actually wanted to bring my life to an abrupt end. Clearly, I didn’t, but in years past, I wouldn’t have complained if I’d had my life cut short.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt that low, and that’s helped me just get on with my life.

But in a way, it’s more problematic now, because I’m out of practice, dealing with that stuff. And now when I fall prey to depression, it feels abnormal. Disorienting. Like there’s something wrong with me… When really, it’s just the time of year, and my schedule and routine are both out of whack.

I’ve been having headaches again. Probably because I haven’t been exercising like I should. Or drinking enough water. I need to get back to that. I walked the stairs a few extra times yesterday — three long, steep flights — so that’s progress. I’m also recovering from a week of being off my schedule, not having ample down-time, being over-social, and dealing with people’s “stuff” that I usually don’t have to mess with.

And things feel like they are dissolving around me. Job changes — who knows what will happen after they start the “business transformation” in earnest, at the end of next week? Personal changes — not having a doctor, and needing to find a new neuropsychologist. Money challenges. Marriage challenges — as my spouse continues their downward spiral that was arrested for a week, and now is back to the usual. And all the political stupidity that goes on, with everyone running their mouths and apparently making no effort whatsoever to try to understand others, or amend their own behavior to make a positive difference… or avoid war (of every kind).

Sigh.

I guess I’ll just take it day-by-day. Just handle what’s in front of me, and take as good care of myself as I can. I’m kind of losing track of what I’m doing at work, and it’s bothering me. I’m very scattered… partly because I’m anxious about what’s to come, and I’m tired. I have my notebook with my items I’m tracking and focusing on, and I need to fall back to that again, just keep it simple, and focus on the essentials.

And move. I don’t move enough at work. I work in a big building. I could take long walks to clear my head. I think I’ll do that today.

I also need to break up my day, when I have long periods of uninterrupted time. If I let myself just zone out, it’s not good. I need to keep myself moving, keep myself on track. It’s a mistake to let myself just zone. I need to really keep discipline in my life – go to bed earlier and let myself catch up with myself. It was a really long week, on the road, and I still need to recover.

So, there it is. I need to get back to my routine. Keep up the house. Do the chores, take care of business. I feel better, when I get things done. I also need to do things in shorter spurts — intervals of activity, interspersed with rest. Just use my head — and make a point of keeping disciplined through it all.

I have plenty of reasons to be depressed. And I know that there are biochemical reasons that people are depressed, including myself. But I know how to deal with them. I know how it happens with me. And I know what to do about it.  I know what turns it around and gets me out of my slump. For me, biochemistry explains things, but it also shows me the way out. And the way out, is to keep to a schedule, really think about what I’m going to do for my days, be present in the moments, and stay steady. Stay clear. And know my limits, so when I need to take a break, I do just that.

Yes, things are a bit depressing, right now. I just don’t think sinking into depression is the best use of my time.

Not by a long shot.

So, that being said… Onward.

All the artificial timelines and time-outs

Got back last night before 9 p.m. Pretty good, considering we got on the road after 1:00. Driving was good, but this is the last year we’re doing that particular trek. I will save $20/week towards the plane tickets and rental car next year. We’re not doing that marathon drive again.

Both my spouse and I are practically crippled from all that sitting. Yes,we stopped and got out and moved around. But it’s not the same thing as moving – which I will be doing a lot of, today, I believe.

Someone commented here that holidays are invented by men, and it’s true. They are arbitrary assignments of “time off” from the usual grind, to do something different, so we don’t lose our minds from the drudgery and the monotony and the insane political games people play. And the conditions they take place under, only serve to make us glad we’re back in our grind, when we return. I know I’m glad to be going back to work… which is kind of a bizarre idea, since the idea of being cooped up in an office for 8 hours today really makes my skin crawl.

Other than making a living and giving me a chance to interact with people in a structured environment, I’m not sure what purpose it serves. And this is with a job I actually like… after years of detesting my work situations. The whole 9-to-5 thing is old. I know how to do it. I’ve proved I can do it. That’s settled. Time to look into something different.

