The waiting really is the hardest part

And the waves keep washing onto shore...
And the waves keep washing onto shore…

So, it turns out that my group will not be affected directly this round of layoffs. I got the news yesterday afternoon, and I had very mixed emotions.

On the one hand, it’s a huge relief to not have to start my job search again. It’s also a relief not to have a job search hanging over my head during the holidays.

On the other hand, I was looking forward to having some time off and taking a break.

Then again, I guess I get both of the above, because over the coming months, people are going to be pretty checked-out, due to the ongoing merger of our company. The buyer still needs to figure out where we fit in, and who knows where we will end up. The metaphorical sea of management decisions will continue to wash up on our metaphorical shore, and who knows what it will all bring? Metaphorical driftwood? Detritus from past wrecks? Erosion? Metaphorical treasures that have been buried out at sea for a long, long time, only to be washed up onto the beaches of our lives — surprise!

I fully expect that over the coming months, people are going to be in various states of dissolution and departure, as they either dissociate from the trauma of not knowing what’s to come, they go looking for other jobs, and they freeze in the face of not knowing what direction to go.

What’s our motivation for doing what we do, every day? Clearly, that motivation is going to be changing over the next months for a lot of people, since the motivation they have had for many, many years — being a part of a local company that’s made good on the international scene, and tying their identity to that company — is going to change… even disappear… as our employer gets merged into a completely different company. For those people who relate to their job in terms of just keeping the money coming in to support their families, things may not change much… other than a profound existential angst over whether or not they’ll be kept around. That angst is justified.

It can be pretty unnerving for everyone who doesn’t take charge of their own frame of mind and their future. We have no control over what goes on around us, and we have no way of knowing if anything we do actually tips the scales in our favor. For those who are in wait-and-see mode, it’s the worst of all worlds. Because nobody in positions of power is going to tell any of us what’s going on. They can’t. Or things might fall apart.

So, we have to just keep on keeping on.

Or make our own way.

Personally, I’m in the process of making my own way. I’m taking this opportunity to regain my focus on building something independent from my day-job. I’ve got some ideas I am developing, some projects that really bring me a lot of happiness and a sense of purpose.  They’re something that I have control over, and they let me express myself and my own interests, even while I’m “stuck” at a job that’s being run by someone else who doesn’t know I exist, and frankly doesn’t care — insofar as I have nothing to do with them directly, and I can’t do anything significant for them, other than performing my small part in their grand scheme.

Having my own projects relieves me of the resentment I feel about that. It gives me a way to redirect my energy in a positive, productive direction. It takes the pressure off, because it lets me create something of my own, as part of my own unfolding life… not a helpless pawn (as one of my co-workers described us yesterday) at the mercy of management and their schemes. It gets me off the tenderhooks of waiting for management to make up their damn’ minds about what’s to become of us. It lets me take action in ways that matter to me.

Bottom line, I make a lousy pawn.  Truly, I do. I need more than that. I’m capable of more than that. And, in fact, there’s more in store for me… and I don’t find any comfort at all in seeing myself as being too small to matter. None of us should feel that way… although some feel more comfortable with that perspective, for sure.

Anyway, it’s all a work in progress, and when I take the attitude of a student observing what’s going on and learning from it (rather than being a hapless victim of an impersonal universe), things get a lot more tolerable. And it becomes about me making sense of this all, rather than me succumbing to the senselessness of an impersonal cosmos that frankly doesn’t give a damn about me or anything that has to do with me.

I don’t believe in living only in that kind of world. It seems to exist, but beyond that, within my own heart and head, there is so much more.

So, that’s where I’ll look for my next steps.

No more waiting for me. Onward.

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Doing it for myself

Just trying to enjoy the ride…

It’s been a roller-coaster at work, lately. I’m in that weird in-between place where I’m smack-dab in the midst of some very exciting times… and at the same time, I’m lining up all my ducks in a row to get the hell out.

