It is so good to be home

Good to be home again

After more than 24 hours of go-go-going, with about an hour of sleep on the flight back home, I spent most of yesterday taking care of myself. I went out with some friends around lunch time, just to catch up, then I came home and slept. For almost 7 hours.

God, that felt good. I have been operating on 5-6 hours of sleep a night, with really long days — sometimes 15 hours of non-stop going — and it is fantastic to get to just STOP moving, and basically collapse.

I could do without losing the hour, thanks to changing our clocks, but that’s the least of my concerns, right now.

I have a big week ahead of me, with some significant projects. One of them is really behind – it’s overdue, and the folks I’m working with are just not happy about it. They haven’t been happy about things for several years, but I’m not the only one to blame. They don’t do what they say they’re going to do, on time, and then they come back to me, bitching and complaining about things not being “right”.

It’s generally unsatisfactory, and nobody is happy, but that seems to be how it always goes. Frankly, the fact that I’m able to get anything done under the conditions I’m working with, is a miracle. I have a feeling things are going to be changing soon in my life and work, so I’m not going to let it get the better of me and throw me off. These things happen. Nobody likes them. They’re awkward and uncomfortable, and they’re a pain in everyone’s ass. But that’s just how things are for the time being.

It’s all experience. Just that. Experience.

Speaking of experience, I’ve decide that whatever happens in my life, I alone am responsible for the experience I get from things. Yes, there are going to be really tough times and really easy times, too. But how I react to it, and what I get out of it, is on me. I can treat the tough times like they are victimizing me, and I am helpless to prevent them. Or I can treat them like lessons and opportunities to build up my strength and reach deeper within myself for more strength and endurance.

These past weeks – the past couple of months, actually, have been all about learning to deal with adversity and looking my imperfections and shortcomings and limitations in the eye. These are very public imperfections, which are resulting in frictions and drama with my workmates, as well as compromising my work product. In the past, I have really let that get to me, when I came up short, my focus and attention failed me, and I screwed things up.

I really beat up on myself, convinced that I was broken beyond repair, and I would never amount to anything. But that wasn’t actually accurate. Those were just times when I had the opportunity to see close up and personal just where I needed to put more attention and effort.

And when all was said and done, when I held steady and didn’t let things throw me in a hyper-personal way, what I had was a greater resilience and the ability to wade into potentially distressing situations without losing my cool.

That’s been a great boon to me, because the thing that my last TBI cost me — which also cost me my job(s) and almost killed my marriage — was my ability to stay cool. In the past, I had really banked on my ability to stay calm in the face of the storm, but after my TBI in 2004, I just lost it. I couldn’t keep anything together. I was so stressed and so fried by every danged thing, that I couldn’t make it through the day without melting down or blowing up over one thing or another.

It’s all a jumbled mass of shadowy recollections in my head, now, but I can remember a number of times when I just lost it — at work as well as at home. And I really know how that impacted me — lost jobs, friction at home, a fractured marriage and lost friendships…

Now, though, I’m getting back on my feet. I just got my tax refund back, and I also actually got a bonus this year, so things are actually looking up for me. I’m able to pay off a LOT of back debts, that have been sucking hundreds of dollars from me each month. It has taken me four years to clear out debts that were the equivalent of a year’s take-home salary. It has been a long, hard slog, but I am now making payments that will wipe out ALL my old outstanding debts, even my line of credit at the bank to cover my mortgage payments. I’m getting current on all my bills, and I’m consolidating and removing extra costs that I don’t need. I am now also in a position to do some house repairs which have been waiting about ten years — since I had my TBI in 2004, and I ceased being able to deal with, well, just about anything.

I’m in a position where I can actually fix the issues with my cars, and I’m considering getting a new (to me) car to replace my commuter car that’s nearing 150,000 miles and is starting to have the kinds of problems that older cars have. Radiator needs to be replaced. Back left strut needs to be fixed, rust around the edges, and so forth. So, if I can trade in the car I have for another one, it would probably be cheaper just to get a new-to-me car, instead of having to replace and repair so much on my current vehicle.

Having that influx of money to my bank account has just solved a whole lot of stress-inducing problems, the nicest one being that whenever I go look for another job, I don’t have to push the envelope on what I’m earning, just to get by. I’m not saddled with all these infernal debt payments, and I can actually work with what I’m making, rather than watching it trickle away.

