A few positive steps, some Marcus Aurelius quotes, and I’m good to go

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts" - Marcus Aurelius
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts” – Marcus Aurelius

I got a good night’s rest, last night. Not as much sleep as I was hoping to get, but at least it was something. I’ll take a nap later today, when I am done with my volunteering… before I start the next “leg” of my day’s activity.

Life is filling up again for me, and in a good way. For a long time, my weekends were all about serious downtime – I am pretty much done by the end of the week, and Thursdays and Fridays are often a “wash” for me, as I muddle through the final 48 hours of exhaustion before my weekend.

But this weekend, I’ve got a lot going on – especially with the house. My spouse and I walked through our downstairs, yesterday evening, and figure out what we want to do with all stuff we’ve accumulated over the past couple of years. We both have executive functioning issues, having trouble with initiating activities, figuring out next steps, and following through. So, we end up with a lot of stuff stacked in piles, waiting for us to figure out what we’re going to do with it.

We’re not dirty. Just disorganized. And last night, we started doing something about it. We figured out what we need to do with the living room, so we can actually sit in that room again and read quietly in peace. It’s the quietest room in the house, and perhaps the most comfortable, but it’s not where the computer and the t.v. are, so we don’t spend much time there.

We also figured out what to do  with the dining room. We don’t actually use it for dining, much — we eat in the kitchen or in front of the t.v. at night — and we haven’t had company over for months and months (maybe years). So, we rarely use it, except for like right now, when I’m sitting down to write and drink my morning coffee. It’s become the place where I work while I’m waiting for supper to cook. I can hear it, if the food on the stove starts to boil over, and I can get to it much quicker than upstairs. My spouse used to keep an ear out for any spills on the stove, while working in the next room, but they’ve not been able to do that as well, in the past couple of years, so now I write and work in the dining room, while they’re working in the great room next to the kitchen.

Also, that great room — the one with the nice view of the western sunset and the fireplace, which is our sanctuary, the main place we “live” in the house — that’s slated for some changes. We have been talking about doing things with that room for quite some time, but we never seem to get moving on it. Well, now we are. We’ve got a plan. And today after I volunteer, I’ll be stopping by the local home improvement center to pick up some containers to store our stuff… and move it out of our living space.

I also need to move some stuff we’ve been storing in the dining room to where it really should be — the attic, as well as the garage. I did a massive re-org of the basement, a little over a year ago, which helps, and now it needs to continue as Phase II. Or III. Or whatever number we’re up to, by now. There’s stuff I can also move from the basement to the attic. The attic gets cold in winter and hot in the summer, so whatever I put there has to weather those elements. I’ve got some stuff I can move there.

I’m also considering getting rid of that old bicycle I have in the basement. It’s not a very good one. It has a wobbly wheel, and it might not actually be that safe to ride. It’s also a three-speed, and you can probably guess how that goes, when I’m out riding up and down hills on that thing. I may keep it around, because it reminds me of my Dad’s old bike, and it also harks back to days gone by when our needs were so much simpler.

I just need to move it somewhere that makes more sense. Maybe get some of those hooks and hang it from the rafters in the basement.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is, I’m feeling a whole lot better now than I was yesterday.

Just getting moving and doing something useful with myself — getting active, breaking up the rut I can fall into — and not getting so stuck in my head… that seems to be the key with me. Just taking action. And also getting my spouse in on the action. We both need to keep active and engaged, and we both need to live in a house that’s comfortable. I work so hard, each and every day, to keep this house and have a good life here. Why not make the most of it?

I lucked out, this morning, as I was surfing the web while riding my exercise bike. I stumbled upon some Marcus Aurelius quotes, which always bring me back to my senses. I have always really liked his “Meditations” – which you can read for free here at Project Gutenberg. Some of his language is hard to decipher, but there’s enough good in there, that it makes it worth it to sort through.

Marcus Aurelius was a Stoic Roman Emperor – and Stocism is about being able to be truly happy, when all the rest of the world is falling down around your ears. It’s not about “sucking it up” and squelching all your unhappiness down inside you, but rather getting used to life sucking big-time and being happy in spite of it. Regardless. Recognizing the pain and discomfort and difficulty, but not letting it wreck your life. That’s my kind of philosophy.

