My new neuropsych is very, very different from my last one. They seem to relish the work of coming to terms with loss and pain and all that stuff. Ouch.
This is a very, very different focus than I had with my last neuropsych.
The last doctor I was working with really kept the emphasis on staying positive and not getting myself mired in all kinds of perceptions about misfortune. And while I did find that focus a bit annoying at times — considering how much difficulty I was having with some things — now I realize just how useful it was.
And I need to set that tone with my new NP.
It’s so very, very important for me to stay positive throughout my days, and not allow myself to wallow. It’s just not healthy, and it doesn’t do much for me. If anything, it just drags me down for days on end.
I’ve spent too much time getting mired in all that old stuff. And no matter how hard I work at “coming to terms with it”, that doesn’t change the fact that it happened, that it sucked, and that it hurts.
I’m not saying I’m into avoiding it or never facing it. I just don’t see the point in making it the central part of my life. It was, once upon a time, for far too long.
This is my last week at the hell job I’ve been stuck in for the past four years. In so many ways, it has tested me. That’s not a bad thing, and maybe I needed to be tested in a lot of those ways.
But I’m done with that particular gauntlet now, and I’m ready to move on.
Before I go, though, I need to do what I can to really remember the good that has happened to me as a result of working there. That job gave me stability and a sense of continuity with the people around me (if not with the company as a whole) that was a good foundation for me.
I did an awful lot of recovering there — getting on my feet logistically… and socially, too. The environment is highly social, so I was really forced to connect with people in ways I had never done before, and on a scale much wider and deeper than I ever needed to before.
There’s something about everyone battling the same obstacles that brings a team together… though I think that it’s more effective to have actual obstacles, rather than artificial ones. Focus on the real enemy — the competition — rather than manufacturing artificial obstacles, such as an inefficient workspace, a long commute, difficult working conditions, inadequate budget, and a “lean” workforce that is so over-taxed, they don’t have time to actually enjoy the goodness of life.
But I’m skewing to the negative again.
Of course I’m doing it because I’m regretting having to leave. Or am I?
I know I’m regretting that I’m leaving my colleagues in a really tough spot. They have to do even more with even less, and it’s bothering me that they’re not getting the help they need. Then again, they’re all free to go as well. Anytime they like. Nobody is keeping them there, and they can leave, as well. It’s their choice. We all make our choices.
And in looking back at the last four years, I need to remember that — it was my choice to stay there, it was my choice to keep making a “go” of it. I could have thrown my full attention into developing the skills and abilities I needed to leave. It would have been slow going, but I could have done that and really made that the focus of my attention and energy.
But I didn’t. I chose to stick around. I chose to stay and make the best of it. And the opportunities that came my way… I said “no” to a lot of them. That was my choice. I had my reasons. I might not remember exactly what those reasons were, on down the line, but I have to trust myself that there really was a reason for staying.
Indeed, there was. And up until a month ago, plan as I might, there was not a good exit path open to me. I was actually committed to sticking out the summer with these folks — and possibly beyond — to get those major projects off the ground and to help with the usual summer rush work. The summer is an intense time at that company, because there are huge projects in the works that have a September deadline, and people all over the world have to pull together to make it happen. I have been sacrificing my summers for the past three years, to help make that happen, and I can’t say it’s been all that gratifying. It’s been good experience, which has paved the way to this new job. But it wasn’t much fun when it was happening.
Still, it served its purpose, and that’s what I have to believe about everything I’ve done at this company for the past four years. It’s all served a purpose, teaching me hard lessons, and paving the way to what’s next. For all the difficulties, I’ve become more resilient and resourceful. And for all the challenges, I’ve come to appreciate the good things in life all the more.
Before I started at this company, I just took certain things for granted — like technical expertise, adequate resources for critical positions, executive recognition of What Matters Most. And autonomy. I really took that for granted, because I’d been working in self-directed circumstances for over 20 years.
Seeing the other side of things, and realizing that no, things aren’t always organized in effective, efficient ways, has given me a new appreciation for those things — teamwork amongst team members… everyone pulling together as one. And now I value it so much more. Going on to this next job, I’m incredibly excited to be back in my “natural habitat” again — back amongst my professional peers who aren’t all making the same mistakes I made 15 years ago, and wondering “why did THAT happen?”
