Late night, and late morning, too

I had to work late, last night – as in, early this morning. We started an installation project around midnight, and we were all on the phone till 2 a.m.

The install didn’t actually work 100%, but my piece of it did, which was a huge credit to my team, because although we were the ones who had tested out our piece of the puzzle the least, we were the ones who actually had the least amount of problems.

We had one little thing we needed to re-do, but other than that, we were good.

Which was really what we needed to prove, anyway.

The rest of the extended team has to sort things out, but we’re good to go, the next time we take a crack at it.

So, I got to bed around 2:30, and I actually managed to sleep till 9:30, which is a rarity with me. It truly is. Typically, I would wake up at 7 a.m. and just be awake — which would have given me all of 4-1/2 hours of sleep. No good. As it was, I got about 7 hours of sleep, which is my minimum for basic functionality.

It’s been an exciting week. I had a phone screen job interview on Thursday, and I think it went okay. It’s a permanent job, not a contract, and there are lots of benefits and paid time off and all that. I’m not sure if the money is there in the paycheck, but it has lots of other perks to go along with it.

I thought the conversation went fine. It didn’t fire me up and get me really excited. It’s a job I’ve done a number of times in the past, so I could do it. I’m just not sure I really want to. After considering getting the hell out of my current job, it occurs to me that I’m actually fine, being where I am. I know I complain and bitch about things, but that’s to be expected — anywhere I am. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

So, to make a change from the situation I’m in, which is safe and guaranteed and has plenty of money associated with it, and is actually really easy for me to do, might not be the smartest thing. My present situation gives me plenty of flexibility and leeway to come and go as I please — not to mention affords me plenty of time to work on my other projects, like this blog. If I transfer to a permanent, full-time position, then I’m stuck in the corporate world with a corporate job and all the strings attached that come with it.

Nothing’s free — least of all a “good job”. It has a price tag attached.

So, if it works out with the new thing, it works out. But I have a feeling it’s not going to give me what I’m looking for. I’ll go talk to them, if they want to meet, but I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket. And I’m interviewing them, not just being interviewed by them.

I have my pride. And I know my worth. I know the worth of my freedom, and even though I’m not fully vested with any one company right now, my freedom is worth it. Everything has a price, you know?

So, I’m still a little groggy from the late night. I almost fell last night, when I was standing up from the table. That’s not good. I really need to take care of myself this weekend and recuperate. It takes a lot out of me, to work late. More than I’d like. But there it is.

Main thing is, I did get 7 hours of solid sleep. And I have another day and a half to make up the difference.

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A good sign

Starting the day off right

I started off this weekend, last night, planning how many things I would do today. The parts of my projects I would undertake and finally complete — so I can move on to other things… the tasks from work that I didn’t get around to — so I can get them off my mind… breaking down the hours I’d spend in my head, so I would free up some time to do other things.

Now it’s Saturday morning, and all I want to do is go about my life in a continuous flow, not blocking off time to do anything specific, not allocating hours for one definite undertaking or another. I just want to flow. See where the day, the weekend, takes me.

It’s raining today. Gray and a little dreary. It’s chilly, too. Not the best weather for running errands, as everyone will be out and about in their fast and powerful cars (think about how much more powerful and speedy our cars are, compared to just 20 years ago), running their errands, on a mission, taking care of business, after the business work week has ended.

That’s not where I want to spend my time. Not in the least. I want to steer clear of that whole big, busy mess, and just have some peace. Just have some peace and quiet.

That’s what I want most. My spouse has been on a rampage for the past month, getting ready for this business trip. It’s been very trying, to tell the truth. Every spare moment has been caught up in them spinning their mental wheels about things that don’t actually exist. And dealing with business associates who are even more delusional than they are. What a strange thing, to see people who are so capable of living well, getting caught up in lives that don’t actually exist.

Sad.

Other sad things — a friend of a friend died suddenly last weekend. Another friend of a friend passed away from cancer that went undiagnosed for two years. A friend of a friend was raped. And a good friend of mine is struggling with health issues. Actually, a number of friends are dealing with health issues — among them, mental health. And that’s a particularly tough one, because it’s hard to know how to help.

But to get too caught up in that sadness, is a trap I can’t afford to dwell in. It’s been like a martial arts exercise, day in and day out, dealing with the depression and dementia and delusions and the plain old craziness that goes along with one human error leading to another… to another… to another… each one snowballing into a rolling batch of crazy.

