How things change

Getting it all sorted out

Getting it all sorted out

I’m cleaning up my home office, getting rid of a whole lot of junk stuff I have collected over the years.

To be fair, it’s not actually “junk” — it’s just leftovers from years gone by, which are no longer needed. I used to need these things. Or, in some cases, I thought I was going to need them, but it turned out, I didn’t. Lots of scrap paper… lots of cardboard I used to use for packing, when I was sending things to people. Lots of old equipment that needs to go to “technology heaven”.

And look… there’s the coupon for $10 off my next $50 spent at the hardware store. It’s good for another 3 days. That will come in handy — especially if I actually make it to the hardware store this weekend. I should. I have a number of things I need to pick up, and my garage needs to be cleaned out for the impending fall. Right now, it’s got too much stuff — and junk — taking up the space that my car should fill.

I’m feeling a little frustrated, right now. A lot of what I’m finding is a reminder of how much I have had to let go of. Or all the things that I had such hopes for, and never managed to make happen. I was really convinced, for so many years, that I was going to make all these dreams come true. But I never reckoned with the reality of fatigue, confusion, frustrations, and the constant toll that TBI-related stress and distraction takes on a person, day after day after day.

A number of objects in my office are from my spouse, and looking at them all, seeing how many things I’ve been given, which don’t actually suit my personality… or seeing how many of them were given to me in good faith (which I never followed through on)… that’s a little depressing, too. It’s a little disconcerting to have so many reminders that your significant other has never really understood you — and probably never will.

Then again, who ever really understands anyone? And in the midst of the sorting, I find one reminder after another of our bond — birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, little notes left for me that say “I love you!”… that’s really what matters. Everything else seems a best guess to me, anyway.

And I realize I am at a significant juncture in my life. I’m finally at a place, where I can relax and settle into my work, because it suits me, all across the board. For decades, I was not committed to my “day job” other than as a way to make a living and pay for the expenses of everyday life. I wasn’t invested in the least. I mean, it was hard to feel invested about anything in technology, back when the Web was first starting up. Nobody knew how it was going to go, if it would last, if it was “a thing”. It took many years for that to be proven, and now it’s a given.

And now, after so many years of work and pioneering and opening the frontier, the world I helped to create — as one tiny cog in a massive machine that has an intelligence all its own — I finally feel invested in it all. Because I connected with a company that’s invested in me. It really is remarkable, after so many years of being treated like I’m disposable, expendable, interchangeable. Like I didn’t matter, and nobody cared. The people around me cared, sure, but at the management level, it was all too Darwinian and it wasn’t at all conducive to getting the best performance out of the people who were committed to doing the work.

They didn’t even seem to realize that we were committed to doing the work. They just treated us like we showed up each day to earn a paycheck, and that was it. Eventually, no matter how much more it may all mean to you, if you’re treated that way, day in and day out, you can end up slipping into that mindset, yourself.

What a waste.

And for years — decades, really — my life was driven by a profound need to be more than just a cog in the machine, a plug in a hole that would have leaked if it weren’t plugged. I spent so, so many hours trying to fill that void left by my day job, seeking with every fiber and ounce to actually express myself in a way that made me “me”. It was a constant struggle to prove my identity, to prove my worth, to know that I was more than what I was treated like, day in and day out.

I wanted more, I needed more. I had to have it.

So, I created it myself. I carved out a niche for myself in my own life with constant work, constant writing, constant creation. I volunteered. I got involved in groups. I had an active life outside work, and I crammed a whole lot of stuff into it.

And for years, that worked. It just felt normal and right and free. As long as I was free, that’s all that mattered to me.

But then I fell and hit my head. And the freedom went away. It just seemed to evaporate overnight, and everything that had felt smooth and sensical, just turned into mush. I lost my spark. I lost the joy. I lost the passion that comes from within — it was replaced by a manic stress response that was fueled by pure adrenaline that came from post-traumatic stress, life-and-death choices, a long series of bad decisions that either trashed or threatened to destroy so much that I had worked so hard for.

The energy and passion I’d had before, which was always accompanied by hope, was replaced by rage and fear and anxiety. On the surface, it looked like I was still engaged and energetic, but inside I was a tangled mass of nerves.

Big difference from before. My fuel was not hope, but desperation. Confusion. Frustration. And the need to have enough stress in my life to keep my attention focused on what was in front of me.

