What Twitter Stands For

rageThis
Will
Incite
Them
To
Extreme
Rage

That’s pretty much how it seems to me — especially considering how peaceful my state of mind has become, since dropping off Twitter. Seriously, my internal life is much quieter, ever since I walked away from the 140 characters of overly brief annoyance and provocation.

As an extended bookmarking and link-sharing mechanism, it’s great. But people can’t seem to resist the temptation to editorialize — and that’s a terrible idea, if you only have a few lines.

Under-doing anything tends to be a bad idea, and trying to pack extended thoughts into a condensed “container” has been the bane of my existence. Truly, Twitter represents just about everything that makes life difficult for me (and countless other TBI survivors) in this modern world.

First, it’s too abrupt. There’s no time to really think things through, when all you have is 140 characters. When your brain needs longer to function (and that goes for anyone who really wants to have a more studied life, not just folks with brain injuries), that very brief space is like a vice closing on your cognition.

Second, it’s too quick. People who have conversations on Twitter drive me nuts. There is no way I can actually have a meaningful exchange with anyone — even people who agree with me (and vice versa).

Third, it lends itself to extreme impulse control issues. The two elements above can stoke the fires of anxiety and frustration, tiring you out and further exacerbating an already shaky control over escalation.

There’s more, of course, but those are the big three for me — and the thing that makes them all even worse is the cognitive drain and encroaching fatigue that accompanies following and reading streams of tweets. If you’ve got slowed processing speed (that would be me), it can demand a lot to have even one back-and-forth. I tried it, a few months back, and it went downhill quickly. I got bent out of shape, and so did the other person, and the only thing that came of it, was irritation … and a touch of fleeting rage.

Nope, just not worth it.

It’s a constant struggle, in this world, to keep focused. Especially in the world where I work, it’s brutal. Absolutely brutal. And as the whole restructuring thing goes on, and I contemplate what I will do if I lose my job, I think about what kind of work I really want to do. I’ve been in the tech business for quite some time, now, and over the past 5 years or so, it’s become so much more “interrupt-driven” — which is a disaster just waiting to happen for me. I have to constantly guard against interruptions, constantly managing others’ expectations, training them to know that I will not drop everything I’m doing, in order to allay their irrational fears.

On top of it, the tech world is chock full of “youngsters” who thrive on constant change and interruption. And it’s full of execs who want to pay rock-bottom prices for folks just now entering the workforce, who may be “up” on the latest technologies, and promise to propel them into the brilliant new future ahead. Someone like me, who’s getting long in the tooth and is harder to fire (the longer you live, the more “protected status” you are in the workplace), becomes a liability after a while. I’m at that age where people start to get sick. Their bodies start to break down. Their minds start to go.

So, why would they keep someone like me around?

And why would I stay? Seriously. Why? If there is anything else I can do with myself, that will earn me a living, I should seek it out and do it. Get the hell out of the tech scene, with its stupidly long hours, its constant sitting/standing, its perpetual upheaval and disruption. That’s what it’s about, in any case, and it’s actually not what I’m about.

So, whether or not I’m let go today, I’ve got my Plan B in process. This job cannot be the be-all-to-end-all for me. No way, no how. I need more to my life, and I need to create that new direction for myself — not expect someone else to provide me with the opportunities.

I lost sight of that for the past three months, thinking that this job was going to tide me over for the next five years, at least. Now, nothing is certain. Nothing is fine. I wish to God I could find work that will let me just settle in and play my part for the long-term, but it’s becoming clear that I’m going to have to create that situation myself.

Anyway, it’s all very exciting. And it’s all a learning experience. Fortunately, my job involves work I really enjoy and that makes me good money, so I can focus on doing the things I know will translate into good money later on, and keep my head out of worst-case-scenario land.

Business as usual. Not usual at all. Which is usual.

Just have to stay steady in my own mind.

Onward.

Broken key – common theme

This may be me, later today.

So, the space bar on my keyboard is acting up. I will be typing along, and it will decide that it doesn’t want to work. And I’ll have to hammer on it a few times, to get it to work. How frustrating. I have to keep stopping to get it to work.

