Back into the thick of it

windrader foundationThe title of this post is probably a misnomer of sorts. Because I actually never really got out of the thick of it, this weekend… er… the past month. Day after day, it’s been one thing or another, to the point where I’m not even sure what day it is, anymore.

Except for my calendar, which shows me what I’m supposed to be doing, and when.

I feel like I’m continuously building on all my past experiences, which is as it should be, I suppose. The bad experiences, along with the good — but that’s how life should be, right?

I just wish I didn’t get so tired…

Fatigue and brain injury are not a good combination. And more than anything else in my life, fatigue has really torn me down. It’s made my moods unpredictable, even extreme, it’s made my behavior volatile, it’s impacted friendships and work relationships, it cost me jobs, and it nearly ruined my marriage.

So, what to do?

First, have a decent sleep routine. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I do keep track of how I’m doing, and I make an effort to get good sleep whenever I can.

Second, work on my endurance. Do my daily exercises. Pace myself. Build up my strength and my ability to go for longer periods of time doing what needs to be done.

Third, stop doing things that tear me down. Quit watching t.v. shows that stress me out. Stop eating food that isn’t good for me and spikes my blood sugar, then wipes me out. Quit hanging around with people who drain me. And stop all the negative chatter inside my head.

There are things I can do to get myself headed in the right direction, and that’s what my life has to be about. I can’t control what’s going on around me, so I need to strengthen myself to handle whatever comes.

And yes… watch other people do amazing things and perform well.

Like the Olympics. It’s been really good for me to watch the games, this month. Lots of great lessons there.

And now it’s time to get ready for work.

Onward… and upward.

And… go. At my own pace and on my own terms.

human head with light switch and finger turning it on
I just have to think about things correctly

So, today’s the day we start our 36 hour project. I’ve got 20 minutes to prepare, then everything kicks off.

I’ll be working for the next 8 hours, then I get a few hours off to sleep, then I work another 6 hours overnight. I get to sleep in the a.m., then I may have to work in the afternoon.

My sleeping schedule is going to be completely screwed up, and that’s a problem. I don’t know why this job involves so much sleep disruption. Either it’s cross-country travel, or it’s off-hours work. Either way, it’s not healthy, and it doesn’t let me do my best work.

I haven’t done my best work in years.

Oh, well.

I’m not sure I even care, anymore. The company gives me a paycheck, yes, but I no longer have any emotional investment in them — or my work for them. They’ve made it clear what they think of their workforce. They’ve shorted us on our performance bonus, time and time again, and they lay people off whenever they like. I show up, I do the bare minimum — for the sake of self-preservation — and I collect my paycheck.

They still get more than they pay for, even when I’m not over-the-top productive and 1000% invested. I’m still a top performer, even when I’m not bothering to indulge in any loyalty to them.

It’s a shame, really. I used to be so invested and invigorated by my work. But that’s changed over the past years. And I have to say I’m actually happier now than I was, when I was anguished and fretting over everything I did, how I did it, and whether or not it turned out exactly the way I planned.

I’ve let a lot of stuff go, and it’s helped me.

But still, I do feel a bit of a void, where my personal investment used to be.

Oh, well. There are other things that brighten my day. Like my own interests and projects. Like my hobbies. Like my books.

There’s plenty of other things to fill that void.

Like taking the best care of myself, that I possibly can. No matter what everybody else does.

I just miss caring deeply about my work, sometimes…

Putting one foot in front of the other

footprint in sand with wave coming nearWell, this has been an interesting couple of weeks. I totally screwed something up at work, and I’ve been working overtime since the beginning of February to make it right.

It’s been so wrong, it’s been mind-boggling. How could I have screwed up that badly? Huh. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything this egregious. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.

But there’s a first time for everything.

Seriously, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. But it was bound to happen, eventually, under the current conditions:

  • Limited sleep
  • Additional travel
  • Intense pressure
  • No management support
  • Uncooperative coworkers who don’t keep me in the loop

The whole thing is really messed up, and I ended up at the forefront of it all. The good/bad news is that there are more pieces of this Monster Project coming not far behind that will have the same kinds of problems that my part of the project did.

So, I won’t be so alone, anymore.

Not that it’s any consolation.

I was pretty torn up about the whole situation, last week. Wrecked. But I’ve acclimated to this particular failure, and now… well, I just don’t care. What it means for my future… don’t care.

They’re going to re-org us, anyway.

Some people dislike my boss, and a lot of other people dislike my boss’es boss. And chances are, they’ll interpret this failure of mine as a failure of leadership (which would be nice, to not have to take the fall for a broken system). Everybody knows I’m smarter than the person who screwed up, last week. Something else must be wrong.