While driving home, I was fantasizing about just dropping all this and going to live off the land. I think that would solve a ton of problems. Raise my own food, hunt my own game, fish and stock up and save. So long as I have access to a good lake that has fish, as well as a possible trout stream, and I had some space to garden, and a shelter against the elements, I think I’d be fine, actually. I wouldn’t even need to hunt big game. I could live off rabbits, squirrel, fish, and plenty of wild plants. And if I had a fenced-in area, I could also grow plenty of vegetables. If I didn’t have a mortgage to pay, my life would be very, very different, I can tell you that.

But that’s probably not going to happen in the near future. I have time to plan for it, to learn what I need to learn, and  get all my equipment together. For now, though, it’s back to my regular routine, back to going through my days making the best of what I’ve got.

It’s not bad. It’s just not really what I want — which is freedom.

I’ll have plenty of that in the coming weeks, though. The holidays may get crazy for some, but we are DONE with all the travel, and we’re going to have a nice quiet holiday season, getting together with friends. I’m going to have plenty of time to keep up with my sleep, thanks to minimal extra-curricular activities and passing on all the holiday parties and I avoid the malls. I think the holiday madness may actually even pass me by, as I step aside and steer clear of the hordes. I’ve seen the Black Friday videos. Yah, no thanks.

My family obligations are done.

And my little officially sanctioned time-out is done.

Now I can get back to my life and settle back into it. And just let the rest of the world go by, as I construct the life of my choosing.

Onward.

And in the end, we learn…

Some days you nail the holidays, sometimes the holidays nail you.
Some days you nail the holidays, sometimes the holidays nail you.

This trip to see family for Thanksgiving has been chock-full of lessons. I’m still sorting them out. Some of them, I may forget, by the time I get home, so I’ll write them down here, and come back to them later.