I’ve always been a Stoic, at heart — from when I was a kid, training myself to not cry or show emotion or get caught up in feeling sorry for myself, when I got hurt. In many ways, that worked against me, especially because it kept others from seeing my difficulties, so I couldn’t get any help. But my shortcomings in how I practiced Stoicism were because I was a kid, and I had a child’s understanding of it.

Now I have an adult’s understanding, and with everything happening around me, lately, it’s important that I use that understanding again. I have come back to Stoicism, time and again, but I always seem to lose track of it… just forget about it. I lose track of things, if they aren’t right in front of me, and that’s a problem. So, I think what I’ll do is actually make a little booklet of them and carry them with me to read. I can do that by saving a document as a PDF and then printing it out. Or, I might just pick a quote to think about for a day or a week, or longer. I have quotes saved to my desktop, so I can look at them anytime.

I really need to get more down-to-earth, as well as not let things bother me, so the words of a long-gone Stoic seem about right to me. I think they can be helpful for others, too, so I’ll write more about Stoicism here, in hopes it will help others be happy, no matter what’s going on.

A lot’s going on in the world that’s just awful. Terrible. Painful. Small children being killed, each and every day, in a war that makes no sense to me. Some wars make sense, but the whole Syria thing… I just don’t know. Anyway, I don’t want to get political here, just say that I see the pain and the suffering, and I wish – how I wish – it would stop.

In the meantime, I can take care of my own state of mind and not let myself be hobbled by all that other stuff. I’m not turning a blind eye to it. Far from it. I’m just also taking care of myself, in the process. And being happy, despite everything falling down around me and being excruciatingly painful, is the kind of skill I need to develop. Because things aren’t going to get any easier, anytime soon.

Ah, well.

Onward…

Good to be back to my routine

clock on the side of a building with skyscrapers in the background
Keeping on schedule makes my life manageable

It’s good to be back to my regular life. As much as I like vacations (especially ones that involve nice weather and the beach), I really love my daily routine. It centers and grounds me, and it keeps me sharp… because I don’t have to figure everything out as I go along.

It’s predictable. It’s familiar. I can do it (metaphorically) with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back. I complain sometimes about feeling so trapped in my routine and daily rut, but it’s actually the thing that keeps me stable and chilled out.

My vacation was actually pretty stressful, in some ways. I wasn’t on my usual schedule of getting up, riding the exercise bike, eating my scrambled egg, then settling down with my coffee and banana to blog or read or chat online with friends there. There was no getting ready for work, driving down the road and thinking about things or listening to music, and then spending a day in my cubicle working on data “stuff”. It was more “free-flowing”, with my spouse not feeling very well and needing some sort of attention on a regular basis.

I had hoped to spend some quality time thinking and working on some of my projects, but that didn’t happen. My spouse was not only sick, but also very anxious. About everything. And that put us both on edge. I got pretty resentful at times, especially when I was interrupted in mid-thought. But I kept it together and did not snap out more than a few times.

I did break down in private, mid-way through the week. I just felt like I couldn’t take it anymore — the constant barrage of needs and demands and having to jump up and change gears at a moment’s notice. I was really, really tired, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. It’s hard for me to sleep in other people’s beds, in rooms without blackout curtains. I had a sleep mask and earplugs, but it wasn’t the same. And it was either too hot or too cold in my bedroom, so that was hard, too.

Still and all, it was a good break. And it taught me a lot about myself, as well. I need to take really good care of myself, especially as I’m caretaking for a spouse who’s declining in terms of cognition and behavior. They’re getting on in years, and it’s finally catching up with them. We’re a generation apart, actually — and up until the past few years, it’s worked in our favor. I’ve always been attracted to older partners, and I’ve always been mature for my age, so it’s never been a problem. But when your partner starts to get “up there” in years… starting to seem downright elderly… and you’re just entering your real prime of life, well, that’s a complicated path to tread.