Lord, yes, I do just need to take a break this weekend. I need a break from everybody else’s stuff that has nothing to do with me, really. I need to not get bogged down in the sadness that others feel… not stay caught up in others’ drama, rehashing it in my own head… not staying stuck in the whirlpool of others’ imaginary crises, spending a lot of time thinking about it. In my own life, there is no such thing, and if I weren’t living with someone who brought that to me each day, like a weird-ass soap opera, I wouldn’t even know it existed.

So, this weekend, I’m going to live as though it never did exist. Because it didn’t, outside of the imaginations of everyone involved.

I’m going to read the published personal notebooks of famous writers. I’m going to catch up on some of my own reading. I’m going to work on some of my own writing. And I’m going to live my life… let it just go, without trying to control it or slow it down or stop it. Just let it flow.

And leave it at that.

If I’m tired, I’ll lie down and sleep. If I’m thirsty, I’ll drink water or hot tea. If I’m hungry, I’ll … stop and ask myself if I’m really hungry, or if I’m just low on energy (in which case, I need to sleep), or I’m just bored (in which case, I need to do something that piques my interest). I may do some cleaning. I may clear out my bedroom and get rid of the dust bunnies. I may run out and get an air filter for my bedroom, which has a bizarre amount of dust in it. The main thing is that I’m moving at my own pace, without the intrusion of others’ delusions.

I’ve got enough delusions of my own to deal with, thank you very much.

So, it’s good.

And so am I.

Onward.

Yes, but I’m free

Not the life I always wanted

I woke up this morning with an image in my head — a horse tied to a cart, pulling it along. Kind of like this image:

It reminded me of the day I have ahead of me… pulling along the burdens of the company work for, together with all the other folks on my team who are hitched to their respective wagons of family and job and mortgage, and so forth.

It made me feel sad.

And I had a realization:

Even though I have had my share of troubles, even though I do not have a college degree or a “safety net” or a lot of security around me. I am free. I have never placed a huge premium on hitching up to anyone’s wagon, and in fact the expectations of others that I will hitch up to their plans and ideas and schemes (in return for money, respectability, and some measure of safety)… well, I’ve always seen through that. In exchange for money, I lose my freedom.

Kind of like today, when I have to go off to work instead of having time to sit quietly and go about my business.

And I realized — yet again — that I have made just about all my choices in life in order to preserve and protect my freedom — even if that meant I was going to expose myself to danger and not be part of the “gang” of compadres who were on the inside track to success.

So, as I prepare for my day, I’m thinking a lot about how I can really, truly be free. I have to work to make a living, and I have to trade my time and energy for the things that will keep me alive. But I have other things I can do, to keep my spirit alive, and I must remember to do those things.

Because, after all, I am free.

 

At last… the walk

Funny, how everything can sneak up on you…

So, my plan to go for a walk this morning got postponed. I realized that I needed to start work on some important day-job stuff that is due in a couple of weeks, so I dug into that, and three hours later I realized that I wasn’t making the kind of headway I wanted to, so I gave it a rest.

Which was good, because my brain is *fried*. I had an incredibly full day yesterday, with a training I attended in a nearby city. Between the 90-minute drive in, the two-hour training, the urgent errands I needed to take care of while I was there, an introductory phone call to a possible business connection, the two hour drive home, and then dinner with friends out in the country, an hour’s drive from home, and then another hour driving back home, I spent about 5 hours driving, three hours on very mentally taxing stuff, and then even more time talking through some heavy stuff that our friends are trying to navigate — and there was a business/logistical aspect of that, too, which was more mental effort.

Come to think of it… no wonder I was baked, this morning.

So, yeah, my plans for a walk got hijacked by work-work stuff that needed to be started. And the deeper I got into that, the more I realized how much work remains to be done before this massive deadline. And then the panic sets in. And then the frustration starts to mount, and then the wheels start turning about how much I have to do in other areas of my life, and before you know it, my head is going a mile a minute in circles — or rather, it’s headed downhill at top speed, headed for the cliff, with me all caught up inside it.

And the panic starts to set in…

And then I get depressed, and I start to feel so incredibly weighed down by all the burdens of my world, and I begin to feel like there’s no hope, no chance of ever getting or doing better, and why should I even try? Why indeed?

I sat outside for a while, getting some sun and feeling better in some ways. My balance is WAY off, today — with so much activity, I’m jammed in high gear, which wears me out and makes my vertigo zoom to the outer regions of charts. I can’t spell, I can’t type, I can’t hold a pen, I can’t dial a phone, I can’t keep my balance unless I’m moving in a specific direction at a high speed, or I’m holding onto something… and I feel like CRAP.