The last 10 years have been a chaotic blur. A blur, because everything has seemed to happen so fast – and yet so slowly – and chaotic, because I could not figure out what was going on inside my head and outside of it, too. So much confusion. So much dancing on the edge of disaster — often without realizing it. So many poor decisions, so many knee-jerk reactions that cost me so much. Since 2004, I had 11 different positions – more, if you count changing roles within organizations. That’s more than one job change a year – I hopped from one position the next four times in about a year, back in 2008, without knowing why. Part of it was just bad decision-making, part of it was anxiety, part of it was not being able to function and needing to “skip town” before people found out how incompetent I was at the job I’d signed up for.

In the meantime, there were the marital troubles, the money shortage, the creditors knocking down my door and blowing up my cell phone, the logistical troubles, the health problems and cognitive decline of my spouse… Yeah, it’s been a wild ride.

And looking around me at my office, I see so many relics of the years before 2004, when everything seemed so simple and straightforward, and I was content to be living as I was. Back when my spouse was still healthy and working. Back when I was good with where I was, and everything just progressed and unfolded without concern for the future. Back before everything started to fall apart.

I’m cleaning up, now. I’m getting rid of the old stuff that I no longer want or need. And I’m saving what I can still use. The post-it notes that were given to me at a past job, when the company changed its branding and they had all these extra supplies to get rid of. The paper clips and butterfly clips. The pens I can still use. The notes I made, some time ago, about ideas that still interest me. Much of this I can still use.

But in a very different frame of mind. A relaxed frame of mind. A state of mind that makes it possible for me to settle in and concentrate — and not worry constantly about the outcome. A frame of mind that  have not had in so many years. It’s more than relaxed. It’s at ease.

Finally, I can settle in and just enjoy my life again.

Not that things are completely event-less. Lately, there have been unfortunate losses in my family, a bunch of my friends lost their jobs, and things are not hunky-dory, all across the board. But my frame of mind is very different, now. And while I don’t much care for the tragedy, I can handle it without going off the deep end. I can walk through the crises without letting them wreck me, too. Whatever happens now, I feel as though I’m up to the challenge.

I know how to think things through.

I know how to break things down and take my time and work through them from start to finish.

I used to have that ability, years ago, then it went away. Now, ten years later, it’s back.

And that makes all the difference.

So, the day is waiting.

Onward.

New day, new me

new-beginning

The start is just the beginning. Gotta keep it going…

Probably the best thing about this new job, is the fitness benefit – the gym, the pool, the free classes, and the ability to go to the gym and/or hit the pool just about anytime that fits my schedule. The pool isn’t open 24-7, but the gym is.

I don’t live close enough to the office to go to the gym on weekends, but after work is a great time to work out, when everyone else is heading for the freeway to get home.

So, on my swim days, I can work out and swim after work, when I’d normally be stuck in traffic. And the grocery store is on the way home, so I can pick up supper on my way.

It’s a good arrangement. In more ways than one.

A week into exercising just about every day of the work week, I can honestly say I’m feeling better than I have in quite some time. My back and torso are stronger, which means my posture is better, which makes me less tired. It also makes me less irritable. And I have a lot more energy and stamina than I’ve had in recent memory.

Sure, I’m sore. But I’ll hit the pool at the end of the day today, and I’ll work some of this out. Just gotta move. Just gotta keep moving.

Fitness has become a real focus for me. The gym at work is small — but it still has all the equipment and weights I need — so it’s not overwhelming, like a lot of those big-box gyms full of blaring music and hundreds of machines. I don’t know how people can work out in those places. I’ve tried, and I never last. A smaller gym, with just the right equipment, is ideal.

So, since it’s not overwhelming, I can actually get into getting into shape. It’s giving me another focus — and getting me out of my head — which is all good. Looking around my study, I’ve got all these books … so many books… and I remember how I used to spend so much time in the past, just sitting and reading. Sitting and reading.

It was great for my imagination, but terrible for my body. And because of that, it wasn’t so great for my brain.

Body and brain go together. Closely. And it’s important to really take care of both. In fact, strengthening your body and making sure it has what it needs, is critical to keeping your brain safe.

It gives you more stamina and makes it possible to keep a positive attitude. It’s tough to be chipper when you’re exhausted by life itself.

