When things don’t go as planned

Sometimes there’s high seas ahead – oil painting by Joyce Ortner – click to see her gallery

I had my doctor’s appointment the other morning, and it went pretty well. I got some antibiotics for the infection that has been bothering my ears and making it hard for me to keep my balance, and I gave my doctor the holiday card my spouse told me I needed to give to them. It was a good call – and I picked out a good card, because it really touched my doctor a lot. They didn’t want to let on, but I could see it meant something. I mean, if you think about it, doctors spend their lives trying to help others. They have their limitations, like all of us, but in the end, their whole reason for doing what they do is to help people.

I have been taking my meds for the past few days, but I’m still having balance issues. I’m going to keep on doing it, and hope for the best. I really don’t want to go back, though. It’s just more opportunity to get put on more meds — which my doctor tried to do, when I told them about the balance issues. They tried to put me on meclozine / antivert, thinking that would fix what was wrong with me, but I told them no, because that stuff just makes me feel rotten and weird and dense, and it doesn’t do a thing for my vertigo. It’s supposed to fix the nausea thing and supposedly make me feel less dizzy, but it’s an antihistamine and the side effects whack me out.

Drowsiness and tiredness and that weird spacey feeling that antihistamines give me, is just not worth it. So, I told them not to prescribe it. Even if they had, I wouldn’t take that stuff. Like I need more crap in my system…Anyway, I can always take Dramamine if it comes to that. I’ve taken it for seasickness and it seemed to help me. At the same time, it still make me feel weird and “off” and the fishing trip I was on was a lot less fun because of it.

Anyway, I had been planning on “having the talk” with my doctor about not being a risk-taker, just having a hard time sorting through the myriad little “issues” I have on a daily basis. For any doctor who is reading this, please take note: TBI can introduce a whole host of physical issues, from noise sensitivity to light sensitivity to touch sensitivity to pain to ringing in the ears… a whole host of physical issues that can cloud the overall picture of one’s health. And that’s not even the mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, which can make everything seem 1000x worse than it really is… or it can make everything seem like it’s nothing at all. This obviously has implications for patients with TBI being able to accurately self-assess their level of well-being. And it’s helpful to address that aspect of our experience.

The only problem is — and I realized this when I was driving to my dr. appointment and was thinking about the best way to broach the subject. I thought about how I would approach it, how I would introduce the topic of my not being a risk-taker, but just a person who struggles with sorting through all the stimuli of each day… and I considered (based on past experience) what my doctor’s response would be.

I’m glad I did think it through, too, because it gradually dawned on me that if I talked about my issues the way I was, my doctor would try to prescribe me something. Or prescribe tests. Or try to DO something, instead of just understanding and thinking things through and letting that inform their approach with me. They tend to jump right into action! as though that will solve anything right off the bat. Sometimes it does. But in some cases, you don’t need a procedure, you need comprehension and understanding and a slightly different way of approaching things.

Knowing what I know about my doctor, after seeing them for a number of years, I really think that if I’d “had the talk” about my issues, I might have ended up fending off a slew of prescriptions and tests — they’ve already tried to get me CT-scanned and/or X-rayed over sinus issues. I mean, I’m sure they mean well, but I am not exposing myself to a bunch of radiation over a sinus infection. Seriously… It’s just not going to happen. Not unless I am in serious danger.

Likewise, I’m not going to raise a red flag that my doctor is going to treat like an invitation to charge. They’ve got a bit of a fight-flight predisposition, and the last thing I want is to have to try to explain and fend off their headlong charges and attacks against what might be vexing me, when all I really want is for them to temper their responses with a little more knowledge. I can easily see them ordering a bunch of tests and prescribing a bunch of meds, in the interest of helping me… and all the while, I just get sucked into the medical system with more crap on my chart to fuel the standard-issue medical responses that pathologize and (over)medicate my condition… when all I really need is some understanding and consideration. All I really need is for people to slow down… but knowing my doctor, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. At least not with them.