After a while of hanging around outside getting some sun, eating some lunch, feeling like crap, and then getting bit by mosquitos, attacked by biting flies, and stung by a wasp (my bad – I walked near its nest), I finally had enough, so I took a hot shower and went to bed. I just sank into the oblivion of silent darkness, with my earplugs in and my light-blocking curtains pulled tight. I had the air conditioner on to put a chill in the air, because I sleep better when I’m not hot, and I just let it all go. After I had an hour’s rest, I went out for my walk, got my head together, and came back home to make dinner.

All I can say is, thank heavens for that nap.

This is my new thing — closing my eyes and just letting it all go… letting go of any thoughts, any tension, any ideas, any hopes, any dreams, any aspirations, any anxiety, any nervousness, any plans… just proverbially taking 1000 mg of Fukitol and dropping off the edge of the cliff to oblivion. Just saying “screw it” to everything — the good and the bad, the positive and the negative — and letting myself sink into complete darkness.

I mean, frankly, sometimes the “good” stuff is a bigger hassle than the “bad”. So many hopes, so many aspirations, so many interdependencies, so many people “rooting for me” and all that. Things were so much easier when I was a chronic under-achiever who spent their weekends hanging out, lying around on the back porch, sleeping in the sun, going for long walks in the woods, and being satisfied with a decent meal. Okay, so I was on a perpetual roller coaster and my moods were insane, and I was always on edge about something, so it wasn’t all hunky-dory. But thinking back, I can’t say it was a terrible thing, to live like nothing hung in the balance with my decisions.

Now things are very different. I own a house. I have several projects which are high profile and have a lot of people depending on them. I do a job that only I can do. And I’m the sole breadwinner for my household. Ugh. Days like today, I truly wish I didn’t matter at all.

But you know, when I think about it, the fact of the matter is, I really don’t matter that much at all. Yes, I have my hopes and dreams and the things I want to accomplish. Yes, I have my friends and associates and dependents. Yes, I have my work and goals and “deliverables”. But in another hundred years, it may very well be as though I never even existed. All the drama, all the worry, all the ambitions… in time, they all disappear and dissipate into the ethers. And what have we got to show for it? Nada. Zip. Zilch. We’re gone. And the memory of us is not far behind.

I know a lot of people who are horrified by that prospect. They want to be remembered. They want to be memorialized. They hope and hope to become a cherished memory in the minds of others.

Why? What difference does it make? Our “legacies” are never what we intend them to be, and we invest all this time and effort in “leaving our mark”, when the best thing we could probably do for posterity, is to leave no mark at all — just let them live their lives as best they can without the intrusion of our “legacy”. All that talk and fluffernutter about “creating change”… please. It seems to me it’s just a convenient way for us to distract ourselves from our existential anxiety — the simple fact that one day we will not be here anymore, and nobody will ever notice we were ever here.

I think about mortality a lot, this time of year. The leaves are starting to turn and fall, and things that were so alive during the spring and summer are starting to die off. Worms and snakes are crawling out onto warm road surfaces to keep out of the cold, and they’re either drying up or getting run over by cars. Among the larger mammals, the older, slower ones and unwary members of the new generation are getting hit by cars and dying by the side of the road.

Crops are being brought in and fields are being mowed for perhaps the last time of the growing season. Summer is ending. In another week, it will be official (work-wise, anyway). And we will launch into our busy-ness driven flight from our existential angst through to the holidays.

Again.

Yep, I’m a little depressed, these days. I always get this way around this time of year. Another year has passed. Another batch of hopes and dreams unrealized. Another year of laboring to feed the gods, without a heck of a lot to show for it. Just survival.

On the brighter side, though, in 2014, I am on track to have several large outstanding debts repaid – which will save me close to $700 a month. That’s not small potatoes, and it’s going to be pretty friggin’ awesome to have it all squared away. The first of the problem debts, which is close to $450/month, will be repaid in January of 2014 — sooner, if I can rustle up a couple of thousand bucks, which might be doable, depending. The second of the problem debts will probably take the full year to lay to rest, but I might be able to get that squared away sooner, especially if I can find a better job that pays me well.

In any case, there is a light at the end of that horrible tunnel. And the difference an “extra” $450/month can make, is nothing to sneeze at.

