How things change

Getting it all sorted out
Getting it all sorted out

I’m cleaning up my home office, getting rid of a whole lot of junk stuff I have collected over the years.

To be fair, it’s not actually “junk” — it’s just leftovers from years gone by, which are no longer needed. I used to need these things. Or, in some cases, I thought I was going to need them, but it turned out, I didn’t. Lots of scrap paper… lots of cardboard I used to use for packing, when I was sending things to people. Lots of old equipment that needs to go to “technology heaven”.

And look… there’s the coupon for $10 off my next $50 spent at the hardware store. It’s good for another 3 days. That will come in handy — especially if I actually make it to the hardware store this weekend. I should. I have a number of things I need to pick up, and my garage needs to be cleaned out for the impending fall. Right now, it’s got too much stuff — and junk — taking up the space that my car should fill.

I’m feeling a little frustrated, right now. A lot of what I’m finding is a reminder of how much I have had to let go of. Or all the things that I had such hopes for, and never managed to make happen. I was really convinced, for so many years, that I was going to make all these dreams come true. But I never reckoned with the reality of fatigue, confusion, frustrations, and the constant toll that TBI-related stress and distraction takes on a person, day after day after day.

A number of objects in my office are from my spouse, and looking at them all, seeing how many things I’ve been given, which don’t actually suit my personality… or seeing how many of them were given to me in good faith (which I never followed through on)… that’s a little depressing, too. It’s a little disconcerting to have so many reminders that your significant other has never really understood you — and probably never will.

Then again, who ever really understands anyone? And in the midst of the sorting, I find one reminder after another of our bond — birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, little notes left for me that say “I love you!”… that’s really what matters. Everything else seems a best guess to me, anyway.

And I realize I am at a significant juncture in my life. I’m finally at a place, where I can relax and settle into my work, because it suits me, all across the board. For decades, I was not committed to my “day job” other than as a way to make a living and pay for the expenses of everyday life. I wasn’t invested in the least. I mean, it was hard to feel invested about anything in technology, back when the Web was first starting up. Nobody knew how it was going to go, if it would last, if it was “a thing”. It took many years for that to be proven, and now it’s a given.

And now, after so many years of work and pioneering and opening the frontier, the world I helped to create — as one tiny cog in a massive machine that has an intelligence all its own — I finally feel invested in it all. Because I connected with a company that’s invested in me. It really is remarkable, after so many years of being treated like I’m disposable, expendable, interchangeable. Like I didn’t matter, and nobody cared. The people around me cared, sure, but at the management level, it was all too Darwinian and it wasn’t at all conducive to getting the best performance out of the people who were committed to doing the work.

They didn’t even seem to realize that we were committed to doing the work. They just treated us like we showed up each day to earn a paycheck, and that was it. Eventually, no matter how much more it may all mean to you, if you’re treated that way, day in and day out, you can end up slipping into that mindset, yourself.

What a waste.

And for years — decades, really — my life was driven by a profound need to be more than just a cog in the machine, a plug in a hole that would have leaked if it weren’t plugged. I spent so, so many hours trying to fill that void left by my day job, seeking with every fiber and ounce to actually express myself in a way that made me “me”. It was a constant struggle to prove my identity, to prove my worth, to know that I was more than what I was treated like, day in and day out.

I wanted more, I needed more. I had to have it.

So, I created it myself. I carved out a niche for myself in my own life with constant work, constant writing, constant creation. I volunteered. I got involved in groups. I had an active life outside work, and I crammed a whole lot of stuff into it.

And for years, that worked. It just felt normal and right and free. As long as I was free, that’s all that mattered to me.

But then I fell and hit my head. And the freedom went away. It just seemed to evaporate overnight, and everything that had felt smooth and sensical, just turned into mush. I lost my spark. I lost the joy. I lost the passion that comes from within — it was replaced by a manic stress response that was fueled by pure adrenaline that came from post-traumatic stress, life-and-death choices, a long series of bad decisions that either trashed or threatened to destroy so much that I had worked so hard for.

The energy and passion I’d had before, which was always accompanied by hope, was replaced by rage and fear and anxiety. On the surface, it looked like I was still engaged and energetic, but inside I was a tangled mass of nerves.

Big difference from before. My fuel was not hope, but desperation. Confusion. Frustration. And the need to have enough stress in my life to keep my attention focused on what was in front of me.

The last 10 years have been a chaotic blur. A blur, because everything has seemed to happen so fast – and yet so slowly – and chaotic, because I could not figure out what was going on inside my head and outside of it, too. So much confusion. So much dancing on the edge of disaster — often without realizing it. So many poor decisions, so many knee-jerk reactions that cost me so much. Since 2004, I had 11 different positions – more, if you count changing roles within organizations. That’s more than one job change a year – I hopped from one position the next four times in about a year, back in 2008, without knowing why. Part of it was just bad decision-making, part of it was anxiety, part of it was not being able to function and needing to “skip town” before people found out how incompetent I was at the job I’d signed up for.

In the meantime, there were the marital troubles, the money shortage, the creditors knocking down my door and blowing up my cell phone, the logistical troubles, the health problems and cognitive decline of my spouse… Yeah, it’s been a wild ride.

And looking around me at my office, I see so many relics of the years before 2004, when everything seemed so simple and straightforward, and I was content to be living as I was. Back when my spouse was still healthy and working. Back when I was good with where I was, and everything just progressed and unfolded without concern for the future. Back before everything started to fall apart.

I’m cleaning up, now. I’m getting rid of the old stuff that I no longer want or need. And I’m saving what I can still use. The post-it notes that were given to me at a past job, when the company changed its branding and they had all these extra supplies to get rid of. The paper clips and butterfly clips. The pens I can still use. The notes I made, some time ago, about ideas that still interest me. Much of this I can still use.

But in a very different frame of mind. A relaxed frame of mind. A state of mind that makes it possible for me to settle in and concentrate — and not worry constantly about the outcome. A frame of mind thatΒ  have not had in so many years. It’s more than relaxed. It’s at ease.