  1. Having a perfect life is no guarantee of happiness.
  2. The people who appear to be the most powerful and privileged are often suffering under terrible burdens. Sometimes it’s their very burdens that drive them to be more poweful and privileged than anyone else.
  3. People who are innately talented and sharp, don’t always end up in the best circumstances. People who work-work-work their asses off can accomplish great things.
  4. The people who seem to be the most wealthy, are often very poor in their own hearts.
  5. It helps if you’re attractive and have a ready smile.
  6. People are surprisingly judgmental of others who are simply different.
  7. No matter where you look, there are people in some kind of need.
  8. People dislike having to question their most fundamental beliefs. They’re a whole lot easier to get along with, if you pretend to agree with them — or at least don’t judge them.
  9. Most people I know are very set in their ways about how women should act, and how men should act. Come to think of it, they’re very set in their ways about how “normal” people should act.
  10. It usually pays off to keep your head about you and maintain a cool demeanor.
  11. If you can’t do #10, step away. Give it a few minutes.
  12. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eliminating regularly, will do wonders for your interpersonal relationships. It’s all about the flow…
  13. Life is short. Be kind.
  14. Sometimes, all it takes to get people back on track in mind and spirit is a long card game.
  15. Winning a hand of cards is restorative. Losing gracefully, four hands in a row, is ennobling. Having a good laugh at yourself being a sore loser is good for everyone at the table.
  16. Many things are awful. But they pass. It makes no sense to let awfulness get hold of you and trick you into thinking it will last forever.
  17. Everything looks easier in hindsight.
  18. All those old resentments I held against my in-laws for having so much more than me, and providing so much more to their kids, now pales compared to the peace I have in my life. They don’t have that peace. Their opulence is not saving them.
  19. My “country hick” insecurities around my in-laws are still there. I still feel like an idiot when I am around them.
  20. However, I have not understood the source of my insecurities, till recently. I thought, for years and years, that I was less intelligent than they, and I was too slow. As it turns out, by the time we reach their home, I am usually exhausted from driving, my sensory issues are out of control, after dealing with my own family, and I am literally not myself. My ears are ringing, I’m slowed down by fatigue, my noise and light and smell and touch sensitivities are all on HIGH ALERT, and I can’t understand what anyone is saying because the television is usually blaring. It’s a total onslaught of sensory overload, which my in-laws have to immerse themselves in, because they are so deeply unhappy as they follow all the rules, and they need something to dull their intense pain.Their coping mechanisms make it very difficult for me to function. It’s not me, that’s the problem, it’s the environment.
  21. My in-laws are trapped in a “perfect” life, doing things they never really questioned, and their difficulties with that are simply too much for them to handle. They’ve decided to be happy, simply being successful and popular, everything looking good on the outside, but deep down inside, being so sad and lonely.
  22. My in-laws cannot accommodate people who are different. They get disgusted with people who aren’t functioning”normally” due to invisible conditions. They don’t understand how people can have limits that are difficult to explain, and you don’t live up to their specific expectation of how you “should” function, they can get pretty mean-spirited. Their intentions are good, but their follow-through sucks.
  23. My parents are surprisingly resigned to getting old and infirm. Well, my father is, anyway. He’s giving up and giving in… I read some things he wrote, and it makes me sad that he’s not fighting it more. He’s got a lot of years left in him, but he’s talking and thinking like he’s going to die before long. His handwriting has gotten noticeably worse over the past year. I think his diabetes is catching up with his brain function. And I’m literally not sure when/if I’m going to see him again.
  24. My family is much better at accommodating individual needs and limitations, than my in-laws. My in-laws think a pill fixes everything, while my family believes community fixes everything. Small wonder. We’re all a bunch of farmland hayseeds, here, and there are plenty of “neurodiverse” people in our midst, due to brain injuries, congenital defects, poor medical care, etc. There are a LOT of “different” people here, so folks know how to handle them, for the most part. And the social rules here are so strict, everybody knows what they should be doing in any given situation, so it makes it possible for people to function, without thinking much about anything. It’s interesting.
  25. Holidays are borderline hell for me. There is TOO MUCH ACTIVITY, and the expectations are too high. It’s TOO LOUD. Too many smells and changes in routine. I dread it. Every bit of it. Including all the parties and social activities. And the holidays are not easy for my spouse, either, who also has sensory issues but is less aware of them.
  26. Both of us struggle terribly, at times, so it’s important for me to keep my act together, so only one of us is going off the rails at the same time.
  27. I am so happy to be driving home today. It’s a full day’s drive, and we’re going to take our time. Get out and stretch. My left hip is killing me. Not enough exercise.
  28. I’m glad we made this trip. And I’m even more glad to be going home.

And now, it’s time for a walk.  A long, long walk, before I get in the car and sit for 9 hours.

Two more days… then home!

Today we rest at my parents’ home, then we are driving home tomorrow… missing the worst of the Thanksgiving traffic.

I’m going to pause now for a Christian moment, since I have been surrounded by very religious Christians for the past 5 days… Praise God Almighty! Praise Blessed Jesus!

I only have another 30 hours to go (give or take) till I am back in my car and headed HOME to my own space, my own diet, my own schedule, my own life.

This really has been a very challenging time for me. The most challenging thing, by far, has been dealing with people’s prejudices and judgments. My spouse has been having some difficulties, being off their schedule — as have I. They’ve been tired and irritable and have not been thinking clearly or as mobile as one would expect. And both sides of the family do not handle that well. So, they are hard on my spouse, which is hard for me to watch. My in-laws, especially, are pretty judgmental, and they put all kinds of pressure on my spouse to DO SOMETHING about their condition.

Get up earlier each day.

Get regular exercise.

Get a hip replacement.

Go out into the world and do all the things that people without noise and light and scent sensitivities can do.