So, I didn’t have “the talk” with my doctor, and I’m a little disappointed in myself. At the same time, though, I’m glad I thought it through carefully ahead of time. In a way, I feel like I may have dodged a bullet from a weapon that I had trained at myself. I unloaded the weapon and put it down, and now I’m feeling a bit better. What I really need to do is speak up, in the course of conversations, when I feel that things are going too fast or my doctor says something that doesn’t sit right with me. Sometimes I can speak up and defend myself quickly, other times I can’t. I’m working on that. The times when I don’t speak up, I feel terrible afterwards, so that’s more impetus for me to practice speaking up.

That was something I did do on Friday — I spoke up about the meds and the tests and the assumptions my doc was making. They seemed a little peeved that I was questioning their judgment, but you know what? It’s my body, it’s my life, and I need to do what I need to do. Provided, of course, I’m not putting myself in danger.

Anyway, that’s one example of things not working out as planned, and it being okay.

Another example is last night, when I decided to go to bed early, then I got caught up in going on Facebook “one last time”. I swear, that thing is a massive time-sink, and I have to be careful. By the time I got to bed, it was over an hour later, which just sucks. Oh, well. I’ll just have to nap today. I had planned on doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, but the other thing that’s happening is that we have company from the party last night. Rather than driving home, we had someone stay over, which is fine. But now I need to be social and hang out, instead of running out to the mall. That’s annoying to me. But come to think of it, I actually knew that we might have company staying over, so I’m not sure why I was thinking that I was going to run out, first thing this morning, and take care of that. More annoyance — this time with myself.

Oh well — tomorrow is another day, and I can probably get all my shopping done early in the morning before the crowds hit the mall. I pretty much know what I want, and there’s not much of it, so it will keep things simple. Plus, having less time to spend on it really focuses me. Even if that doesn’t happen, and I get stuck in the crowds, and the lines are long, and I get trapped in the holiday crush, I can always check Facebook while I’m standing on line.

So, yeah – plans. I have them. We all have them. And when they don’t go the way we expect them to, then it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to handle them. I can get worked up and bent out of shape. Or I can roll with it and come up with another course of action. I can get annoyed at this, that, and the other thing, or I can just let it all go and see what happens. When I’m tired (like I am today), I am less able to just let it all go. When I am stressed (like I am over my job, even though I am off on vacation for a week and a half – the residual stress is ridiculous), it’s harder for me to just BE.

I’ve noticed an increasing level of intensity with me – I’m starting to lose my temper again (though inside my head, not out in the world around me so much). I’m starting to react really strongly to little things… like I used to, before I started exercising regularly and doing my breathing exercises. I’m noticing a change, and I’m not liking it much — especially the parts where I’m not rolling with changes as well as I would like to. Things are starting to sneak up on me again.

So, it’s back to using the tools I was working with  before. Despite my good progress, I had gotten away from the exercise and the breathing for a while, in part because I just got so uptight over doing it each and every day like clockwork, and also because I just needed to let it all sink in for a while. I was working really hard on my technique and also my regular practice, and it got to be just another chore that didn’t have much sense to it.  I just hit an impasse with it — maybe I had too many ideas and my head was spinning, maybe I had too much experience that I needed to just get used to… in any case, I needed a break.

So, I took a break. And I must admit it was a pretty big relief to not “have” to do the sitting and breathing every morning. All of a sudden, I had extra time, and ironically, I felt like I could breathe. I was still doing intermittent breathing throughout the day, when I felt my stress level increasing, but I didn’t have a daily practice.

Still, I do feel like I need to get back to a bit of that again. I’ve had my break. Now I need to try it again to see how it helps me… pick up where I need to — maybe where I left off, or maybe somewhere else… Just do what I need to do to get myself back on track and take the edge off this intensity, which has been building and is starting to drag me down.