Finally, I can settle in and just enjoy my life again.

Not that things are completely event-less. Lately, there have been unfortunate losses in my family, a bunch of my friends lost their jobs, and things are not hunky-dory, all across the board. But my frame of mind is very different, now. And while I don’t much care for the tragedy, I can handle it without going off the deep end. I can walk through the crises without letting them wreck me, too. Whatever happens now, I feel as though I’m up to the challenge.

I know how to think things through.

I know how to break things down and take my time and work through them from start to finish.

I used to have that ability, years ago, then it went away. Now, ten years later, it’s back.

And that makes all the difference.

So, the day is waiting.

Onward.

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How I am today

I didn’t get much sleep last night. Things have “blown up” at work, and a project I was managing and thought was fine, is NOT fine. It’s crashed (not quite burned), and now I have to get it put back together and back on track.

I’ve done this before at this job, but on a much smaller scale. This one is very big and very high-profile. And the (over)reaction to the date slipping is making me reconsider taking a permanent job there. I had been thinking seriously about going permanent with these folks — they had hinted at it a number of times — and everything was looking good.

Then things went wrong, and the reactions of people outside my group have caused me to reconsider my plans. It’s one thing for me to screw up this badly — which I may or may not have done. There are some things I could have done very differently, which would have helped. But I honestly didn’t realize I needed to do them, and even though people were around to help me, I wasn’t aware I needed to ask for help.

Now I know.

But the folks outside my group, who are the ones making up the unrealistic deadlines, are having little hissy fits and flipping out. So, the whole grand progressive business world ideal of “failing fast” and “learning from mistakes” is just a bunch of B.S. — what matters is that you meet your dates — and ONLY that you meet your dates.

Yeah, that works out really well, for sure. Talk about sucking the life out of your work.

So, now I’m back to considering myself a contractor who’s just there to do a job. In a couple of weeks, we’re moving to a new office much closer to home, and that’s what I’m focused on — being close to home. I’ll be able to go home for lunch and take a nap. I’ll be able to just roll out of bed and go to work. I will be closer to everything that makes up my everyday life, and that’s what matters.

The simple fact is, I need to not get attached to my visions of how I think things will eventually turn out. I had been thinking that I would just sail through this first set of challenges, and all would be well.Β  Untrue. I’ve had a number of things blow up in my face, and I’ve had to scramble a number of times. As my boss said, “It wouldn’t be a real project, if there weren’t a fire.” Everybody else I work with has been through this to some degree or another, so now it’s my turn. But what this means for the long term, who can say?

Anyway, I’ll get what I can out of the situation. I’ve been on a roller coaster for the past two days — no, the past two weeks — and my world pretty much turned to sh*t in an instant. All the miscalculations, all the drama. Who needs it?

Then again, just because everyone else is all worked up about things — or my boss is saying they will be, in order to motivate me and get me moving with a kind of panic-anxiety booster fuel… I don’t need to lose my cool over it. Their stuff is their stuff. I’ll just keep going, to get it all done, and keep steady at work.

If nothing else, people are impressed by how calm and composed I am in the midst of it all. This calm, composed demeanor is genuine, and it comes from years of managing outright panic in the face of very real crises. It comes from all my years of living in a sea of confusion and overwhelm, and figuring out how to function, anyway. It comes from years of walking around in a fog and doing a damn’ good impression of someone who’s mellow and chill.

And the good news is, I’ve got it all together. This is the first time I’ve been able to hold my sh*t in the face of very real problems, since I fell in 2004. I’m not melting down, I’m not losing it at work. I’m not flying off the handle, and I’m not flipping out, throwing things and slamming shit around on my desk. It’s cool. I’m cool — on the outside. Inside, I feel like I’m dying — like the Allman Brothers song:

Sometimes I feel… Sometimes I feeeeeeel

Like I’ve been tied to the whipping post… tiiiiiied to the whipping post… tiiiiiiied to the whipping post

Oh, Lord I feel like I’m dyyyying…

But I’m not dying. I know I’m not. It just feels that way. And in another couple of weeks, I won’t feel this way anymore. So, I’m dealing with it, walking through the pain and agony. Every breath pains me, and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. My demons are flailing around — overtime — and while I can see my way through, who knows what will pop up along the way?

Whatever does, I’ll deal with it. I can do that. That’s how I am. It’s who I am. I used to be like this — in the most trying of circumstances, I would remain calm and prevail. I’m doing that again, and although it feels excruciating… f*ck it. I’m here. And in the midst of this all, I feel like my old self again.

Which hasn’t happened in a very long time. And I thought it would never happen again.

But surprise — there I am again. That side of me is back. It’s partial, and it’s struggling, but it’s there. And that’s good enough for me.

Okay, back to it. Suck it up and wade back in.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working on foggy and dull

I’m a little low this morning. I got a full night’s sleep – almost 8 hours – but I haven’t been sleeping well for a number of days, so I have some catching up to do. I also have been kind of stressed at work, concerned about missing some dates — when it’s my job to keep everyone on track and make sure we don’t miss dates.

I have been feeling foggy and dull — not at all like myself — for some time, now. I can’t remember whether it’s been weeks or months. I think it’s actually been years. I feel so dense and dumb, sometimes… like I’m walking around in a daze. The only times I don’t really feel that way, are when I’m a little stressed over things — when the pressure is on, and I have to dig a little deeper inside to make things happen.

I realize I’ve been chasing that experience for as long as I can remember — at work, and in my personal life. My “best friends” were always folks who treated me badly, and I chose one job after another that would stress me out. In fact, the most stress the better.

Now it’s all catching up to me — I’m in a job that has a lot less environmental stress, the commute is shorter, the team is stronger, and the company culture is words better. And I’m having difficulty adjusting to the good circumstances. I’m feeling dull and blah and bland. Like there’s not much excitement going on at all.