Being also strong helps you balance better and function better, so you don’t get tired and uncoordinated and off-balance. Not having enough strength introduces the risk of falling, so getting strong in the right ways can prevent a fall — and another brain injury.

The times when I fell or had accidents and got my TBIs in the past, were often times when I was over-tired and/or uncoordinated, and I did not have the strength or stamina to keep myself balanced, alert, and safe. I was worn out from working a lot, and I had a car accident. Or I was pushing myself too hard, and I fell and smashed my head. Or I was getting tired and clumsy, and I “lost it” – slipped, tripped, fell, got hit… you name it.

Although a bunch of my injuries happened while playing sports, the more impactful ones happened in everyday life. And if I’d been in better shape and had more strength and stamina, I wonder if things might have turned out differently.

Well, the past is the past, but bottom line is, I’m feeling better now, than I have in quite some time, and it’s pretty cool. Just have to pace myself and make sure to rest when I can. My body is still getting used to the fitness routine, and recovery is a critical component of any fitness routine. ‘Cause if you don’t rest, you don’t give your body a chance to recover and repair. I, of all people, know the importance of recovery.

And  with that, it’s off to my day. Onward.

A productive weekend, even so

How could I pass up this?

Well, most of what I planned to do over the weekend did not happen. I had every intention of finishing my taxes, which I started weeks ago, but that was not to be.

Instead, I spent Saturday working on a programming problem that still had me stumped by the end of the day. It soaked up the entire day and rendered me distracted and confused and frustrated, and I was only a few steps closer to a resolution, when all was said and done.

On the bright side, it became incredibly clear to me that programming as a way to make a living is NOT what I want, anymore. I want to design programs, not code them up. And this is something I can do, for sure.

This is really good news because I got an amazing idea over the weekend, which I think has a lot of potential, and it’s something I can pretty easily document and hand off to a capable developer to create. If I insist on doing the coding myself, it will only slow me down. But this is the sort of thing a really capable programmer could “bang out” in short order.

So, I’m pretty psyched about that.

I have been getting in my way with so many things, mainly because I have been rigid and hard-headed and haven’t been willing to entertain other possibilities — or let go of old things that no longer fit me.

But after a full day of focusing on the computer screen, trying to solve one little problem that had me hung up all day, it’s pretty clear that I don’t want to do that anymore. I ended up sore and stiff and feeling like I’d been trampled by elephants. Plus, I spent a full day off — which was beautiful — inside, staring at a computer.

No thank you.

Saturday evening, I made up for that and went for a long walk in the woods. Saw a herd of 12 deer. Got some good exercise. Unwound.

Sunday I turned the tables and started the day with a walk, then did yard work for about four hours. Got a lot done. Wore myself out. Took a long nap. Got up and went for a ride with my spouse, to get some fresh air and just hang out. We’ve both been working really hard, and we needed some “away time”. And we got it. It was really nice to just get out of the house together and relax.

Last night, we had supper, watched some television, and then I trundled off to bed. I briefly took a look at my taxes, but the weekend was mine, and I wanted to just enjoy myself. I would have made better use of my time working on taxes Saturday, than getting stuck on that programming problem, but that didn’t happen.

The thing is, I hate using my free time off for drudge work. The kind of drudge work I had to do, is really best broken up into chunks of time — focusing in for only a few hours, instead of a full day. I really need my time off, to do what I please, when I please, and concentrate on the things that I want to do. I spend my weeks taking care of other people’s business. The weekends are mine. And I have a hell of a time relinquishing them for anyone — especially for something like taxes.

So now I need to finish up my filings in the next two days. It’s no big deal, because I am 80% done. It’s just that extra 20% that has me stumped. I figure I have tonight and tomorrow night — and possibly Wednesday morning — to do them, so that gives me plenty of time. I’ll go into work early today and tomorrow, so I have at least 4 hours each night to devote to them. That is more than enough time, actually, so I’m not really worried. It’s just a thing I need to get done with 100% focus.

Yes, getting my workdays out of the way and having free time in the evenings is the right way to go. And after my taxes are done, I will focus on my new project, getting the documentation together so I can find a programmer. I had a really great weekend, even though it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

It’s all good.

Onward.

It’s all temporary

Something occurred to me yesterday that has the potential to make me as happy as it makes me sad : It’s all temporary.

I mean, I know that everything passes,and I know that everything really is temporary, but I tend to get caught up in the problem of the moment, and I lose sight of the fact that everything changes in one way or another. Nothing stays one way for long.