Anyway, that’s rapidly disappearing into my rearview mirror. I’m sure there are things about the company I’m leaving, that I’ll really miss, later on. Or perhaps not at all. Who knows? All I know is, I’m moving on, and I have the whole world ahead of me. I have a new lease on life, and my other projects are picking up steam in a very big way. In another week, I won’t be glancing at the clock, dreading an hour-long commute. I won’t have to juggle my morning to schedule my drive to the office at a time that will strike a balance between minimizing my time in traffic and maximizing my productive time at work.
And I won’t have to hassle with that horrific open space plan.
Holy crap, those two things alone will make it more than worth the change.
Now I’m even more excited… and I’ll start getting ready for work in a few, to make one of my last drives into that office. I’m only going into the office one day this week, so this is #4… 3… 2… 1…
Time to get the game-face on and get into a good mindset. The past four years have seen tremendous growth for me, and I’ve come so far — in no small part because of my coworkers and the pressure they’ve put on me to integrate and socialize and be a real part of their team. They really have been a huge part of my life — my only social life, in fact. And I will miss them.
Well, some of them, anyway…
Regardless, in the next week, my primary purpose is to look for the good, find the good, see the opportunity, buckle down and finalize things that need finalizing. And do my best to tie up whatever loose ends I can, so I can leave my soon-to-be-former teammates with at least a fighting chance.
I did a little yard work, first thing this morning, then took off for the trails near my place, and it was great to be out on such a beautiful day. It’s cold, but it’s beautiful. I try to get out every chance I get — especially on the weekends. It clears my head and it gives me needed exercise, especially in the winter, when the daylight hours are short, and I spend a lot of time indoors.
I needed to clear my head of the cobwebs from last weekend, and figure some things out about why it was so difficult for me to keep my sh*t together over the long weekend. I need to figure this out, because winter vacation is coming up, with twice the amount of free, unstructured time, and I don’t want it to turn into some nuclear explosion, where everybody feels like they’ve been blasted and irradiated for days and weeks afterwards.
No thanks. Gotta figure it out, so I can just live my life.
Something occurred to me today, as I was out for my morning hike in the woods. I’ve been aware of this before, but it became painfully clear today. Namely, that I am really happiest when I am moving, when I’m active, when I’m doing something constructive. My spouse likes to “take it easy” and relax. It makes them happy to do that, and they feel most comfortable when they are sedentary and just enjoying themself.
Not me. I need to be moving. I need to be active. I have a LOT of energy, and I need to use that energy for something productive, or it “backs up” on me and it turns against me. If I can ‘t use that energy productively, it feels terrible. I feel terrible. If I’m not moving and keeping my attention focused on something specific, the general pain I have just about every day becomes too much for me, and I start to snap and bite like a German shepherd (metaphorically speaking, that is – I can’t remember ever actually biting anyone).
Using that energy for something constructive is the best way I know to keep that abundance of energy from turning me into a raving maniac. And it’s also the best way for me to actually do something meaningful with my life.
I have always had a very keen sense that I am mortal, that I’m not going to live forever, and I have a relatively brief opportunity to do things that will be useful and productive, before my days here are through. This knowledge has always propelled me forward, and I truly believe that not using every chance we get to make the world a better place, is a poor use of time and energy.
Oh, sure, it is important for us to take care of ourselves and recover from our spurts of activity. But in my book, everything needs to serve a greater purpose, or it’s just a total waste of friggin’ time.
And none of us has all the time in the world to waste.
So, yeah. I need to keep my mind and body busy. I need to keep moving. I need to be constantly headed in some specific direction, or I go nuts. The pain builds up and makes me crazy. I start getting loopy.
And when that happens, I can very easily take it out on the people around me who are closest to me.
Which is not good.
So, yesterday I stayed active, and I’ll do the same today. Even when I’m not appearing to be active, like when I’m watching television at night with my spouse, I can keep a little bit of movement going. I need to get up periodically and move. Stretch. Get some blood flowing into my cold hands and feet. Just don’t stagnate and let the discomfort and negative feelings get hold of me. I need to do something constructive with my mind, so that I’m focused on something positive instead of something negative. Sitting and marinating in all the energy I’ve got coursing through my veins… well, that’s just no good.
There’s an old saying about us having two wolves inside us — the good and the bad — and we can choose which one we want to feed, so it becomes stronger. I’m going to feed the good wolf today, and try to do that every day, to the best of my ability.