Of course, they know nothing about the strokes, seizures, cognitive impairment, and I’m not about to tell them that, because they are exquisitely attuned to finding the worst in everything, and trying to overcome it. They will pick out the worst piece of information (e.g., if the power steering fluid had spilled all over the exhaust system, our van could have caught fire) and then they dwell on that. That will become their mantra — Something Terrible Could Happen — and they will proceed to make every thought center around that.

Which is a really draining way to live.

And now that we are away from them, I can breathe. My side of the family is overwhelming in other ways – we’re about to start the day’s social overwhelm drama – so there’s not a ton of respite. But at least it’s not that constant dark cloud of risk management and imagined damage control. At least I’m out from under that.

So, what have I learned from all of this? It’s going to take some time to figure that all out, but one thing I’ve gathered, is that I have a very unique ability to see people for what they are and accept them for what they are… regardless of their perceived disability and limitations. I can see the goodness and strength in everyone, and I can see the hidden abilities they have, which are usually eclipsed by their challenges or shortcomings. I’ve known a lot of functionally limited people over the course of my life, and none of them have actually seemed as damaged or as strange as others said they were.

I have always been this way, perhaps because it’s what I needed most from others — but never got it. When I was younger, it got me in trouble because I was taken advantage of by people with ill intentions. It’s taken me years to learn how to discern and steer clear of the trouble-makers.

What I’d like to do now, is find some volunteer opportunities to use that to help others.

I have several free days my employer gives me to use for volunteer work, so for the holiday season, I think I’ll look for a chance to do that.

Everything can be used — especially the difficulties.

Onward.

 

 

Annnnddd we’re back

laugh-at-confusionToday I am up early. I woke up early, and despite needing to rest, I could not get back to sleep. So, I got up. And here I am. Thinking about Thanksgiving and the lessons I’ve learned from the whole experience. It’s just experience, after all.

Thankfully, the mechanic came through, yesterday. Woot. They finished up the repairs to the disabled van yesterday afternoon, and now we’re good to go for the return trip home. I don’t have to renegotiate my vacation plans with work. I don’t have to explain an unfortunate adventure to my parents, and shift the times when we were planning to see aging relatives. I don’t have to calm down my spouse over every little thing that comes along. They can relax, now.

Well, supposedly. On this trip, they have been on edge for much of the time. Their cognitive impairment and behavioral problems are really standing out, their anxiety really running the show.They’ve yelled and cried and harangued and exaggerated and done a very poor imitation of someone who is 100% functional.

And their side of the family, ironically, are the ones who are having the most trouble dealing with their behavior. My side of the family practically oozes compassion for the needy and marginalized, and my spouse is acting very much “out of bounds” of respectable behavior. With my parents, my spouse’s difference are not as pronounced and extreme. But at my in-laws’ place, their behavioral issues really stand out. And it frustrates and angers them.

I don’t think my spouse’s family realize that there’s some cognitive impairment going on, and I’m not comfortable telling them, because they just don’t handle that stuff well. They’re very mainstream — different from my parents — and they don’t have a lot of diversity where they live. People who are cognitively impaired are “retarded”… or deserving of pity, rather than respect. There’s a lot of superstition here around the brain, which just makes things harder. Plus, they have very aggressive, mainstream ways of dealing with things — basically, take a pill, have a drink, follow along with what everyone else is doing, and don’t question too closely how things are done. If a pill or a drink won’t fix things, they sometimes believe a gun will. And they don’t have a lot of patience for all the gray areas that surround brain injury and cognitive impairment. Plus, they do not know anything about my spouse’s cognitive issues. We’ve never told them, and I doubt I ever will. Unless I have to. They just aren’t much help, when it comes to that stuff.

Maybe they would be, if I told them and they learned, but I just don’t have the patience or the fortitude to manage their adjustment along with everything else.

