Lighting a candle of my own, while the world seems to burn around me

hand holding lit match, lighting a small candle
We can’t do everything, but we can do some thing

I’m focusing on just being really kind to other people.

… Carving out my own little space of heaven on earth, where others can be treated with dignity and respect and offered what they need most – connection with a living, breathing person who sees their worth and humanity.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that a lot of people just want to connect, just want to talk, just want to be treated like a real human being.

And that’s what I’m going for these days.

In the supermarket… sharing a moment with someone trying to figure out which package of chicken to buy… in the elevator, just chatting with someone who wants to be acknowledged… at work, where everyone is worried and uncertain… at home, where my spouse wants to just hang out and spend some time together.

It takes time to connect with other people. It takes energy. And at the end of a long day, I don’t always have the strength to do as much as I would like, or to do it as well as I’d like.

I could have stopped a little longer to talk to the woman in the supermarket. I could have said something more intelligent to the veteran who was sharing the elevator ride to the 2nd floor. At work, I could go out of my way to be a little more friendly to people. At home, I could spend more time just hanging out with my spouse, talking about things we both care about.

I can think of many things I would like to do better. And each time I make the effort, I learn a little bit more.

I’m not perfect. But I can do something.

And so I shall.

Onward. Together.

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Paying attention. Closely.

I woke up early today – 5:30. I just woke up. It’s just as well, because I have a lot to do today, and I want to make some progress with some personal projects, before I launch into a lot of busy-ness. I’m going to a wedding later today, which I’m both dreading and looking forward to.

I’m looking forward to it, because there will be a lot of interesting people there, and I’ll have a chance to meet people from all over creation who I normally don’t get to meet.

I’m dreading it it, because there will be a lot of interesting people there, and it will likely be a non-stop social event.

I’m going alone, because my spouse is sick and can’t sit for any period of time without having a coughing fit. There’s no way they’re going to make it through a ceremony without interrupting everything. Medicines don’t work. Cough suppressants don’t do the trick. It’s better to not even chance it. They’ve been sick for weeks, now, with this virus that’s going around, and it’s no friggin’ fun for them. Nor for me. It’s pretty wearing, to watch the one you love struggle with being sick with no lasting relief in sight.

Anyway, I am gearing up for the day, running errands and taking care of business beforehand. The ceremony isn’t until the evening, so I have all day to get things organized, as well as take a nap – that’s going to be important.

The whole social thing is a source of stress and anxiety for me. It’s been a source of stress and anxiety for me at work, for the past couple of weeks. Everyone at work seems so … together. They know how to focus their statements and not trail off or wander around with their thoughts. It’s wild. How do people do that? It’s like they don’t have any other competing ideas rattling ’round in their heads — or they know how to organize their thoughts really well.

I, on the other hand, feel like pretty much of an idiot. I ramble. I blurt things out. I don’t make a simple statement that people can react to. I’m kind of all over the map at times. I feel like I’m swimming in this vast sea of information and trying to pick and choose what to talk about is a challenge. I guess I’m just a lot more like a sponge, taking it all in and putting it in order. I suspect that because of my past experience, I just have a lot more information to integrate — and my present experience is like drinking from a firehose, where all the information around me is just rushing in and flooding me out.

Crazy.

Well, I wanted a chance to work on the social aspect of my life… the time-keeping side of my life… to improve my ability to productively and capably deal with people. I asked for it, and now I have to learn it.

I can do this. I can do this. I keep telling myself this. Sooner or later, I’ll believe it. But right now, it doesn’t much feel like it.

So, I’ve got to get some supports together. Read some articles on how to organize your thoughts… strategies and ways to make the most of what I have, instead of getting all freaked out and worrying like crazy over every little thing. The worst thing is getting concerned… and feeling like there’s something wrong with me… that I’ll never be able to do this… that I’m defective, broken, a loser….

But if I can get some ideas, some training, and I can practice… I stand a chance of turning things around. I can’t get all bent out of shape about a temporary state of being. I have to remember where I come from — I’ve been working with computers for a long, long time. And I haven’t had to actually communicate with people, per se, as much as I’ve had to interact with machines. Machines are easy. There’s no timing involved. There’s no awful consequence if you mis-speak with a machine. It doesn’t care. It just tells you “No, that didn’t work – do you want to try again?” And you can try again.