Looking at all my numbers, I can see how I can actually get ahead in the coming months and years, which is a great feeling, after the past four years of being trapped in a cycle of debt resolution, feeling like I would never get out from under.

Yes, it is really good to be home.

Being all here

Right here, right now

Fog Factor Today: 70% with-it

I’m 70% “with-it” this morning – I got 7 hours of sleep last night, which is pretty good, considering my recent track record, and I woke up without an alarm. I’m doing better about heading to bed when I need to, rather than staying up to watch a little late-night talk show joking around, as I often do. The really funny people come on around 11 p.m., which is when I should be in bed.

Last night, I peeled myself away from the television and headed off to bed at 10:45, which is real progress for me. And although I felt like staying up and reading and keeping my brain in motion, when I got into bed and relaxed, I was too tired to do anything else.

I simply slept. Through the night. And woke up feeling pretty danged good, if I say so myself.

So, that’s progress. It’s been hard-fought, but I’ve done it. Yeah.

It’s a start.

I really didn’t feel like exercising this morning, but then I realized that I was lying in bed checking Facebook, when I could have been riding the exercise bike and checking Facebook, so why didn’t I just get up? So, I did, and I rode for 10 minutes and 2-1/2 miles — pushing myself a little harder at the end, without too much of a worsening headache. I also did my knee exercises while my coffee brewed and my egg cooked up. I worked on my balance while I did those exercises, and I realized that my balance is much better than it was, just a few months ago. Something is working better.

I’m feeling pretty good this morning, Fog Factor not withstanding. I’ve been fighting off a cold for a few days, and it felt like it was getting the better of me, first thing this morning. Now, though, it feels like it’s backing off, so that’s good.

Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to feel this great for another couple of weeks. I’m going on another business trip this coming week. Then comes the jet-lag. Then comes the pretending that I’m not jet-lagged. Then comes the extra work in the midst of jet-lag and meetings with people who speak other languages than me, and figuring out how to navigate the world far from my home. Last trip, I fought it tooth and nail, melted down over the prospect of going, and I had a really rough time just prior to going.

This time, I’m doing better at accepting the situation and seeing what I can get out of it. I’ve got a much better attitude, and I can see some saving graces.

It’s just tough, having to uproot myself for all this time… and then have to struggle through the return with the bone-crushing fatigue and disruption to my sleep schedule.

The good (no, great) part is, this will probably be my last big trip for quite some time. Just like last year, and the year before, we have to travel a few times at the beginning of the year under stupidly demanding circumstances. I consider it a test by management to see how on-board we are with their authority, and to test us about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the team — pretty much a stupid-ass macho display of strength. woo. effing. hoo.

Rant alert: Let’s see who can put their family through the most hardship during the months when things can be the toughest at home — especially for folks who live in snowy areas — and let’s see who can show up at work the most bright-eyed and busy-tailed. Like I said, a bunch of macho crap — aging warhorses who feel the need to exert their authority over the minions. 

I hope they feel good about themselves. /End Rant

But those displays of uber-capability don’t usually last long, because – you know what? – hauling staff all over creation is expensive, especially with air travel and accomodations as pricey as they are today, so corporate predictably put the kaibosh on that. Serves ’em right. Of course, there will be eager little keener brown-nosers who will suck up and “do whatever is necessary” to book more miles and hot-foot it all over the world throughout the course of the year. Congratulations. Bully for you. You win the prize for Most Cooperative and also Most Gullible. If you think for a moment that you won’t get tossed aside if you prove un-useful to the overlords, you have another thing coming.

Once upon a time, I was a Believer, too. And I found out what that gets you, if you aren’t vigilant or evil enough to beat the bastards at their own game.

It’s sad, really. I hate to see other people find out the exact same thing. And here I am counting down the hours till I have to go — 31-1/2, right about now.

But I’m making the best of the situation, which is progress. I’m not harboring any illusions that I’m going to be able to magically transform my life through abject obedience to task-masters, and I’m going to just enjoy things as they are, for what they are. I’m going to get what I can out of the circumstances, having some thorough travel experiences, and learning what I can along the way. It’s all a learning opportunity, resentments aside. It’s a chance for me to step outside my everyday life and see what I can make of things. It’s not going to be forever. So, I might as well enjoy it now.

