Gratitude adjustment

Indeed.

Today has started out on the rough side. I got in bed before midnight, but I wasn’t able to sleep past 5:00. So, here I am, operating on about 5-1/2 hours of sleep, with a full day ahead of me. Oh, well, I guess I’ll do the Thomas Edison thing and take a long nap later today. By his own admission, the inventor of the light bulb considered sleep to be a waste of time and missed opportunity to work and invent. He once wrote that he considered people who slept 8-10 hours a day to be “never fully asleep and never fully awake — they have only different degrees of doze through the twenty-four hours“.

Of course, he did nap an awful lot (and there are lots of photos showing him taking “power naps“), so that’s where I’m putting my focus — on just getting a nap later today when I can. I’ve got the whole day — and I’ve got tomorrow, too — so waking up early isn’t such a terrible thing.

So long as I use the time productively, of course. The thing that actually got me fully awake after I woke up was not such a great thing. It’s something I don’t often have trouble with, but today, it’s a big ole burden — Jealousy. Frustration. Feeling like a relative failure.

See, yesterday afternoon I called a creditor who I’ve been paying off for the past couple of years. We arranged monthly payments which have been pretty intense to meet each month, and according to my notes, I was going to be all paid up as of this coming January. Well, in talking to them, I learned that I’m nowhere near being fully paid up — I have about another year to go at the current rate — before I’m all paid up. This puts a huge kink in my plans. Having $400 less each month that I have to pay out has been a huge part of my planning for 2014. It was going to free me up, let me pay off other things that have been hanging over my head, and open up the options for work I can take on.

Because if I need to spend $5000 less each year, that means I don’t have to earn Top Dollar for my work, and my options for what kind of work I can take in, will expand. I hate to settle for less, but in my discussions with recruiters, I haven’t been very encouraged by what they’re telling me I can make. Times are tough all around, that’s for sure. And that $5000 break was something I was banking on.

Then my mouse died — the left button doesn’t click. And I realized that I have a lot of things I need to take care of this weekend, which I did not do for the past few weekends (I forgot I had to do them). And money is very tight – the mortgage is going to be paid a month late for the next three months, by my calculations. And the bank loves to call me, even though I technically have a 60 day grace period before they send me to collections. Last night, it was all starting to come in on me, and I went to bed feeling overwhelmed and generally put-upon.

I woke up this morning in a funk, pissed off at myself for not having called the creditors sooner and basing my future plans on a mirage… pissed off at myself for forgetting the things I needed to do… pissed off at TBI for screwing up my life back in 2004 so much that it’s taken me almost 10 years to get back to some semblance of normalcy… pissed off at how hard I have to work at things, how much I need to constant re-think, how much energy it takes, and how overwhelmed I feel.

All. The. Time.

I feel like I can never catch up, and it makes me crazy. No sooner do I come close, than my goal moves out of reach again, and I have to work all the harder.

Geeze. What a rotten way to start the day.

But it gets better (not)… then I got to thinking about an old friend of mine who has really been pissing me off, lately. I first met them when they were an admin at a massive, faceless, soulless corporation, just putting in the hours and hating their life, and longing to do more. They had some health issues and left the 9-to-5 for a while, then they returned to the workforce… and then married someone with a great job, and moved out to the country where they were going to focus on their writing and try to become a published author.

We kept in touch now and then over the years, and one day I was messaging back and forth with them, and they were saying how they wished they could get feedback from other people for their writing. They were enjoying being able to write all the time, but they felt very isolated in the country, just doing their own thing by themselves. They weren’t working a regular job, because their spouse made enough for them to stay home, but the solitary life was not for them.

I suggested they start a blog — blogging was brand new, back in 2006 — and they said, “What’s a blog?” I told them about blogging, how awesome it was, how liberating. They could write each day, work on their style and their “voice”,  and they could get feedback from readers.

So, they did just that. They started a blog. And within a few years, they had a regular readership of thousands of people each day, they had advertisers, and they were starting to get requests from magazines to write for them. Big magazines. Well-known magazines. Jackpot. One thing led to another, and now they’re working on their third published book, they’re doing international book signing tours, and they’re leading online classes that are in high demand.