I’m taking another shot at cleaning up this hard drive on my “old” computer. I think there are still components that can be un-installed, to reclaim even more space, not to mention speed. The more programs you have running on your computer, the slower it tends to go — if, that is, you’re a “mortal” like me, with a serviceable but far-from-top-of-the-line model.
I start my vacation today. Just two days off, before the onslaught at work begins. I have a ton of stuff to do, and in the past I would have declined to take time off, because I take a lot of pride in my productivity, and I don’t want to leave my co-workers hanging. It’s a terrible spot to be in, and Lord knows I have pulled out all the stops for them in the past, so they wouldn’t be left hanging.
But you know what? The Company is doing a lot of things that say loud and clear, “We don’t really care about your productivity and your team, and you better do what we tell you – or else.” They’ve pushed this agenda for the past 2 years, and I hate to admit it, but it’s worn me down. Also, my co-workers are just a little shy of insane, with their go-go-go mindless reactivity that dashes madly from one task to the next, without ever actually finishing anything. They’ve worn me down with their multi-tasking mediocrity.
Now, in the back of my head I have been thinking that I don’t want to trash my reputation with poor performance. I don’t want to alienate people who could do recommendations for me. But the people whose recommendation I care about have either left the company already, or they are on their way out, and all of us are going to say super nice things about each other, because it’s a small world, and we know that if we do good for others, there’s a chance it will come back to us. The people who are staying, who are invested in me super-performing for them and The Company, aren’t the sort of people I need recommendations from. So, I don’t feel like my long-term prospects have been that jeopardized by this environment and this organization. It’s all good. And anyway, I’m going to go back to contracting, once I’m done here. There’s a lot less pointless drama for me, when I’m not “permanent full-time”.
So, I’m not getting concerned, and I’m not letting myself worry. Today and tomorrow is “me time”, and I’m looking forward to just kicking back and enjoying things. Running a few errands this morning… taking a trip to a museum I’ve been wanting to visit… heading out into nature to just relax. They’re calling for rain tomorrow, which could put a damper on things, but my spouse and I are fine with that. We’ve got rain gear. We also are taking books to read, and if we spend the day sitting in the car reading and resting…. away from the hustle and bustle, that’s just fine with us.
The point is getting away.
It’s funny, though… for me, getting away is less of a necessity than it is for a lot of people. Yes, it is good to take a break from it all, and yes, it does help me “reset” my mind and give me a different perspective on things. But I don’t crave it like some people. I think it’s because each day literally seems like a whole new one to me. Every morning when I get up, things feel new. Hopeful. Like there’s something else out there to discover and learn. Sometimes I wake up with a terrible sense of dread, but that’s usually due to fatigue or a physical feeling. When I’m feeling sick and foggy, and I’m in pain, I really do get depressed. But when I’m well-rested, not much can get me down.
In this respect, I think my crappy short-term working memory actually helps me. Because I forget so much, and I lose my place so often, I have had to learn how to keep an open mind and perspective, and watch for clues and opportunities. When much of your daily experience that’s more than 20 minutes old seems to evaporate behind you as you walk through your days, you learn to keep going and keep your eyes open for clues about where to go next.
Literally. I mean, my memory for how things were and what I was doing, just an hour ago, tends to be pretty vague. I have to think hard to recall what I did just half an hour ago. And who has the time and energy for all that work and thinking, every minute of every day? If I focus too strongly on the past, I lose sight of my present and where I’m going in the future. So, I have to keep going, keep moving, keep growing and improving.
Some people would get pretty upset, if this happened to them and that’s how their life turned out. For me, I can’t remember anything different. I just never realized that this was unusual, until I did my neuropsych testing and learned that I have the short-term working memory of a chipmunk. Things get lost for me after a surprisingly short period of time. They start to dissolve and disappear on me, leaving big gaps in what I think I remember about what just happened.
That was an eye-opener for me, and it threw me for a loop. But then I realized that it wasn’t all that catastrophic — I’ve managed to put together a pretty excellent life, despite all that “disability”, and frankly, a lot of stuff that people insist on remembering simply isn’t worth hanging onto. I have several really good friends who are ultra-invested in nursing grudges and remembering every single slight and hurt that’s ever been done to them. I can honestly say that thatkind of mentality does NOT make you a happier person, than someone like me who has no “storage space” for that sort of stuff. I mean, I couldn’t remember it, if I tried, but why bother trying? It’s much better, in my opinion, to start fresh each day.