I’m just going to BE here — all here. And see what comes of it. The older I get, the more precious life is to me. Everyday life. Boring old life. Regular life. It’s just so fascinating, the more I know about what all goes into making it everyday and boring and regular. It’s not run-of-the-mill at all. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

So, in pursuit of my own miracles, I’m getting myself set up properly, so I have all the tools to make the most of my trip. I have a checklist I follow for what to take, and what NOT to take. The last time I went, I did not take my personal tablet, because A) I didn’t have a keyboard for it, so I thought it would be of limited use to me, and B) I didn’t think I’d need it. I was wrong on both counts. I could have really used my tablet on the last trip, if only to do some personal work and have a connection with my own world, where I didn’t have to rely on my work-issued devices for contact with MY world.

I learned my lesson from that experience. It was so dreary and limiting, to not have any personal contact with my world, but to have to go through my work devices for everything… to not be able to blog or look at my personal email, to have to work around all the policies and limitations on personal use of work equipment.

This time, I am taking my own personal tablet with its new keyboard. I am going to spend time writing and also collecting notes and observations from my travels. I’ll have time at the airport and on the plane to do some reading and writing, which is good. It’s all good.

I have really noticed that since I’ve gotten back to reading, I am feeling much better about myself and my life. Ironically, having a way to escape the pressures of the day-to-day makes me feel so much more better about tackling those pressures. Even if I just read for a little bit each day, it soothes me and it gets me out of my own head.

Writing helps me, as well, because it gives me some distance from my “problems” and it helps me put things in perspective. It also helps me organize my thoughts — I can tell a huge difference between how I was processing information five years ago, and how I’m processing it now. I’m much better at staying on topic, and I’m much better at getting some distance. When I can’t get distance, I end up running away from everything in my mind, distracting myself and keeping myself busy and occupied with any old crap that comes along.

By giving me a way to think through my life in an organized fashion, this blog has helped me tremendously.

It keeps me involved in my own life, as I think through the details of my life.

It keeps me all here.

So, today, it’s steady-on. I have a short list of things I need to do, to prepare for my trip. I’ve already done a bunch of things to prepare, so I have a more civilized approach this weekend. If I get some of these little to-do items out of the way, first thing, then I can kick back the rest of the day and just relax, which is cool. This is my new thing – doing things ahead of time, so I have big chunks of free time later on, when the Must-Do items aren’t hanging over my head. I have been a chronic procrastinator for a long, long time, but now I “get” the value of clearing my plate and clearing my slate, so I have free and open space to think and just BE.

Heck, I may actually be able to take a walk later today and really get my blood pumping. The woods are a little mucky right now, so I’m probably not going to go for a hike, but I can definitely get out on the back roads. And wear my bright red coat when I do, because it’s a little gray today, people don’t always pay attention when they drive around here, and I don’t want to blend in with the mid-winter gray landscape.

So, yes. Onward. I’ll go take care of those odds and ends, and have the rest of the day to myself. My spouse is going on another business trip today, so I’ll be flying solo. It will give me time to relax and sleep and clean up some of my work clothing, and maybe even watch some Kung Fu movies this evening while I have dinner. I haven’t watched any Zatoichi movies on Hulu since I was violently ill with the flu, this time last year. I miss just lying around, watching tales of the Blind Swordsman without a care in the world.

Today is a day when I can dispense with my cares and just go about my business. I may do some business preparation for my trip, or I may not. I have a presentation I need to refine, so I may work on that. And I have an internal newsletter to write, so I may start drafting that.

Or I may not. We shall see.

As I was saying… onward.

Learning along the way

Getting back to my regular life is hitting me, about now. Thank heavens it’s a long weekend. If I had to go to work tomorrow, I’m not sure what I’d do.

No, I know what I’d do. I’d go to work. Because that’s what I do.

I’m really feeling the effects of jet lag, right about now. Yesterday was a really challenging day, because I was starting to really get hit hard by the fatigue, the change of time zones, the change of pacing to my everyday life. I can function, absolutely. But it knocks the stuffing out of me, for sure.