Things have been very “eventful” at work. People are going to great lengths to be difficult, and scuttle each other’s projects. There’s all kinds of maneuvering, and part of the problem is that my interim boss is a people-pleaser and also is an operator and manipulative little shit person who creates drama so they can “solve” it later. What an ever-lovin’ waste of precious life force. I mean, it’s just ridiculous, and everything they do and say just throws more gasoline on the fire of an already difficult situation.

Divide and conquer. Well, at least I see what they’re about. And I see how ambitious and self-serving they are… how willing they are to just push others out of the way for their own gain. I used to consider this person a friend, but no more.

I am glad I found out now, instead of investing yet more time and energy in that relationship. Looking at the connection I thought I had with them, I see yet another one-sided “friendship” that serves them more than it serves me. This person has a habit of screwing other people and stepping on them to get where they’re going. They also think that “doing you need to do” to get ahead is the way to go. Fine, you can do that. But when you’re later in life — and completely alone — how much good is that going to do you? People can tell who has a good heart, and who doesn’t, and if you keep up that kind of behavior, you will eventually train your heart to not beat with a good sound.

And people will avoid you like the plague. Which is about the last thing you need when you are alone and old and vulnerable.

Do I want that kind of person in my life? Nope. Not now, not ever.

I think that everyone at work realizes I’m getting ready to go. They just don’t know when that’s going to be. I’ve really disengaged with a lot of the drama — although I’d do that anyway, even if I were staying — and I’m doing my best to keep a pretty even keel about things.

As much as I can, anyway.

The past week has been extremely demanding on my time and my energy. In fact, the past months have really put some miles on me. I took a good look at myself in the mirror last night, after I got home from work, and I looked like hell — haggard, pale, dark circles under my eyes… an ashen, drawn look that could have fit right in, superimposed on an Industrial Revolution background, or in a WWI foxhole.

And it kind of pissed me off. Because all of this was for what? What was the friggin’ point? I’m leaving this job, I’m getting the hell out, and I’ve only got four more months here, anyway. Why wreck myself over this?

The thing I have to remember, through all of this, is that I’m not wrecking myself for “this” — meaning a job for someone who owns the most productive hours of my day. I’m working for myself. For my future. For my peace of mind. For the experience of doing a good and thorough job with my energy, each and every day. I have to stay engaged in my current job, because that’s the only way I know how to live. I can’t just shine everything on and skate to the end. It’s pointless to do that. No matter how long I have in a position, I need to be involved in it. I need to be involved in my own life.

It’s for me, not for “them”, that I’m doing this. And if I let the alienation and disengagement get to me, then I am cheating myself of the kind of experience I want in my life. It doesn’t do them much good, but it does me even less.

I also need to remember that no matter how taxing things are right now, tomorrow may be a very different experience than today. I need to not get completely derailed by upsets that happen at one particular moment. I can’t let temporary setbacks balloon into permanent situations. I really have to work at that. My head gets locked on what’s happening NOW, and I can’t seem to get free of the idea that whatever sucks at this particular moment is going to suck forever. I need to work on that.

At least I’m aware — which is a good place to start.

So, yeah. It’s a new day. Saturday, to be exact. And I’m actually feeling pretty good about things, my work life notwithstanding. When I think about it, pretty much everything is temporary, anyway. I need to remember that. Things pass. Events come and go. Situations rise and fall. And it doesn’t make much sense to get all worked up over it, when everything is passing, anyway.

It’s kind of a relief.

The one continuous aspect of all of this, is me. It’s my experience. It’s my peace of mind (such that it is). No matter what happens with jobs and work and what-not, as long as I’m around, I still have myself. And that’s the thing that matters.

So, today, I’m off to a good start. I have a full day ahead of me, with running errands, picking up friends at the bus station, shuttling some people around, doing some grocery shopping, and taking care of some important stuff that has to get done. Some of the things I need to do are time-sensitive. Some of them are due in a week. Others are overdue. It’s been a hell of a week — exhausting and depleting and demoralizing. But it’s my own damn’ fault if I let it get the best of me. And it’s my own damn’ fault if I let things get out of hand.

