Funny again

It’s good to be back

I haven’t been funny in a long time. It’s been nearly ten years, in fact.

I used to be funny – cracking jokes and keeping the mood light, when things got too heavy. I brought that to every social situation, helping people see the humor in impossible situations, and helping everyone keep things in perspective.

Every since high school, when I started connecting with people around me, I could make people laugh. And they loved that. I was welcome in so many circles, precisely because I could make them laugh. And in many ways, how much I could get people laughing was a measure of how well I was connecting with the people around me. If I was on the “outs”, I couldn’t convey my unique sense of humor to others. But if I was connected with the people I was with, I could make them laugh.

It’s how I coped, it’s how I got through tough times. And I shared it with everyone. It was good.

After my fall in 2004, however, nothing was funny anymore. It was the strangest thing. All of a sudden, I couldn’t see the humor in anything, and I certainly had no interest in making anyone around me laugh. If someone tried to make me laugh, it was a toss-up if they’d succeed. A lot of times, they just infuriated me.

Over the past few years, I’ve been getting funnier again. At my last job, people laughed when I was around, but a lot of the time, they were laughing AT me, because we weren’t on the same wavelength, and they really truly thought I was weird. That was a result of differences in experience and orientation, I’m convinced. We had such different outlooks and life experiences, they just couldn’t relate to me, or believe half the things I said and did. So they laughed at me.

Fortunately, I didn’t take it all that seriously. After the first few months, I got used to it and was just glad that at least they weren’t total assholes to me.

But in this job, I’m actually making other people laugh. On my terms. Over things we all see and experience in common. That tells me that not only am I in synch with folks there, but I’m really, truly getting better — in my life and my brain. I’m actually funny. I’m cracking jokes that people “get”. I’m making sour-faced individuals laugh out loud — both in person and via email and IM. And over the phone.

It’s good to be able to do this again. It’s such a relief — it makes everything easier. And it’s not only something I do. It’s also something I AM. My sense of self has long been associated with my sense of humor. If I could make people laugh, I knew I was going to be okay. I knew the situations I was in were going to be okay. And like being able to read as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, it was a marker about how “okay” I was — if I was the person I really, truly meant to be… if I was the person I wanted to be.

It’s been pretty grueling, going without so much of what used to make my life worth living. But gradually, it’s been coming back. Holy crap. It’s coming back. I’ve been testing it out over the past months, and yeah. It’s back.

One of the really good results of all this win-loss-win process, is that now that “gone” things are coming back, I appreciate them all the more. And I have a better understanding of their place in my life. Not being able to read before, makes me extra appreciative of being able to do it now. And being able to create and enjoy humor again, makes me realize just how valuable it was to me before — and it also makes me appreciate just how connected I actually had been to my peers, when I was younger. I always thought of myself as an outsider who wasn’t welcome, but in fact, I was someone who literally fit in with every crowd, in one way or another, and humor made that possible.

For decades, I thought of myself as an outsider who never fit in anywhere, but that was actually in accurate. I did fit in. I just didn’t realize it. And I missed out on the chance to have that experience for so many, many years. Why and how that happened, is another story — and it’s a mix of both the way I was brought up and the injuries that messed up my thinking and experience for so much of my life. But whatever the source, I really did miss out on so much…

Oh… I’m starting to get a little teary-eyed. I’m tired, and when I’m as worn out as I am, I’m more emotional. That will never do. I’ve got a long day ahead of me, and I don’t want to start out by getting emotionally overwrought. Or start out crying. That gives me a splitting headache and throws me off. I’m just not 100% after I cry, for some reason. So, I’m going to stop thinking about this right now and get my mind off it.

Bottom line is, things that I thought were gone for good… aren’t. It’s taken a long time for some of them to get back, and I still have a ways to go to restore some of the others. Maybe those things will come back, maybe they won’t.

But whatever does come back, I can appreciate it all the more.

That’s for sure.

Onward.

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Having a good laugh and getting it done

Each day is a new discovery. That much has become abundantly clear to me, over the past years. I think I’ve always had that orientation, really, from when I was a kid. I was inquisitive, no doubt, and I had an insatiable curiosity to find out “what happens if –” I had plenty of opportunity to find out the answer to that “what if”. And not all the answers were fun and games. But at least I kept at it.