Not that it stopped me, yesterday. I had a really good, fully day, actually. I did a lot of cleanup around the house, and I spent about 4 hours helping my spouse pack for a short business trip that they needed a lot of supplies and equipment for. It seemed to me that the amount of work going into preparation far exceeded they payoff, but from what I hear, the trip was a success and many of the goals were accomplished, so maybe it was worth it, after all.

I started to seriously run out of steam around noontime yesterday. That was with 2-1/2 hours of intense preparation still to go. I had been going since 10:00, and I was beat. I just wanted to lie down. Crash. But I kept going. I focused on what needed to be done, and I did it. And I didn’t get all caught up in my resentments and tiredness and anxiety and frustration about being back from a really demanding trip and having to do even more work for someone else — work that had nothing to do with me, really, but that I had to help happen, or it wasn’t going to happen at all.

In the past, I have gotten dragged down in that thinking, and that head trip just pulls all my energy away from what really matters and what’s most important. The important thing is to just get things done, just do the job, just get everything squared away, as only I can. I can’t let anger and resentment and fatigue get the upper hand. I just have to buckle down and push on.

Which is what I did yesterday. And even though I was even more beat, by the time I was done, I actually felt really good about it. I had gotten a ton of exercise, after a relatively sedentary trip. And I had definitely gotten the blood pumping, which I’ve been needing. All the activity got me out into the day, doing something constructive, and it got me moving in my own space, at my own home, on my own turf.

Which was nice. Because I have really missed my home, while traveling. I miss my schedule, I miss my own bed, I miss my routine. I am such a creature of habit, that when I have to turn everything upside-down, it turns me upside-down, as well. Finding my balance again, during and after travel… well, that’s a challenge. But I’m learning better all the time about how to do this thing.

After all, it really is a learning experience. I’m learning how to handle things better and better. I’m developing new skills in adapting and finding opportunity that I can make the most of. And I’m acclimating to the idea that all of life around me is really a classroom I report to each and every day. I have to go to class, but it’s my choice how much I engage, and what I learn along the way.

I tend to think about change with a mixture of dread and hostility. Because it’s threatening my way of thinking and living and my sense of self. I have never been a fan of change, but I think that’s because I always saw it as something that either happened to me or was done to me. “Change” is something I usually think of as separate from me. It’s a set of circumstances beyond my control that I have to adapt to, or else.

Change has long been a sword of Damocles hanging over my head, suspended by a very thin thread, with no guarantee that I’ll be able to successfully adapt to it.

That’s not been particularly helpful to me in my life. It’s made me brittle and rigid and inflexible, and it’s helped make me a lot less happy than I could have been, all these years.

But in fact, when I think about it, change is really nothing more than a learning experience. It’s just a shifting set of conditions that we can learn to maneuver through, just as we’d learn to drive a car or ride a bike. Driving a car and riding a bike are two things many of us learn to do, as a matter of course in our lives. And there are a ton of other things we need to learn, in order to be happy and productive in the world.

We don’t kick and fight and scream about learning to do those things — like ride a bike and drive a car and read and write and (some of us) swim. We go through the steps we need to take, to learn to do them, and some of us learn to do them better than others. Some just show up and put in the minimum required effort and come away with some modicum of ability. Others really apply themselves and think long and hard about the best way of doing things and develop mad skills that put others to shame. In any case, it’s up to us, what level of effort and attention we put into mastering our new skills. Even those who struggle to learn and adapt, can find ways to do so — or find compensatory techniques to aid them in the absence of innate ability.

The same is true of the changes that take place in our lives and our circumstances. We have to re-train ourselves and our minds. We have to learn how to do different things in established ways, or do old things in new and different ways. We have to acquire new skills and perspectives that help us make sense of our circumstances. We have to learn what doesn’t work, as well — what holds us back and drains our energy.

In any case, it’s all learning. It’s identifying new patterns and developing new ways of dealing with them successfully. The changes we face are not life conspiring against us to make us miserable. They’re not a plot by some nefarious foe who seeks to do us harm (well, sometimes it is, but it’s not very productive to dwell on that — fixating on that just takes up more time and energy, which makes it harder to come up with new and different approaches). They’re opportunities to reset our mindset and develop new abilities that make us more complete human beings.