It’s a management issue, really. I need to manage myself more effectively and do a better job with my own self-care. It’s like I’m a vehicle pulling a very large wagon, and I need to keep my engine tuned and my gas tank filled, so I can do a decent job at this caretaking business.

Because it’s not going to get any easier for me — or for my spouse.

And the task at hand is for me to keep my act together, so we don’t both suffer. When I don’t keep my act together — don’t get enough rest, don’t eat right, don’t exercise, don’t manage my emotional state, don’t manage my behavior — and I just let everything go, because I’m tired of dealing with it, that’s not good. It makes everything worse for everyone involved. And then I need to pick up the pieces and patch things back together again.

If I can.

Some people have told me I need to cut my spouse loose. They told me that, back in 2007, when they were first having a big set of neurological problems. They told me I needed to leave. Get on with my life.  Put them in a home (?!). Not let their situation hold me back.

Needless to say, I did not do any of that. And I was really offended that they would suggest that as an option. As if I were the sort of person who just gives up on other people. I don’t. Especially my spouse, whom I love with all my heart, and is every bit as much a part of my life as my arms or legs or brain.

I’m not giving up. It’s not going to be easy, and none of us will get out of this alive. But for the time being, I’m sticking with it, hanging in there. and I’m putting the focus on taking care of myself, so I can do the best job possible as protector and provider for the amazing, beautiful life we have together.

That’s that. End of discussion.

Which means I need to take care of myself with routine, schedule, and doing as much as I can to keep my foundation stable. Life will throw what it will at us. It’s our choice, what we do with it. And I choose to move forward to the best of my God-given ability.

Onward…

Step by step… putting things in order

files and papers stacked in two columns
This is much more organized than I am … or may ever be

I had a full and busy weekend. There was a bunch of stuff I had to do for work on Saturday, since I was out all last week. And yesterday was about just getting myself back in the swing of things. Cleaning up, organizing, putting stuff back where it belongs. And getting some rest.

I got a good nap in the afternoon, and I also got a lot handled for some of my projects I’m working on. I also caught up on my correspondence – I still need to call my parents back, though. They called before I was leaving to go out of town, and I didn’t feel comfortable calling them, because they had wanted to go on a week-long vacation with me and my spouse, and we told them, “NO” because I didn’t have any extra vacation time… because we were already taking a week on our own. My parents get jealous and hurt, so rather than let them down (or lie to them, which is extremely difficult for me), I just didn’t call them back.

I’ll need to do that sometime this week. And talk about fall house repairs. Because that’s what I’m up to, these days.

I feel pretty good about the few things I did on Sunday morning. I cleaned a little bit, and I reorganized a room we use for storing stuff my spouse uses for their business. I also did some research on storage units, and I found a facility that’s a few miles from my home that has some good deals. I need to stop by their location on my way to work, sometime this week, and check out what they’ve got.

I also need to organize my workspace in my own study. It looks like a bomb went off. But it’s a happy, creative bomb. Still, I need to move things around and make a larger space for myself to move. I have trouble remembering that things exist, if I don’t see them in front of me, so there’s always the danger of losing track of important ideas because they’re hidden from view after I organize. I need to figure out how to handle that.

This is all a process, of course… A big, long process that never actually ends. The good thing is, it’s very satisfying for me, so I don’t mind it terribly. It’s just a constant thing, that I need to keep up with.

But when I do keep up with it, it feels great! So, that’s what I’ll do. Simply keep at it, steady on…

Steadily… onward…

I’m incredibly distracted. I must be tired.

optical illusion interlocking cubes
I get so caught up in all my different things… it’s easy to get lost

I think the changes at work are getting to me a little bit. Uncertainty abounds. Fortunately, I’m not well-connected enough to get the juicy gossip. That would probably drive me nuts. My boss is very connected – and they are very guarded, as well. It’s impossible to tell, from talking to them, what the deal is.

I’ve been increasingly busy at work and at home. And more social, too, which has its own set of challenges. It’s hard for me to be social, when I’m tired… which is pretty much all the time.

What’s making it worse, is that I’m getting sucked into social media, chatting with people and also emailing them till late in the evening. I’m a night-owl by preference, but if I don’t get my sleep, fatigue sets in, and then I become impossible.