Things change. Plans change. What we think we can do is often very different from what we can do, which is also different from what we DO do. Life has a way of changing directions on us when we least expect it, and the only constant is change. So, I need to work on my flexibility and chill-ness, so I don’t end up ship-wrecked over every little thing. Yeah… I need to work on that. And so I shall.

Now, to go for my morning walk in the woods.

And so, I slept

I’ve been noticing a lot, over the past months, how tired I am. I’ve tried to get myself to sleep more, but I can never seem to put things aside, to get myself “down”. There is always something more interesting or more important to keep me up. And there is this voice in the back of my mind that tells me, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Right now, there is too much interesting stuff happening.”

But yesterday I just gave it all up. I wrote a bit in the morning, wasted a bit of time on Facebook, thought about my life a bit, and then ran some errands. I made myself some lunch, and then decided to lie down for a nap. I was intending to get up after a few hours and get a few more things done, but I decided to not set the alarm and let myself sleep, if I needed to. There’s nothing worse for me, than being forced to waked up when I am still tired, and I had the free time today, so I decided to just let it go and not set an alarm… see where it would take me.

Well, it took me to a 5-1/2 hour nap. I laid down about 3 p.m., and I woke up around 7:30. I was going to get up, but I just shut my eyes, and I slept till about 8:30 or so… laid in bed a while longer, and finally got up at 9:00. My spouse was downstairs watching a movie, and they had put some food in the crock pot, so by the time I got downstairs, it was ready to cook up quickly. I whipped up a nice supper in short order, and we had a nice hot meal while we watched another movie.

After a couple of hours, I was still really tired, so I laid down on the couch so I could stay and watch t.v., but still be able to sleep if I needed to. And I needed to. I probably fell asleep about 11:30… and I slept through to 1:30 or 2:00, when my spouse was heading to bed. I don’t remember clearly, because I was wiped out. I was a bit cranky when I woke up, I must admit, and I started to complain about things being out of order in the living room. I was really bothered about the lack of organization, and how my spouse could just leave the room without bothering to pick up after themself, and just leave it a mess — for me to pick up after them.

This has been an ongoing thing, and they had resolved to make some changes about a week ago. It lasted for about a week, then they had some changes happen with some relationships they had, and now they’re back to the late-night t.v. watching and snacking and leaving crap around the house for me to clean up. It puts me in a really tough situation, because their health has not been good, but I don’t feel like being used over things they can easily do themself, but they just don’t feel like doing. I think it might actually be depression that has them down. I want to be supportive. I want to be helpful. I want to really help them. I really need to find a way… at the same time, though, they need to be able to help themself, and I don’t know how to motivate them.

The one thing that does seem to motivate them, is being surrounded by like-minded individuals who are “on the same path” as them, and can give them a constant supply of positive reinforcement and support. I know I tend to be very self-absorbed, which I’ve noticed has gotten a lot worse since my TBI in 2004. I have always been a bit self-centered, but I’m starting to realize just how self-consumed I can be at times, to where the rest of the world just doesn’t exist at all. All that matters is what’s going on with me.

I know it’s been hard for them, and the things I’ve had to do to keep myself going — like having a regular schedule and doing this in a certain way — have felt like “prison” to them. Like there is no flexibility or freedom. Yeah, I know it’s been hard.

It’s also been hard for me, because there hasn’t been a lot of support for me making the kinds of changes I need to make, in order to keep functional. They just can’t see all the confusion and frustration that builds up in me, and they can’t see how much I struggle at times with some pretty simple stuff. All in all, it’s been pretty rough, trying to adjust to the changes I’ve been through.

Depressing? Yeah.

So, yesterday I just slept. I woke up feeling out of sorts, because it was later than I wanted it to be. But I clearly needed to rest. I have been a little concerned about my functioning, over the past months. My NP doesn’t seem to see a problem with it all – because I’m in “normal” range. They seem to have lost that perspective of me being considerably less functional than I once was, or than I could be, and they don’t seem to see this as a loss for me — I should be grateful that I am where I am, and my expectations are unnaturally high for myself — or anyone, really.