So, I’ve got to get things back in order and clean up my act. I need to rest, most of all. That’s the one missing thing in all of this — good rest and serious sleep. I need to beef up on my energy reserves, so I can live better with myself. Doing that becomes that much easier, when I’m doing the right things for the right reasons — taking care of myself for myself, just for today.

Onward.

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.

Onward.

Keeping the compass true

So, I had a really good session with my NP yesterday. We talked about all the things that are going well for me, and my future job prospects. Of all the people I know, they really get the importance of staying positive and moving forward. And they also help keep me headed in that direction.

The one way they really aren’t much help to me, is in dealing with my setbacks and difficulties. When I start to discuss things that are challenges to me that I really need to work on, they have a standard line about how it’s more about my perception of things than anything else. They’re convinced that I don’t have substantial cognitive issues, and that any other issues I do have, I am perfectly capable of overcoming with the right attitude.

Okay, fine. That working relationship has been extremely productive in terms of helping me get my self-confidence back and figuring out what excites and moves and motivates me. But when it comes to the things I need to overcome and things that are going wrong, it’s a bit “fair weather” and the discussions start to fall apart, because we have completely different perceptions of how people and the world work. I believe that human beings are driven by biochemistry and internal wiring and instincts which kick in long before conscious thought gets a chance to step in, and they believe that the whole of the material world (including the human body) must necessarily bend to the will of an enlightened and highly trained mind. I believe in recognizing issues, understanding them, and either fixing them or learning to live with them and manage them, while my NP seems to believe that you can drive out all perceptions of problems through the power of the mind. They’re a bit “command and control” in that respect, while I have are more inclusive and — I think — accepting outlook on what goes wrong, and why.

When things are going great, and I have good things to report, then our discussions go well. At the same time, I don’t really have anyone to use as a sounding board when things are going poorly or my issues are catching up with me.

Oh, well. It’s pretty much standard fare for me. Most of my relationships and friendships offer me something significant and unique, but they’re limited in that way. Like any of the situations or relationships in my life, I have to accept that it can’t provide everything to me, and I have to figure out if what it does provide makes it worth it to continue. In this case, yes — with the understanding that I’ve got to fill in an awful lot of blanks, and I have to seek help in other arenas, when the going gets tough.

This is where the books come in, I guess. And Give Back LA. I really need to break out those reading materials again and get back into studying them. I also need to do a check-in about where I am, today, compared to where I was back in 2005, 2007, and 2009. I figure two-year checkpoints could be good. Lord knows, I’ve got notes. Have I ever got notes. I’ve got big three-ring binders in my storage closet filled with notes from 2007-2008, when I first realized that my fall in 2004 had screwed me up.

Should be interesting. I’ve actually avoided looking at those notes, for the past several years. I just wanted to get on with my life. And I have. I think looking at the notes can give me an appreciation of how far I’ve come, how much I’ve progressed. I don’t want to get lost in it, just check it out. I’ve got vacation coming up in September (after 3 years), so I’ll have some time to review and pay attention to this stuff.

All in all, I really have a lot to be thankful and grateful for. And I have made a huge amount of progress. In many ways, I’m even more functional now, than I was before, because even with the limitations on my energy levels and my working memory and my processing speed, I’m still functioning at a pretty good level. I’m talking quality level, not quantity — I’m talking quality of life, presence of mind, awareness, and a real sense of purpose. I’m talking about finding what moves me, what matters to me, and staying true to that direction, keeping my compass directed towards that and not getting pulled off in all different directions.

It’s like improving distractability at a meta level — the concept of fractality is about patterns that repeat themselves time and time again, on different levels and in different sizes, throughout a situation or picture. In a way, my distractability, my attention deficit, ballooned up to a whole-life scale, and it kept me constantly on the go, flitting from one shiny object to another,  distracting and diverting me from what meant most to me, my core values, my deepest priorities, and the actual foundation of my life. People talk about having a moral compass, and I think that’s important. Perhaps even more important is having a compass that is true to your innermost values that aren’t dictated by an outside individual or belief system. I guess it’s an “ethical compass” I’m talking about — our own personal ethics, versus the morality of the culture you live in. It’s great to have a moral compass, but if your own inner compass is not true to what you yourself believe, then you can get really lost and do things for reasons that may not be the best or most true.