Holy crap. What an amazing success story. They literally did everything right, and I’m really proud that I helped make that happen, because a lot of people have benefited from their blog and their work.

On a good day, that’s how I feel — proud of them and gratified and in awe of how well they’ve followed through on everything.

On a bad day — like today — it bugs me to no end. Because despite the fact that I’m the one who encouraged them to follow their dream and I’m the one who told them about blogging in the first place, never ever have they actually thanked me for that tip. They did thank me once for supporting them with a little pep talk atta-boy email I sent to them, but other than that, it’s been crickets. I guess they’ve been so busy, they may have forgotten about my tip. But in other ways, they’ve just kind of brushed me off, whenever I’ve reached out to them as a peer.

Like I’m not good enough for them anymore. Even though I was there for them, when no one else could be bothered.

In fairness, I didn’t do myself any favors in our friendship. When we were still in regular contact by email and IM, I was a few years out from my last TBI, and I was pretty erratic and unpredictable. They actually sent some business my way that I couldn’t follow through on, and I think I kind of screwed things up for them and the people they referred to me. I also posted some stuff on their blog that was a little “out there,” and I’m sure it made them wonder if I was right in the head (for the record, I wasn’t, at that time).

Even so… it sticks in my craw that I have to really work at the most basic things, while they seem to be swimming right along. And when I read their Facebook posts and their blog posts about how fantastic everything is… how awesome their life is in their bright new apartment that’s getting new hardwood floors and has plenty of sunlight… and how exciting life is in their very popular, up-and-coming locale…. how connected they are with their professional connections and their readers… how stimulating it all is… how much they love their spouse… as well as the next member of their perfect family who’s on the way and due in just a few months… God, it really works my last nerve.

Okay, I get that we all make our choices. I didn’t get where I am totally by accident. But this is one of those mornings, when everything feels terribly unfair. The main reason they were able to do all they’ve done, is they’re married to someone who has made it all possible. They haven’t had to work for anyone else for close to 10 years, and they’ve been able to travel all over the world, because of their spouse’s connections. They’ve gotten insider tips on places to live and business connections, thanks to their spouse’s connections, and they’ve had the freedom to make plenty of mistakes along the way, without it hurting their work, their business prospects, or their vision.

It is really unlike me to be all pissy and envious like this, and it doesn’t feel good. I know that comparing myself to anyone else is a losing proposition, and it just drags me down for no reason. I don’t know what kind of pain and suffering they’ve experienced in life, I don’t know the reality underneath the facade of perfection they put forward, and who can say if they are anywhere near as happy and truly successful as they seem to be? Heck, for all their books that have been published, who knows if they’re even seeing much profit from it? And who knows how much creative license they’ve had to part with, in order to work within the system?

Who can say if they’re even that happy? I know they seem to have all the ingredients in place — attractive spouse, trendy house, new baby on the way, world travel, a successful blog, and a string of publishing credits that keeps getting longer — but who can say what their actual experience is?

Heck, they might be even worse off than I am, on the inside, whilst putting forth the right impression on the outside.

Who knows? All I know is, there’s this thought in my head that they have it so much better than I, that they’ve had it so much easier than I, and that they’ve succeeded as a result of others’ help, which they aren’t even acknowledging.

But that’s an ugly way to start the day.

I’ve known that since about 5:15 this morning. I’ve also known I needed to change my attitude, one way or another, since about 5:17 a.m.

Thinking through how I felt about that old friend of mine this morning, I gradually found my thoughts turning to another old friend who’s on the other end of the spectrum. This is someone I became good friends with, several years after the above-mentioned Friend No. 1 disappeared from my daily life. Friend No. 2 and I were great buddies for years, working closely together and producing some great projects on a regular basis. We’re very simpatico, with similar world views and values, and we’ve kept in touch intermittently over the years. Whenever we’ve caught up for coffee, we’ve had some great discussions, and we’ve talked about collaborating on a number of projects — none of which ever panned out… but oh well…

Anyway, Friend No.2 and I caught up about four months ago, when I told them about a project I was launching – starting a new business on the side – and I showed them my product. They were really impressed and we had what I thought was a great conversation and a jump-started connection.

