Whatever I want it to be…

The last day of a long week. After another long week before that…. and another long week before that…. Come to think of it, February was a long month. The shortest month of the year was the longest, experience-wise. And packed full of new details. And as stressful as it was exciting. A real roller-coaster ride, if I say so.

I’m sure things will settle down as we move forward and people find their place. At least we have our job responsibilities clearly (well, sort of) outlined and described in our HR “goals and objectives” system. And it’s pretty good, when I step back and take the view of someone who is just passing through, rather than chained to this galley bench till the end of the sea voyage.

A lot of folks at work are incredibly stressed out over everything. There are adjustments going on with everyone, and tempers run hot at times. People are tired and long-term stressed, and we all know what happens when that happens. Unfortunate things are said and done, and then everyone gets all worked up over this, that, and the other thing. Over nothing, really… And then the fur flies, and people dig in, trying to justify why they did or said that stupid thing, 15 minutes ago… and a whole elaborate conceptual framework gets built up around people trying to defend a position they know is not right to begin with, just because they feel they need to defend it or they will lose face, lose ground, and not have the same standing with others that they want to have.

Some call it “ego”. I call it a heavy-duty bias towards the sympathetic nervous system — you know, that fight-flight-freeze response that is all but out of our control… but we can manage and modulate with the right approach(es). Some people spiral out of control in a downward slide, when things change or go wrong, while others find ways to work through them and come out on the other side in one piece. In my former life before my TBI in 2004, I was the kind of person who could deal. I could handle things that came down the pike that threw other people for a loop, and I prided myself in that ability. After I fell in 2004, that all went out the window, and I lost myself in the increasingly stressful details of my everyday life. I felt terrible about myself, I felt like I was useless, couldn’t handle anything, and that I was good for nothing to anybody anymore. It took such a toll on my self-esteem and ability to interact with others… and I built up this whole new self-perception that just wasn’t accurate. I believed that the way I acted under circumstances in a given moment, was an indicator of who I was all the time — and that messed with my head like nothing else.

Now I know that my perceptions just were not true. I can be however I want to be, and I can interpret situations however I want to. I am not chained to any one version of reality, and in fact so much of what we call “Reality” is just a conditioned response that makes us feel a certain way. Our body chemistry — like a radio — gets tuned to a certain frequency, and even if we don’t like the music at first, we get used to it. And then when we’re in that “frequency,” if it feels right, then we think that what we’re thinking and feeling and observing is true. Our systems are built to acclimate to “normal” circumstances and then reinforce us when we are in that “normal” zone.

But the thing is, all that “normalcy” is nothing more than habit. We just get used to things being a certain way, and when they’re not that way anymore, we freak out – to a greater or lesser degree. Our freak-outs can range from general discomfort… to cranky-bitchiness… to outright meltdowns. And you know what? It’s not the external circumstances that are to blame. It’s our own internal reactions to them.  We are just so accustomed to our own internal reactions and our own “scema” of “reality” that we take them for granted, and they never get questioned until something changes that doesn’t synch up with our assumptions. And 9 times out of 10, rather than blaming our assumptions, we blame the thing that changed — something outside ourselves — for the problem. It couldn’t possibly be us… right?

Now don’t get me wrong. I do think that a lot of external circumstances are genuinely stress producing and can make us miserable, no matter how well-prepared or well-tuned we are. It’s just how we’re built. And obviously something like an earthquake or flood or tornado or organizational “redesign” at work will throw you for a loop. But we often make things harder for ourselves than need be, with our reactions and our determination to interpret things in the old way — which stopped being valid, the minute things changed.

The point is, we always have a choice about how we’re going to interpret the world around us. We’re not locked into any one “real” way of thinking or doing or being. There is no such thing. And the things we believe are true, are more true to our biochemistry than they are to our actual circumstances. Especially in America, we tend to believe the more true and real and authentic something feels, the more true it must BE. And yet our feelings stem from habits we’ve become biochemically attached to, along with the reactions that we have that reinforce our biochemical experiences. They’re real. They’re visceral. And they can really save our asses in a pinch when we don’t have time to think through things. But as a way of living life… going by gut feeling and sensation alone can get you into real trouble.

Anyway, today is a new day, and I am taking special care to watch out for what I’m thinking and saying and feeling and doing about things. In the past years of my recovery from TBI, a lot has changed in my mind about my life and what it’s all about — a lot has changed about who I am and what I am all about. The bottom line is, I get to choose today, how I will feel and how I will interpret things around me. It’s a dramatic time with work changing so drastically, and it’s a hard time for so many people around me (including myself).

For today, this day isn’t just about stress and anxiety and change. It’s about opportunity and potential and growth. There are elements of both sides in all this, and there’s a lot that’s out of my control. I have been having headaches. I am generally exhausted. I have a pretty short fuse, these days. And my light and noise sensitivity is pretty amped up, these days.

But there’s also a lot of good in my life, and spring is on they way. It’s my choice how I feel about things, and it’s my choice what I focus on.