I think the changes at work are getting to me a little bit. Uncertainty abounds. Fortunately, I’m not well-connected enough to get the juicy gossip. That would probably drive me nuts. My boss is very connected – and they are very guarded, as well. It’s impossible to tell, from talking to them, what the deal is.
I’ve been increasingly busy at work and at home. And more social, too, which has its own set of challenges. It’s hard for me to be social, when I’m tired… which is pretty much all the time.
What’s making it worse, is that I’m getting sucked into social media, chatting with people and also emailing them till late in the evening. I’m a night-owl by preference, but if I don’t get my sleep, fatigue sets in, and then I become impossible.
I’m not getting stuff done that I need to. I have several important projects around the house that I haven’t been successful at handling. It all needs to get done before winter arrives. It’s not a huge amount of work, but it takes focus.
So, I’m putting myself on a strict schedule. I sketched out a grid for what days I’ll spend doing what, and I got a visual of all the different things I’ve got going on. It’s easier for me to manage that way. I need to learn to tell myself NO, when I get distracted by things I’ve agreed not to do until the next day. And I need to be firm and decisive.
That’s hard, when I’m tired.
So, I need to get more sleep.
On the bright side, I’ve been steadily losing weight. I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, which is a healthy rate for me. I need to lose another 5-10, to be where I want to be. I could even do with losing 15. But I don’t want to lose muscle, too. So, I just need to get a good sense of where I’m at, be healthy overall, and use my new energy wisely.
I do have much more energy than before — and actually, it’s one of the things that’s driving my distractions.
More Energy –> More Activity –> Fatigue –> Distractions –> Not getting things done –> Feeling bad about myself –> Distractions –> More activity that’s not productive –> Fatigue…
Anyway, you get the point.
Losing the extra pounds has been great. Now I need to learn to properly manage my new energy. Because it’s really, really good. And I don’t want to mess it up.
I’m sure you don’t hear that, everyday, but I’m really glad it’s Monday.
The weekend was long and rough – I was under the weather. All the activity of the last week caught up with me, and the transition to new providers is turning out to be more challenging than I expected.
Emotional lability is not my favorite thing. At all. It brings on migraines, and that leaves me dull and dumb for days on end.
I really need this transition time to proceed. Meeting with my old neuropsych once a week for the next five weeks is brutal. Just another reminder of change, which I have a hard time with, in any case. It might be easier if they were already gone, if they’d picked up and left without telling me. Then I could get on with my life, and put that all behind me.
But no. This is going to be a protracted process. A weekly reminder that things are changing.
Well, whatever. I just need to live my life as I have been – and get back into my week, when I can pour my energy into some focused activities. That’s really what saves me — getting out of my head and moving forward. Recognizing that there are going to be tough times, but that I can handle it, and in the end, everything is going to work out to the extent that I get involved in the action.
I made some good progress, this weekend on some of the projects I have going, and I spent a good amount of time in the woods. I got my naps, and I made some amazing meals. It wasn’t bad. I’m just glad I can get back to work and focus on something other than my own situation.
It’s taking a lot out of me, as you may be able to tell from the slow-down in postings on this blog.
I just don’t have the energy I had in the past – not yet, anyway. And I need to find a new cadence to work by. I’ve been very sensitive to perceptions about my performance – especially when I arrive and when I leave for the day. It’s a small thing, I know, but it makes an impression.
Fortunately, my new boss does not micro-manage how I use my time. So long as the results are good… that’s what matters.
I can’t let myself get too tied up in sticking to a timetable. Yes, I do need to show up at work “on time”. But that can range anywhere from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 am.
In any case, today’s a light day, as most folks are disappearing from the office around 1:00. For me, that’s like Christmas, because it means everyone will be gone, and I will have some uninterrupted time to focus and really concentrate on my work. My boss encouraged me to work from home, but I actually prefer to work at the office. I have two computer monitors at work, and I have all the water and light I can ask for. There’s nobody asking me to do anything that they can actually do themselves. And I can be in my own world.