I will be typing along, and see that a space didn’t go between a number of words, so I stop and back up and put in the spaces. And then I’ve lost my train of thought, and I can’t remember exactly what I was going to write. 😐 How frustrating.It’s not like my brain does well keeping things in “RAM” memory in my head, anyway. But all these constant interruptions keep slowing me down even more, so by the time I’m done writing even a paragraph, I’m a bit frazzled and fried.

I was thinking that maybe it was because of my bum left right thumb (see? the interruptions have me so turned around, I’m getting my left and right confused, and that normally never happens). I have been having a lot of tremors and twitching in my left hand,especially my thumb. Maybe I have less strength and/or coordination in it, so it’s not hitting the space bar as hard as it should. It seems like it happens more when I am hitting the space bar with my right thumb. But it also happens with my left,so I think it may just be the space bar, period.

So, I have a number of choice:

  1. I can put on my static-grounding wrist strap and try to take my laptop apart and clean under the keyboard and see if the key is getting jammed on something.
  2. I can change how I type, slowing down and taking time to really hammer on the space bar each time I use it.
  3. I can just keep typing along and ignore the missing spaces between words, then come around a second time after I’mdone and put in the spaces after the fact.
  4. OR I can buy a new laptop.

Choice #1 is a little tricky. There are a lot of screws in the bottom of this thing, and I’m not sure I’m up for the ‘adventure’ of taking this thing apart and putting it back together.

Choice #2 is a no-go. I’ve tried it over the past few days, and it is terribly frustrating

Choice #3 is what I’m doing now, and it’s irritating. But it also gives me a chance to go back and revisit what I’ve written up, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Choice #4 will probably be what I do — after I put in some extra hours next week to stash some cash. I need a new laptop, actually. And a new desktop. All the machines I have are is Windows XP, which is about 3 versions of Windows behind, and a lot of the programs that are available today just don’t work very well on XP. They crash or they take forever. I need a Windows 7 laptop and a Windows7 desktop. I’m not doing Windows 8, because I’ve seen it and I don’t like it. Windows 7 still works just fine, thank you.

This all seems like a common theme for me. Things go wrong — not huge things, but disruptive things that block me and keep my head in the wrong place. And I have to stop, slow down, re-do my work, etc. I forget things at work. I screw up and have to scramble. I am chugging along just fine… then I run into a roadblock and have to double back and rethink/redo my work. Argh! It’s so frustrating. It’s like nothing really flows. I have to keep pausing to adjust. And I can’t build up momentum.

I was reading a self-improvement book a few weeks ago, where the author was talking about how important momentum is — you need to get into a regular pace with things and get in a groove.And then you get carried along by the flow.  Maybe they do. As for me, I *think* I’m going along in the flow, making good progress, and then WHAM! I hit a speed bump or a pothole, and I have to stop and check myself, and make sure I didn’t screw things up permanently, before I can continue.

Like typing along — chug-chug-chug — and the space bar is not putting in spaces, so I keep stopping to fix the broken places as I go, and that completely screws everything up.

Frustrating, to say the least.

But I don’t need to solve that problem just now. I have a bunch of things to do that don’t involve a computer that I need to finish up today, and I’m feeling really good about them. I’m helping out some friends, and I’m doing some of my own things. And I’m going to take a walk before the day gets too crazy. I have a good feeling about just about everything I’ve got going today.Plus, my spouse is away on a business trip later today, so I will have 8 hours of uninterrupted focus time.

I love my spouse with all my heart, but alone-time in the house is a luxury I seldom get to enjoy. And it is heaven, to not have to make myself understood to anyone, not have to navigate other people’s emotional “stuff”, and just go about my business at my own pace.

Except… there’s the Super Bowl tonight.

Anyway, I’ve got the whole day ahead of me, and it’s good. It’s really, really good.

Staying smart about things

Keeping my head on straight

I like to think that since I’ve experienced so many TBIs over the course of my life, and in spite of that I’ve managed to put together a life that many people would find enviable, and I’ve come so far in my brain injury recovery, I’m on the good foot permanently. I look at my laundry list of symptoms, and then I look at my life, and I think, “Damn, I’m doing great!”