It’s like they think my high expectations are a sign of impairment or some-such.

But I really differ. And it disappoints me, because I thought I had found someone who was genuinely interested in helping me get to a higher place, not content myself with what I’ve got. It’s important for me to be at peace with where I am, but I also want so much more for my life. How I get there, is the challenge.

So, now I’ve gotten about 13 hours of sleep in less than 24 hours, so I should feel good, right? One would think, but I feel foggy and out of it and irritable. I guess I really need to get out for a walk. I think I’ll do that — off to the woods I go. That usually settles what’s unsettled with me.

Onward.

 

 

Back from the edge-yness

Rigidity… taking over my mind and life?

I realized something weird, recently – how rigid and inflexible I got after my last TBI. It’s bizarre, really, when I think about it. It’s just not “me”. It’s not the way I want to be or the person I recognize as myself. And it’s probably one of the biggest changes in my personality that I’ve experienced. It’s been pretty rough for my family and co-workers — and it’s been a challenge for me, because it’s the kind of thing that seems like a good idea at the time, but is really anything but.

I used to be pretty bold and daring and willing to push the envelope. I used to be cool and cool-headed in a crisis — any crisis. It didn’t matter what got thrown at me — I was up for it. No matter what. I would just be there. I would just do it. I would just — you know, BE. And DO.

When I fell in 2004, that pretty much shattered. And all the coolness went out the window – poof! The weird thing was, I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I was a mess, that I was a simpering, weepy, foggy, hostile asshole, who couldn’t seem to figure sh*t out. I just went along like I was fine, and everything was falling apart around me. The worst thing was, I got incredibly rigid — brittle, inflexible, stuck. Things had to be done a certain way, or I would snap. I would just freak out. If I dropped something, I would blow up. If something got messed up, I would fly off the handle. If things didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted them to, I would lose it.

It’s been a real problem with me and my family, co-workers, just about everybody who’s had to deal with me. And I’ve felt like a real reject, as a result. Because part of me knew that how I was acting was really wrong, yet I couldn’t figure out the cause of it or how to address it. Dealing with it has been a two-fold process:

  1. Dealing with the loss of the old ways I used to be, and how easy it used to be for me to chill and not get all uptight over every little thing. And forgiving myself for being so rigid and difficult to live with.
  2. Learning new ways that I can get some flexibility back — mostly physiological ones: exercise and breathing — along with things like self-talk and taking time-outs when things are getting heavy. And staying open to the new things I’m learning – the new ways I’m learning to live.

Now I’ve got more information. And I have developed more coping skills. I’ve got new tools I can use. And I use them. And that’s good. Things have chilled tremendously, since I have been deliberately practicing being more flexible, and since I learned how to relax. It’s been like night and day. Just doing regular breathing exercises (lately, more in-the-moment than first thing each and every morning) has helped. Ironically, getting off that obligatory daily regimen of focused breathing has helped me. Because that rigid discipline… maybe it works for monks in a monastery, but it was making me even more tense.

Funny how that goes – the very thing that used to help me, started to get in my way. And when I changed it, it helped me even more.

Crashed on the couch

Long day, yesterday, but a good day. I made good progress on my deadline work for this coming week. And when all was said and done, I just lay myself down on the couch and went to sleep. And slept through the night. On the couch.

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good — tired and not the best rested, but good. It’s been a while since I last let myself just do something unexpected and spontaneous like that. It might not seem like much, but I’ve been so intent on keeping my my schedule and maintaining my everyday routine, that I’ve done without this sort of thing.

And I’ve missed it.

Something is really loosening up with me — the rigid thinking is softening and my strict adherence to routine is giving way to occasional improvisation.

The first step was learning to relax, over the past couple of years.

The next step was learning to function when things weren’t ideal — when I was tired, when I was confused, when I was struggling to just keep my balance and keep from knocking things over.