Here’s the thing, though — I could create my own excitement and “get the juices flowing” on my own, by stepping up and pushing forward just a little bit harder. I could apply myself more, step it up just a bit, and thereby give myself the pump I need. Only this time it would be in positive conditions, which I am setting — instead of chasing something or playing catch-up.

It would appear that’s the key — to be the driver behind the action, rather than the reactor. I have been working in reactive situations for so long — where management tells people not to think, but to react — that I’ve gotten acclimated to that way of doing things although I never wanted to in the first place.

Funny how that goes.

Anyway, now I can work on that, and get ahead of things a bit. I have an old bad habit of not taking action and just reacting to things happening around me, and I have to change that. It’s a lifelong tendency, which needs to go away. I can do this.

But I need sleep to do it. I need to be rested. I need full nights of sleep, and I need to work at relaxing again, like I used to do.

I could really use some relaxation down-time around 2:30 p.m. each day, to get myself geared up for the late afternoon, which is go-time for me. It’s the time when I’m most productive, when I’m most clear, when I can focus most fully. The rest of the day is a wash for me. Not until around 2:30-3:00, do I start to really come to life. Then I’ve got about 4 hours of goodness, before I start to wane again.

Getting used to this job is a lot about getting used to a new routine and a new cadence. Part of that new cadence is being able to sleep, and not being ON, 24 hours a day. That’s going to take some recovery time — and more than 6 weeks, that’s for sure. It’s probably been a good 15 years, since I could relax and settle into my job. The TBI in 2004 didn’t help anything, but the years immediately prior to that were pretty much of a test, too.

So, here my life is, in really good shape, and I need to restructure my life so that I can be in really good shape, too — and keep my life this way. Things are pretty simple and straightforward at work. Keep people on schedule. Deliver things on time. Communicate news — both good and bad — as honestly and clearly as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask for support from management, because they can — and will — help.

So, I got a full night’s sleep, and it’s time to get ready for work. I’ve got some good blocks of time today through Friday, when I can really kick it. So, I shall.

And get some good rest, in the process.

Onward.

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.

What do I want for today?

The days just keep slipping by…

So, it’s Friday. Finally. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is a huge relief to be done with the week. On the other hand, I have so much to do and so many deadlines, that taking a few days off just makes me dread next week.

I’ve been doing a lot of dreading, lately. I am behind on a number of of my projects – there are just too many of them, and they are all TOP PRIORITY in the eyes of others. I’m keeping things running that need to keep going, and I’m also working on building new pieces of the puzzle that is my occupation. And the new pieces are getting intense push-back from people who want things to stay as they were.

Which all seems pretty unfair to me – it wasn’t my idea to make all these changes. My job is just to make them happen. But I get the brunt of people’s objections and opposition, while management sits back and lets the underlings duke it out. Which is incredibly uncomfortable and bothersome for me.

Really, what I want for my life is some peace. I have had a hell of a decade, and I value peace and common sense a whole lot more than I did when I was in my 30’s. I’m nearing the end of my 40’s, now, and I feel it very strongly. I have changed. My injuries have changed me. The upheavals of my life have changed me. All the drama I have gone through in the past ten years since my TBI in 2004 has changed me. It’s almost like life was on the lookout for my 40th birthday, and as soon as it was in sight, all hell broke loose. It didn’t even wait for my 40th birthday, because everything started to come unraveled a few years before… which contributed to my fall down those stairs in ’04.

Interesting… I’m seeing a lot of 0’s and 4’s in the last paragraph. Not that I’m superstitious or anything…

Anyway, enough bitching about how hard life has been. Everybody has it hard, in one way or another, and it’s really up to me to decide what to do with it. Rather than fighting things and resisting them and wishing they were different, I could be facing up to what’s ahead of me and just going for it, treating it like a learning experience, rather than proof that I’m a screw-up and will never get anything right.

When I approach everything like a big ole learning experience, so much the better. Teach this old dog some new tricks, and see how far it can go.

It really does take the pressure off.

And that makes all the difference in the world. It changes the tone of my whole experience, which is exactly what I need. The longer I’m alive, the more I realize just how elusive true happiness can be, and I value inner peace and equanimity all the more. I understand more than ever just how destructive unchecked anger can be, I know from experience just how much time is wasted by indulging fleeting emotions and giving them the ability to mushroom into Major Events. I have watched the last 10 years of my life be undermined and shredded and dragged down by rage and anxiety and poor self-management, and I have seen years of quality experience prior to that go wasted, because I was too busy being angry or hurt or confused or frustrated or worked up about something, to make the most of my past.

And today, as I look ahead to a day I’m not looking forward to, when I’m going to be working with people who are NOT on the same wavelength and revel in all sorts of discord and disruption and downright treachery, the painful truth about what my TBI cost me, is very clear to me – front and center.

Days like today are one of the big reasons I am so intent on my TBI recovery — regaining my equilibrium… mastering my emotions… taking care of my physical health… fine-tuning my behavior and how I think about myself and others. I don’t much care for the situation I’m in, and I need to build up the resources and the ability to extract myself from this situation.

The first step is extracting my mind from a situation of dread and avoidance. I hate dealing with some of the folks I have to deal with… come to think of it, I hate dealing with just about everybody I have to deal with. But the thing that makes it harder, is avoiding and refusing to engage with them. When I just step up and do what needs to be done, the wheels start turning, and the anxiety and frustration really decrease. Even though I’m not happy, and I really dislike dealing with these folks, still, I’m doing what needs to be done … to get the hell out. I have to deliver a project before I leave, and there is a big-ass deadline on it. And I need to have so much done before that date. Crazy. But as long as I hold back and don’t do what I need to do, it’s even crazier.

So, enough procrastinating, enough avoiding. It’s time to get on with the day, go deal with these … people, and take yet more steps towards getting the hell OUT. Time to make this day what I want it to be.

Onward. Oh, yeah. Onward.