One thing that really struck me, though, was their attitude. After years of what most would consider a very successful career, a solid marriage, and the ability to take time off work for a few years, thanks to smart investments and prudent savings, they seemed… well… bitter. Like life had been unfairly unkind to them, they’d been used and abused, and they were running out of options. They didn’t seem to have a whole lot of enthusiasm for their future, and they seemed a bit depressed when they talked about their general situation — which to me looked pretty good.

I mean, seriously — they have a really nice car that’s paid for, their marriage is strong, their house is paid off, they’ve got an amazing new riding mower with all the tools to keep their lawn in tip-top shape, they know who they are, and they know what they love to do. They have a lot of the things I lack — and am suffering for pretty intensely at times.

And yet, they’re bitter. They can’t do some of the things they used to do all the time — like go out to clubs every weekend and listen to live bands because it’s way too loud. They have ideas for inventions, but they can’t figure out how to turn them into money. They’re brushing up on their technical skills, but they can’t seem to find an exact match for what they want to do. They’re feeling used and abused and washed up, like their life is over and there’s nowhere else for them to go.

It really surprised me to hear them talk about the things that get to them. It’s like they were just settling for turning into a curmudgeony old coot without even putting up a fight. They’re about 15 years my senior, so they are getting older, but still… I’ve got relatives who are in their 80’s, 90’s, even past 100 years old, and they’re still going, still engaged, still enjoying their lives.

After what was mostly a good meet-up, Friend No. 2 disappeared. I gave them a call a few months later to see if they were interested in helping out with this project. When we met four months ago, they said they’d love to help with it, but when I called them again, they couldn’t talk at the time and said they’d call me back. I never heard back from them, and frankly I’d be surprised if I hear from them ever again.

Friend No. 2 is gone. By their own hand. It’s a loss for me, because when they were “on”, they were great to talk to and hang out with. But if they’re not going to be “on” and they’re just going to be bitter and resentful about every little thing that doesn’t work out for them, I really don’t need that in my life. And I doubt they’re going to come around.

So, there’s my tale of two old friends. I’m probably going to un-friend Friend No. 1 on Facebook, because their self-congratulatory tone just rankles me and serves no purpose in my life. Friend No. 2 is out of the picture, probably for good. And here I am in the middle, looking for a way to find gratitude to buoy me up out of my morning funk.

Comparing myself and my life and my success to others makes no sense. I can only compare myself to myself — and when I do that, I can see how incredibly fortunate I’ve been to receive the gifts I’ve gotten over the years. The TBI in 2004 could have ruined me, no doubt. But through divine grace, a bunch of risks I took that worked out, and a ton of hard work, I’m back on track and moving towards something truly fine. I’ve got love in my life and a spouse who is still with me, even after 23 years of some very challenging times. I have a house, a commuter car and a late-model minivan, I’ve got a regular job with a regular paycheck (which I’m probably not going to be leaving soon, because of the change in my financial timeline), and I’ve got my health. I have personal projects that keep me engaged and involved in my own life, and our local libraries have amazing collections which I can request from anytime I like.

I really do have so many blessings in my life, and considering where I come from, I have every reason to start the day feeling grateful and proud.

So, that’s where I’m at — having a gratitude adjustment, so my day doesn’t need to fall prey to bad thinking habits and mental laziness about things that may or may not be true. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’m disappointed that my financial plans for 2014 have been altered. Yes, I have to work a little bit harder than I’d like, today, go buy another mouse, and try to catch up with things I forgot to do for the past month.

But life doesn’t happen by itself, and things happen for a reason. It’s dawn. The sun is finally coming up. Time to find my reasons, and help things to happen.

Onward.