Looking back, I can be pretty proud of myself, having kept it together as long as I have, under these conditions. For three years, I was shelling out about $1500/month for debt settlement payments, which cut very deep and put tremendous stress on my spouse and myself. Yes, I do realize that that’s more than some people bring home in a month. Hell yes, I realize it. It was a direct result of me losing a good job, thanks to a mild TBI in 2004, and then living off credit cards for years, before it all caught up with us, and we had to choose either trashing our credit to bits and settling our debts at a great rate of about 40 cents on the dollar, or living in a perpetual cycle of indentured servitude and avoiding credit card companies calling every other week. We took a gamble and made the tough choice and went down the debt settlement road. When it was happening, it was hell. But now that it’s going to be over in another year’s time, it was so worth all the pain and suffering and threatening calls and hair-raising visits to claims court.

We have been seriously strapped for years. All sorts of things fell by the wayside, including vacations, new clothing, car repairs, dentist visits… you name it, if it could be cut or postponed, it got cut or postponed. Now we’re settling up and leveling everything out, and it feels pretty friggin’ awesome. So, that’s good. It’s something to be happy about, in the midst of my autumn depression.

So, I look for what I can, and I do the best with what I’ve got. If I’m feeling down, I’m feeling down. There it is. I can still keep on with my life, not give up, but stay steady and keep my eyes on the prize of finally being DONE with things I detest and hate. And I can spend a little time thinking about where I want to be and go instead. There are a lot of possibilities for me. I just need to not get overwhelmed.

But in the case I do get overwhelmed, I can always go to bed.

Freedom is not free

At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker or a political slogan, I just need to say it out loud

Freedom Isn’t Free.

Getting (back) to work

That is to say, I need to work for everything I have, and I must work to preserve it, if I want to keep it.

I cannot expect others to:

A) Read my mind and know what I want/need/desire

B) Be at the ready to provide it to me, without my asking

C) Make sure that I am always well-provided-for and that I always have what I need and am not left out in the cold

As much as I would like a world that works like that, I just don’t see that happening. What I do see is everyone trying to get by, everyone with their own points of view and their own priorities, based on what they believe and expect from life. I see a lot of people deluded about what life has to offer the — and what it should offer them. I see a lot of people getting angry and frustrated and hateful because life didn’t turn out the way they expected or wanted. And I see people striking out at others — verbally or physically or politically — when those others don’t agree with them.

Over the past 20 years, I have experienced a real change in my attitude towards life — especially in the past 8 years since my TBI in 2004. I hesitate to say that my brain injury changed everything, but it actually has… though more accurately, I would have to say that learning to live my life in spite of brain injuries has changed everything. I guess I just reached a “bottom” that taught me that I couldn’t screw around anymore, I had to get my act together, and I had to DO something, or I was going to be totally lost.

I’ve been forced to make hard decisions about what is most important to me. I’ve been forced to grow up, really. The multiple concussions/TBIs I’ve had over the years layered on different sorts of difficulties over time, but none of them were so obvious or dramatic, that I was forced to change everything about how I lived and approached the details of my life.

What’s more, over the years, my “idiosyncracies” went largely unquestioned and unchallenged by others, because

A) I never let anyone get close enough to see that there was something amiss with me

B) I was surrounded by people who were either unsparing in their criticisms and ignorant of how TBI can affect a person, or who were overly indulgent and “supported” me, no matter what — and the mix of these two kinds of people was a great recipe for enabling and reinforcing a victim mentality

In truth, my neuropsych is the only individual I’ve ever met who has been able to walk the fine line between acknowledging my issues and refusing to accept them as set in stone. They push me and keep me on my toes, and along with my constant work on myself and push to understand and better master my own life and “inner landscape”, they have been incredibly helpful — moreso than just about anyone I’ve ever dealt with. They are definitely the only person I’ve been this honest with, because I can be. They don’t turn into a harpie or a berserker when I screw up or am thinking crazy. They just hang in there with me and help me work through everything.

But I do need to work harder on refining those kinds of thinking processes outside of their office, so I can be more self-sufficient. As much as I appreciate their help, the fact of the matter is, I have gotten a little too comfortable having them as a sounding board, and in some ways it has held me back, because I haven’t been forced to do for myself. In the grand scheme of things, if they go away next week — like I thought my job was going to go away, this past week — I could very well be screwed. And that’s no good.