I had another “discovery evening” last night, after dinner. I was helping a friend get some web stuff together, and they were starting to get anxious and pushy. I seem to have a lot of friends who get anxious and pushy… Anyway, tempers were starting to escalate, and I was getting pissed off. I was trying to help them, and they kept arguing with me and changing what they wanted to do. Exasperating.

So, I told a joke. And they laughed. And the whole mood changed. The whole experience turned from being a hurdle, into being an interesting discovery that we could figure out together. And we ended up having fun with it. Of course, it would have been nice if we’d done this earlier than 10:00 at night — it woke me up, and I didn’t get to sleep till midnight, and then I woke up at 5:15 today. Bummer. Oh, well. At least we managed to get that web thing done, and with any luck, it’s going to help them make some money and be more independent.

Humor is becoming more and more key for me, these days — or rather, figuring out how to find humor is becoming more key. I used to be a real card — a cut-up, a joker, a fun-n-games type of person who was always good for a laugh. All growing up, I could always make the people around me laugh and smile and feel better. It was one of the things that made me so great to work with. People really enjoyed working with me, because I was a lot of fun, and I could turn any tense situation into a much easier one.

Then I fell in 2004, and all of a sudden, nothing was funny anymore.

Nothing.

I think of all the things TBI has cost me, my sense of humor has cost me most dearly. It’s really messed with my quality of life, and my ability to function in the world. You wouldn’t think that a sense of humor would be that critical, but in trying times — as they so often are for me — being able to laugh at myself and my situation has carried me through some very tough spots. And it’s helped others as well. In fact, my sense of humor is one of the things that attracted my spouse to me in the first place.

Not being able to lighten up has made things much more difficult in my work, my relationships, my marriage, and life in general. I used to be able to lighten up “on demand”, but over the past years, it’s been incredibly difficult to do that. In fact, if anything, I’ve gone in the opposite direction — spiraling down, down, down, on an instant’s notice. That’s been very hard on everyone around me. And watching them struggle with me has felt terrible. I should be able to do better. But that “better” escaped me for years.

Fortunately, that’s changed somewhat over the past while — I’m not sure if it’s been a year or months. I lose track of time. But regardless, I’ve been able to find humor in places that tend to trouble me. When I can find the humor, I can get some perspective — and my brain gets the additional oxygen it needs. And everyone gets a much-needed break from all the intensity.

Thinking about the dynamics between my spouse and me, they were always the one who was heavy and intense and deeply feeling, and I was the bright light that danced around in the sky, getting our minds off all those troubles, and hoping for a better day. I really was able to balance my spouse’s mental challenges and physical illness with good humor and courage, for many, many years. And my humor gave me tons of energy and optimism. Between the two of us, we could get a ton of things done. When the humor left me around 2004-2005, we lost an important part of our relationship and our dynamic.

And everything got that much harder, that much more mired in the muck of life.

But now I can see myself coming out of that dark space. I hear myself making jokes again. And I find myself laughing spontaneously, for a change. Facebook and YouTube help, actually, with their steady stream of videos and pictures highlighting the follies of humanity. My laughter is lighter, now, and less bitter. Because I’m getting out of the weeds, and I’m figuring out how to not get mired in one detail after another.

You know, it’s funny — I’ve been thinking, lately, about how lax I’ve become with a lot of things. I used to be so diligent, so conscientious, so focused on results. Now, I’m more interested in enjoying myself in what I’m doing. But has that cost me, in terms of doing what I say I’m going to? No. Actually, it helps me. Before my fall, things were much more proportional in my mind — I could keep things in perspective, and not get hung up on all sorts of stupid little details. TBI really screwed with that — and I became obsessed over sh*t that didn’t matter, sweating every little thing that was of no consequence. The more I obsessed, the more I sweated, the more obsessed I became — over a lot of nothing.

Now, I’ve figured out how to let a lot of that go, and just focus in on enjoying what I’m doing, without really sweating all the little details. A lot of the things that used to drive me — doing exactly the right thing in the most perfect way possible — oh hell, I don’t care about that anymore. It makes me crazy — and for what? The job I do isn’t going to save my soul, and it’s not the ticket to a gloriously happy life. It’s a job that pays the bills. It’s fairly interesting, but it’s not all that — like it used to be.