Putting it all to good use

So, things have been very tense at work. The people who are running my group are actually running it into the ground, with their scorched earth approach to achieving their goals. They really don’t care whom they hurt, in the process of getting where they’re going, and it shows.

They’ve hurt a bunch of people, thus far, and the ripples are being felt all across the company, which spans several continents on the other sides of several oceans.

It’s a little difficult to watch – first, because I genuinely care about people and how this all affects them. I feel for the people who are in charge, who feel that they “have to do what they have to do” and are putting profit margins ahead of everything else.

I feel for the middle management people who report to them who also seem to think that they are helpless in the face of institutional structures, and that they’re lucky to get anything done at all.

And of course, I feel for the folks at my level, who are being given a sh*t-ton of work to do, without a whole lot of support or resources, let alone direction and leadership.

It’s ironic – at every step, people seem to feel helpless in the face of overwhelming odds, and at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control. And yet, each and every one of us has the power of choice. We each have the option to do what we feel is the right thing, and to stick by it. The only problem is, there tend to be consequences for making unpopular decisions, and the decisions which challenge the dominant paradigm of helplessness and victimization… and take responsibility for outcomes (which may not always turn out the way we hope they will)… well, those kinds of decisions can make your boss(es) pretty nervous. And if they’re not on board and not on the same wavelength and they’re not willing to take the same risks as you, it can end up turning into a bit of a sh*tstorm.

Which is where I’m at right now.

Right now, I’m in charge of designing and rolling out a program which is not terribly popular in every corner of the company. It’s for the best, and it introduces changes that should have been made years ago, but a lot of people are very wedded to old, unworkable ideas about how things should be done.

Nobody likes change… and yet here I am, in the midst of it, instigating it and moving it forward.

Which means that people complain. About me. About my program. About the change. And my bosses, who are intensely concerned with how they are perceived and how popular they are, are getting fidgety. There’s a real lack of character that’s coming out — and ironically, the people who are the most concerned with how people see them are the ones who have the worst reputation and can’t seem to get anything done.

So, that’s all very well and good. And it’s very instructive. But I can’t let it throw me off, as it has been. I’ve gotten too caught up in worrying about my bosses’ worries, running interference for them and helping them justify their position, which is untenable, because they’re driven by other people’s perceptions and their own selfish gains, rather than substance and character.

Which is not how I want to live my life. I do want to do my part in the team, and I do want to do work that is meaningful and has impact. But I certainly do not want to do it the way I see it done. And the people who are giving me orders and telling me how to behave, should really check themselves. It’s just a little bit disgraceful.

So, it’s all very instructive, and I get a front-row seat to how I do NOT want my next job to be. Substance, not just form, is important. Form matters, but only if there is substance to back it up. And I’ve been on this earth long enough to realize that jobs and promotions and raises and popularity contests come and go, but I will still have to live with myself through it all, no matter what the circumstances of my present situation. I am still dealing with the personal fallout from poor choices I made in the past, and I am still dealing daily with the residual troubles that all those traumatic brain injuries brought into my life over the years.

So, I know just how important and precious it is, to have a moral compass, to know who you are, and to make decisions in the now that will support you in the future — rather than trading in my dignity and self-respect for an expedient favor from someone else that may quickly go forgotten… except in my mind, and the shadow of it on my soul.

It sounds heavy… and it is. This one life is all any of us has, and it is over all too soon. So many things can go wrong, just by chance, so the choices we consciously make are all the more important. I’m using this god-awful experience at work as a learning experience and a proving ground, for me to get in the habit of standing up for what I believe and holding to my own vision for what can and will happen in my world.

People may not like what I am doing and saying. They may not much care for the changes I’m bringing to their lives.

But if I stick to my guns and stay true to myself, in the end, I have a feeling they’re going to respect me.

And even more importantly, so will I.

The day is waiting. Onward.

Rolling with the changes

Roll with it

So, the new managers from HQ have returned to their homes, and we have one last day with the old boss — who is definitely not the same as the new uber-boss. In spite of the uncertainty and the stress of dramatic change, I am very glad that this change is happening at work. I feel like I can breathe again. Literally.

I hadn’t realized just how strongly I had been affected by the behavior and demeanor of the old uber-boss. They were just so manic. Always pushing and pushing and pushing and instigating and maneuvering and working an angle and promoting their agenda, which has seldom been the same as the company’s agenda. It’s been very stressful to walk that fine line between what the uber-boss tells you you’re supposed to do, and what the company (and their boss) expects of you. Frankly, it’s really screwed up the past two years of my performance – I haven’t been able to serve two masters effectively, but that’s exactly what I’ve had to do.

I think those days are behind me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about this change.

One more day with the uber-boss in the house. One more day…

They’re not a bad person, just problematic. And badly behaved. Hurt and insecure and passive-aggressive. They are also in a marriage that doesn’t work for them, which I’m sure contributes to their level of stress and their bad behavior.

Anyway, that is nearly behind me now, and it’s time to move on to what’s next. What’s happening now. I have a lot to catch up on, and now that there isn’t constant interference and people constantly trying to steer me in the wrong direction, I can relax.

And stretch. Last night when I got home from work, I was so wiped out. But then I stretched a bit, and it felt like some life was coming back to me. I have been so tense, and I didn’t even realize it. Or maybe I did realize it but I figured that’s just how things were, so there was nothing I could do aside from accept it. So I just went with it and tried to do what damage control I could.

Now I feel like I am out of damage control mode, and I’m loosening up again. Stretching my tight and tense muscles, cracking my joints, feeling my whole body loosening up. I don’t feel like I have to be in a protective state anymore, always braced for what new foolishness is coming down the pike, and it’s pretty great. All these changes, I can take, because it’s not personal anymore. It’s not individual. We’re all in the same boat, trying to keep afloat and move in the right direction, which is a very different scene than it was before.