Well, anyway, it’s Saturday night, and I’m exhausted. Had a full day today, after a full week. Tomorrow might give me a break. We’ll see. I’m tempted to just stay in bed all day, but that will never work. I often think about doing that, and then 20 minutes after I wake up, I can’t take just lying there anymore. So, I get up. And get out. And put one foot in front of the other.

Some days, that’s all you can do.

 

Yeah, well, nobody ever said it would be easy…

pier and lighthouse in distance across a lakeI’m regaining my balance, after a pretty intense week. I’ve been working long hours, sitting for long hours, and that’s brought me a whole bunch of pain. On top of that, I attended a memorial service for a friend who passed, yesterday. They were very close friends with my spouse, who is taking the loss very hard. Death is never easy, but when it happens at a relatively young age, and the person taken is a central part of the community and people’s lives, it takes on a whole other dimension.

I’ve been up to my neck in one problem after another. It’s been like trying to stay afloat in the ocean during storm surges. No sooner does one wave ease up, and I catch my breath, than another one comes along.

It’s been pretty brutal on me, and having to juggle the logistics of the memorial service arrangements added to the overall stress. I was one of the people who spoke about the deceased, and I had to come up with something meaningful to say, which I did – and it was very well received. It was an honor. But it happened at a really bad time. Which, of course, I can’t control. At all. These things happen.

And I bottomed out. It was like driving down a rutted road and hearing the undercarriage of my car scrape every couple of meters. Nerve-wracking. Grueling. And I know my “miss” at work, which really screwed up the project I’ve been managing, is being taken very badly by others. Even though I’m not the only one working on it, I still seem to be getting the blame. And lo and behold, before my follow-up meeting yesterday, I was informed that my boss’es boss and his boss’es boss and his boss’es boss had a meeting. I’m quite sure they were talking about my project. How could they not? It was such a glaring failure, it’s breathtaking.

But hey, at least I go all-out, when I do things. There’s no half-measures for me.

All in all, looking at the project in whole, it occurs to me that one of the things that made my “miss” so dramatic was that I rolled it back. I pulled it back from the live website and went back to the technology that we were replacing. That doesn’t happen in the company that acquired my former employer. They roll stuff out and move on — even if it’s broken. They leave broken sh*t hang around on the website for years, and they don’t think twice about it. That will never do. And if they fire me over this, good riddance. I don’t want to work at a company that does that.

No wonder they’ve been losing close to a billion dollars a quarter. Not a million (with an “m”), but a Billion (with a “b”).  Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why it hit me so hard, and I think the big reason was that it just wasn’t consistent with what I expect of myself. It went directly against my Sense-Of-Self, and the person I believe I am. It also went against the kind of person I present myself to be around other people. It was a flaming disconnect between Who I Am, and what I did. And I lost all sense of who I was, where I was going, and what was to become of me, in the process.

I had the same level of intense personal anxiety and despair that I had for years, after my TBI in 2004. And it was even more extreme, because I believed with all my heart that I’d gotten beyond the “lost-ness” of my past. I believed I’d trained myself out of my ineptitude, that I was keeping up, that I was on top of things. And when it turned out I wasn’t, it hit me hard.

And that’s exactly what happens to you after TBI, in general. You lose yourself. You lose connection to the person you were. And the more advanced you are, the more disorienting it can be. It can be absolutely crushing, to lose access to the Whole You that was so well trained in life, who could do things just by reflex before… but suddenly can’t manage the simplest things like tying a shoe properly or remembering more than 2 things on a shopping list.

It’s crushing. And I got crushed last week. Absolutely hammered. From the   inside, and the outside. Because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m not supposed to fail that majestically. People are relying on me to NOT screw up to the degree I did (and I fully admit it and take responsibility for that). I let them down. I let myself down. I messed up. And now I have to dig myself out of the hole I fell down.

Of course, it’s not all about me. It’s not 100% my fault. What happened was the result of an extended process of everything being supremely screwed up, and people in a position to help not doing anything — in fact, doing the opposite: withholding help, keeping me out of the loop, not communicating, not collaborating, and forcing me to do their damn’ job. I was the last best defense against those people, and I wasn’t up to the task.

So, we live and learn. I’m working my way back to firm footing, even though everyone around me (except for people in my immediate group) are backing away from me like I’m anathema.

Well, good riddance. They’re part of what’s made the company lose so much money over the past years, and losing their allegiance is no loss to me at all.