Moving into this new job, I have been forced to make some significant choices. I can no longer spend hours and hours on my other creative projects. I have to pick and choose. I just don’t have the time or the energy to follow up on everything I used to work on. Whatever I do, I have to make it count – like living a haiku life.
I have constraints — not as much time, not as much energy, not as much inspiration, but lots of constraints. It’s probably a little like living in Japan — all those very busy people doing very BIG things on relatively small islands with limited resources. It forces you to make choices. And the results are not necessarily worse.
It’s all about economy, now. Focus. Getting things done in a very brief amount of useable time.
This is useful discipline. It pushes me to do more with less, which is a very good thing. No more excess and largesse… no more taking things for granted. Do one thing at a time, and do that thing to the absolute best of my ability.
Get plenty of rest.
Get plenty of movement.
I think in TBI recovery — or really any recovery where you have less after the incident, than before — this is a useful mindset to cultivate. Going easy. Keeping focus. Holding to a simple pattern, and getting as much out of that as humanly possible. It teaches you much.
I’ve got to put all my notes in order. After just a few days of talking to people, I have a bunch of notes that I wrote on scrap paper, and I now need to sort through them and put them into my regular notebook.
I need to do this soon. It’s tiring me out, keeping everything sorted just in my brain, and halfway through Week 2, I’m getting fatigued and a bit turned around. My schedule is different, now, and I’m a heck of a lot more active than I have been in a long, long time.
So, yes indeedy doo – my system is pretty taxed, right now.
Not that I’d want it any other way. Doing things piecemeal — don’t fill up your schedule till you get accustomed to getting up 2 hours earlier each day… don’t start exercising till you settle in at work… — that doesn’t work for me. I need to test myself all at once, right from the get-go, because all the changes are consistent with each other, and I want my system to acclimate all at the same time.
And of course there is the danger. There is always the danger of getting too tired, or getting too overwhelmed, or pushing too hard. But I’m at a good place, right now, with everything happening at once. I’m not over-doing it. I’m just doing a lot. And it’s pretty awesome.
Now, for sleep. It’s important. For years, I thought, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but that actually just makes me feel like I’m already dead. And it doesn’t help me function.
My head was spinning last night, and I couldn’t get to sleep when I intended to. My mind was filled with all the ideas from work, all the opportunity, all the excitement, and me getting home late after having to work around my grocery store losing power and not being able to sell me half the things I wanted because they were perishable. And then there were the storms that wreaked havoc in the towns around us, but somehow passed us by. And then there’s Facebook. I spent 15 minutes checking people’s posts, and that woke me up even more. Bad choice. No more tablet in my bedroom. That’s enough.
I finally managed to get to sleep by relaxing and breathing. Doing some muscle exercises that release the tension. I’m pretty sore from working out — today is a rest day — and my muscles are definitely adjusting.
But it’s good.
And today / tonight, sleep is a priority for me.
Today, relaxation is a priority for me. Keeping my inhale and exhale regular and the same count of 5 seconds each, is what I do to balance out my fight-flight adrenaline rush, and it really helps. Remembering where I am, and periodically remembering to stretch and relax and release… that’s so important in the course of each day. It keeps me going and it keeps me present.
Rest… relax… It’s not just about sleeping at night. It’s about how I go through my life. For so, so many years, I was wound tight as a spring. Never relaxing, never letting down my guard, always ON. It’s fine, if the situation calls for it, but I was wound way too tight for regular situations.
I think that’s why I gravitated towards tough jobs — the adrenaline and pressure calmed me down, and I actually felt normal. The stress made all the noise quiet down, and I could finally think, when I was solely focused on the One Single Thing I needed to accomplish.
But all that wound-up stuff takes a toll. For sure, it does. And I don’t have to do it, anymore. I have other ways of sharpening my attention and blocking out distractions. Single-minded focus. Born of a my own brand of za-zen meditation — picked up from stories of old Samurai zen masters of years gone by. Somehow, I always seem to connect with old zen-typed warriors from all over the world who (either living or dead) talk about the exact same state of mind that I’m looking for — single-minded focus in the midst of chaos.