But I get so caught up in my rigidity and my literalism,I lose sight of that fact. I’ve been very rigid, this winter, having it in my head that I need to do certain things or else, and I have let a lot of stuff slide, as a result. I’ve been so focused on a small set of activities, that I haven’t actually taken time to A) fix things around the house I should be fixing and B) simply enjoy myself and get out and about like I try to do year-round.

I don’t have any excuse. I just got so caught up in what I was doing, I lost track of everything else.

I think I know what causes me to get stuck – the fact that everything truly is temporary, including my memory. And I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made.I tend to lose track of where I am, if I get pulled away to do something different, and I really wanted to finish the projects I started in late fall.I kept getting distracted, kept getting pulled off in million different directions, and I wasn’t making the kind of progress I needed to make.

So I decided to block everything out and just ONLY do that one thing, until it was done.

That meant I blocked out just about everything else, except for the basics, like getting up and going to work, eating and sleeping.

Now I’m dealing with some house issues that are a real problem. I’ve got some water leaks in the system that continue to cause problems, and the house is getting a musty smell. Also, with the car situation, I let some things slide, and now I’m scrambling to catch up.

Making calls. Figuring out how much money I have to spend. Getting my numbers together and figuring out my schedule. Just taking it a piece at a time, doing what I can, when I can.

I just need to not get stuck … everything is temporary, including the problems I have. Other people have surmounted worse.

I just need to keep going, keep thinking, and stay flexible as best I can.

Onward.

More reading on flexibility and rigidity and TBI:

Changes at work – working out in my favor

Things are moving — gotta move with them :)

So, the reorganization work has culminated, and they have started making announcements about who’s going where. I’m in good shape, being with a manager I really like, doing about the same work that I have been, but having access to more training that will improve my overall employability.

It’s working out. Like it hasn’t, in a long, long time. It’s a combination of me not being so friggin’ tired all the time, having a much shorter commute, and having an attitude of gratitude in general – and seeing where I can take advantage of things.

I don’t want to get cocky or take things for granted, but it really feels like things are turning in my favor. After so many years of them going against me (and me not knowing how to take things in stride and get them to work in my favor), this is good. I’m due, I reckon.

Other people at work are not feeling good about things. I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like. In the past, I have been in many situations that didn’t “sit right” with me, and I fought them, resented them, resisted them. The only effect was that I made myself miserable.

Kind of like holding onto a hot coal and expecting others to get burned.

But I know very much how that is. And I know how hard it can be when things change, after you’ve become accustomed to them being stable for some time. There have been several big changes, lately — the office move to a different location, the configuration of the office to a more open (and more noisy and chaotic) plan, and now the re-org — and not everyone is dealing with them well.

I have the advantage of coming from a work situation that was magnitudes worse than where I am now, so relatively speaking, I’m feeling pretty blessed, right about now. I’ve been through so many really sh*tty work situations and changes, with companies who cared far less about their employees, that this time it feels pretty sweet.

Of course, there will be adjustments. Some things will become harder, and some people will become more difficult to work with. But I’m not particularly worried about that. I have almost no commute. My mornings and evenings are my own again. I’m doing work I truly enjoy and have some control over. I also have a job that will translate from one company to another seamlessly, without me needing to go out and learn new things or brush up on my “chops” that have diminished from disuse. I’m getting more training that will bring my skills up to speed and get me more current – that translates to employment security over the long term.

So it’s all good. Even if things didn’t work out that great and I got let go, I now have a demonstrated history of delivering on projects, and that’s what matters. I can hold my own, and I know I can.

Today we’ll be learning more about what’s what. So, I guess I’d better get ready for work. :)

Onward

Learning along the way

Getting back to my regular life is hitting me, about now. Thank heavens it’s a long weekend. If I had to go to work tomorrow, I’m not sure what I’d do.

No, I know what I’d do. I’d go to work. Because that’s what I do.

I’m really feeling the effects of jet lag, right about now. Yesterday was a really challenging day, because I was starting to really get hit hard by the fatigue, the change of time zones, the change of pacing to my everyday life. I can function, absolutely. But it knocks the stuffing out of me, for sure.