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A grateful heart does not drink…

Said a grateful recovering alcoholic to me the other night. We were hanging out, and the topic of what gets us in trouble — and what gets us out — came up. All the head games we play on ourselves, all the screw-ups, all the mis-steps and mis-fires, all the unfortunate misunderstandings that we can so quickly turn into a catastrophe of some sort. Whether brain-injured or alcoholic, some people can really do a number on themselves.

But then there are second chances. Second chances and defensive measures. Ways to beat the crazy wiring in our heads. Ways to outsmart even the smartest of our neuroses. Checking in with others. Reflecting on our day. Gratitude.

Tonight I am grateful I am not located anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico. I am grateful that there are individuals willing to take on the task of cleaning up. I am grateful that people are waking up to this nightmare, no matter how horrific it is at this point in time. And I am grateful that none of us can know for certain that things will in fact turn out as terribly as we think they do.

I had a good talk with my recovering alcoholic friend the other night. We compared a few war stories and then both agreed that when it comes to running the world, it’s best if we leave the job up to someone else.

Don’t drink. Don’t despair.

Do something else. Be grateful. For something.

And life is good

I do not live on a shattered island nation in the middle of the Caribbean.

I do not have to walk over dead bodies today.

I do not have to cover my nose and mouth to keep from gagging on the stench of rotting flesh as I walk down the streets of my home town.

I know where my relatives are, and they know where I am.

There are no international figures telling me my troubles are happening because of a pact my ancestors made with the devil.

I am under the radar, for the most part, in all the right ways.

And the ways I am noticed, are for positive things.

I am extraordinarily blessed, and I give thanks.

An attitude of gratitude

I’m feeling incredibly grateful today. And it is good.

To all appearances, I shouldn’t be quite this happy. The weather has turned ugly again, and it’s looking a lot more like November than July, right now. I have had to really work at keeping up with my workload, lately, and I have this sneaking suspicion that I’m falling behind on something… though I’m not sure what that is. My schedule has  been kind of up in the air, with different appointments coming up that need to be dealt with, a fender-bender that has been followed by messed-up paperwork… and my regular life still needs to be tended to, as usual. Laundry has to be done. The lawn needs to be mowed. On any one given regular day, I can do some if not most of it, but lately – with all the excitement – I’ve been doing less than I feel I should. And I’ve been feeling like I’m falling behind.

Still, today I’m feeling great and very hopeful. It’s like something has taken a turn for the better, and I have yet to find out what that is. There’s a whole world of possibility out there waiting for me, and I can’t see why I shouldn’t be able to enjoy myself while I’m finding out what that is.

The feeling started yesterday, as I was driving around running an errand. I was thinking about all the crap stuff I have to do, trying to figure out how I was going to do it and get a nap in (I never got the nap). I was feeling pretty hassled and harried and I wasn’t having fun. But in the midst of my dissatisfied reverie, I was interrupted by the thought,

“Nobody is making you feel bad. Nobody is making you feel any way. Yes, you’ve got plenty of logistical concerns and things aren’t easy right now, but it’s your choice how you feel about it all. You can either get your knickers in a bunch over what’s wrong, or you can be grateful that your life is complete enough and you are functional enough that you can have these “problems.” A lot of people aren’t. And you didn’t used to be. If you weren’t doing this well, you wouldn’t get to experience this level of complication and irritation. And frankly, it’s a very good sign that you do.”

That snapped me out of it. Got me right off the proverbial pity-pot. Three years ago, I wasn’t able to deal with all the wrinkles in days like I have now. I wasn’t able to hold down a full-time job that places extra demands on my time management skills with its telecommuting aspects. I wasn’t able to hold down a job, period. I wasn’t able to hold a civil conversation with someone for longer than 15 minutes, and I wasn’t able to manage my money effectively. I wasn’t able to communicate with my spouse or take good care of my house and my yard. I was “functional” only because I had worked so hard over the years before to build up a lot of supports that were able to prop me up when I was in a bad place. They propped me up, but they also wore out and went away. The money. The job. The friends. The peace and stability in my home.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get back to a place where I have at least some of those things back. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to a place where I am once again able to maintain the life that I desire. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been possible. And it is good.

And for that, I am very, very grateful.