I’m not getting stuff done that I need to. I have several important projects around the house that I haven’t been successful at handling. It all needs to get done before winter arrives. It’s not a huge amount of work, but it takes focus.

So, I’m putting myself on a strict schedule. I sketched out a grid for what days I’ll spend doing what, and I got a visual of all the different things I’ve got going on. It’s easier for me to manage that way. I need to learn to tell myself NO, when I get distracted by things I’ve agreed not to do until the next day. And I need to be firm and decisive.

That’s hard, when I’m tired.

So, I need to get more sleep.

On the bright side, I’ve been steadily losing weight. I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, which is a healthy rate for me. I need to lose another 5-10, to be where I want to be. I could even do with losing 15. But I don’t want to lose muscle, too. So, I just need to get a good sense of where I’m at, be healthy overall, and use my new energy wisely.

I do have much more energy than before — and actually, it’s one of the things that’s driving my distractions.

More Energy –> More Activity –> Fatigue –> Distractions –> Not getting things done –> Feeling bad about myself –> Distractions –> More activity that’s not productive –> Fatigue…

Anyway, you get the point.

Losing the extra pounds has been great. Now I need to learn to properly manage my new energy. Because it’s really, really good. And I don’t want to mess it up.

Onward…

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The Busy-Not-Busy Balancing Act

hand holding pen, checking off lists on a checklist
Getting stuff done… one thing at a time.

It’s been a little while since I last blogged here. I’ve actually been increasingly busy at work. No sooner do I start to think, “I’m out of here…” than I get a handful of projects handed to me that are actually really good for my resume. So, I’ll be around long enough to finish them up. Possibly longer. As long as the job is serving my purposes with keeping my skills sharp and my record clean, I’ll keep it.

No need to bolt. Not just yet. Of course, with the merger happening before year-end, anything could happen, but I’m not racing off… not quite yet.

It’s eerie, though, how the more I intended to leave, the more my boss started to “loop me in” to more projects with high visibility. Some days it seems like they’re reading my mind. How do they do that, anyway?

Well, whatever. I’ve been more busy at work, and I’ve been organizing at home. So, I’ve had less time to blog here.

The whole pace of my past six months has been a little strange. It’s either feast or famine. I’m either slammed with a million different things to do, or I’m in a lull, feeling like I’m twiddling my thumbs (sometimes I literally am). Of course, then I feel the need to jump into action and come up with more things to do, so I get myself busy again… and then when the normal incoming tide of to-do items starts to rise again, I have twice as much to handle.

Funny, how that goes.

Well, it’s better than not having anything going on, I suppose. I’m not sure I could have nothing going on, anyway.

It’s really about balance. And also doing a better job of tracking what I’m really working on. Sometimes, when I am “not busy”, I really should be — I’m just forgetting that I’ve got stuff simmering on the back-burner. Or I’ve flat-out forgotten that I’m supposed to be doing something important. Then I scramble to get it together, and I don’t always do a great job of it.

I can’t beat myself up over it, though. I just have to keep steady, and also do a better job of tracking my activities. I’ve started keeping weekly logs of what needs to be done, what I did in the past week, what I need to do next week. I’ve tried a bunch of different systems, but for some reason, they have all bugged the crap out of me. I think this one is good, though. So far, so good.

And I’m reviewing my lists with my neuropsych, which is helpful. I haven’t done this before, because I was embarrassed that I was really struggling. I didn’t feel like I should be, and my old neuropsych was very intent on making sure I didn’t get bogged down in a lot of negative self-talk. So, rather than admit when I was having trouble, I just didn’t talk about it. And I let a lot of stuff slip through the cracks.

No more, though. No more of that. I want to do well. I want to do my best. Even if that means getting over my self-consciousness and sense of impending failure.

It’s all a balancing act — an act of balance. A deliberate choice to balance things out, and a conscious act to do just that.

Yep. For me, it’s a choice.

Onward… together with the help I can find.

Five hours of sleep. Oh, well. I’ll try something new today.

Fatigue Range with "Not Sleeping" red zones at the top and bottom and an "Energy Level" line curving up into the top "Not Sleeping" zone
Fatigue Range – I’m just within the top red line, in the gray zone.