It’s true to some extent, tut that’s not the case constantly. Especially lately. I have been having a ton of issues with distractability, as well as memory issues. Last weekend, I watched the second half of the last Harry Potter movie, and I enjoyed it. While I was watching it, I was tired, but I was engaged, and I was “actively” watching it, making comments, thinking about what was going to happen next, etc.

And then the next day, I could not remember what movie I had watched the night before. It was just a big blank space, and I could not find anything in my memory to tell me what I had been watching for 2-1/2 hours that night. I knew I had watched a movie, but I could not remember which one. It was just blank. Completely empty. Void.

Then I thought about what I was doing while I was watching the movie, and I remembered lying down on the couch to watch the movie from a more comfortable position, and it all came back to me, one piece at a time.

As long as I can find a way to remember at least part of something, the rest of it is often “tucked away” in the back of my mind somewhere. I just need that access point. And the access point is often not what I was doing prior to the activity I’m trying to remember, but something during the activity.

Normally, things like this don’t bother me, but this time did. I’ve been incredibly distractable, lately — walking into a room to do one thing, then getting distracted and doing something else, and then walking out of the room without doing what I went there to do. It happens to me constantly, and I fault the job I’ve had for the last three years, for making things worse.

My job has been a non-stop parade of distractions, driven by inexperienced individuals who have not been properly trained in time management and office etiquette. They think it’s perfectly okay to interrupt anyone for any reason, and they’d been doing it with me tens of times a day, each and every day that I’m at work. It’s bad. It’s really bad. And the fact that most of my coworkers are in their early to mid-20s and have probably grown up that way, doesn’t help.

The problem is not that I’m old (as old as many of their parents). The problem is that they have no ability to control their attention and their time and their energy, and they have no impulse control. It doesn’t bode well for their futures, but that’s not my problem. My own future is my concern.

In another week, I can start actively looking for a new job. I’m in a very good position — in a job where I am needed and valued, and I have no pressing requirement to leave, other than my own personal career plans. I can take my time and pick and choose from the offerings out there, because I have a ton of experience, and the economy is picking up, and my skillset will transfer across industries. So, that’s a good thing. And as soon as I am done with these deadlines and can move along, I shall.

I really need to pace myself. I have been running myself ragged (literally) for months, now, and it’s taking a heavy toll. I have known that it was catching up with me for some time, but I couldn’t stop, because there were time limitations I had to work within, and I wanted to get everything sorted out quickly.

So, I pushed myself. Hard. Too hard, perhaps. And the result has been:

  • sleeping problems — not able to get to sleep on time, or waking up too early
  • mood issues — blowing up over things and threatening my spouse
  • memory issues — not being able to remember things
  • cognitive issues — miscalculating and misjudging all sorts of things (that I should be able to calculate and judge, like the price of something I’m selling)
  • fatigue — being wiped out all the time and depending on adrenaline to keep me going
  • pain and sensitivities to light and sound and touch

Basically, I feel like I’m walking around in a fog, half the time, but I keep going. I hate feeling like this. It sucks. And I haven’t felt this foggy and out of for some time. The last time I felt this way, I hadn’t yet started seeing a neuropsychologist, and I was just muddling through everything and faking my way through.

Now I’m back to faking and muddling… not making much effort to remember exactly what’s going on around me, because it is so much effort… just turning to other people around me to clue me in about what comes next… not worrying so much about getting everything right, just getting it done. Actually, not worrying so much about that is not a bad thing — I should have stopped with the OCD stuff years ago, because so much of what I obsess over doesn’t really matter in the long term. But my filter for what I should and should not care about is pretty much shot.

I’m too tired and too out of it to pay much attention.

So, all my activity sneaked up on me and is pulling the rug out from under me on a regular basis. I like to think that once I get away from the current job situation and workplace configuration, I’ll be able to restore my ability to focus on what I’m doing. Seriously, the environment of constant interruption has taken a huge chunk out of my ability (and will) to focus. There’s just no point, anymore. There’s no point in even trying. It’s like trying to assemble a model airplane in the midst of a basket of puppies. You get the point. There is none.