So, change… I do need to take care of myself, and make sure I get some good sleep this weekend. I am listing all the things I need to do this weekend, making my schedule now, so I don’t have to think about it for the next two days. Just do it. I’ve got to replace some insulation in my basement, and clean up a bunch of crap, so I can move things around and have a decent living space. I also need to get some extra sleep — a nap on both afternoons, if at all possible — and get some exercise, too. I am feeling a lot of energy coming back to me, and I need to pace myself, so I don’t wear myself out. It’s all very exciting and dynamic; I just need to make sure I don’t over-extend myself in all the excitement.

Fortunately, that seems to be the direction that our new management is going – they don’t want to move too fast and make changes too quickly. And that’s good. It will give us time to adjust and adapt and figure things out as we go along. I’m sure there will be conflicts and confusion along the way, but in the end, I do believe it will all work out okay.

More rest today

This dog’s already done for the day.

I’m going to do something today I have not done in a long time – I’m taking a sick day. I feel achey and weak and shaky, and my head hurts. This is one of those days when adrenaline alone won’t take me through the day. I just need to step away from the expected and do the unexpected — rest.

I have one phone call in an hour that I need to take, then I’m checking out and I’m doing what I need to do, to take care of myself. At some point, too, I am going back to bed. To just lie there. Read. Sleep. But rest. I may watch a movie later on, but for all intents and purposes, I am out of commission, work-wise, for the day.

It’s a difficult nearly impossible thing for me to do, to sideline myself for even a day. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to read and learn and experience and write about. There is so much that the world offers, just waiting for us to discover it. Granted, it’s not always wine and roses, but even the hard lessons are good lessons, and they all add up to good things.

Those hard lessons, like today, can include the brutal facts that there is only so much I can push myself without adequate rest. Try as I might, I have not been successful at getting more than 6-1/2 to 7 hours of sleep a night… for months, if not years. I recall getting a full 8 hours of sleep some time back, but that was weeks (if not months) ago, and to be honest, I’ve all but given up trying to set that right. I will have to do something about this, and today is a good day to do so.

Not only today… but each day. Getting proper rest, especially in times of transition and change (which for many of us, these days, is all the time), requires a bit of a re-think about lifestyle and schedule. I’m happy to say that for the past two days, I ate dinner before 7 p.m., which needs to be a priority. Eating after 8 p.m. — sometimes as late as 9:30 or 10:00 — and then going to sleep shortly after that, is no way to sustain health and well-being. Over the past year, with the job change and the longer commute, my eating and exercising have gone way off the rails, and I need to turn it around. I need to turn a lot of things around, which is hard work.

And hard work requires rest. Additional stress requires adequate recovery time, and I have not been providing myself with the latter. It’s all out of whack, and I feel so very different now, than I did 18 months ago. Little by little, I feel as though I’ve been drained by both my environment and the choices I’ve made in response to environment challenges. And I know I’ve got to turn things around, or I’m going to have some serious health consequences. No job is worth that, quite frankly. I’ve watched loved ones die early deaths because they pushed themselves too hard and didn’t take care of their health. I have no interest in following in their footsteps — although my behavior over the past years says something quite different πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I find it really interesting how we can get into certain situations and fall into routines with the people around us, that really undermine our health and happiness. At work, everyone shares in this overwork ethos, pushing each other to do more, work harder, party more, work longer, and stay caught up in this whirlpool of activity. It’s like a collective addiction that everyone gets swept into, spinning us around and getting us to the point where we’re just happy to keep our heads above water. This is not a high-performance model, from where I’m sitting. When your criterion for success is not-failing, well, that’s no criterion for success. That’s just a formula for maintenance and survival.

What I want is something entirely different. And that difference is what I’m going to focus on today. Just taking myself out of that crazy spin-cycle is a start. And really focusing on the type of work experience I do want to have, is a next step. Ultimately, I believe that in addition to workplace culture and internal and external criteria for success, the quality of experience you have at work everyday, is a big determiner of how satisfied and fulfilled you are at work. I disagree with the business thinkers who proclaim that every worker is responsible for his or her own happiness in the workplace, and that each and every one of us is capable of making a purse out of a sow’s ear.

Look, sometimes a shitty workplace environment is just that — and no matter how ruggedly individualistic a person may be, there’s no avoiding the fact that some workplace configurations simply do not work (no matter what the furniture salespeople told you). My workplace configuration is sheer hell for anyone who needs to sustain concentration more than 10 minutes at a time. And it’s sheer hell for anyone who doesn’t need to know the details of their co-workers’ lives and work in blow-by-blow detail. It’s hell for anyone who places productivity at the top of their list.

What I hear happening in many corners of the business thinker world, is the focus on the empowerment of the individual — to manage themselves (and their boss) as well as their workload, workspace, and work/play time. That’s all very well and good, but too often it seems to devolve into an abdication by senior leadership from their positions of leadership — by stepping away from “micro-management” roles, they seem to step away from leadership, as well. What’s worse, a lot of them seem unwilling to accept responsibility for the decisions they make which so dreadfully affect those who report to them, as though failure by their minions to adapt to their capricious and theoretical approaches were a sign that we had done something wrong. It’s all backwards, like the out-sourcing fad of ten years ago. It’s based on a sheet of numbers and a concept that sounds great to MBA folks. But in practice, it simply does not work. And we’ve seen that, up close and personal, over the past decade.

Now yet more ridiculousness is being pandered about “empowerment and engagement” — probably originating in some MBA think-tank filled with academicians who are so specialized, they metaphorically see no connection between eating habits and constipation — being either nutrition experts or upper GI experts of colon experts or sphincter experts, and never the gaggle of experts shall meet (except at some annual conference when everybody sits in rooms listening to motivational speakers, until they go out and get drunk together each evening). Supposedly, each employee is responsible for their own survival, and they need to build a system of “supports” at work that benefit first their boss, then them, in the eternal quest for efficiency and productivity. Each individual is responsible for their own engagement level, and if you’re not fully on board with everything that’s decreed and devised by upper management, then it’s your own damn’ fault for not properly managing your energy and/or your time. And if you should find yourself overwhelmed by an unstemmed workflow, and completely exhausted by the deluge of interruptions and changes in direction by executive management who are in love with the latest MBA-related fad, then you’re not “fully embracing change” and resisting the “creative chaos” of the modern dynamic workplace and rapidly evolving job market.