The most recent step has been to pay attention to how tired I am, and move to the couch or go up to bed, when I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. Sometimes I just don’t want to go to bed, and the couch is a viable option.

And it feels good.

Learning to get myself feeling good — through breath or through stretching or through eating right — has been the most important step of all. Finding a way to get myself feeling good and settled and calm, in the midst of it all. Breath has a lot to do with it. Breathing and just relaxing. On purpose.

It’s good.

Barefoot & Balanced

Full-contact living

It’s getting warm enough, now, that I can start going barefoot regularly. What a relief. There’s something about shoes that really gets to me. Being separated from my world by a layer of rubber or leather leaves me feeling disoriented. Where shoes are supposedly “protective” gear, in some ways, they do me more harm than good. Researchers have been looking into the adverse effects of wearing shoes when you run – apparently, barefoot is better.

I would agree – tho’ in my case, I’m not referring to running. Just living my life.

Sometimes, I need as much sensory contact with the world around me as I can get. I need to feel the world around me, sense it, be in direct contact with it. Going barefoot wakes me up, actually. It gets me in direct contact with the floor beneath me, and it actually helps me move better as I go about my business.

I’m not the only person who feels that way, either. Over at Naturally Engineered, I found a discussion about proprioception, “the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts.” It’s good stuff.

[F]rom a simplistic perspective, the fact that our feet are the primary interface we have with terra firma is highly relevant. About 99% of every thing we do involves some sort of arrangement of our feet with the ground. If you were asked which of your senses you don’t think you could live without, most people would probably say “sight” or “hearing”, but the ability to touch and receive tactile sensation is given far too little worth (in my opinion). Certainly not by the human body though, considering there are approximately 200,000 sensory receptors in the sole of each foot. That’s right, each foot. This makes your feet some of the most nerve-rich areas of your body

So, it makes sense that it would mean whole lot to me, when I’m able to go barefoot. And it also makes sense that I’ve been seriously thinking about getting some of those five-toe shoes that fit like gloves over your feet. I saw shoes like that a few years ago, and they seemed interesting. Now they seem more than interesting. They are starting to seem essential.

But they’re also expensive. I’ll need to save up for them. And make sure I get the right size. For the time being, I’m just going to go barefoot in the house and wear sandals outside. Sandals with straps to keep them on my feet. I have a way of losing flip-flops, and I don’t want to have to think about my shoes, when I’m moving around.

Speaking of moving around, I’ve been thinking of taking the day off my physical regimen, to let my body relax and catch up. I’ve been pushing it pretty hard, for the past couple of weeks, doing different workouts and pushing the envelope on my strength and endurance.  But then I look around me at the people who are at the top of their game and the top of their field, and I see them working harder, longer, training more intently, than just about anyone else, and I have to rethink this.

I think the real point is to keep balanced — to train and work and apply myself in different, more varied ways. Not to overdo it in one area only — that’s a great way to sustain a stress injury — but to change things up, so that different parts of me have the chance to rest on off days, AND I have a more varied, balanced fitness to my life — mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

With me, it’s not a matter of just stopping everything altogether, but stopping different things at different times, and developing an overall conditioning that lets me live my life fully, no matter what.

Strength one day, stretching the next, simple movement the next… in no particular order, just where I feel I need some help for that day. Or I need to improve.

Or I need a break. Breaks are important. I just need to make sure I don’t get caught in the “break vortex” where I go without doing much of anything for an indefinite period of time. This is an incredibly hard thing – I do tend to get stuck, and it’s hard for me to get out of that rut.

Like now. I slept in till about 8 this morning, and I’ve been taking it easy, writing and watching people train like crazy to become stronger, faster, more capable, than they were before. It’s pretty inspiring. And it’s also daunting. But it shows regular people in training to do amazing things.