I can really tell the difference when I don’t tire myself out with afternoon exercise. I had a very lazy day, yesterday, catching up on some reading and organizing myself a bit better. On Friday night, I cleared out a bunch of boxes I’d kept in the corner of the dining room. I have an old habit of saving boxes for later use, because I grew up in a time and place where such things were scarce, and you had to save stuff for later — especially good packing boxes.

Now, though, the world is full of packing boxes. All you have to do is order some dental floss from Amazon.com to get a big-ass box in the mail. The floss will be packed at the very center of the box, surrounded by packing paper or those bubble packs. It’s very wasteful, but it’s one way to get a box.

Anyway, I got that done on Friday night, and that got me in the mood to do more organizing on Saturday (yesterday). I needed to go through a bunch of notes I’d written down, so I spent most of the day dictating my notes into my smartphone and emailing them to myself. I ended up with something like 20 pages of notes – and I could put away my handwritten notes. It was very productive, but also very sedentary. I did get out for a quick walk in the afternoon, but it wasn’t intensely strenuous, and I had just a quick one-hour nap afterwards.

Last night, I got in bed by 10:25, but I tossed and turned for a good 20-30 minutes before I got to sleep. And then I woke up at 4:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep. Not great for my brain function, to tell the truth. I’m foggy and fuzzy, this morning, and I’m worried. My spouse has been having some more noticeable cognitive and behavioral issues, and that’s heavy on my mind. I really worry about them and if I’ll be able to take care of them the way they need. I feel like I’ve failed in many ways, and may have contributed to some of their issues with my own temper and being hard to live with at the end of long days. I worry that I’ve actually made things worse for both of us. But I’m doing the best I can, I suppose.

Anyway, about this sleep business… During the work week, I usually get in a half hour of strenuous exercise. It tires me out, but I regroup and finish out my workday. And then I go home, have my supper, and go to bed. That works best for me, because it really wears me out, and I can’t help but crash at the end of the day. Yesterday, though, I wasn’t wiped out at the end of the day, so I didn’t just fall into bed per usual.

Today, I’ll try something new — I’ll try getting back on the exercise bike and going for an intense 20-minute ride. I’ll put on some music and crank up the resistance, and really push myself. It’s something to get my blood pumping and wear me out. Then I can regroup and take care of the rest of the day in what I hope will be better form. And then with any luck, I’ll be so tired, I won’t be able to keep my eyes open past 10:30. And I’ll sleep through to the morning.

I hope, anyway.

Onward.

Easy does it… sometimes, but not all

construction site nighttime scene cranes and lights
Downtime is time for me to get to work – Photo Credit: Pixabay

Ah, the long weekend. Time to kick back and relax. Go for long walks in the woods. Read a book (because I can!). Do some cleaning around the house, take naps, maybe watch some t.v. — no, not watch t.v. Not during my days off. I really value my time and don’t want to lose it to the television.

I’ll be doing more studying and research this weekend, brushing up on skills, also updating my resume. Just having time to think about things.

My new neuropsych is away for two weeks, starting next week, and it’s a bit of a relief. They mean well, but they’re nowhere near as experienced and helpful as my old neuropsych. They’re still learning — they’re 30 years behind my old neuropsych in terms of life and professional experience, and they’re 15 years behind me, in terms of dealing with TBI.

I’ve been dealing with mild TBI my entire life, so I’ve learned a thing or two. They’re an outsider looking in, and they’re also very much into mainstream medicine, with a point of view that’s very urban, upper-middle-class, intellectual, academic, and aspirational.

I think our class and cultural differences are pretty pronounced. I come from a farming background — rural, self-educated, self-sufficient, and well familiar with hard knocks and having to scrape your way up from the very bottom of the barrel — not once, but many times over. The older I get, the more important this perspective seems to me. And the more annoying it gets for someone who knows nothing about that way of life, to be assessing and judging me and making their best efforts to assist me.