So, I actually am starting to feel better, and in feeling better, I’m letting down my guard and looking at the bigger picture and seeing where things are not so great, and where they are really good. Because I’m not so focused on just surviving every day, I am able to honestly see how harmful the situation has been for me — and to get clear about what I want instead. Ultimately, I need a skillset that will not just lock me into one industry and one way of making a living, but is going to give me more opportunities with more (read, “higher”) ranges of salary. I’m headed down that road now, and I realize that I’ve been headed down that road for some time. I’m not just starting out from scratch with this; I’m farther along than I tend to think I am.

And now that I’m taking stock of where I’m at, I’m realizing just how tired I am. I’m exhausted. Wiped out. I’ve been pushing and pushing — and I’ll need to keep pushing for the next couple of weeks. Then I’m done. Out of there. On vacation. And then on to the next thing, the next job, the next opportunity. With hopefully more chances to focus single-mindedly on what is in front of me, rather than constantly fielding interruptions from others.

I just really need to stay smart about things. Not jump at the first chance that presents itself. Not fly into another situation because, well, it’s there and it will get me out of my current jam. I need to keep a level head about things, and sleep is a huge part of that equation. Sleep whenever I can, even when I’m at work. I can go out to my car and nap. I can also take a quick nap when I’m home from work. My spouse doesn’t understand about sleep hygiene and they say “It’s okay” for me to sleep for two hours when I get home… and then stay up till 1 a.m. They are wrong. That’s not OK at all. It’s a killer for me. But they don’t get that. At all.

So, I need to be smart for myself, and understand my spouse’s limitations when it comes to assessing what’s right and what’s wrong. Frankly, they seem to be sliding downwards and becoming increasingly cognitively impaired in certain ways. I can’t put my finger on it precisely, but they are definitely slipping with regard to their judgment, their memory, their processing… in subtle ways that are obvious to me after 23 years of living with them, but won’t get picked up by anyone else.

So, I have to be smart for both of us. It’s a little like being a single parent with a sick child. That’s how it’s been for years, on and off. Only now it’s almost constant.

Add “sole caregiver” to my resume.

All this means I just need to step back and be smarter about how I do things. I started out one of my big projects with a lot of assumptions and plans I thought would pan out, but they are turning out very differently. Rather than get stuck on the disappointments and frustrations, I need to treat this all as a learning experience. Treat it like school. Business school. In the real world. With real opportunities and real consequences, not just some case study or thesis.

This is life. This is for real. And I’ve got to keep my wits about me.

And get some sleep.

I had a nap yesterday, after getting a lot of things done. Today I’m going to do the same. I’m off to run some errands that will get me out of the house and get me around people — and interact. I have a lot of questions I need to ask someone, and there’s a lot of money (for me) that I’m going to have to pay in the process, so I need to keep a level head and be smart. Not go too fast, not go too slow, and keep at them till I get the exact answers I need and know I am making choices for the right reasons.

It’s all learning. It’s all growing. It’s all the stuff of life.

Onward.

I’m supposed to start working in 20 minutes…

1-2-3 Puuull..!

The good part is, I am working from home today. Sweet silence. No distractions. I can actually focus on one thing at a time without being constantly interrupted by people who do not want to actually do their own work, but expect me to do it for them.

My spouse is a late riser, so there will be no sign of them till noontime, which leaves me almost 4 hours of quiet productivity.

I’m actively rethinking my job search approach for the future. I have been thinking that I need to find a job with an established company that gives me a place to go each day. But in fact, what I really need is a remote job, where I can work for a set amount of hours, and then lie down and take a nap when I need to. Or I can travel and work remotely from wherever I am. The whole commuting to work – working 9 hours – commuting home thing, to and from a place where I’m chained to the galley bench with all the other worker bees just isn’t working for me. I am exhausted. Depleted. And I miss those hours I spend in the car each day.

So, either I find a job that’s remote, so I can come and go as I please and get things done on my own time in my own way, or I find something that is close to home, so I don’t have to waste all that time each day. I think the former makes much more sense to me — especially because of the fatigue thing, not being able to rest when I need to, and gradually becoming more and more exhausted.

My neuropsych tells me I should not be taking naps during the day. But if I don’t, I am so depleted that I can’t get to sleep in a good way. I get so tired, I am too tired to get to sleep.

So, it’s time to start looking around online for remote work. There are plenty of telecommute jobs out there. I just need to find them.

Onward.