Ironically, I’ve found that when I let a lot of my obsessing go, I can actually focus in on what I’m doing, and do a better job of it. I can clear out the cobwebs with a good laugh, and buckle down to make some progress. Having this balance is a new thing. And it’s a good thing. It feels odd, to not be over-the-top obsessed with being #1 at every single thing I do, but I can live with that odd feeling.

As long as I’m enjoying myself and not driving myself crazy… as long as I’m making progress and moving things along… it’s all good.

Until somebody tells me it’s not. Then I have to refocus… but that’s another topic for another day. For today, it’s all good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting a grip on my fatigue

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m tired. Really tired. I hate being tired. And the odd thing is, the more tired I am, the harder it can be for me to see that I am.

I tend to just drive myself — the more tired I am, the harder I push — and I end up getting in over my head, taking on all sorts of projects, writing, drawing, painting, doing-doing-doing…

It’s just crazy.

Over the past year, this really hit home with me, as I looked through all my notebooks for what I’d been doing with myself, and to see if there were any indicators that something was not quite right with me, when I thought it was. What I found were pages and pages and pages of notes about projects I wanted to start and work on… most of which I never finished, and many of which I completely forgot about, when I got distracted and started doing other things. I literally completely forgot about a bunch of projects I’d started that were intense burning desires with me, when I started.

Then all of a sudden, I went off and did something else, and I never came back to the projects.

Now, someone might say that it sounds like ADD, but it feels a whole lot more extreme to me. It really does. It’s not simple distraction. It’s having something you once loved and were 100% devoted to… simply cease to exist in your mind. It’s just dropping something you have hundreds of hours invested in and wandering away to do something else, and never, ever coming back to your original plan. It’s misplacing a notebook (or putting it somewhere you cannot see it) and experiencing life as though that notebook and that plan had never even existed.

This is something far deeper and more extreme than ADD. It’s got to be.

It’s sleep-walking through life because I am so worn out and exhausted by all the activity going on in my mind that I cannot think clearly… and I don’t realize I’m not thinking clearly, because I’m way too tired to grasp that fact. It’s never seeing the whole picture, because in the process of pushing yourself too far, too fast, too hard, you’ve shattered the image and are working off various little pieces of the whole, never fully aware that there is more to the whole than what you’re able to see.

It’s exhaustion-driven over-achievement… that ultimately goes nowhere.

Fortunately, I have (slowly but surely) come to realize the impact of fatigue/exhaustion/busy-ness on my life and productivity. And I’ve thankfully come to realize that one of the prime indicators that I’m intensely fatigued, is me thinking that I’m not at all fatigued… I’m just fine, thank you!… mistaking my agitation for energy… and doing way too much. I’ve come to realize that my agitation is not necessarily positive energy… it’s not necessarily productive drive… and it may actually be a fear-driven gut instinct to avoid the innermost anxieties that haunt and taunt me, so I don’t have to admit there  is something not quite right in my head.

It’s a physical phenomenon, as well as a mental and emotional one. The drive is a physically palpable thing… and the true fatigue underlying it is really well-masked by… fatigue.

What saves my ass, is my self-assessments. i have my list of things that I ask myself objectively, if they’re going on with me. Am I tired? Am I anxious? Am I agitated? Am I excitable? If I am answering objectively “yes” to these… and “I’m busier than usual” — I can say, “Hey, I must be fatigued!” and it sets off alarms with me. It makes me step back for a moment and check in with myself and see if I’m getting myself in any hot water, due to my over-activity. It gives me permission to admit that I’m pushing myself too hard. It gives me permission to slow down. To stop.

And then I can rest.

It’s the weirdest thing, that… but typical for my TBI experience. My body reacts to its deficits by overcompensating and telling itself it’s doing great. My brain has been altered in ways that cause it to think it hasn’t been altered at all — Adventures in Anosognosia!!!

Ha. Well, as long as I keep a sense of humor, I guess I’ll be okay. Really okay. After all, laughter oxygenates the blood and brain, so that can only help.