This, to me, has become the theme of my life — practice and training. Focusing on the thing I want to achieve, and not letting my inexperience or shortcomings get in the way. Training to overcome those shortcomings. Practicing to overcome my inexperience. And living my life in a way that provides strength and balance and skill over time.

It does take time, though. I just need to be aware of that and keep that in mind. This stuff doesn’t come overnight, and you’ve got to stay steady with it. So, staying steady, while keeping it fresh and relevant and meaningful, is the order of the day.

Speaking of the day, I have a handful of things I need to get done. For real. Off I go.

Onward.

Stretching for more

April first. Surprise. I have a noontime appointment scheduled with my neuropsych today to follow up on some things we didn’t get a chance to talk about on Tuesday. I’ve got the time, so why not use it? Except that the weather is bad. And I’ve got things I’d like to do with the three hours it would take me to drive in, consult, and then drive home. Like sleep. Seems to me, sleep might actually help me more than driving through bad weather, sitting and talking, and then driving back.

It might shake me out of my funk. I have to admit, I’m not very good at vacations. I like my schedule, my routine. It has been good, getting out of the schedule-driven mainstream for a week, but I’m ready to get back into work. I’m ready go back to my job, my office, my roster of duties. I don’t quite feel like myself, when I’m off my schedule. I have more time, but I get less done.

Still and all, it’s been good to get out of the frantic go-go-go of the daily grind. Working in technology sets a grueling pace, which is promoted by people of a distinctly darwinian bent, who think that the better you are, the faster you’ll go. Hm. Not sure about that. Seems like speed is its own justification, at times. They just want to feel like they’re doing something. They just want to feel like they’re making progress.

Hm.

Anyway, the weather is letting up, but I think I’m going to cancel my appointment. I have a standing appointment on Tuesdays, and I’ll be closer to the neuropsych’s office on Tuesday than I am today. Time savings. Life savings. I just don’t want to wear myself out even more than I already am. Didn’t get my nap yesterday. Got busy running around in the evening. Also didn’t get things done that I need to get done.

At three years into my active recovery, I’m finding that I need to make some substantial changes to how I go about living my life. Discovering that mild traumatic brain injury was the cause of many of my difficulties throughout the course of my life was amazingly freeing and totally unexpected. It set me loose in the world, the way few other things have. It gave me a framework to understand myself and my own personal situation, and it gave me a route to follow to address specific issues I had in a systematic, common sense way, rather than the scatter-shot trials and errors of my life to that point.

Discovering the root cause of my issues gave me the means to address them. And address them, I have. Now that I’ve made all this progress, a different approach is called for. It’s about using the tools I have and the knowledge I’ve gained, to take things beyond the basic survival tactics I’ve employed for the past three years. The basics are pretty much in place — being, my understanding of my history and how it’s affected me — and I have the tools to address my issues, like fatigue, irritability, anger, aggression, and memory issues.

With these in place, it doesn’t make sense for me to keep subsisting at a fundamental level, “just happy to be alive”. Sure, I’m VERY happy to be alive. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want to fall into the rut that some acquaintances of mine are stuck in. They’re my “recovery friends” on the mend from histories of violence, abuse, addiction, and other things that strike at the core of who we are and what we think we’re all about. They literally tell me, “I’m lucky to just be functioning at a basic level,” and they mean it. But from where I’m sitting, it seems to me they’re capable of a whole lot more than that. They’re just not taking that chance. They’re not testing their own limits. They’re sitting in their stuff, feeling sorry for themselves or telling themselves they’re really badly off… when they’re really no worse positioned in the world than most of the other non-recovery-focused people I know and work with.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dismiss their troubles and their issues. Lord knows, I’ve got my fair share — we all do. But that’s the point — we all have our issues, and nobody goes through life without some measure of pain and suffering. Even the richest and most entitled people in the world experience excruciating pain — which must actually be worse than being in pain as a “normal” person. It must be awful to suffer, when you’re well aware that all of life is arranged around you to minimize, even prevent, any sort of pain at all.