But with people, it’s a different story. And at work, I feel like people are looking at me oddly because I’m not as fluid as I’d like to be. Plus, I’m kind of muttering to myself when I’m stressed and tired. I do that, when I’m overwrought. So, I guess I’d better learn to rest up and collect myself when I can. Because it’s no good creating the perception among folks that I’m just not up to the task.

Or that I’m crazy.

If only people had just a little bit more imagination and could accept differences among people. But honestly, they generally don’t. I think people tend to be somewhat neurotic and insecure about themselves, so they look to other people to make them feel better. People generally look to me to feel better about themselves, so I think they just expect me to be all together. Back before I had my TBI in 2004, I was a rock. I was steady. I was the kind of person you could go to and feel better — instantly — about yourself. I’m not bragging. That was just my MO. It’s how I rolled.

Then after 2004, all that fell apart… and it’s been a real struggle for me to get back at least part of that — for myself and for others.

So, this new job is chock full of new opportunities, and I’m paying close attention to where I need to improve and learn new things. Organizing my thoughts while I’m speaking is one of the things I need to study and practice. I really need to work on this. I get flustered and lose my place. But I’m in a position now where I’m going to be in a lead role in projects, so I can’t let that persist. I need to step outside the old comfort zone of hanging at my computer, and go talk to people. Connect with them. Make the rounds. Catch up and check in. Just get out of my cube and network.

And work on my thought organization. Because people are starting to look askance at me. Am I being paranoid? Maybe. I’ve got to get that out of my head and just learn some skills.

I’ve got to learn other things, as well. Fortunately, I can learn a lot of this stuff on my own time – and I’ve got a system in place for learning it. I’ve collected a bunch of details about the projects I’m going to be working on, and I am going to go into the office a few hours early each day to focus on memorizing them. Product lists. Feature lists. Process flows. Flow charts… Software I’ve used in the past, and now need to learn how to use better…. I know I am better at learning and retaining information, first thing in the morning, so I need to get into the office early and get a jumpstart on things.

The other benefit of going in early, is that I miss a lot of the heavy traffic, so I get there even faster.

So, that’s one thing I can do — get an early start to the day and spend the time focusing on learning what I need to know and do.

I’m already feeling better.

Here’s the thing — new job, new life. Totally new way of doing things. I need to give myself room to learn and grow — and really step up. For years, I’ve been working with systems, which I could only learn by sitting down in front of a computer and typing away, ignoring everything going on around me.

Now, I’m working with people, and I need to get into the flow. I need to gather information from different places and really study up. I can do that now. I can read much better, and I can retain information, and I have my tricks to help me remember.

The main thing is, not getting thrown by insecurity and anxiety and having that affect my credibility.

So, it’s good. It truly is. And it’s getting better.

Letting things just be

You gotta know what’s what – for real

I had a long weekend, with a lot of work of all kinds. I did some work for my day-job, and I also worked with my spouse to help them with a business trip on Saturday. Then I spent most of Sunday with a house guest, who stayed until 5 p.m.

I typically prefer to have time to myself on the weekends – to be alone and undisturbed by others. I had a lot to do, and interacting with other people takes time. It takes a lot of time. And energy. And attention I’d rather put somewhere else.

One of the things that makes interacting with other people difficult for me, is that I really expend a lot of energy when I’m interacting with them. I really make an effort to see their points of view and to just let them be who and what they are. It’s a fair amount of work for me, because most of the things I see and hear and watch people doing, saying, choosing, really conflicts with what I would do, say, or choose.

But it’s their choice and it’s their life. Even if I can see that their deeds, words, and choices are going to lead them down an unfortunate path, I have to stand back and let them do it. It’s not up to me, to save them. Or even to give them a clue about what’s ahead. That’s for them to find out. If I didn’t care so much about the sufferings of others, my life might be considerably easier.

But I do care. And it is extremely hard to watch people do the things they do.

Who am I to take them to task, though? Who am I to step in and draw their attention to things? We all have to walk our own paths, and we all have to make our own mistakes.