So, it’s a multi-source challenge, coming here. First, I have to deal with  my spouse. And then I have to deal with  my in-laws. And I have also had to deal with the broken-down van, negotiating social situations where I cannot understand what people are saying to me — because of their accent, and also their pacing. I’m not hearing clearly. And I’m tired. I’m slowed down, and it makes me nuts.

All the while… I do my best to keep calm. I hold firm and don’t let my head run away with me. It’s not easy. And it’s not verbal. When I’m pressed to use words, everything gets scrambled up, and I get angry. Enraged in passing moments. Because when everything is hitting the fan, and I’m pressed to verbalize, the solutions I can see in my head start to dissolve. And I lose my way.

I hate losing my way. Especially when things are tough.

But of course… It could have been worse.

The van repairs could have cost me three times as much — essentially draining my bank account.

The work could have take three days, instead of the better part of one day.

The one repair could have created even more problems that rendered the vehicle undriveable.

And all the while, my spouse could have had a nervous breakdown, as they have done several times in the past, while visiting this area, so full of unresolved issues, so full of pain and excruciating family memories.

But none of that happened. And now I don’t have to carry that with me, anymore.

Of course, the residue is still there. I am tired out, worn out, wrung out. I’ve been tired ever since the start of this trip… but I’m not sleeping well. Oh, the pain. Holy crap – if I don’t move regularly throughout the days, I am in so much pain. And people here don’t move. They sit in front of televisions. They sit in their cars. They sit in front of computers. They don’t move around, except to move from one seat to another. And my left hip and back are killing me. Plus, the mattress… Good lord.

I’m dizzy and slowed down, with a reaction time about half of what it usually is. I’m not hearing very well, but I am extremely sensitive to noise. It’s like I’m walking around in a bubble of static, floating 6 inches above the earth in a jittery envelope of electro-charged plasma. Light sensitivity is less of a problem for me, right now, but the whole spoken word thing is a real challenge. And when I stop talking, everybody gets nervous. Because that’s how they allay their fears — by talking. And I’m not doing that.

Also, when I get quiet, they seem to think I’m going to blow up. Because in this family, the signal that someone is going to fly off the handle, is when they get very, very quiet and don’t say more than a few words at a time.

I’ll get some relief today when we drive back to my family, but that’s not much solace. My side of the family are the polar opposite of this family here — in constant motion, constantly thinking, constantly interacting, no television, just a lot of heady talk. Most of it about God.

Oh, great pain and suffering… great wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Then again… Ha. I just have to laugh. It’s kind of ridiculous, this whole thing, and what I really need is to keep my sense of humor about me…. And get myself out of my foggy head.

Good Lord. Everything gets so heavy, here. And when we leave, I’m sure the tongues will wag about all the things that are wrong with both me and my spouse. It’s recreational, the fault-finding and judgment. It makes people feel better about themselves and their lives. So, in that respect, it serves a purpose. For them, anyway.

It really has nothing to do with me. My life will go on, regardless of what others think and say. They’ve been talking about me — and my spouse — and both of us together — for as long as we’ve been together, and that has never kept me from living my life. Not one bit

Am I rambling? I feel as though I am. The sun is rising over the mountains to the east, and I’m completely out of it. But life goes on. I know to be careful. I know to take my time. I haven’t felt this bad in a long time, so that’s something to be grateful for.

There’s a lot to be grateful for. And in the end, it’s really just a matter of where you put your attention — on the good, or on the bad. Bad will always happen. It can’t help BUT happen. If nothing else, I’ve got a hell of a story to tell.

Onward.

Back to regular life – for now

Tomorrow I’m back to my everyday life… waiting for the call to see when I need to travel for the funeral. We’re all guessing it will be this coming weekend. We’ll see.

Regular, boring everyday life never looked so good. I can get back to my routine, my usual activities, my usual interests. And I can keep moving forward with my own life in my own way.

And that’s good.

I talked to each of my siblings today, and we all have our own perspectives on things. We also have our own priorities. We’ve all literally gone our separate ways, and coming back together next weekend will put us in rare proximity to one another. That doesn’t happen very often.