Not that it stopped me, yesterday. I had a really good, fully day, actually. I did a lot of cleanup around the house, and I spent about 4 hours helping my spouse pack for a short business trip that they needed a lot of supplies and equipment for. It seemed to me that the amount of work going into preparation far exceeded they payoff, but from what I hear, the trip was a success and many of the goals were accomplished, so maybe it was worth it, after all.

I started to seriously run out of steam around noontime yesterday. That was with 2-1/2 hours of intense preparation still to go. I had been going since 10:00, and I was beat. I just wanted to lie down. Crash. But I kept going. I focused on what needed to be done, and I did it. And I didn’t get all caught up in my resentments and tiredness and anxiety and frustration about being back from a really demanding trip and having to do even more work for someone else — work that had nothing to do with me, really, but that I had to help happen, or it wasn’t going to happen at all.

In the past, I have gotten dragged down in that thinking, and that head trip just pulls all my energy away from what really matters and what’s most important. The important thing is to just get things done, just do the job, just get everything squared away, as only I can. I can’t let anger and resentment and fatigue get the upper hand. I just have to buckle down and push on.

Which is what I did yesterday. And even though I was even more beat, by the time I was done, I actually felt really good about it. I had gotten a ton of exercise, after a relatively sedentary trip. And I had definitely gotten the blood pumping, which I’ve been needing. All the activity got me out into the day, doing something constructive, and it got me moving in my own space, at my own home, on my own turf.

Which was nice. Because I have really missed my home, while traveling. I miss my schedule, I miss my own bed, I miss my routine. I am such a creature of habit, that when I have to turn everything upside-down, it turns me upside-down, as well. Finding my balance again, during and after travel… well, that’s a challenge. But I’m learning better all the time about how to do this thing.

After all, it really is a learning experience. I’m learning how to handle things better and better. I’m developing new skills in adapting and finding opportunity that I can make the most of. And I’m acclimating to the idea that all of life around me is really a classroom I report to each and every day. I have to go to class, but it’s my choice how much I engage, and what I learn along the way.

I tend to think about change with a mixture of dread and hostility. Because it’s threatening my way of thinking and living and my sense of self. I have never been a fan of change, but I think that’s because I always saw it as something that either happened to me or was done to me. “Change” is something I usually think of as separate from me. It’s a set of circumstances beyond my control that I have to adapt to, or else.

Change has long been a sword of Damocles hanging over my head, suspended by a very thin thread, with no guarantee that I’ll be able to successfully adapt to it.

That’s not been particularly helpful to me in my life. It’s made me brittle and rigid and inflexible, and it’s helped make me a lot less happy than I could have been, all these years.

But in fact, when I think about it, change is really nothing more than a learning experience. It’s just a shifting set of conditions that we can learn to maneuver through, just as we’d learn to drive a car or ride a bike. Driving a car and riding a bike are two things many of us learn to do, as a matter of course in our lives. And there are a ton of other things we need to learn, in order to be happy and productive in the world.

We don’t kick and fight and scream about learning to do those things — like ride a bike and drive a car and read and write and (some of us) swim. We go through the steps we need to take, to learn to do them, and some of us learn to do them better than others. Some just show up and put in the minimum required effort and come away with some modicum of ability. Others really apply themselves and think long and hard about the best way of doing things and develop mad skills that put others to shame. In any case, it’s up to us, what level of effort and attention we put into mastering our new skills. Even those who struggle to learn and adapt, can find ways to do so — or find compensatory techniques to aid them in the absence of innate ability.

The same is true of the changes that take place in our lives and our circumstances. We have to re-train ourselves and our minds. We have to learn how to do different things in established ways, or do old things in new and different ways. We have to acquire new skills and perspectives that help us make sense of our circumstances. We have to learn what doesn’t work, as well — what holds us back and drains our energy.

In any case, it’s all learning. It’s identifying new patterns and developing new ways of dealing with them successfully. The changes we face are not life conspiring against us to make us miserable. They’re not a plot by some nefarious foe who seeks to do us harm (well, sometimes it is, but it’s not very productive to dwell on that — fixating on that just takes up more time and energy, which makes it harder to come up with new and different approaches). They’re opportunities to reset our mindset and develop new abilities that make us more complete human beings.

So, that being said, I have a lot I need to learn and re-learn, these days. The big lesson at this moment right now, is how to deal with jet lag. I think I’m dealing with it pretty well, but I feel terrible in the process. I’m functional and I’m able to work pretty well, but I feel like crap, which is a real challenge for my frame of mind. Maybe I just need to expect this, and plan for it. Not get too much on my plate, and be sure to take time to rest and relax.