I just don’t much care for being pulled into the foolishness that they propagate. When the people doing the ill-advised things are in charge, and they are affecting the lives of countless others on a very large scale, well, that’s a problem. Especially if one of those people is me.

So, in that case, standing by and doing nothing, saying nothing, never speaking out and never raising any questions, is negligent on my part. We all have responsibility for certain things that happen around us. The real puzzle is knowing which of those things we are complicit with, and choosing the right path to take.

For me, the right path is (ultimately) off into the sunset — toward the horizon — and away from the situation where I now am. There is so much more that I can be doing with my skills and abilities, and nobody I work with is actually mature and experienced enough to recognize that. So, I’m limited by their lack of vision and experience.

It really does boil down to experience. And there’s not a damn’ thing I can do about that.

So, in the spirit of picking my battles, I’m working on stepping back and letting things be. I need to observe them and figure out which things I want to dive into, and which things I want to leave alone. A whole lot of drama can be alleviated by just being still and letting it settle down. Then the drama dissipates. The swirling mud sinks to the bottom of the pool, and we can get clear again.

The main thing is to just remain calm and allow it to be. Just be.

And in those times when I let things get the better of me, and all the dust and muck gets kicked up and swirled into a muddy mess, I need to just step back, step away, and let myself settle down… so I can stop stirring the pot, myself.

Half the time, the pot doesn’t need to be stirred, anyway, and all the drama and kerfluffle has nothing to do with what’s actually going on at the moment. It has to do with everything else in the world that people are experiencing — the imaginary past, the elusive present, the anticipated future. And it has nothing to do with reality. At all. Things would be so much simpler, if we could just let them be, but no… people seem to be hard-wired to dive head-first into drama.

Of course, I know exactly how that works. For sure. It’s a mix of biochemistry, neurology, and the combination of fear, anxiety, fatigue, pressure, stress… that whole big mess o’ things that — for some reason — we seem to think life has to be.

It doesn’t. We’re just trained that way. Everything from our media to our interpersonal relationships, are marinated in drama. It wakes us up. It makes us feel alive. It makes us feel important, or right, or righteous, or powerful. It makes us feel as though we alone know “what’s what” in the world, and it’s comforting that way.

But ultimately, all that amounts to is drama. Biochemistry. Neurology. Habit.

It’s not real.

And that’s the thing I need to keep in mind and remember. I did an okay job of remembering it this weekend, when I started to get all OCD over my work situation and started to get all worked up over scenarios I was imagining. The imaginary scenarios were both historical (they had happened, and I’d decided what they were about and what they meant) as well as anticipated (they hadn’t yet happened, and I was pretty sure they would). And I was getting really worked up over them, while I was trying to fall asleep last night.

But I got a hold of it and remembered that I was frittering away precious time on what was basically an illusion — something I made up in my mind about what was happening/going to happen, and what it all meant — and there was not much reality to it, other than the sensations that were coursing through my veins and making my heart rate go nuts. It wasn’t serving any purpose and it wasn’t helping me at all.

So, I stopped. I just let it be. I reminded myself that the only thing that was giving any of it any reality, was me and my conviction that I knew what was what.

Silly.

Once I stopped, and I got myself calmed down, I went right to sleep. Which is what I was needing to begin with.

And that’s progress.

It’s also progress, that I’m seeing more and more clearly each day, just now made-up our world really is. We invent all these interpretations of how things are and what’s happening and what it means, and then we leap into action without checking it out first. We “jump on it” and make a mess of things, and then we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to fix what we screwed up in the first place. It’s all very exciting, and it makes us feel like we’re making progress, but we’re doing the opposite — creating a lot of drama and suffering for ourselves and everyone around us.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to start my day. I’m working at home today, because I’m finally able to get a plumber in to fix a leak that has gotten progressively worse over the past two months. At last, I have the money to pay them, and I have the time for them to come to the house. Those two things have been sorely lacking in the past months.

Speaking of sorely lacking time, I think I’m going to take a day off, pretty soon. All this working, all this pushing, all the interactions with house guests and visitors and new co-workers has kicked the crap out of me, and I need a day to myself. I need some silence. Just silence.

So, I’ll look at my schedule and pick a day that works for me to just check out. Every now and then, I need a break. From everything.

But for now, it’s into the day for me.

Onward.