After I fell in 2004, my own inner compass went haywire. And I got lost. I got pulled off in a thousand different directions, and I’m really feeling that burn as I look for another job, and people ask me why I moved from one job to the next from 2006-2010. A year here, a year there… three months here, six months there… it adds up, and when you’ve had 6 jobs in 4 years, potential employers are going to take notice. Of course, I can’t tell them that my irritability, distractability, and rage were out of control. That’s no way to present yourself well 😉 But I’m figuring out how to frame those moves in positive ways, and have them work in my favor, which is the best that anyone can do, really.

And I’m not getting hung up on it, because ultimately, if one thing doesn’t work out, something else will. It’s fine. Because my job is presently not in extreme danger (that I know of – could be wrong, who knows?) and I have a regular paycheck coming in. I also work with people who love me — and I love them, too. I just can’t stand the work environment and what our employer is foisting on us, and that’s a shame. But again — no hang-ups about this. As my neuropsych reminded me yesterday, working memory is a limited capacity resource, and if I spend a lot of time getting hung up on things, then I don’t have room for the good and productive stuff.

So, today I’m making room for the good and productive stuff. I’ve got another interview this afternoon with a recruiter, and I’m looking forward to it. Things are lining up. The big project that I’ve got going on is going to roll out in less than two weeks, and I have a handful of things I’m going to be able to get accomplished before I go. Every time I talk with people I work with, who are in other parts of the world, I’m reminded that this could be one of the last times I talk with them, so I make the most of it. It’s a good way to go out, and I’m sure that I will keep in touch with a lot of these folks — maybe even see them again in my future travels.

There’s a lot to look forward to. My compass is true, I know where I’m going, and I’m holding my own. That’s the best that I could ever ask for, right here, right now.

PTST – Post-Traumatic Stress Tetris

This has not been an easy few weeks. I tend to make light of my difficulties, and try to not get all mired in them, but between my job stress, money problems, social issues, and the resurgence of some pretty intense pain that just won’t quit, it hasn’t been a walk in the park.

I don’t want sympathy, but I do need to say it out loud, so I don’t keep denying the impact it’s having on me.

I think that Natasha Richardson’s fatal accident also threw me for a loop. There’s part of me that doesn’t understand why I could have so many bad falls and survive, while she didn’t have as rough a tumble (from what I read), yet she’s gone. On the one hand, I’m so very grateful to still be here. On the other, I am feeling some survivor’s guilt that is buried very deep and is taking a while to get to the surface.

On top of this, I’ve been dredging up some rough old “stuff” that happened to me 25 years ago that was pretty bad. Basically, I got my wires crossed with the wrong person — I wasn’t reading their social cues very well, and it turned ugly, and that person was not only an active addict and alcoholic, but they were overly aggressive, as well. So, I got my ass kicked. More than once.

It left me not only physically injured, but it set me back pretty intensely in other ways. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong, I couldn’t figure out why it had happened, and I ended up isolating and acting out in un-helpful ways, and generally going downhill and ending up with some nasty post-traumatic stress.

Now I’m dealing with it in therapy, and it’s not pretty. I couldn’t have picked a worse time to deal with this, considering everything that’s going on with my job and health and bank accout. But there’s never a good time to deal with this crap, so what-evah. Fine. I’ll deal with this, too.

I’ve not been sleeping well, and I’ve been having flashbacks. Unpleasant stuff. Trying to navigate all this is bad enough, but my TBI situation isn’t helping. I’m pretty much at an impasse with what to do.

One thing that has helped me with my flashbacks, playing Tetris at http://www.gosu.pl/tetris/.

I don’t know what it is about the game, but I’ve been playing it, on and off over the past couple of weeks, and it actually seems to be helping me with flashbacks. Something about the movement and the colors and how emotionally neutral the shapes are, is very soothing.

I had read something about it helping with ptsd flash backs — and why it may work. I’ll have to dig that up and write about it. It’s pretty interesting, I think.

But for now, I’ve got to get going to work and see what the day ahead of me brings.