Obviously. I mean – compare… I cannot retain much of anything, and I bounce out of bed on many days with a great sense of expectation and anticipation. While they remember each and every instance of insult, slights, hurt, inconsideration, offense… you name it… and they literally can’t get out of bed a lot of days. They don’t want to live their lives, they’re afraid of living their lives. They expect bad things to happen to them at every turn, and a lot of times, that’s exactly what happens. But the bad things happening is not the problem. They get stuck in those bad things and cannot work through them, so they get stuck. Because their minds are stuck in that place. They’ve fallen, and they can’t get up.
I’m sure a lot of it is neurological. One of these friends was routinely knocked out on a regular basis by abusive adults their parents hung out with. There’s also the one-time drug abuse that left its mark, long past their last drink or drug. It’s also biochemical — one of the most hard-up friends I have simply refuses to eat responsibly. They live on coffee and chocolate and rarely eat a real meal. Small wonder they’re screwed up. They just won’t take care of themself. It’s heart-breaking to watch, but that’s their choice, and no matter how I try to reason with them, they just can’t seem to get it.
The thing that keeps these friends of mine going is drama and stress and adrenaline. They’re always getting themselves into some sort of mess — probably because it makes them feel alert and alive. I know for a fact that a lot of them have “tonic arousal” issues, as a result of brain injuries. But they can’t hear me talk about it. They just can’t get their head around the whole TBI thing, which is a shame, because they could really be helped if they would just admit that that’s the issue. But they’re more interested in proving that the problems come from outside them, not inside their head. There’s a whole mindset there that just kills. And it’s a shame.
But enough about them. For me, beginner’s mind is the only way to live. I start fresh each day, mostly because I have to. It’s way too much work to try to remember everything — that’s where my lists come in. Most of all, it’s way too much work to try to remember all the emotional and mental experiences I’ve had lately — even if those experiences were uplifting and encouraging. When I think about it, I realize that I’m constantly orienting myself to the present and to “what’s next” — not so much to the past, because that is dim and fragmented for me. And when I interact with people, I really follow their lead when I socialize and take cues from them, and I rely on them for reminders of what I’m supposed to remember and think about.
It’s a good thing that all of this happens inside my head, because if people new just how reliant I am on the people around me for even the most basic conversation topics and direction, they’d think I was a complete idiot.
On the other hand, when I look around at people who supposedly “know” how things were or what happened once upon a time, I see a lot of people who have very different perspectives about exactly the same thing, and who have completely different recollections and interpretations of “reality”. It’s like they’re all living in their own worlds (I guess most of us are), and they believe with all their hearts that their version is the right version. And they’re willing to defend that interpretation with their very lives — as a result, we’ve got wars and conflicts and political parties.
So, maybe having a “good” memory isn’t so great after all.
And maybe it’s actually better for me, that my past becomes just that — a faded, fragmented, distant past, about so much of which I’m uncertain. Maybe it’s better that I don’t remember all that much from my childhood, aside from shadowy memories and a bunch of brightly shining times when I knew I was okay, and new everything was going to turn out alright. Maybe it’s a blessing, that I can’t retain all the kinds of crap that my friends are so adept at remembering.
Maybe beginner’s mind is exactly the right thing for me.
I know it’s what a lot of people strive for. They actively seek to put themselves in that frame of mind. But I’m there by default, thanks to at least nine mild traumatic brain injuries that had progressively negative impacts on me. Each time I got clocked, a little more of my brain changed. And now here I am… beginner’s mind. Some people would (and do) pay tons of money to learn how to get there, but I learned for free.
NOT that I’m advocating repeat concussion as a route to enlightenment. Far from it. The thing is, for all that I’ve lost as a result of mild TBI, life hasn’t turned out to be a total waste. I’ve been forced to acquire new skills and adapt — or else. And all the hard work has been worth it. If I ever get concussed again, I’m not sure what will become of me. Maybe my memory will be completely erased.
Who knows? All I know is, right here and right now, I’m feeling pretty good. I have a few days off — a four-day weekend, which I’m looking forward to. I am practicing relaxing and getting back to my “happy place”, and the world looks pretty promising to me — despite all the international upheaval and what-not.