Yesterday was a hard day for that, because I had so much to do. And I have a lot of catching up around the house. It will get done. I have to believe that. I just can’t skimp on my sleep. Gotta take care of business — and that includes resting up. A lot. Because this coming week is a short one, but I have even more to do.

So, there’s another opportunity to learn.

Onward.

 

Another Simple Day

Back to basics

Well, I simplified my day yesterday, and no animals were harmed in the process.

I went back to sleep in the morning and got another couple of hours rest, then after I woke up, I laid in bed and checked in with friends on my smartphone. If it weren’t for my job, I would not have a smartphone. I don’t have the money to have one of my own, I don’t generally see the need for them, and I’d just use my computer for Facebook and email and whatnot if I didn’t have one. But the smartphone makes it so much easier to keep in touch – especially via FB. So, I do. When I need to.

Even when I don’t need to, I am getting in the habit of reaching out, just to stay connected with people. Usually, I keep to myself and isolate. A lot. But having social media makes it easier for me to keep in touch. I also have made a point of taking out the “friends” on FB who drag me down, are negative and whiny, and I’ve liked a bunch of positive motivational pages, as well as amazing pictures pages, so I have a steady stream of optimism and encouragement and downright beauty in my life on a regular basis.

It really is addicting, the beauty and joy. In the best of ways. Whenever I’m feeling down and lost, I check in with FB, and the pictures of nature or the positive sayings lift my spirits. If nothing else, they get me out of my own head, which is a dangerous place to be.

I’m feeling better this morning than yesterday. It was a little rough at first, but I got myself up, had some breakfast, moved around a bit, had some vitamins, a warm drink, and some Advil. Now I’m working on my cup of coffee, slowly… thinking about how I want the rest of my weekend to be.

I was feeling incredibly low, on Friday night. Just burnt out and wiped out from drama at work and how hard it has been to actually connect with other job opportunities. This is a tough job market, if you don’t have easy-to-plug-in skills or a degree, and that’s me. I have been doing what I do for a long time, but I’m not some easy-to-pin-down, cookie-cutter worker bee anymore. And I don’t have a degree and all sorts of certifications, so that disqualifies me in the running, from the get-go.

I was reading an article last week, about how the automation of job searches is passing over some really great candidates. I think I’m falling into that category, and I suspect that I’m getting passed over because I don’t list any degrees on my resume. The thought has occurred to me to just make something up and lie about my qualifications, to get past the automated “gatekeepers”. People would probably believe me, too. But with my luck, I’d get caught. And anyway, I can’t live with that hanging over my head.

All that thinking and reading about how bad things are didn’t actually help me. And it really dragged me down. I get locked into one way of thinking a lot, which is not good, and then I get stuck. It’s worse when the one way is depressed and suspicious and anxious.

So, I broke it up yesterday and got out and did things. I wrote down a lot of my frustrations and got them out of my head and onto paper, and that made me feel much better. Then I took care of some chores and just tended to the day-to-day, and that felt better, too. I moved, I took action, and I did a few things for my Big Project last night, that I’ve been meaning to do. It felt good to finally check them off my list.

By the end of the day, yesterday, I was feeling much better. In spite of simplifying my day, I got a lot done, and I made steady progress. And I even had time to watch a little television before I went to bed.

An interesting thing happened last night as I was getting ready for bed. I looked outside, and it looked like it was still evening, with the sky still light and the world around me still lit up. I could hardly believe it — it was nearly midnight, and it looked like it was 4 p.m.

I went downstairs and walked out on the back deck, and the full moon was bathing the whole world in a bright silver light. It was much milder last night than it’s been in weeks, and the stars overhead were phenomenal. So, I pulled on a couple of layers, got my hat and gloves and a flashlight, and I went for a walk.

The evening was so quiet, the roads were empty, and the moonlight was just amazing, flooding the world with silver light. Everything was lit up, and shadows of great trees sprawled across the road in sharp, craggy relief. Outdoors it was totally silent, except for the sound of distant traffic and the rustling of little creatures under the autumn leaves in the woods along the road. It was as though the whole world were there for me alone, with all my neighbors either tucked in and lights-out for the night, or staying up late with all their house lights on.