It’s just so lame. I’m not seeing any self-criticism, any introspection, any brutal honesty about the ways that management overwhelms and undermines and generally sabotages the workforce with a basic unfamiliarity with what it takes to get the job done. Everybody is so busy being important, that coherence, integrity and basic workability go right out the window. But at least people are quoting the Harvard Business Review, and that’s what really matters, right?

But wait, I’m supposed to be resting right now. Not venting. Have to say, though, venting is taking some of the pressure off my head, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. I’m still exhausted, still weak, still shaky and in pain, but lo and behold, my headache is a little less brutal than it was 45 minutes ago.

So, I have one more thing I need to do for work, then after that I am done for the day, work-wise. I’ll probably go back to bed to read and rest and take it easy, which I haven’t let myself do in a number of months — and certainly not on a weekday. I can’t remember the last time It’s been over a year and a half (December, 2010, when I was deathly ill) since I last interrupted my weekly routine to just take care of myself and not push through feeling like sh*t. I usually just push through… Put my discomfort out of my mind and just muscle on through.

Time to change that.Β  For today, anyway.

overwhelms and

Life without lists

I’m trying something new and different these days — I’m doing without my exhaustive lists of what I need to do, when I need to do it, and how it should be done. This is a real leap of faith for me. A key component of getting myself back on track and building some kind of structure in my life has been my list-making habit. After my last fall, I had a hell of a time keeping track of what I was supposed to be doing, and tracking whether or not I was getting it done. So I got in the habit of making lists and using them to keep myself focused on important tasks.

I have been writing out all the things I need to get done for a number of years, now. And it’s a good thing, too, because there have been plenty of times in the past when I would literally forget from one minute to the next what I was supposed to be focusing on. I’d get distracted by something, and my “problematic” short-term working memory would lose track of what it was I needed to be doing.

It was maddening. I’d get to the end of a day and I’d look back on all the things I had planned, and lo and behold, nothing would have gotten done.

It was pretty bad. Everything from returning books to the library, to people I was supposed to call or email, to picking up pet food on the way home from work, to taking a certain route home so I could run my errands on my way home… a ton of important things got lost along the way. And each time that happened, I felt worse and worse about myself. As though I intentionally blew it all off and didn’t give a crap.

At least, that’s what my spouse thought. And they weren’t happy with the situation. Or with me. Nor was I.

So, I got into making my lists. I tracked my activities, marked the things I got right, the things I messed up, the things I forgot, the things I needed to remember for the next day. I had the list-making habit down to a science of sorts. And it helped. A lot.

One of the ways it helped was actually getting me away from making exhaustive lists. ‘Cause when I looked at all the things I had scheduled for myself, and I compared the list of “successes” with the list of “failures”, I saw how much I had loaded up for myself. And I saw how impossibly busy I was making myself, with no hope of ever digging out from under the mountain of to-do’s I needed to dispatch. Only when I took a look at the written record of all the stuff I had slated for myself to do over the course of weeks and months, was I able to step back and say, “Hey – what’s going on here? Is it really necessary to do all that stuff? Is the world going to stop spinning on its axis, if I just give up some of that stuff?”

And I realized that a big part of my most dysfunctional behavior is the habit of loading up a lot of crap on myself to keep myself so busy I can’t pay attention to the things that bother me. I get all stirred up and all worked up and all tweaked over things, and rather than sitting down and thinking it through and working my way through the feelings I’ve got and constructive ways of dealing with those feelings/situations, I make myself even busier, even crazier, and the stress of it all pumps my body and brain full of stress hormones that dull the constant pain and confusion and help sharpen my thinking for basic activities (but do nothing for the more complex aspects of my life).

So, my lists have given rise to plenty of ah-ha’s over the past months. And slowly but surely, I’ve gotten away from the crazy-busy franticness that used to drive me like a low-level nuclear reactor pumping a steady stream of energy that is fundamentally toxic and very hard to dispose of safely.

My lists have grown progressively shorter and shorter, as I’ve forced myself to make decisions about what I really wanted to spend my time on. As I’ve realized that there is no way on G-d’s good earth that I’m going to get everything done that I want or would like (or even “need”) to get done, I’ve had to pick and choose the things that I absolutely positively cannot live without… and then figure out why that is… understand what part of my life those things fill… and then bump them to the top of the pile of constantly shifting priorities in my life.

It has been hard — very, very, very hard — to do this. You have to understand — my daily list of to-do’s used to fill two sides of a sheet of paper, and by the end of the day, there would be even more things listed in the margins that I had either started or wanted to start or had gotten done just on the spur of the moment. Culling my list is not my first instinct. It’s exactly the opposite of that. But doing anything less was simply — obviously — not sustainable.

Okay, you may think, that’s fine, you’re trimming back your list, but how do you get anything done? Good question. I asked myself that many times, when I started getting away from my list-mania. How would I manage to get anything done? How would I manage to remember the things I needed to do? How could I get away from all those lists AND keep myself on track?

Well, for one, I started getting more involved in my life. I’m talking, think-it-through-plan-and-vision involved. I realized that keeping those lists was keeping me from getting involved in the actual living of my life. I was so busy looking at the list of stuff to complete, that I stopped paying attention to the WHY of what I was doing. Or examining the ultimate outcomes of my actions.

For example, I once had it in my head that I was going to start a new business. I had it all mapped out, all planned. I had my unique selling proposition, my schedule, my business plan, my project plan, my lists of all the different people I was going to contact, how I was going to go about doing this-and-that, etc. I had it all mapped out on paper, and the list of stuff to do was voluminous. Someone in the “getting it done” camp probably would have gotten a thrill out of all my lists. Because there were many of them, and they had every single activity broken down in to a series of smaller steps, each with its own timetable, etc.