So, that being said, I have a lot I need to learn and re-learn, these days. The big lesson at this moment right now, is how to deal with jet lag. I think I’m dealing with it pretty well, but I feel terrible in the process. I’m functional and I’m able to work pretty well, but I feel like crap, which is a real challenge for my frame of mind. Maybe I just need to expect this, and plan for it. Not get too much on my plate, and be sure to take time to rest and relax.

Yesterday was a hard day for that, because I had so much to do. And I have a lot of catching up around the house. It will get done. I have to believe that. I just can’t skimp on my sleep. Gotta take care of business — and that includes resting up. A lot. Because this coming week is a short one, but I have even more to do.

So, there’s another opportunity to learn.

Onward.

 

Another business trip, another headache

It all gets to be a blur after a while

Not that the two are synonymous, but neither one is making the other any better.

My headaches continue – dull throbbing, along with the feeling of a spiked ball rolling around inside my head. Nice. Especially considering how much I have to get done. I’ve got project plans due, as well as a ton of other planning crap.

I have to go out of town for another four days on Sunday night. This time, I’m flying across an ocean, and I expect that by the time I’m no longer jet-lagged, I’ll be turning around and coming home again. I’m only gone till this coming Thursday night, so it’s not so bad — four full days, instead of the eight or nine I’ve had to travel in the past. But still…

I just want to stay home and take care of business. Walk in the woods. Read a book. Sleep in. Chill.

Oh, well. I’ll get to do some of that on the plane. And I can use the time away to see and do different things. I’m supposed to be going to an international hot-spot, but all I can think about is how I’m going to find food I can eat.

Because I don’t drink alcohol, including wine and beer… I don’t eat dairy, including cheese and cream… I don’t eat bread or pretzels or baguettes or rolls of any kind… and I can’t have a lot of rich foods because of my gall bladder. So, that leaves me with lean meat and fruits and vegetables. I guess I’ll be eating a lot of steak and fries, this trip. I need to learn how to say “medium rare” in a couple of different languages.

My expectations for this trip are at an all-time low. I don’t want to go. I don’t particularly care for the people I’m traveling with. I don’t particularly care for the company I’m going to be visiting. I am really NOT in the mood to deal with anyone who gives me attitude, and I’ve been working on my international body language that tells people I really don’t give a flip what they think — I’m not going to indulge them and their petty squabbles, so piss off.

Well, here’s hoping I don’t end up in a brawl. Getting thrown in jail overseas (or fired) is not my idea of a successful business trip. The best I can really ask for, is just getting in and out in one piece, and being done with it.

All this traveling is getting a bit easier for me, I have to say. At least I’m acquiring that skill. I pretty much know what I’m going to pack, and I’ll be able to carry everything on, so I don’t have to check a bag. I’ve really cut down on the amount of crap I feel the need to cart around, and that goes for what I pay attention to, as well.

On past trips, I was so overwhelmed with input and stimuli, so conflicted about what I should be looking at and doing/enjoying/experiencing, I was totally exhausted by the time I got home. On this trip, I’m planning to just block out anything I don’t need to know about (which is almost everything), and leave it at that. I don’t have to have “an experience”. I’m not a friggin’ tourist. I don’t even have to enjoy myself that much, this time. I just need to finish the job, do my presentation(s), meet the right people, make a professional impression, and get back home safely, so I can have a nice long weekend, after I get back. The 17th is a holiday, so I’ll be able to do all the things I didn’t get to do while I was away — walk in the woods, clean my basement, take care of taxes, and generally just rest.

My new outlook on life is — I don’t give a damn. I give up on caring about just about everything. I decided that this morning at 4:15 a.m., when I woke up out of a fitful sleep and had a bit of a meltdown over something my spouse had done earlier that day. Nothing like punctuating the wee hours of the day with a little emotional upheaval. Stupid. Pointless. And it keeps me from sleeping when I need to.

So, screw it. I’m sick and tired of just about everything. I’m sick and tired of my job, I’m sick and tired of my boss(es), I’m sick and tired of the whole corporate ladder deal, all the jockeying for position, all the lame-ass politicking, and the drama. I’m sick and tired of everything.

