2016 has arrived! And welcome, new year. I’m very happy to see you arriving.
Just in time 😉
The bluejays are gathered around the base of the birdfeeder in the back yard, and crows are calling in the distance. When I got up this morning and went into the living room to do my daily warmup, I saw a cardinal sitting in one of the bushes outside my front window.
It didn’t fly away when I stopped to look at, it just sat there and looked at me.
Now the squirrels are arriving at the birdfeeder. They have been more active this year than usual, given the warm weather, so of course they’re hungry.
I just had my breakfast, so I’m not hungry anymore. At least, not for food. I’m hungry for life and all that this coming year has to offer. It feels like the kind of hunger you feel when you’re anticipating a really good meal prepared by someone you love (who’s also a great cook).
I have a really good feeling about this year. Of course, it’s impossible to tell what exactly will be coming down the pike, but whatever happens, I’m sure I will be able handle it.
Some of the things I have on my “docket” for this year are:
Finding a new PCP.
Finding a new neuropsychologist.
Continuing to build and strengthen my marriage. After 25 years, my spouse and I have been through a lot with each other, and we’re stronger than ever. I’m committed to keeping that going.
Finishing the books I have started – expanding Slow My Heart Rate, into a full-fledged book with expanded references and resources, as well as finishing several other TBI-related books I started over the past several years and have not yet put the finishing touches on.
Continuing with my daily exercise program, and really focus on my strength training.
Organizing my workspace better, so I have more room to work and store my materials.
Keeping my professional head on straight, so that the pending work changes which are imminent don’t derail me.
Just staying steady and strong through it all, focusing on the basics — good food, plenty of water, good sleep, leading a meaningful life.
I suppose that could be considered a New Years Resolution list, but in fact it’s just a continuation of what I am already doing — it’s more of a statement of intention to keep on keepin’ on, and fill in the blanks of my life where they pop up… which is really what I do anyway.
It’s steady-on for me, this year. With all that entails. I’m sure I will learn a lot in the process. There will be ups, there will be downs, there will be highs and lows and everything else in between. And that’s fine. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be…
So, with that said,
May the new year bring you much that is good, much that helps you grow and strengthen and continue on your chosen path. And may 2016 bring us all much love and light — no matter what.
Like so many people, I am looking back at the past year, thinking about what’s gone right, what’s gone awry, and what I want to accomplish in the coming year.
I’ve had a very full year, with plenty of experiences (for good and ill), and I feel lucky to have come out on the other side in one piece. I’ve “course corrected” a number of things — including my poor exercise habits, the crappy job I used to have, I’ve cleaned up my diet a bit, and I’ve done a lot of work on my marriage to make it stronger. I’ve also figured some things out in my head that are really helping me get through.
I still feel pretty dull and slow at times — I can sense a difference between how fast I expect myself to go, and how fast my brain is actually moving. And I’ve come to terms with that and quit letting that make me crazy. I’ve also gotten better about focusing on what I want and getting on with the things I want to do, rather than putting them off till they are “perfect” and I understand 100% where they’re going.
My memory… I’m not sure if that’s getting better or worse, but if it’s getting worse, it’s not really impacting my ability to just live my life.
I’ve gotten a lot better about detecting when I’m not quite 100% and giving myself some more time to figure things out…. or simply abandoning things that aren’t going anywhere fast. I’ve backed away from a number of “friendships”, because the folks I was involved with are catch-as-catch-can, fair-weather friends who keep in touch whenever it suits them, not when I need them to.
The thing I’m liking about my New Year’s resolutions for this coming year, is that I’ve already started a lot of them. I’ve already taken some good steps towards some projects I want to complete in the coming months. I have a good foundation. I’m not waiting till 1/1/2015 to start down the path. I’m already headed down. And I think I found some good reading material to keep me motivated and increasingly educated.
So, here I am in the final days of 2014, very grateful for all that this past year has brought me. A needed job change. A shorter commute. The eradication of my massive debt. A fresh start, in so many ways.
Seems to me, the big undertaking for 2015 is to keep steady on, and make the most of what I’ve got — stay focused, keep reminding myself of what’s important, and move forward. Sure, I’ll slip back, now and then. That’s to be expected. But I am really on much firmer footing now, than I have been in a long, long time.
And the best part is — because I was in such dire straits before, now I really, truly appreciate it, like never before.
Holy smokes – I actually finished another book! It’s called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” and it’s about how to deal effectively with manipulators. I have had issues with getting involved in relationships with manipulators for as long as I can remember. When you have skills and talent and energy, and you don’t have a lot of real direction and you haven’t developed the ability to clearly focus on what you want and how you’re going to do/get it, it makes you very vulnerable to the manipulations of others.
Because the control they exercise over you and their ability to get others to do what they want them to do, can be very attractive to someone like me, who wants to be effective, but doesn’t always have the attentional ability or sustained focus to make things happen reliably.
And being manipulated doesn’t feel like manipulation – it just feels like you’re making progress in the world, and it can feel really good. The only problem is — it’s not your progress. It’s someone else’s idea of progress.