The problem was, in the process of getting all those lists in place, I neglected some critical, fundamental aspects of any new undertaking — as in, my motivation for starting this business in the first place. Why did I want to do it? What did I hope to accomplish with it? Where did I see myself in another five years, and what kind of life did I want to emerge out of this new venture? When I thought back, I detected some faint recollection of wanting more freedom and independence, but by the time all my lists were written out, my mind was pretty well enslaved to the tasks-at-hand, and freedom and independence were about the farthest things from the situation I was creating for myself.

So, I let that go. I learned some valuable lessons, and I had to let it all go. Because the lists took over.

The same thing had been happening in my life, over the past six months or so. I had refined my list-making practice, had created numerous to-do templates which listed the most common things I needed to do each day (that I was prone to forgetting), and I had my system for tracking what I did and did not get done, and why. I even wrote a computer program to help me keep track of everything, which was very helpful at the time.

But it got to a point where the list became the thing, not the doing, not the getting done. And I found that in the process of making sure I got things done, I had lost my connection with why I was doing it all, in the first place. And without that motivation, there was less and less chance of me actually getting those things done. The very tool I was using to help me along, was holding me back.

Huh.

Plus, I found that making daily to-do lists made me more prone to distraction. By the time I had the main things written down that I wanted to do, I had worked up a head of steam, and suddenly I could think of a gazillion other things I wanted to get done. And they would end up on the list. And some days, the distractions I’d written down would get done before the main items. But I checked them off, so it looked like I had been successful that day — when I really hadn’t. Not really. Effectively distracted, yes. Effective in living my life, no.

So… I have been living more and more without my lists. And I’m starting to love it. Oh, sure, for things like going to the grocery store to buy more than three things (more than two, actually), I have to have a list. But who doesn’t? I know I’m prone to distraction and confusion in grocery stores — so many choices, so much extraneous input to screen out (no, I do not want a diet of cheap carbs and high fructose corn syrup!) And if I have more than one library book I need to find on the shelves, I make a point of writing the numbers down. But for the overall flow of my life, I’m moving away from planning out every single thing I do in advance.

It was kind of a losing battle, anyway. For all the things I finished in the course of each day, there were always other things that I hadn’t gotten to, and it was those things that got to me, to no end. Even if I’d done 9 out of 10 items, it was that remaining one thing that would stick in my head. And the next day I’d start out playing catch-up. Yet again. And by the end of the day, I’d have a couple more things that needed to get done, which needed to be added to what I’d do the next day. Eventually, I would amass such a heap of undone stuff, I’d just bag it all and have to start from scratch… all the while knowing in the back of my mind that I had a lousy track record… and I was really just another loser making a losing bid at trying to do stuff only winners could do.

Why did I bother?

Why indeed? Man oh man did I need a change.

So, I bit the bullet a little while ago and started taking on each day without a list of stuff to do. Instead of spending my time on the exercise bike listing out all the crap that needed to get done, I spent my time focusing on my workout and thinking about what kind of life I wanted to live, what I wanted to accomplish — on a much grander scale than ever before — and I quit fixating on details. I resolved to let a lot of stuff go — a lot of anxieties about “lack of effectiveness” and not being good enough. I let myself off the hook, thinking back on all my years of compulsive list-making… and looking realistically at how much I had actually gotten done (far less than I’d intended). And I took a long, hard look at the toll it had taken on me and my quality of life and my relationships.

I was so busy with my damned lists, I didn’t get around to living.

And I let the lists go. I quit fretting about the exact order in which I did my morning routine. I quit worrying about making sure I had the exact proportion of sleep to activity. I quit freaking out over drinking coffee after 2 p.m. And I quit stressing out over how much sleep I was — or was not — getting. I stopped making myself and everyone around me nuts, if I/we didn’t get everything done that I/we originally said we would. I wrote stuff down when it was critical that I remember it, and I started using my work calendar more creatively and regularly, so I wouldn’t have to hover over my list(s) every moment of every day. And I gave up the all-consuming need to satisfy every single damned requirement they had for me at work.

I have probably pissed off a lot of people I work with because I haven’t been as anal retentive as I used to be, but you know what? I’m a lot happier. And healthier. And that makes me a better co-worker and employee.

Plus, it frees me up to actually get things done. Because in lieu of lists, I have a larger picture in mind for what I’m doing with my day and my life. I’m less focused on the details, but I’m more focused on the bigger picture — not just what I need to do and how, precisely, but what I intend to do and why.

That why makes all the difference. Because lo and behold, even in the absence of lists, I am actually making progress. Granted, I may not be as frenetically ‘efficient’ as some folks would love me to be, but you know what? I’m a lot happier this way, and if others want to wreck their health and their sanity over a bunch of detail and have-to-have’s, then have at it. I’m not going there. Not anymore.

Which opens me up to other possibilities. And it makes more possible in my life. Because it’s not just about what gets done, but why. And when you know why you’re doing things, more details emerge that add to the overall work you’re doing. Those details add higher quality and greater dimension to what you’re up to. And that’s a good thing.

It’s all good.

So, here I am, up early on a Tuesday morning. I woke up at 4:30, worried about money and how I’m going to make ends meet. I tried to get back to sleep, but by 5:15, it was pretty clear that wasn’t happening. So, I got up, exercised, and sat down to have my breakfast and write. I resisted the temptation to make a list of ways I can deal with my finances, and focused on the larger work of my life. Now my money problems aren’t gone, by any stretch, but the worry has subsided and within the larger context of my life, all the drama and anxiety and worry is a lot less overwhelming. I’m ready for my day, full of tasks and duties and worry and anxiety as it is. And I’m actually feeling pretty hopeful. Because there is more to my life, than a few hours’ worth of concern. And there is more to my work, than fretting over distinct details and trying to control and “manage” every single aspect of my existence.

Some times, you just gotta let yourself be. The lists will always be there, if I need them. The challenge is telling the difference between needing them and wanting them — for the wrong reasons.