Without that focus, I’m toast.
And on that note, it’s time to get ready for work.
To rest while working… to relax while acting… and to get a good night’s sleep tonight… those are my goals.
Okay, I’m trying using a standup desk – again – in hopes it will give me some relief.
My hips and knees have been giving me a lot of trouble lately, no doubt because of the long, hard winter, and me not being active enough. I could have done some exercise each morning, like I used to, but for some reason, I chose to sit at my desk and work.
I guess I was just so focused on work and making my ideas into reality that I lost sight of the whole exercise thing.
So, now I’m paying for it.
I’ve actually been meaning to switch to a standup desk for a while, and I did try putting one together, a few months ago, but it didn’t feel right. I think the height was not right. Now I have a higher one, where I don’t have to reach down so far,and it feels much better. It’s just a box with some big stabilizing books in it – just for my laptop, for now. But that’s really when the bulk of my sitting takes place.
I really do sit a lot, each day. All day, every day, pretty much. Except when I’m walking between places where I sit.
So, that’s changing. This is better. I’ll have to figure out how to raise a larger area, so I can also take notes, but I think I’ve already figured that out. I have an extra bookshelf that’s about the right width for my work, and I have a big stack of books I can use to raise it to the proper height. That will do it.
Okay, got it all set up. One nice wooden finished bookshelf (that was just standing around collecting dust) plus two stacks of books that were taking up valuable space on my floor, and voila – there ’tis. I didn’t have to spend a couple hundred bucks for some fancy gadget that was made in China. I had everything I need right here — just had to move it around a little bit.
Plus, I still have my laptop-only stand, which I can use if I need to just use a small area.
Either way, it’s good.
And I have to say, it does feel better. I spend an awful lot of time at a desk — especially this one at home. That’s not doing me any good. My hips and knees are complaining, and frankly all that sitting makes me a bit sleepy. Supposedly, standup desks make you more focused and also keep your metabolism up. That can’t be bad, I’m thinking. Especially for me, where fatigue and lack of focus become such issues.
I may just try this at work, too. We’ll see how that works out.
Anyway, it’s a new day. It’s not raining, so I can go out for a walk. This is a needed change, and 2015 is already feeling like it’s opening up.
Hardship isn’t always a bad thing. Obviously, it’s not pleasant — that’s why we call it “hardship”. Yet sometimes it can bring good things with it. It always brings something — and it’s up to us to determine what we’re going to make of it.
One of the things all my difficulties have taught me, is how to focus and keep my attention so intently on what is in front of me, that other things can’t intrude. I am often so inundated by stimuli around me — too much light, too much sound, too much confusion… all the details, details, details — that I cannot concentrate on what’s in front of me.
It can be a huge problem. The distraction, the stress of having to keep up with everything… The exhaustion that comes from blocking out and/or processing all the input… The sheer overwhelm… It’s not always fun. Sometimes it feels like a gauntlet.
And I’ve learned to deal with it — with a focus so intent, that very little around me can intrude.
I am reminded of that fact right now, with my current work environment. It’s more open than the old office was, and I’m also seated right next to the copier/printer. So, periodically throughout the day, I hear the printer kick off, and people come over to get their printouts. It’s not optimal, obviously, but it’s also not throwing me.
There are also other groups around who talk and laugh and have bursts of conversation that I find distracting. And then there’s the regular interruptions from emails and instant messages and people showing up in my cube.
It certainly helps to have at least some separation between myself and everyone else, in the form of a wall that rises above my eye-and-ear-level. But there’s still a fair amount of interruption in the course of each day.
But it’s been worse, in the past.
I used to have a job where I sat at a desk that was just a folding table right set up beside a printer. I was a contractor, so I didn’t warrant an actual cubicle. The people in that office did a lot more printing than the people I work with now. There was constant movement around me, constant distraction. But I loved my job so intently that it didn’t bother me. I was locked on. It was a 6-month contract that was going to be over soon, anyway. And even though they took pity on me and gave me a desk in a cubicle before long, it didn’t make any difference to me. I did damn’ good work at that folding table out in the open.