What an amazing walk it was. I wanted to keep going, but I was really tired and I hadn’t had a nap yesterday. I needed to get back, and not so far off in the distance, I could hear coyotes calling. So, it was probably best that I head back. The coyotes in this area don’t usually bother people, but why take a chance of surprising them at midnight.

Back home, I could feel myself so much more relaxed after my walk. Just having the silence and the space and the room to move — all under the brilliant moon and stars — what a gift it was.

Which brings me around to the topic that has been on my mind a lot, lately — gratitude. I’ve realized that with all the changes at work and all the reorganizational challenges, I’ve lost sight of the good that’s come with the changes. There are a number of things that have gone away, that we’ve lost — a lot of autonomy and freedom to move and make our own decisions, as well as the amazing commute that was a real blessing when I had it. In the midst of seeing all the things that are wrong, I’ve lost sight of the things that are right.

A part of me has been stubborn about admitting that some things are right, because part of me thinks that will validate the stupidity that seems to reign supreme, and somehow make it alright. It’s not alright, and there are some serious issues at play in that place, but when I focus on the bad, it blinds me to what good I can find. And it drains me. It doesn’t only hurt the company (which many folks at work would actually like to hurt), it also hurts me. It saps my energy, it taints each and every day with bilious resentment, and it makes the already difficult things that much harder to handle.

And that will never do. So, I’m finding a new way of approaching thing — Seeing the bad (the awful, actually) and seeing how it can lead me to something new and different. There are so many different options available to me — new paths to explore, new ways of interacting, new ways of working, new projects — why get dragged down by the sh*t, when I can be looking to a new way, a new approach, a new chapter of my life?

Indeed, the fact that things are so bad right now, can actually make my life better. I can see them for what they are, not fight and resist and resent them, but simply see them for how they are — plain and simple. I don’t need to complicate matters with all sorts of mental gymnastics that keep me locked in place because I’m gyrating through all kinds of emotional drama. I can simply — very simply — see things as they are, accept that they suck, objectively move on to what is next in my life, and be grateful that they provided the impetus for me to do more with my life.

It is taking me a long time to move along to what’s next, but maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I have not been thinking about things as expansively as I should be. Maybe I have not been considering all the options in front of me. Maybe I really do need more time – and I need to stretch.

These are all things that have been rattling ’round in my head for some time, now. Plain and simple, I’m in a kind of a holding pattern, and I need to find ways to use this time wisely. I’m not sure that making myself more “plug and play” is the answer — I’m capable of more than that, and being slotted into a cookie-cutter position is not going to do it for me.

The thing I also need to remember is that I have a number of different projects in the works, and some of them are really taking off. So, if I start a new job, that’s going to suck a lot of time and energy away from my overall “supplies.” Yes, it will stress me and “wake me up” and make me feel alive again, but long-term, this is not sustainable, and it’s a recipe for eventual pain and suffering.

So, simplify, simplify. Keep things basic and focus on the fundamentals. Apply myself in intelligent ways, and don’t get caught up in distractions that feel like they’re “taking the pressure off” when they’re just distracting me and interfering with what I should really be doing.

When I think about it, I have plenty to keep myself occupied, plenty to add meaning and purpose to my life. I can let the job situation just BE, for a while, focus on other things, and think about where else I want to go with my life.

It’s all good. I just need to stop complicating things for the sake of the drama adrenaline rush, and let myself be grateful for what I have.

It’s not all about what I’ve lost. It’s also about what I’m gaining.

And another simple day is waiting.

So, onward.

Finding the energy

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

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

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

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

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

And that interrupted my daily routine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could do with improvements in all those areas.

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

Onward.

 

Up early again – with some choices to make

My plan last night was to sleep till 8:15 this morning. I don’t have any meetings at work till afternoon, and I have some leeway to work with this morning.

However, what really happened was, I woke around 5 a.m., and after lying in bed for about 15 minutes, I decided to get up and do some writing and reading before I get on with my day.

I’m back to my regular life, now, and with it comes a lot of concerns that I had before I drove away last Friday. And with those concerns come early waking, as well as plenty of ways to use the extra hours I have when I’m up several hours before I planned.

I can use those hours fretting about not being able to rest well enough.

Or I can use those hours doing something productive.

This morning, I fretted briefly, then decided to get up and use the extra time for something productive — like reading and writing for a bit before I start my work day.