There’s a whole lot I tell this new neuropsych that they don’t seem to “get”. It’s a little frustrating, especially because it’s important background  or context information that they don’t seem to pick up. Even worse, they don’t seem very receptive to learning about it, coming to understand it. They’re a bit insecure, to tell the truth, which gets in the way of my process.

If you’re going to do something, then do it with your whole heart, with the understanding that you probably don’t have the first clue what you’re doing, at the get-go… but you learn. You learn.

We all learn. That’s how we grow. That’s how we heal. That’s how we heal from TBI. We learn. We adjust. We make changes and adapt, we apologize for our mistakes and mis-steps, and we pick up and keep moving on. That’s the deal. That’s life. That’s how we’re built, as far as I can tell. So, why not just commit to that very human experience, and go for it?

Why not indeed?

Anyway, the next couple of weeks will give me a chance to settle back down. Working with a neuropsychologist on my various TBI issues — my convoluted decision-making process, my impulse control, my difficulties with focus at work, gearing up for a job change, my challenges at home with my spouse — it’s time-consuming and it can be very tiring. So, it will be nice to have a break from that.

I can just be for a while. Move at my own pace. Not have to figure out how and when to slot things into my schedule. To be honest, as much as it works with my weekly schedule, taking 4 hours out of every Tuesday evening takes a chunk out of my week. And I’m not sure that these sessions with the new neuropsych are really as effective as the ones with the old one.

Then again, I did need to make some changes. I was thinking of terminating with my old neuropsych, six months ago. They they told me they were moving to another position in another area, and that saved me the difficulty of explaining how they were really just annoying me on a weekly basis, and I needed to just take it from there on my own.

It was a boon in disguise.

I do really value the whole process, and it’s important for me to have access to someone with neuropsychological training. So, rather than terminating care, I’ve really been needing to up my own game and take more responsibility for the work, myself.

And that’s what I need to work on, for the next couple of weeks. I’ve been lax about figuring out what I need to focus on, and the times that I’ve showed up completely clueless about what to discuss, those have not had good outcomes. Frankly, they just pissed me off. No excuses here. It was all my doing.

And I need to un-do it. Because ultimately, my recovery is really my own responsibility. They’re just there to help me work through things. I need to get my focus back and quick messing around. I need to properly prepare for those sessions, just as I would prepare for other important meetings. I don’t show up to meetings at work without some idea what I should get out of it. The same should be true for these.

So, there’s my task and challenge for the next few weeks — getting serious and getting lasered in on the issues I need to A) stop creating for myself, and B) start fixing by myself.

I need a little help from my friends, and my neuropsych is the most capable sort of person I can call a “friend” in this specific situation.

So… onward.

Why have I been away?

Sometimes it's hard to see the path ahead
Sometimes it’s hard to see the path ahead

I just jump-started my TBI blogging again. Looking at my archives, I have only posted six times, so far this month. That’s quite a difference from my past. It’s been for good reasons. I’m getting a lot of things done that have languished for some time.

But I also have been depressed. I get really busy… I exercise regularly… I tick items off my checklists… then I get really tired and feel depressed. No joy left, by the end of the day. No enthusiasm on the weekends. Just slogging through my daily life, pin-balling between hyper-productivity and not wanting to have anything to do with anyone, not wanting to go anywhere or talk to anyone… just waiting for the day to be over.

It’s an odd combination. Because I’m pretty well scheduled, and I’ve got a lot of discipline and focus for the things I need to do. My upbringing stressed getting things done, no matter how you feel about it. Your state of mind was really beside the point. You just got on with life and did your part, even if you had no joy in it. Even if you didn’t care about it. Even if it had nothing to do with you.

If you were depressed, so what? You just got up and got on with your day, anyway. If you were in pain, so what? You just picked up where you could and did your part. Personal feelings and emotions had nothing to do with anything. Getting the work done and playing your role was the critical thing.

I think it went hand-in-hand with being in a rural area, raised by parents and grandparents who’d grown up on farms. When the cut hay has been lying in the field for two days and is dry, and rain is threatening for the late afternoon, you don’t get to lie in bed and say, “Oh, I don’t feel like baling today.” You get your ass up out of bed, and you go bale the hay. You work through any and all weather conditions. You do what is needed by the community, and you pull your weight, so that even if it does rain at 4:00, the hay is all baled and in the hay mow of the barn.