The interesting thing is, that was a couple of years after my last TBI, when everything was crazy and nuts and a huge-ass problem for me. I was incredibly stressed on many levels — mentally, physically, emotionally.
At the same time, though, when I was at that job, I was AT that job. I WAS the job, as they say. And when I think about it, it seems like I was really using the stress of that location at that job to block out a lot of crap going on around me.
Analgesic stress, you know…
Plus, it was mitigated by the fact that I was working just 20 minutes down the road from where I lived, and it was a contract, and I was sprung free from the overwhelming stress of my former life. The crush of my daily workaday life was balanced by the short commute, my ability to come and go pretty much as I pleased, and even though a lot of really challenging things happened at that time, I handled some of them extremely well and I improved in certain respects. (Although, when I went back to a hellish commute, that all changed and the downward slide picked up.)
Thinking back on my life of regular overwhelm and one problem after another, I realize that I’ve learned how to block out the crap around me and focus in on what is RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME RIGHT NOW.
Nothing else exists. No problems, no troubles, no complications. There is only the moment at hand, nothing else.
That doesn’t always work in my favor, as I tend to forget things that aren’t in front of me, if I don’t take steps to remind myself. I forget to mention important things to people I’m talking to. I forget to do important things that need doing (like paying certain bills or getting my car checked out). I tend to talk about things at that very moment, rather than things that have happened recently, because outside the current moment, nothing else seems to matter. So, I need to write notes and also send people messages to remind them to remind me to mention certain things.
But for the sake of getting things done, I’ve gotta say that getting kicked around a bit has helped me quite a bit. As long as I have ample time for recovering and recouperating, I can adapt and adjust. Take away the recovery time, and things become very different, very quickly. But if I have time to “integrate” and let it all sink in, it’s good. It’s all really good.
It might not seem like it at the time, but ultimately — again, with rest and proper integration of what I learn along the way — what doesn’t kill me, makes me a heck of a lot stronger.
An interesting thing has happened with me, since I changed jobs and have more time to myself at home now. I seem to have turned into a bit of a hermit.
Actually I’ve always been a hermit, only now I have the time to go back to it more than ever. I’ve been keeping to myself for the past three days, not doing more than I absolutely have to, and not going on social media much — other than finding WordPress blogs about TBI and concussion.
And it’s really, really nice.
I had struggled for years with feeling like there was too much hustle and bustle in my life, with my day job being the biggest time sink of my life, not leaving me much time to relax and take it easy. Since around the time of my mild TBI in 2004, when I was working just 20 minutes down the road from my place, most of my jobs had long commutes. I did have a contract position for a little over a year, in 2006-2007, and I had another job close to home in 2010-2011, but for most of the past ten years, I’ve had long commutes — an hour (plus) each way.
I had not realized, till lately, how much that has taken out of me. It wasn’t just the commuting that sucked, it was the fatigue. The constant fatigue and exhaustion. And it took such a toll on me.
The biggest casualty of that weariness and time sink, was my peace of mind. My seclusion. My quiet. Looking back on my life, I realize that until fairly recently, I just took for granted that it was going to take me at least an hour to get to work. Sometimes two. It was the price I paid for a good job.
The fact that I don’t feel that way is yet more evidence that my recovery is commencing — and that I’m in better cognitive condition now than ever before. I no longer rely on stress and strain to wake myself up and make myself more alert. I no longer just assume that having a good job comes with a high price tag. I’m not in the “no pain no gain” mentality, anymore, and that’s huge. Absolutely huge.
And it gives me hope. Because doing away with the habit of using stress-and-strain to wake myself up and make me more alert, means I’m inherently safer in the way I live my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have either gotten hurt… I have nearly gotten seriously hurt… or I made choices that could have put me in an early grave… because I needed the rush to wake myself up. Just on a very basic level, on a day-to-day basis, I used stress to numb my physical pain, to heighten my senses, to make me more alert, and to get myself going when I was feeling sluggish.