So, I got some reading in, as well as some writing, and even though I am still pretty tired from the craziness of the past months, it was still good to get some of my own work done.

Tonight I will sleep. Get in bed at a decent hour and just let it all go. Just let it alll…. goooo…

 

 

 

Beyond the stigmas of brain injury

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I keep this blog. Someone who’s been a reader here for a while has commented that I spend too much time over-analyzing and thinking about brain injury, and that I should just be thankful for what I have, live my life and get on with it.

That’s been a challenge for me to digest, probably because there’s some truth to it. It’s partly true that I do spend a lot of time thinking about brain injury and how it affects me, and sometimes it keeps me from just living my life. At the same time, one of the driving forces behind keeping this blog is the deafening silence out there about brain injury, from a personal point of view. When I first came to terms with the fact of my history of TBI, it was all but impossible to find *anything* personal about TBI — there were just a bunch of “scientific” sites, many of which were selling or promoting something — with objective, impersonal information.

And I felt completely alone.

I still feel alone, but a lot less so, since I’ve been blogging about TBI. Something about just writing this all down and putting it out there, is not only cathartic but also helps me put things in perspective. I don’t have many friends or social interaction outside of work — I get too tired to maintain friendships for any length of them. And I don’t keep in regular touch with my family, in part because they exhaust me with their attitudes and their choices and their drama.

More than anything, fatigue has changed the face of my life, since I fell down those stairs in 2004.

And there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.

But I digress.

One of the things that a few people are saying that I really agree with, is that it’s not concussion/TBI that’s the problem. It’s mismanagement of concussion/TBI that gets us in trouble.

The Concussion Blog is one of those places where this is talked about. The blogger/author there talks about management from the perspective of an athletic trainer. And I talk about managing TBI/concussion from the “inside” — the personal perspective of someone who is dealing with TBI on a regular basis. I do this because I want to demystify the world of concussion/TBI recovery and put human face on something that usually pulls people into the shadows to hide “until they’re better”, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as we’d like.

When it comes to TBI, there are tremendous stigmas attached. Not least of which comes from inside our own heads. We become different people. Our lives can be turned upside-down. It may look like there is no end in sight, and we can lose hope. Simple fact of the matter is, it is not easy, dealing with TBI, and that’s just a fact we need to accept and work with.

For many, this can be tremendously unsettling, and we may want with all our might to just put it behind us and get on with our lives, not worrying about what was before, but trusting that we will get the help we need as we go on. That help may be from within, from God, from family and friends, or from an agency or rehab. We don’t want TBI to stop us, and we want to just have the best life possible, without staring at our navels all day long.

For others, the many phenomena around TBI may be a source of fascination, even compulsion — some might say obsession(?). When something nearly takes you out, and it’s so big and undeniable, it can be a source of intense scientific interest. Sometimes people turn to studying the very thing that nearly killed them — like people who have close calls with snakes or sharks or other threats as kids, and then become scientists who study them.  I fall into that category — especially because I was raised around scientists and I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandfather, who was a college professor in natural sciences.

For other people, they may never be able to put TBI behind them, and they may struggle for years and years — alone, misunderstood, discriminated against, and marginalized… and never fully understanding why. It’s my hope that some of what I write reaches those people and helps them feel less isolated and alone. Life can be rough on all of us, and TBI folks especially.

The biggest problem that I can see is the isolation and the feeling that nobody understands you, nobody can help you, nobody gets it, and you’re just a freak who’s good for nothing. When you feel that way, it’s easy to let others marginalize you and mistreat you, which does not help your ability to self-advocate and get the help you need. And it just feeds the vicious cycle that pulls us into the progressive downward spiral of TBI. So things can get a lot worse, before they get better. If they get better at all. What happens inside our souls after TBI, can be even more harmful than what happens inside our heads.

So, if I come across as egotistical, self-consumed, and perseverating… it’s all in the interest of being real about my own condition. I don’t want over-analyzing TBI to stop me from living my life — and in fact, it doesn’t — but I also don’t want to pretend that everything is hunky-dory and there are no issues in sight. For years, I was totally focused on barrelling through all the hurdles along the way and leveling every barrier to my success. But lately, I’m just too tired to keep up that charge. And I’ve got to get real about my situation.

So, that’s it for today. I hope it has done someone somewhere some good.

Onward.