Life goes on. Some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. This year is off to a crappy start. So it goes. Here’s hoping it gets better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of my trying.

when things fall down

things are pretty much falling down for me, these days

i don’t want to complain, and i’ve done enough commenting about how things have been developing for me, over the past years

unfortunately, the things that i’ve poured myself into have not panned out

and it seems like pretty much of a waste

i’m not sure what the point is, in doing all of this

no matter how hard i try, things don’t seem to ever turn out the way i plan, or even the way i need

maybe in the short-term, it looks like it, but over the long term… nope

all the things that looked like they were doing great — it’s all very precarious and fragile, and it doesn’t take much to wreck something that took years to build up

so why bother building it up?

seriously, why bother? if everything is so precarious and so easily wrecked, why sink a lot of time into it?

it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me

so, i’m backing off on my investment in a lot of things around me

there’s too much that’s out of my hands and beyond my control

i have no use for people who set me up for failure, and i have no use for people who sit by and don’t lend a helping hand and watch others slip into oblivion

i have no use for people who profit from others’ failures

which means i have no use for a lot of the people in my life, these days

everybody wants something, yes

and what do i get in the bargain?

everything is falling down for me, right now

and i don’t even know if i care

I don’t have to do a thing… everything changes for me

In years gone by, I had a terrible time sticking with a job for longer than a year or two. I’d get so overwhelmed and exhausted, I’d have to leave before people figured out that I was, in fact, overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’ve had a tough time sticking with this current job, too. And now it seems like I’m going to get a reprieve from the monotony of same-old-same-old, because apparently the company is being sold… again.

It’s only been a few years, since they shuffled us from one company to another. From what I hear, there were a lot of layoffs. I haven’t been personally impacted, other than losing a couple of people who were occasionally really helpful to me. And I certainly haven’t had my world rocked by restructuring, the way others have.

But this time might turn out to be pretty significant.

Or not.

It’s impossible to tell.

All I know is, the change I’ve been craving is right around the corner, most likely.

We’ll see how this goes…

Onward.

Being realistic about my next steps

I need to be realistic about how I piece things together. There’s a lot to consider, and I’m not doing myself any favors by deluding myself.

I had a good conversation with a recruiter the other day about a new job opportunity that sounds like it would be a pretty good fit for me. Well, partially, anyway.

I tend to get so focused on Making Things Work that I can lose sight of whether or not I really should make something work.

In this case, the positive parts of the job opportunity quickly took precedence. The job involves leading a team of web developers and redesigning a website that’s in need of an update, and having long-term prospects at a local company – instead of having to travel across the country on a regular basis just to remind people I exist. And those parts sound really appealing to me.

The thing is, when I checked out the website I’d be working on, and I checked out the company, I realized I’d be starting a really awful commute. It would take me into the thick of some of the worst traffic in the region, on a daily basis.

Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of the technology they use. I’m not sure I want to be using it, each and every day. Especially after a long commute from home, in terrible weather.

So, the shine has kind of worn off the opportunity. And I’ll probably respond to the recruiter that I’m not interested because of the commute. Right now, my commute is relatively easy, and I can work from home pretty much when I like. Plus, I get a week off between Christmas and New Years, so that’s huge. Paid time off that doesn’t count against my vacation time. I know it’s concession bribe from the Overlords to keep us happy, but it works. It does make me happy.

Anyway, I have to be really realistic about what will work for me. Diving into a whole new work situation that involves more driving and (probably) more frantic activity, politicking, and is pretty much of an unknown… That’s not the right move for me, right now. It makes no sense to get a better job that makes my life worse. It’s supposed to help me all across the board, not cut into my quality of life, for a few more dollars.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of “embracing my limitations”, this is one situation where it only makes sense to be realistic and not indulge in that against-all-odds thinking that I CAN DO THIS!!! Other people can fight the odds and prove They Can Do It!

I really just want my life back.

Onward.

Once again, I remember why I tend to favor contract work

abstract checklist with Xes beside the lines
A list of all the things I like about my job, right now — not a lot.

When I take contracts to work, instead of doing the permanent full-time thing, I have some actual control over my destiny. I also get compensated fairly for what I do, and I don’t have this blurred line of “exempt” status, which ropes me into working overtime and never being properly compensated for my work.

I can’t even count the number of times when I was “perm” that I pulled out all the stops to fix stuff other people had broken, really put myself through hell, and expected that my contribution would be recognized. But no. They just treated all the work like it was a normal thing for people to do, and they moved on. The promotions never came. The special consideration never came. Not even a bonus, for my over-and-above-the-call-of-duty work.

So, why bother? Seriously. I can make more money contracting, and since I don’t have any kids to put through college and my spouse is covered by their own insurance, I’m not bound to a permanent job for the benefits. I need the money more. And I need my freedom. The permanent full-time thing is a scam that works in the favor of employers, not the minions.