And I didn’t worry too much about not having a lot of time to myself. Because going-going-going and getting a ton of things done was so important just to my basic sense of well-being. Yeah, I valued my time alone, and I have gone for years being pretty much of a hermit in my own time. But there wasn’t this powerful devotion to seclusion.
Nor was there good discipline around using it well.
I had a lot of plans, I had a lot of hopes and dreams. I had a lot of ambitions. But none of them truly amounted to anything, because I did not apply myself on a regular basis. I did not use the time I had to make progress. I flitted from one idea to the next, thinking I was just being “free”. And now here I am, years — decades — on down the line, without much to show for all those dreams and ambitions.
I’ve been down on myself for having gotten to this point in my life without a whole lot to show for what I really want to be doing with myself. But that’s not going to change anything. It’s not a good use of time. Now I feel 1000% more focused on what I want to do with myself, what I want to do with my time and my energy. And the fact that I am no longer on constant edge, looking for the next adrenaline “bump” to get me past the pain and confusion I feel… well, that makes a huge difference.
I would not be here without my TBI recovery, and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way to get here.
It’s turned out to be an amazing day. And I have been taking time to chill out and relax. This is my third day “off” and I am enjoying it like nothing else. I have a few things I still need to take care of, but an overall sense of calm and “chill” has come over me, and I finally, finally, finally feel like I can truly relax.
I’m doing what I want to do — which is reading and writing and working on concepts and mental “constructs” that explain significant parts of the world to me. You might call it “thought experiments”. Or philosophy. But I haven’t been formally trained in philosophy, and when I read “the philosophers,” it just sounds like Woodstock jabbering away in a Peanuts cartoon.
What I’m doing is a more basic, fundamental approach to understanding the world, and it makes sense to me. It doesn’t rely on jargon and specialized terminology or catch-phrases to make its point. It’s just my breakdown of understanding about how things are put together, why they are the way they are, and what it means for me and others I know.
And it’s good. It feels like an actual vocation — a calling. And since I’m not getting any younger, I guess I consider this my legacy for future generations. Keeping things simple, and understanding the world in a clear and collected way. In a way, it’s the next logical extension for my recovery — challenging my mind to be calm, clear, and collected… and to eventually share what I have garnered. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to share it, or with whom. For me, the main thing is the exercise, the work of it. The discipline. It feels good.
And I know it is helping my brain.
Speaking of helping my brain, I’ve started juggling again. I took a break from it for a few weeks, then I picked it up again, and I am actually better at it than I was before. I was afraid I might lose my ability, but my brain’s new wiring seems to have settled in and solidified, and it feels good.
It’s all part of my recovery. It’s all related. I’m at a place now where I am actually — really, truly — enjoying my life, and my efforts now are focused on deepening my ability to do that. I have been struggling for so long, battling so much, getting hurt and having to recover… getting hurt and having to recover… dealing with my and others’ health issues… dealing with the upheavals of life… and always feeling like I was playing catch-up.
I don’t feel that way anymore. If anything, I feel like I actually know how to handle things — and that I WILLbe able to handle them, come what may. It’s a far cry from how I have felt for many, many years — probably ever. And I am enjoying myself immensely.
So, it’s back to my solitude. I am working on some ideas that have been on my mind, lately. They emerged out of conversations I’ve had with people over years and years and years, so who can say what my influences have been? Everything, I guess.
But anyway, enough talk. I hope you can find some time to enjoy yourself today.
This is my last week at the hell job I’ve been stuck in for the past four years. In so many ways, it has tested me. That’s not a bad thing, and maybe I needed to be tested in a lot of those ways.
But I’m done with that particular gauntlet now, and I’m ready to move on.
Before I go, though, I need to do what I can to really remember the good that has happened to me as a result of working there. That job gave me stability and a sense of continuity with the people around me (if not with the company as a whole) that was a good foundation for me.
I did an awful lot of recovering there — getting on my feet logistically… and socially, too. The environment is highly social, so I was really forced to connect with people in ways I had never done before, and on a scale much wider and deeper than I ever needed to before.
