Each year better than the last – I hope

Looking back… looking ahead

Now that Christmas and Hanukkah and Winter Solstice have all passed, it’s time to start looking ahead to the New Year. Kwanzaa is still underway till January 1, and the Seven Principles that mark this time give me good food for thought, even though I don’t actually celebrate it formally. Yuletide is also underway till January 1 (or the 13th, depending what part of the world you live in), allowing everything to just slow down for time to reflect and look ahead to the new year.

I’m celebrating the spirit of Yuletide more than any other holiday this season. It’s been a quiet time, without a lot of travel, and minimal racing around to take care of presents and what-not. If anything, I’ve been pretty neglectful of others, this holiday season. But you know what? They’ve been totally neglectful of me, too, so we’re even. If anything, the past years have been about me and my spouse doing a hell of a lot more for them than they did for us — doing more travel, making more of an effort, going out of our way to keep everyone aligned and on track with coordinating our holiday activities. This year, we haven’t done all that — and guess what… nobody picked up the slack. So there you go — they must not care that much, so… what-ever.

It’s time to us to take care of ourselves for once.

And we’ve done just that. I’ve been in a pretty low-key frame of mind since before Christmas — all the excitement of work notwithstanding — so, it’s been a very “Yule-like” time. Things have slowed down. I’ve allowed them to slow down. I’ve taken time OFF from all the sense of obligation and duty and required activities, to just rest and relax and not race around like a chicken with my head cut off, as I did in prior years. I’ve done energizing things that are good for me, and I’ve been eating lots of new foods that support me and my brain, as well. I’ve cooked up some pretty excellent dishes lately, if I say so myself, and my spouse says I’m becoming quite the chef 🙂

Looking back on the past year, it’s odd — I can remember bits and pieces of it, but I don’t get an overall sense of how the year was. I know it’s been challenging, and I’ve been actively looking for a new job for much of that time — especially in the past three months. At home, things have stabilized somewhat — with less undercurrents of stress and strain, but some extreme meltdowns that have taken a toll on my marriage. I’ve been through a lot of intense challenges with my spouse, including issues with money and infidelity and physically unhealthy choices. All in all, though, I think we’re on the up-swing, and taking time out from all the travel to see family, as well as me getting my own “house” in order, has benefited us a great deal.

I feel stronger and more stable than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. And yet, there’s a constant sense of confusion and disorientation that is always in the background. I am more functional than I can remember being in a good long while, and the circumstances of my life are leveling out and becoming more “structurally sound”, but at the same time, I’m in a fair amount of general pain much of the time, I have tremors and shakes, and my brain is definitely not firing on all pistons. I feel like I’m maybe at 65% on a regular basis. 85% if I’m lucky.

And that makes me sad.

But I think perhaps I am acclimating to the instability. I’ve decided I’m going to just get on with my life, even though I can’t seem to get rid of the memory problems, the sleep difficulties, the constant sense of fatigue, confusion, distractability, getting things turned around, and getting lost and not knowing where I am for a few minutes at a time… and more.

My solution is to just keep going and not get sidetracked and depressed by what’s going on inside my head. If I can just keep going, keep working at things, and do my best to learn from my lessons and try again, this all doesn’t need to hold me back permanently. It might slow me down, but it’s not going to stop me.

I’m also coming to terms with the idea of not being Alpha in every situation at work — and beyond. At work, I have been long accustomed to being Alpha and being in a leadership position of some kind. But now that things are shifting and changing at work, I’m not sure if this is going to last. There are so many people at work who are a hell of a lot more possessed by the demons of blind ambition and greed, and I just can’t see competing with them around the clock. There’s all sorts of politicking — and if it takes politicking to get ahead, then I’m going to step back and not engage with that, and allow myself to simply be happy in the position where I am.