But for now, the day is done, and I’m about to head to bed. I slept all afternoon and then got up to go food shopping and just get out of the house. I’m starting to feel human again, but it’s going to take more than a few hours of sleep to get back to balance.

And then more travel…

The best I can hope for, is to keep steady and predictable and not go off the deep end because I’m tired and frustrated. Just keeping steady is the big thing.

So, I shall. As best I can.

Reset NOW

I just came across this video – pretty inspiring

No matter what people may offer you, if it means you have to sacrifice yourself or abandon your convictions, no way no how is it worth it.

Back from my trip to see my family, I am reminded yet again of why I left. The price of admission to the community my family is part of, is way too high. You have to abandon your individuality to be part of a larger group, and that doesn’t sit right with me. My siblings have all pretty much kept the continuity going, living their lives as my parents expected them to — with a few minor exceptions, here and there. I’m the black sheep. I have broken out. And looking at how things have developed, back there, I’m so thankful I stepped away when I did, and managed to keep my individuality intact.

My family and their community have specific ways of doing things that they believe are correct and right. Everything from how you tend your garden, to how you maintain your home, to how you walk and talk, and when you light the first wood fire of the year, are watched and commented upon by the neighbors. Almost every aspect of life is dictated by a combination of religion and tradition, and those who “buck the system” are not welcome. Tolerated, but not warmly welcomed.

And while that rigidity gives them a sense of continuity and comfort, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for growth and positive change — unless that growth and positive change is part of their world view.

If there is a problem in front of them that can’t be solved by the same old thinking, then that problem stays stuck.

Like the problem of the hoarder in the family that nobody ever talked about. And nobody could ever help.

Hoarding is a complex issue, and it has a lot of different aspects and causes. There’s the perfectionism, the personalization of objects, the inability to let things go, because of the emotional connection to them, the inability to see a problem (on the part of the hoarder), and the inability to creatively think about options and choices for how to live differently.

I never realized, till this last weekend, just how badly off “our hoarder” was. Nobody ever talked about it in depth, nobody ever took steps to address it directly. The standard response was through prayer and support and trying to talk sense into the hoarder — and to model a better way to be.

Nobody ever addressed the neurological issues they had — which are obvious and several — and nobody ever addressed this in a systematic, scientific way.

What a friggin’ waste of a life. “Our hoarder” is well into their 70’s, and they have lived in the midst of their own filth for some 30 years. And I never fully realized the extent of the issues. Had I known, I might have been able to do something. But now the past is done. The wrecked house has been cleaned out. And “our hoarder” is in a retirement home, where it is literally impossible for them to collect any more crap or allow their space to become trashed. Cleaning folks come in every week like clockwork. So, with any luck, the will get the help they needed all along.

30 years have gone by, leading up to this moment, and my relative has lived in their squalor all that time, unbeknownst to me. I have never been in a position to actually help them before, because I had so many issues of my own. And now that I am on my feet again with a much more robust set of tools and skills, I am in a position to help. But their situation has changed, and help with that part of their life isn’t necessarily needed anymore. At least from me.

There is literally only so much I can do for my own family. They are set in their ways, and I’m not sure they will be able to change. Outside my own family, however, I can do some things. Like living my life to the fullest, showing others how hope is possible, and keeping the faith each day in my own way.  I can reach out when and where it’s possible, and hope that I have a positive influence. I wish it were possible for my own family, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

So, I do what I can, where and when and how I can. And do my best to not take responsibility for others’ choices and actions.

You can’t save everyone.

But you can save yourself.

And it’s time for a little reset in my life — to take what I’ve learned from the past week, and put it into positive action in my present and coming weeks, months, and years. I need to sleep… and hope that my system will “integrate” the info from the past days into something useful in the future.

No sense in letting all the lessons go to waste, right?

Okay, time for a nap.