They can have it. They can keep it.

It’s time to break out of this annoying little mythology about “job security” and get on with making some serious coin. Yes, I need to pay for my own insurance. But if I land the right work, I can totally cover it. And I’ll be free to come and go as I please.

I looked at my savings over the weekend. By the end of this week, I actually will have four months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. Sweet. That means I have some leeway — not to quit work entirely, but to take a little time off between assignments. And also pursue some of my own interests on the side.

Please – please – please – let me get laid off this week AND get a severance package. So I can get on with my life. Contracting. Making the big bucks. And not roped into a life of indentured servitude, stuck with the spoiled fruits of other people’s screw-ups.

I’m really sick of this sh*t.

Okay, this is weird.

There is a chance I may get laid off next Thursday. I don’t know what that means.

I just found out there are layoffs planned for my company… it’s in the news. This comes at the same time as being ordered by my boss (in a bcc email) to turn in my end-of-quarter goals report by next Thursday – a week earlier than usual… as well as them calling a team meeting on Thursday afternoon (which is also the end of a pay period).

Correlation does not imply causation, and of course this is an uncertain time, all around, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but there is a chance it might happen.

I imagine I will have insurance coverage for the short term afterwards – at least till the end of the month – but I don’t know.

But things are up in the air.

I just don’t know what this means.

I’ve been hoping for this, to be honest. But now that it looks possible, I’m less enthusiastic.

Oh, well. I needed to update my resume and LinkedIn profile, anyway. So, I guess that decides what I’ll be doing this weekend.

Onward.

Maybe I have a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer

france_roadSo, all the talk is heating up at work about the changes coming down the pike with the merger. A lot of people are pretty upset, because they see the writing on the wall — writing which may or may not be there, actually.

People will do just about anything to predict the future. It’s one of the most human things you can do.

And that’s precisely what gets us in trouble — concocting a future that never actually had a chance to exist, but we somehow think must absolutely come to be.

Anyway, the way I see it, I have a handful of different prospects:

  1. I get laid off in the next few months, to free up $$$ they need elsewhere.
  2. I am kept on, and I spend the next 12-18 months doing my job, seeing how things go. Then, I look for another job in another year or so. Supposedly, all our salary and benefits stuff is supposed to stay in place throughout 2016, but we’ll see about that. If that is the case, there’s no reason for me to leave, because the benefits are good, and the salary is decent.
  3. I stay on indefinitely and take things as they come, settling into the new organization and making my way as best I can.

Frankly, any of the above could happen, and it would be fine. I just can’t live my life with things hanging over my head. I have other interests, other things to keep me occupied and engaged. Whatever the people in charge will do, they’ll do. Whatever I choose to do, I’ll do.

If the two are mutually beneficial, then great. But I’m not making this into the be-all-to-end-all of my life. The whole “career” thing is old, anyway. I just need a paycheck, so I can fund the life I want, and I can live my life to the fullest.

La la.

It’s turning out to be an amazingly beautiful day, today.  We had some stormy weather, over the past few days that chilled me to the bone, but now I see blue sky out my window. I’m not sure how hot or cold it is outside, but I’ll find out when I go out.

I’ve been feeling pretty bad, for the last three days, but I feel like I’m turning a corner. My sinuses are still stuffed up, but I’m not sneezing and hacking, and my throat isn’t burning anymore. I just have to make sure I wipe my nose frequently. And I’ve got tissues with lotion in them to keep me from looking like Charlie Chaplin with a red, raw moustache. I read for a while, as I was riding my exercise bike, and I got a lot of movement in, which is good. I’m stretching more, and it’s helping my hip, and I’m also doing more stairs at work, which gets the blood pumping and helps me forget I’m stuck in a veal pen all day at work. The stairwell is usually empty, and the echo of my footsteps as I walk up and down the three steep flights is a cadence that keeps me moving, even though I’m out of breath.

When I started there, I had to stop, halfway up the flights, to catch my breath. I refuse to take the elevator, unless I’m loaded down with boxes. There are steps right there, which ascend beside the elevator, and when I’m moving at a decent clip, I can actually beat the elevator to the third floor. It’s good exercise, and I can do it anytime.  Since I’m fighting off an infection, I can’t go swimming, so I might as well do the stairs — as well as ride the bike in the morning, and lift some light weights.

Today, I did without the weights. I’m still a little sore from yesterday, and my body still aches a bit. I can get back to it tomorrow.

So, this is my daily work — keeping my body and mind in good working order, to handle whatever comes down the pike. My goals is to both say and believe, “Whatever happens, it’s all good,” because I will make it that way.

Onward.