But who can say why or how or for what we experience what we do? Lessons, I suppose. Just a lot of lessons.

Which is where I find myself now, on the last day of my official vacation. I’ve had a lot of time to think and ponder and examine my life, and while I’ve come away with a pretty good sense of being in a far better place than I was three years ago, something is missing. Something more. Maybe it’s in my nature, being the sort of person who is always looking for what’s next and what else is out there. Maybe I’m just naturally inclined to push the envelope. Bottom line is, I need more challenge. I need more living. I need more life. I need to get beyond this immediate situation of mine and look to the future, with my tools and strategies as a good foundation for moving forward.

More life. Different life. I’ve been spending more time stretching, the past few days, and I’m realizing that I probably need to shift my daily routine away from straight weight training and more to strength-building yoga. Lifting weights is great, but it also shortens the muscles (when you build bulk), and that may be contributing to my pain. Also the tightening causes me to tense up. I’ve been tense for a long, long time, and I need to find a different way of living in the world.

I have to say, I feel much better when I stretch. I steered clear of yoga for many years, because it was painful for me to do the stretches and hold the poses. But I’m at a point now where I’ve done enough stretching on my own to get past that excruciating pain. Stretching on my own, taking it easy, and being focused on my own movement (rather than a roomful of people) has been good. And I really need to do more of it — in a different way… in my own way.

{Pause to stretch}

Stretching… yes… in more ways than one. Physical stretching, as well as mental and professional stretching. I’ve had a lot of time this week to contemplate my work, why I do it, what it means to me. And I realize that the “career path” I’m on is less about climbing the ladder and more about having a quality experience… and sharing that experience with others It’s all very well and good for others to chase after the brass ring and climb over each other to reach the top, but that tends to be pretty debilitating for me. All that adrenaline pumping all the time — the constant go-go-go is all very well and good, but where does it eventually take you to? And once you get there, is that really where you want to be?

In the years before my last TBI, I was living that life. Fast and furious. Fiercely driven. I was a force to be reckoned with, and I was alternately feared and respected by my peers and highly valued by my employer. Then I fell, and it all fell apart. Then someone close to me died, and I sat and held their hand as they slowly slipped away from a life they had dearly loved and hated to leave. Then someone else close to me became seriously ill, and I was their caretaker for about a year. Three big hits in about three years. Even one of those would have been plenty to handle. But no, there had to be three.

Anyway… Coming out on the other side of it, now with three years of active rehab under my belt, I see how those experiences changed me, and how they have shaped my attitude towards life and my work. I know, having watched the young children and loving spouse of my loved-one who died all too young, that none of us has any guarantees in life. Even when the doctor gives you a clean bill of health and tells you to expect to see your kids graduate from college… they could be wrong. Even when you think you’ve got it all together, something as simple as a fall down the stairs can wipe out some of your most prized, cherished coping mechanisms. Even when you’re locked on target and think you’ve got your path figured out, serious illness can manifest and leave you feeling and acting like a six-year-old child, with all certainty erased.

And I realize — with the last week’s perspective — that no matter how hard I work, no matter how hard I push myself, it will never be enough. Not for me, anyway. And it will never be enough for the world. There will always be other things that need to be done, other endeavors to perfect. I also know for certain that the most important thing to me in my work is not the work itself, but the experiences I have in that work. That’s something that can’t be taken away. I need depth of experience. I need the kind of engagement and connection that makes memories for years to come. In the past, I have been so focused on getting things done, that I never stopped to fully experience what it is I was doing. I was so driven by results, that the process got lost along the way.

And that’s a shame. Because my memory is already iffy — why make it even worse?

Indeed.