Now, I don’t for a minute expect that I’ll stay in that subordinate position for long, if I get the attention of the right people who recognize what I’ve got to offer. I do want to get ahead. I need a raise. I need a promotion. I need to really put what I know and have learned into action. But I need to be smart about it and not just charge forward into the gap, without understanding what’s ahead of me. If a promotion means I’m going to have to travel all over the world and not be home more than two weeks out of every month, then I’ll pass. There is that possibility. But who can say? Who can say…

Anyway, I can’t invest too much time and effort in thinking about what may be… inventing all sorts of dramatic stories about what that will mean for me. Who knows what will happen? I need to conserve my energy, because I continue to have some limiting difficulties — the headaches and the joint pain which suck a lot of energy from me… the confusion and disorientation that keep me guessing and demand even more energy from me to keep up and do my part… the vertigo and tinnitus that are just so damned distracting… and the attentional and distraction issues that interrupt what I’m doing with a regular dose of screw-ups.

I need to keep going, and in order to do that, I need to take good care of myself and also practice things that will keep me sharp and make me sharper, while not using up a lot of time.

  • Ride the exercise bike or move and stretch, first thing in the morning to get my blood pumping and clear out some of the sludge that’s built up. (10 minutes a day)
  • Practicing juggling one thing at a time, tossing it into the air, and then catching it.  I do this with my toothbrush each morning, to improve my eye-hand coordination and also my focus and attention. (1-2 minutes a day)
  • Working on my balance and leg mobility with exercises on a daily basis. (5 minutes a day)
  • Doing my measured breathing that regulates my heart rate and keeps me calm. (5-10 minutes a day)
  • Allowing myself to really, truly relax on a regular basis — just letting myself collapse into bed or on the couch, and letting the fatigue just wash over me. (The first few minutes when I go to bed)
  • Increase my dopamine levels by eating more foods with L-Tyrosine and also taking the supplement… and also taking Oil of Oregano, to keep my body from breaking down the dopamine and seratonin in my system. (In the regular course of my day.)
  • Drinking plenty of water to flush out the sludge.
  • Studying anatomy and physiology, to help me better understand the inner workings of my physical life — and how to improve my health.

All these things are really good for me — and I can work them into my daily routine. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to do them as a regular part of my life, without up-ending my routine. That is totally do-able, because I can find time when my breakfast is cooking, and I’d just be sitting around anyway.  I just need to do it. And I need to not just take things for granted, because I’ve been doing them a while and it feels like I don’t need to do them anymore.

That’s probably the biggest threat to my well-being in the new year — getting complacent and just assuming that “I’m good” and I don’t need to keep up my routines and activities. That state of “good” can rapidly decline, as I’ve learned time and time again.

So, as I look forward to the new year, I’m thinking about the basics. Focusing on that, and not making myself crazy with a whole lot of dramatic schemes and Big Plans, like I have in the past. I’m settling in, in a way, and it feels pretty good. I just can’t get complacent. Gotta keep working at it. Each day.

Well, speaking of working at things, I need to get a move on and get my ass in gear. I have some errands I need to run before everything closes for the day.

Onward.

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Free time ahead

Just imagine the possibilities…

Yesterday was the first day of my week-long vacation. I had a great Christmas – and I hope everyone else out there had a very merry time, too, whatever you may celebrate. It’s been a while, since I’ve had this much time free — with no added excitement, no outside obligations, no drama planned.

My last week-long vacation was a total bust, because of visitors and guests who overstayed their welcome and needed to be managed. Now I have a week at home with a whole lot of time to do the things I would like to do — as well as some things I need and have been wanting to do, but haven’t had the time to focus on, lately.

I also have some time to rest up and gather my strength for the New Year. There are big organizational changes happening at work, and I may be in an excellent position to actually do some real work, this coming year. After more than three years of not being recognized and not being well utilized in my job, I finally have gotten the attention of people who know where I come from and appreciate my experience and abilities.

And that’s a far cry from where I’ve been. It changes everything. It puts everything in a new light, and it really ups the ante for me getting my act together. I’ve really struggled in a lot of ways, over the past years, trying to get myself back on track and re-integrated into work that suits me. In the job I had before this, I overstepped my bounds a great deal, and I pushed too hard before I was ready to do the job I was given. I floundered and fumbled and stumbled a lot, and that took a toll on my self-esteem.

Over the past 3-1/2 years, I’ve led a sort of dumbed-down existence that I’ve really struggled with. I knew I was better, I knew I had done much better and much more complex work before. The thing was — and I can see that, looking back now — I wasn’t ready to get back to it. I just wasn’t. I had a lot of patching up to do, yet, with my brain and my attention issues and my ability to read and write, along with my moods and my behavior control.