There’s something about everyone battling the same obstacles that brings a team together… though I think that it’s more effective to have actual obstacles, rather than artificial ones. Focus on the real enemy — the competition — rather than manufacturing artificial obstacles, such as an inefficient workspace, a long commute, difficult working conditions, inadequate budget, and a “lean” workforce that is so over-taxed, they don’t have time to actually enjoy the goodness of life.
But I’m skewing to the negative again.
Of course I’m doing it because I’m regretting having to leave. Or am I?
I know I’m regretting that I’m leaving my colleagues in a really tough spot. They have to do even more with even less, and it’s bothering me that they’re not getting the help they need. Then again, they’re all free to go as well. Anytime they like. Nobody is keeping them there, and they can leave, as well. It’s their choice. We all make our choices.
And in looking back at the last four years, I need to remember that — it was my choice to stay there, it was my choice to keep making a “go” of it. I could have thrown my full attention into developing the skills and abilities I needed to leave. It would have been slow going, but I could have done that and really made that the focus of my attention and energy.
But I didn’t. I chose to stick around. I chose to stay and make the best of it. And the opportunities that came my way… I said “no” to a lot of them. That was my choice. I had my reasons. I might not remember exactly what those reasons were, on down the line, but I have to trust myself that there really was a reason for staying.
Indeed, there was. And up until a month ago, plan as I might, there was not a good exit path open to me. I was actually committed to sticking out the summer with these folks — and possibly beyond — to get those major projects off the ground and to help with the usual summer rush work. The summer is an intense time at that company, because there are huge projects in the works that have a September deadline, and people all over the world have to pull together to make it happen. I have been sacrificing my summers for the past three years, to help make that happen, and I can’t say it’s been all that gratifying. It’s been good experience, which has paved the way to this new job. But it wasn’t much fun when it was happening.
Still, it served its purpose, and that’s what I have to believe about everything I’ve done at this company for the past four years. It’s all served a purpose, teaching me hard lessons, and paving the way to what’s next. For all the difficulties, I’ve become more resilient and resourceful. And for all the challenges, I’ve come to appreciate the good things in life all the more.
Before I started at this company, I just took certain things for granted — like technical expertise, adequate resources for critical positions, executive recognition of What Matters Most. And autonomy. I really took that for granted, because I’d been working in self-directed circumstances for over 20 years.
Seeing the other side of things, and realizing that no, things aren’t always organized in effective, efficient ways, has given me a new appreciation for those things — teamwork amongst team members… everyone pulling together as one. And now I value it so much more. Going on to this next job, I’m incredibly excited to be back in my “natural habitat” again — back amongst my professional peers who aren’t all making the same mistakes I made 15 years ago, and wondering “why did THAT happen?”
Anyway, that’s rapidly disappearing into my rearview mirror. I’m sure there are things about the company I’m leaving, that I’ll really miss, later on. Or perhaps not at all. Who knows? All I know is, I’m moving on, and I have the whole world ahead of me. I have a new lease on life, and my other projects are picking up steam in a very big way. In another week, I won’t be glancing at the clock, dreading an hour-long commute. I won’t have to juggle my morning to schedule my drive to the office at a time that will strike a balance between minimizing my time in traffic and maximizing my productive time at work.
And I won’t have to hassle with that horrific open space plan.
Holy crap, those two things alone will make it more than worth the change.
Now I’m even more excited… and I’ll start getting ready for work in a few, to make one of my last drives into that office. I’m only going into the office one day this week, so this is #4… 3… 2… 1…
Time to get the game-face on and get into a good mindset. The past four years have seen tremendous growth for me, and I’ve come so far — in no small part because of my coworkers and the pressure they’ve put on me to integrate and socialize and be a real part of their team. They really have been a huge part of my life — my only social life, in fact. And I will miss them.
Well, some of them, anyway…
Regardless, in the next week, my primary purpose is to look for the good, find the good, see the opportunity, buckle down and finalize things that need finalizing. And do my best to tie up whatever loose ends I can, so I can leave my soon-to-be-former teammates with at least a fighting chance.