The ironic thing is, when I take my focus off the delivery dates and bottom lines and pure results, and I focus on the core essentials — doing good work for the sake of doing it, and sharing the success with others to really create a working environment that, well, works — the results turn out even better, the bottom line is fed, and the actual results are longer-lived and more sustainable than ever. Getting the focus off the short-term, and putting it on the long-term, creates success not only in the present, but in the future as well. In the process of transcending the bottom line and delivery dates, those very things are fed. And it turns out better in the long run. For everyone. And I have real memories of live to look back on, later, not just a handful of deliveries and goals achieved.

Well, despite the weather, it is a beautiful day. I think I’ll step away from the computer now and have a good stretch.

Today I stretch

At the chiropractor, the other day, I was informed that my right side is “very tight” and that it’s throwing my back out of whack. That makes sense, because I’ve been sitting at my desk, nearly motionless, for days, now, trying to meet my deadlines. The only movement I’ve been doing, for hours on end, is typing and moving my mouse, which is on the right side.

I guess I need to stretch. And not only for my chiro’s sake.  I also need to stretch because when I get tight and tense, I tend to get tired. More tired than usual, actually. And it becomes hard for me to relax.

I notice this especially when I am trying to get to sleep at night, or I wake up in the middle of the night. 7 times out of 10, if i’m having trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s because I’m tight and tense, and I need to stretch — especially my back/spine.

It’s pretty amazing, the difference a back stretch makes. I do two different kinds of back stretches, in this order.

First, I do the cat/dog thing, where I am on my hands and knees, and I first arch my back (like an agry cat) and then I lower my back and stretch it that way. Usually I can hear/feel my spine popping and adjusting when I go from cat to dog. It feels pretty great.

The second stretch I do is a side roll. I lie flat on my bed with my arms at my sides, palms down.  Keeping my back and shoulders flat on the bed, I lift up my right leg (keeping it straight0 and bring it over across my left side, swiveling my hips as I lower my right leg to cross my body. I gradually turn my whole torso to that side, keeping my shoulders flat, so that my spine is turning. I usually hear/feel 3-4 cracks and pops, from my sacrum up to my middle back, when I do this. And it feels great. It’s like this huge pressure is relieved, and I can breathe again.

I hold that stretch for a little bit, then I do the same with my left side, lying flat and lifting my left leg up and over my body to point to the right side. I often get more cracks and pops from that, and I get the same relief from the pressure when I do it.

Then I straighten out and lie flat again. Sometimes I’ll repeat the stretch a few times, just to make sure. Even on the nights when I don’t get cracks and pops, I still get a lot of relief from the stretching. Heaven.

And then I can sleep.

A lot of times, when I wake up during the night, it’s because my back is tightening up and I’m not able to relax. Doing this side-to-side stretch often gives me just the kind of relief I need.

Try it. You might like it.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling a little sick, the past few days, with a sore throat and aches and chills. I think I need to take it easy today. Of course, I still have lots to get done, but I’m going to focus more on stretching today, than strength-building. I’ve been on this strength-building kick for some time, now, and I’ve done pretty well at my daily workouts. Nothing huge, mind you, and more about maintenance than out-and-out strength building. But my focus has been so much on cardio and lifting, that the stretching thing has kind of fallen by the wayside.

And I think it’s cutting into my overall health. Reason being, I’m on the go so much, I don’t give myself nearly enough time to rest and relax. Part of the reason  seems to be due to my tightness and lack of flexibility. I’ve noticed that being tight actually tires me out, and I’ve also noticed that stretching seems to free up some pretty amazing energy — it’s like I can breathe again. My body can communicate with itself again. And I start to feel more human. I start to feel like myself.

Which is good.

And it’s good for me to keep this in mind, when I’m pushing through to Get Things Done. Sometimes I don’t need to force issues and MAKE things happen — I need more to loosen up and let myself be inspired, let some of the answers that I’ve been ignoring (because I’ve been so busy trying to force things through) actually bubble to the surface.

It’s all a balancing act, of course, and there’s no simple solution to lots of the issues I come across, but having one more thing I can do to help myself when I’m getting in a jam is a good thing.