For today, I don’t want one. Not like I used to. For today, the day will take care of itself.

Post-TBI Job Strategies for the New Year

I’ve been thinking a lot about my job strategies for the coming year. Even though it’s been some years since my latest head injury, I still have yet to fully adjust my career approach to this reality. But since getting confirmation from my neuropsych that all is in fact not perfectly well with me, cognitively speaking, I’ve been literally forced to look at the decisions I’ve made with regard to work — and with regard to the work I’m considering doing — so that I don’t get myself into hot water that has me end up like a frog in progressively hotter water… never fully aware that the water around me is heating up, until I’m drawing my proverbial last gasps in a boiling cauldron.

I’ve always been a pretty vain person, professionally speaking. Academically, I always knew I could do better than I did. At least, I was convinced I could… I just didn’t “feel like it,” I told myself. In most things in life, where I encountered difficulties that I didn’t fully understand, I often told myself that I just wasn’t succeeding because I wasn’t fully applying myself, and I wasn’t fully applying myself because things were boring or I just didn’t feel like doing more than the bare minimum.

Looking back now, I can see that I often covered up my confusion and disabilities and difficulties at following what was going on around me, by making lame excuses that weren’t even true. And I realize that over the past four years since my most recent TBI, I’ve essentially done the same thing: told myself that I was consciously choosing to not learn the things I need to learn to stay employable, because they were “beneath” me, or they weren’t challenging enough to hold my attention, or I just had other things to do, than apply myself to mastering them.

But these days, I can see that not only is this not true — I do have trouble with learning in ways that used to come easily to me — but I need to fully own up to the fact that I have newfound limitations that have substantially changed the way I learn, the way I retain information, the way I relate to the world around me, and the way I go about starting tasks. I have to admit that my skills, sharp as they are, still move more slowly than they used to. And I take longer to grasp certain concepts that used to come quickly to me. I can no longer acquire information the way I used to: starting at the beginning of a book and reading through to the end and remembering everything I read, the whole way through. Now, I have to use other strategies to retain the information, and in fact I need to develop new strategies to even get started reading and learning the information. Forget retention. It’s the initiation that stumps me, these days.

I also need to realize that I cannot assume that just because I have my heart set on making certain “advances” in my career path, that it will work out for me. Things like managing other people and being able to navigate complex political organizational landscapes, are now not only annoying and frustrating to me — my diminished ability to deal with their complexities — can actually jeopardize my career path, even my job. Things that used to just irritate me or even roll off my back now send me halfway ’round the globe in a fit of frustration and anger. I not only have a harder time dealing with things like communication and temporary setbacks, but I also have a hard time dealing with my inability to deal with them. All too easily and quickly, I slip into a downward spiral of raised hackles, raised voice, and hot temper. Not good, if you’re in management, I’d say.

So, I need to rethink my career path and reorient myself towards the way I learn, the way I work, the way I get through my days.

Am I making sense? I hope so. But here are some examples, in case you’re as confused as I may be:

Old Way of Learning

1. Decide I want to learn something, just ’cause it sounds cool.
2. Pick up a book and read it through, using a highlighter to call out key concepts.
3. Now and then sit down at a computer and tap away at some exercises. Get the general gist of the new material.
4. Trust that I “get it” and start using what I’ve learned in the everyday.

New Way of Learning

1. Find out what skillsets are important and make me marketable. Pick one or two that I want to focus on.
2. Go online and find articles about the skill to read, to generally familiarize myself with them.
3. Install the language/program on my computer and get my development environment in place to work with it.
4. Find working, best-practice examples of the skills in action, such as code snippets and small applications, and then fiddle with them to see what happens if I make this change or that change.
5. Keep fiddling with the pieces, until I can see, feel, smell, taste, touch the way the language/application works, so that it becomes a part of me and it’s almost second nature. Start at the end, and work my way back towards the beginning, very hands-on and experimental, and involved with the inner workings.
6. Forget about trying to understand the underlying principles and the minute details of how it’s all put together from the start. Just concern myself with becoming familiar enough with the pieces, that I don’t get frustrated and confused and anxious and irate when I hit a bump with the language/application, and I can just work my way through it.

Old Way of Defining My Career Path

1. Trust my employer/headhunter to guide me in the right direction.
2. Keep an eye out for new opportunities and pursue them with all my gusto.
3. Keep moving up in the world, moving from production to management, and on up the mangerial ladder, into the corporate stratosphere.

New Way of Defining My Career Path

1. Keep a close eye on the job market. What are people paying for?
2. Focus on my skills, my technical proficiencies, rather than looking for managerial positions.
3. Keep my attention on jobs that involve working with machines and logic, rather than people. Forget about climbing the corporate ladder. That’s just not happening for me. I cannot deal with the complexities of politics and I cannot be responsible for the well-being of others. I really just want to code, alright?
4. If I start to be pressed for signs that I want to advance, assure my employer/headhunter that I’m much better off — and so are they — if I just keep my focus on dealing with machines, not people.

The last piece is tricky, because employers who have loved me in the past (and yes, in the past, before I fell and turned into a different person, they really did), have been really encouraging when it came to “advancing” through moving into management — project management, team leadership, you name it. As though the real value to their operations lay in my being able to make people obey me the way I could get machines to. Well, fortunately or unfortunately, people are not like machines, and even though I did a great job of handling people in the past, and I was able to really motivate and guide others to do their best, the fact is that now I’m a different person with different skills and different inclinations, and a whole lot less interest in running other people’s lives, than in just making the most of my own.

It saddens me, yes, to think I need to let go of that old potential I once had. I feel a distinct sense of loss and grief, that my abilities have been so sharply curtailed. But on the other hand, I’d rather be realistic and honest and accurate about where I stand, right here and now, than hold out false hope for something that not only isn’t very realistic, but could have serious negative consequences not only for me but for my direct reports, if I ever bit off more than I could chew, functionally speaking.

This is a new way of looking at things. But it’s a necessary one, as well.