Now things are actually very different with me. I have improved by leaps and bounds, and I have really made substantial progress in keeping my sh*t together… and now I’m ready to move forward again — to get back to where I was, professionally, before my last TBI. I have a much better grasp on my behavior and moods, and I have more supporting pieces of my life in place now, than I have in many years. I have friends I can talk to about things. I have a couple of “independent ear” types of folks I see regularly for counseling of one sort or another. And I have a much better understanding of my inner emotional landscape and how to manage it, than I have in many, many years — maybe ever.

Plus, the logistical hardships of my life have really worked themselves out — the past three years have been sheer hell, when it comes to just keeping my head above water. But now that I’ve sorted out a hell of a lot of debt, and I’ve corrected errors in my tax filings, things are loosening up, and I can see a light ahead — and it’s not an oncoming train ;).

So, things are freeing up. And for the next week, I’ve got a ton of free time. I can go for those long walks in the woods I’ve been wanting to take. I can sleep as much as I like, whenever I like. I can experiment with some new recipes. And I can take time to reflect on the past year, to see how far I’ve come, and where I hope to go next. I have time. Time to visit libraries. Time to research. Time to cook. Time to do things at a leisurely pace, and just let it all sink in. There’s no need to rush — unless I want to pick up the pace. There’s no hurry, there’s no strain. It feels like it’s all coming together, and this week is a precious, precious opportunity to spend some time just catching up with myself without the specter of constant fatigue dragging me down.

I think the food piece is what excites me the most. More and more, I’m really getting into cooking. It does wonders for my sequencing and time management skills, and it gives me a reward at the end of it all. It’s also doing wonders for my health, as I try new things with new foods, and tweak my diet a bit to include more dopamine-producing foods. I’ve been making small changes in my diet, in order to boost my dopamine levels, and already I’m feeling better.

After only a few days. Pretty amazing, actually.

Maybe it’s the excitement that comes from learning that I actually can improve my neurotransmitter levels with different types of foods (most of which I love and can eat). Maybe it’s the energy I get from learning new things and putting them into action in ways that show results very quickly. It’s probably all of the above. In any case, it feeds me on so many levels, and I’m sure that does wonders for my dopamine levels.

Which is where I’m really focusing, these days. Watching The Crash Reel and learning that Kevin Pearce is snowboarding again (after a snowboarding accident nearly killed him and gave him a pretty intense brain injury), has got me thinking a whole lot about what drives us to continue to do the kinds of dangerous things that get us into trouble in the first place. What’s our motivation? What’s that driving need all about?

And when I think about it, I come to a number of conclusions:

  • that doing the kinds of things that nearly get us killed can be an important part of our identity and self-image… and without them, who are we?
  • that we really really need  that rush, that push, that fix, in order to feel like ourselves again
  • that there’s a built-in mechanism for producing that rush, that’s a critical part of who we are
  • that it’s possible to recreate that rush, in one way, shape or form, so that we don’t have to put our lives in danger to feel like ourselves again

These conclusions didn’t come overnight — they’ve been years in the making. And I’ve never been able to fully get away from thinking about them. Because I know that my behavior tends to the risky side. I know that my life sometimes hangs in the balance, based on how I’m feeling on any given day. And I don’t want to die or end up in jail. I’m not arrogant or unseasoned enough to believe that “it can’t happen to me” — I know it can. I know it has. Almost. And I don’t want to go there again.

So, I need to find a better way to get back to feeling like my old self again. I need to find a new way to live.

And having the next week off is going to give me time to experiment with some approaches in a quiet, uninterrupted way, that lets me think clearly and not be constantly distracted by a lot of spurious stimuli.

It’s going to be interesting, of course, because the last few times I had time off to “just relax”, I cycled through a series of blow-ups and melt-downs that took a pretty intense toll on my spouse and me. But things are different this time. Because I’m being much more deliberate about managing my “inner state” — and I’m doing concrete things to improve my state, like eating foods to boost my dopamine, working on projects I really enjoy, and planning regular exercise and rest times, each day.

Speaking of exercise, it’s time for a long walk. I don’t have to be anywhere, I don’t have to go anywhere in particular. The point is just to go… come back… and relax into my day.

Onward.