But you know what? I don’t have to be in love with what I do, to do it — and do it well. It almost doesn’t even matter how I feel about it. I show up and do my job, and people are happy about it. Fine. For them. For me, I just want my paycheck and the ability to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head. And I want to be left alone, to my own devices, with my own plans and my own interests and my own activities.

Everyone else can go screw, including my boss, my employer, and most of my co-workers.

They’re very nice people doing very exciting things, but I just don’t care about it anymore.

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’ve just seen too much. It’s lame, how they want us to be so in love with our jobs at work. Please. My work doesn’t even belong to me. It belongs to them. I signed the paper that said so. And what do I have to show for it, honestly? Just a paycheck and a bunch of interesting tidbits to add to my resume and LinkedIn profile.

Woo.

Effing.

Hoo.

Well, it’s Friday. Finally. Lest you think I’m all bitter and whatnot — even clinically depressed — you should know that my not giving a damn is quite freeing. I don’t have a ton of attachment, right now, to things turning out a certain way. I just do my best and let it go, and things turn out the way they will.

It sure as hell beats getting all worked up and invested in things turning out JUST RIGHT – OR ELSE. That’s just a recipe for misery, as far as I’m concerned.

So, I’ve let it go. For today, anyway. Tomorrow, I may feel very different. But for now, it’s all about just keeping my head on straight and getting my bags packed and having enough money in the bank to get me where I’m going and get people paid when they need to be.

Yeah.

Onward.

mTBI – Like Permanent Jet-Lag

Back to regular life…

Well… I’ve been back in my own time zone for more than 48 hours, and I’m still feeling the burn. It usually takes me about a week at home, till I start feeling like myself again. It’s weird – when I travel outside the States, I acclimate pretty quickly — I’m good to go after a day of acclimation. But when I come home, it’s much, much harder. Strange. Most people I talk to say it’s the other way around for them.

Well, wouldn’t be the first time I was oriented in the opposite direction to everyone else. 😉

Maybe it’s more a question of returning home. The folks I know who do better coming to the States, live outside the States. So maybe it’s the return home that’s the trouble.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this jet lag business, and thinking that given my history and the issues I have on a daily basis, I’m probably more adept at functioning when jet-lagged than most people. The “symptoms” I experience when I’m jet-lagged — foggy head, slowed reaction times, intense fatigue, general disorientation, and feeling just plain “blah” — are pretty much run-of-the-mill for me under normal circumstances. I don’t even have to get on a plane to have a full-blown case. I just need to be off my routine… and push myself… and not be eating right… and have all kinds of stress and troubles… and voila — instant jet-lag! And now for my next trick…

Or, sometimes I don’t even need to do anything. I just live my life like everyone else — which, come to think of it, is full of lack of sleep, not eating right, pushing yourself, and being deluged by a daily dose of stress and strain and troubles. So whether I try it or not, I end up with “walking jet-lag” — kind of like walking pneumonia, where you’ve got fluid in your lungs, but you’re still able to walk around and function.

So, there is some comfort in knowing that I can function under even these kinds of conditions, and it’s not that huge of a deal for me. It’s just business as usual — and then some. Actually, even though I can function, it really truly sucks to have even more strain put on me that keeps me from living my life. I swear, thinking about all the things I cannot do anymore because I am so friggin’ fried from just everyday life… all the things I choose not to do, because getting into social situations or navigating “exciting” night life sets me off and sends me into an anxiety-attack-like catastrophic response and I shut down… I’ve actually given up a LOT over the past years, because A) I lose it if I get into those situations, and B) I don’t feel like watching myself lose it… yet again.  Heck, even something as simple as going to a movie can throw me for a loop, which is not fair to my spouse. Or to me. Or anyone else around us.

So, yeah, I’ve given up a lot of things over the years because I just don’t feel up to them. I’ve started doing a lot more things in the past three years, like traveling for work and going to professional conferences and what-not… but to tell you the truth, I’d rather just stay home, read and study and explore online and write on my blog and watch movies and make a nice dinner to enjoy with my spouse, than go out and deal with crazy-ass people who love drama for the sake of drama.

I really don’t need that. It serves no useful purpose. And it makes me feel even worse than I did before. So there we have it.

Anyway, it’s time to get on with my day. Life is waiting, jet lag or no.

Onward.