It’s non-negotiable.

And I suspect that’s why depression and mental illness have become more prevalent in society. It’s not that there’s so much more of it, now. There’s just more recognition and acceptance of its very existence. I’m sure there have been many, many people over the eons who have been depressed or had some other mental illness. It was just never allowed to be seen. Or if it was so extreme that it couldn’t be eclipsed and covered up by strict roles and duties, you just got sent away.

Anyway, I haven’t felt much like interacting at all, this month. The shootings in Orlando really upset me. To me, it’s an assault on diversity and community. It’s an attack on human nature and our freedom to simply be who we are and gather with others like ourselves. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re gay or straight — everybody has something about them that is different, and we need to gather with like-minded people to remember who we are. It’s just that the people in Orlando who were killed and maimed aren’t in the mainstream, so many people don’t know how to talk about it or think about it, without looking for a way that “they brought it on themselves.”

I don’t see it as a religious or political thing. I see it as the product of our society that encourages people to take violent action against others, to relieve their own pain. And the politicizing of it by the very people who believe that same thing, really angers me.

And that’s all I’ll say about it. No more comments. There’s too much of that, already.

But back to my present. I really need to start blogging again. Regularly. It actually anchors me and helps me collect my thoughts. And I don’t need to get all rigid about the “right” and “wrong” ways to do it. I just need to do it.

Because the voices crying out that people with brain injuries are broken and can’t be repaired, are too strong.

Because all the fear about concussion often seems to completely overlook the chance of recovery. Concussion is turning into a sort of delayed-action death sentence, and I think that’s wrong. It’s a terrible message to send. But of course, that’s what gets the funding flowing.

Because despite having sustained 9+ concussions in my life, things are going really, really well for me, and I need to bear witness to that. To show that I’m good. That I’m recovering. That it’s not by accident, and it’s not a fluke.

Because, well, this is a huge part of my life. And in the midst of getting everything done, exercising, trying to get my sleeping schedule in order, and generally feeling down, it’s the one thing that can get me out of my head and lift my eyes above my current challenges to show me the precious long view.

I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ve just given myself some really good reasons to re-kick-start my TBI blogging.

So, I expect to see you soon.

What I really seek is character. Not just reward.

character-may-be-manifested-in-the-great-moments-but-it-is-made-in-the-small-ones-quote-1Character is what you do, when no one is looking.

It’s why you do things, irrespective of reward.

I don’t want my life driven by asking “What will I get out of it?” but by answering “How will I contribute to others through this?”

Character is what gets you out of bed in the morning at a decent hour, so you get the exercise that you really don’t want to do, but must.

It’s what keeps you on schedule to you eat the breakfast and take the vitamins that your body needs to be healthy and productive throughout the day.

Character is what makes it possible for you to do all the things in the course of the day that need to be done, even though you don’t really want to do them

It’s what teaches you your place in the world, in society, in the grand scheme of things… and reminds you that your own personal comfort and convenience must sometimes often take a back seat to the Greater Good.

Rewards are great. They’re the fodder of some great marketing campaigns, and they do motivate people.

But Character… now, that’s something that lasts, even when there are no obvious rewards in sight.

New direction – old faithful direction

Reaching out to others is what brings us back to ourselves
Reaching out to others is what brings us back to ourselves

I’ve been excited about different new career directions, over the past years. The only thing is, I found out I wasn’t fully qualified to go in those directions, and I’ve been increasingly “outclassed” by folks with pretty heavy-duty qualifications who have the certifications needed to make it all happen. This system I’m learning really ties together my experience in technology, past experience I’ve had, and it keeps me going in the direction I need to go. It’s a certain way of working with teams, and a certain way of getting projects done, and it really fits me to a “T”.

It’s a system that was invented by people like me, for people like me — and it’s the darling of all those C-level executives who want to tell the world they use this methodology.