Because I have a lot of responsibility on me, and I need to hold my own — on my own. Making my mental health dependent on my neuropsych is like making my financial future dependent on my employer. They can help me get where I’m going, but the loss of either of them should not be catastrophic for me. There are no guarantees in life, and the more steps I take to get my act together and fend for myself, the better off I will be — literally and figuratively.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, because a friend of ours has been distancing themself from me and my spouse, after having been around for a couple of years. They always seemed like a decent sort, and they were always there when we needed them. But over the past several months, they have been increasingly distant and argumentative, even obnoxious and at times verbally abusive to my spouse (I have wanted/offered to step in, but I would probably do more harm than good, and my spouse says they’ve got this covered).

The thing is, they have been coming around more and more over the past months. And the more time they spend with us — at our house, at events we go to, sharing activities with us — the weirder they get, each time. We think it’s a class thing — a money thing. They are on public assistance because of disabilities (and a number of other things), and they apparently think that because we have a pretty good house in a nice town, that we are rich. We are not. We are rich in love and friends and purpose, I do have a good job (still, fortunately) with a big corporation, and we do have a good house with a great view on a fine piece of land, but we are struggling terribly, financially speaking. We are literally on the verge of losing everything, and it’s just a day-to-day thing to keep it all together.

But they don’t see that. They just see what we’ve got, and they’ve made up some story in their head about what that means — which (as far as I can tell) is all about us being “rich” and them being “poor”.

They also seem to think — like so many of our less-advantaged friends — that this has been given to us, that we have some secret connections with people in power, or some-such. While it is true that my job and our zip code open doors for us, the fact of the matter is, I have worked my ASS off for all this, I have made substantial sacrifices for this, I get up each and every day and go out and do my best for someone else (while this friend stays in bed and feels sorry for themself), and this did not happen overnight. It’s been a long time coming, and it takes constant work to keep things going, to keep things running and in decent condition. The years I was not able to do as much upkeep as the house needed, are really showing, now, but I’m taking steps to address that, and it’s coming together.

Again, they don’t see this. They only see what we have — not what it’s taken get here. Not what it takes to stay here. And with their marginal life, where they’re always keeping under the table and below the radar, they probably cannot imagine the level of effort required to keep going.

What’s more, I suspect that they have a history of head trauma, and that’s clouding their judgment. But when I try to talk things through with them in a way that works around the blather that a traumatic brain injury can spout, they can’t/won’t hear it.  They’re just… stuck. And there’s not a lot I can do about it. I try to be encouraging, I try to be positive and hopeful, but they won’t hear it.

Again, with the stories. Again, with the bla-bla-blather about how disadvantaged they are and how everything is stacked against them, and people who “have” are somehow different from them. But the exact opposite is true. They only hold themself back — in large part because they think that they should be compensated for their suffering by a world that is stacked against them. They think that the universe should read their mind and give them what they want, even before they ask for it. And they seem to think that it can and will happen with/for them.

What a load of crap. They could take specific, concrete steps to dramatically improve their life. They don’t have to be on the verge of homelessness. They don’t have to be cold and lonely. They don’t have to do any of that – life is presenting them with new options every single day, but they just screw around and make excuses. It’s so f*cking frustrating, because it doesn’t need to be that way. But they won’t take responsibility for their choices. They won’t do what needs to be done, no matter how small that might be. Their impoverishment is a clear choice, and I’ve had it with trying to help them, when they will not help themself.

Make no mistake, it is a great gift and a luxury to have the kind of support I have, these days. There are lots of people who don’t have this, and I am profoundly grateful for what I have received. I have been truly blessed, and I can never lose sight of that.

At the same time, I have worked for all the things I have. I have made sacrifices and had to do without a lot in life, to come this far, and I have even more to make in my future. I need to keep steady and continue on my path — even bump up my game a bit. And even if the support I receive — in particular the job, the neuropsych — went away, I would continue to work, and I would line up something else that served me and my purpose in life.

Because, well, that’s what I do.

I work. I work for what I want. And I need to work for what I have, as well.

Being on the verge of getting laid off this past week was a wake-up call. And in fact being caught off-guard by it, was an even bigger wake-up call. It’s a call to grow the *$#^& up and get on with making myself stronger and more resourceful than ever. Watching this friend implode for no good reason is another wake-up call for me to keep on the straight and narrow and not let down my guard.  It’s no good to “settle in”, get too comfortable, and take things for granted. I must take action. On my own behalf. I must be the person I can be right now, and become the person I intend to become.

Each and every day.

Because in life and in general, we tend to get what we pay for.