So, that’s good. And I really feel as though I’m set with this. My retirement savings all went away after my TBI in 2004, and I’ve been really struggling financially for quite some time. There’s been a huge amount of uncertainty in my financial life, and a big part of that was around job uncertainty. I haven’t been totally clear on the direction I need to go, in part because I haven’t been totally clear about the kind of work I can/should do, and the types of people I can/should work with.

As it turns out, after doing a fair amount of thinking and reading online, I’ve realized that high-high tech is really my “tribe” — and that’s in large part because of the neurodiversity. I’ve always worked with people who could be called “Aspies” — folks on the “high-functioning” end of the autistic spectrum, whose ways of communicating and thinking are quite different from the norm. I’ve got my own set of communication and thinking differences, and there’s something really soothing about working with folks who not only know what it’s like to be out of synch with the rest of the world, but also have a thinking and communication style that’s got pauses and different sorts of pacing all tied together.

Back in the day, when I first worked in high tech, I was surrounded by very strange and wonderful people who were very, very different from the rest of the world. I joined them not long after I’d had a car accident, and my thinking and coordination were pretty screwed up. I wasn’t particularly good at making small talk and following conversations with people, and I kept to myself. They left me alone, and they let me do my programming work, and I did it extremely well. They never pressured me to be super-social, and even when I committed some major social faux-pas because I was overwhelmed and couldn’t handle myself socially, they didn’t hold it against me.

And after about 6 months of working with them, all of a sudden, I got my sense of humor back, I was able to handle the pacing of conversations — and with more than one person — and I became an important part of their little tribe.

They gave me the room to heal and work my way back from the effects of that car accident. I never discussed the accident with anyone — and didn’t even realize was affecting me — all I knew was, I didn’t want to deal with anyone, didn’t want to talk to anyone, wasn’t comfortable navigating the social sphere, and all I wanted to do was sit in front of my computer and code. But after a while of being left to my own devices and gradually and slowly brought into their midst, I healed. I was able to chat again, talk again, interact again, in a much more fluid way than I had, when I first started.

And a lot of those folks could easily be labelled as “Aspies” or on the autistic spectrum. They were an odd crowd, for sure — in the best way possible.

I’ve been struggling in my work situation for a number of years, primarily (now I realize) because I’ve been surrounded by so-called “neurotypical” folks who have been extroverted and really interactive, with average sorts of thinking and communication styles. And that’s been a huge struggle.  It’s been years since I’ve worked with a hard-core gang of Aspie folks in a really high-performance work environment, and I realize now that the problem hasn’t been with me — it’s been with me being in the wrong kind of environment. I need to work with a close-knit group of neurodiverse folks, in a situation that makes the most of everyone’s abilities.

That works for me. It makes the most of my abilities, which include motivating and including people who may feel marginalized and pushed aside. I’ve had some great success doing that, in the past years, at various jobs. But my current situation doesn’t really allow me to do that. I’m too isolated. I’m too blocked off from a real team. And because we’re all battling the same lack of resources,

And the beauty part is, this new system I’m learning will give me the skills and the cred to “slot” right into that sort of role.

So, yeah – it’s becoming a lot clearer to me. I need to work with hard-core technical folks, and I need to do it in a capacity where I can add value. I used to be a damn’ good programmer, but after my accident in 2004, I haven’t been able to work reliably. I’m good for maybe a few weeks, then I crash and can’t function. On the other hand, I’m an excellent team leader and I know how to include and motivate people and bring together disparate types of folks to achieve a common goal.

And that’s worth a lot in this high tech world. It’s not about your plan and vision – it’s about execution and delivery. And that’s where I excel – helping a team to execute and deliver. To be their best. To really rise above and beyond and do amazing things.

I never thought I could do that before, because it didn’t feel like I was being effective. I would be so wiped out after the intense work, I was sure I’d failed. And I didn’t understand my communication and thinking challenges. I didn’t realize that I had problems, and I had to do something about them.

Once I realized that I did have issues with slowed processing, and I realized I could actually do something about those things — and I got the chance to work with people who had communication issues, themselves (as in, the international folks I used to work with) — that really turned things around for me. Thanks to my old neuropsych, I got my head around that, and voila! Magic happened.

Now I need to make more magic happen.

And so I shall.

Onward.