So, over the years, you can find yourself drifting farther and farther from where you want to be, and the life you want to live. And eventually, you can even forget what it is you originally wanted to do.
That has happened to me a lot over the course of my life. I haven’t even minded it, until the past few years, as I’ve gotten clearer about my own abilities and interests, versus the interests and agendas of everyone else. I was so mired in TBI and attentional issues, that I was an “easy mark” for people who wanted to use me for their own purposes.
A great example is my job — I got into my current line of work because it fit the definition of a “real job”, with the regular schedule and seat at a desk. I have never, ever longed with all my heart to sit at a desk all the livelong day, working for someone else, and hoping to be noticed by the “right people”. That just kind of happened because I needed to make a living, and this line of work was the path of least resistance.
It was originally interesting to me, and I turned out to be pretty good at it, but I have felt the burn of carpal tunnel issues, back issues, and all sorts of physical issues, in the past 25 years of being a desk jockey.
And while the money was good, and the rewards were there, I have still ended up entangled in a way of life — being sedentary, primarily mentally engaged, sitting at a desk from 9-5 each day (or more like 10-7) — that has never, ever appealed to me, and which I used to cringe when I thought about doing it. 30 years ago, I would have sooner killed myself, than been consigned to the life of a desk jockey.
That’s probably the best example of my life going off the rails, that I can think of. And manipulation has played a large role in getting me where I am. The coworkers who maneuvered and schemed with or against me, the bosses who tried to control me, the whole system, which threatened and rewarded and has pulled out all the stops to keep itself in place… Also, my spouse is a masterful manipulator, and they have roped me into doing a ton of things that I did not want to do. The big reason we have been so deeply in debt, is that I gave into their pressures to spend money on things that we did not need, or that were massively over-priced. I have only myself to thank for that… and I have actually used the last three years of lean living as an example of what can and will happen, when we live beyond our means. It has been hard on us both, but mostly for my spouse — who then in turn has taken it out on me.
I don’t want to sound like a whiner or a victim. I am neither. I am just seeing clearly the manipulating-capitulating patterns that got me where I am today. I have willingly participated in this kind of relationship, at home and at work, for the sake of the rewards. And now I am seeing that something else is possible.
I really need to escape this way of life for the sake of my sanity and physical health. This manipulation-capitulation will not stand. I’ve already started taking steps to stop the momentum of those moments when I’m urged to do such-and-such right away, even though it’s not the right thing to do. And I’m turning things around at home. My spouse manipulates for their own reasons — largely out of anxiety, because not having things all set and figured out and exactly “just so” makes them intensely uncomfortable, and they don’t do well with discomfort.
I myself am working on becoming inured to discomfort. I try to condition myself a little more each day, and it’s working pretty well. But my spouse… that’s not their “thing”, and they chase after relief for their self-induced discomfort, just about every waking moment. Their habits of mind are what hold them hostage, and everyone around them pays.
Reading the “Strings” book has helped me see things more clearly. And it’s also validated the steps I am already taking to shift the balance of power in my marriage. I know my spouse loves me with all their heart, as I do them, so I have hope that things can turn around. I just need to be more clear about what I want, and what myagenda is. That’s something my spouse understands — a self-centered agenda. So, if I can invent one (even if it is not 100% accurate, seeing as I have very few agendas in my life, period), that changes the dynamic, and they respect that.
Reading this book has been both eye-opening and validating. And it has kept me engaged throughout. I actually read almost 200 pages of it yesterday afternoon, while I was resting. I had a very active morning and I needed to rest, so I just read… and read… and read. The amazing thing was that it went very quickly. I could follow what was being said, I could remember what was on the previous pages, and the flow of the book made sense to me. I could even tell when the author was repeating herself and over-simplifying things, so I just skimmed some parts.
The skimming is probably the biggest sign of progress for me. It shows that:
I can read and comprehend what is there at a glance.
I can get the “gist” of what’s in the paragraphs without needing to digest every single letter of every single word. I can understand what’s being said on the page, without needing to consume every single paragraph.
I am not nearly as obsessive-compulsive about every single little detailthat’s being communicated. I am not spending 15 minutes on a page that should take me 2 minutes to read and digest.
Only a few years ago, I wasn’t able to even get through an entire page without losing my way and having no idea what was being said. I would forget, from one page to the next, what I had read, and I would give up after a while. That was so demoralizing. I grew up with books as my best friends, my only solace in an otherwise overwhelming and hostile world. Books where my refuge, my safe place, my domain. And I would write my own stories and invent my own worlds, when books fell short. Books surround me in my home and my study — there are shelves full of them, in every room of my house. My bedside stand has a stack of books 8-high on it, and my spouse’s bedside stand has even more.
Books have been the cement in many a relationship. Having my parents read to me was a way for us to bond when I was very young. Reading the same novels smoothed over interpersonal conflicts with my parents later in life, seeing what books others were carrying and reading helped me figure out who could be my friend, and showing others what I was reading let them know if we had common interests — especially with regard to science and non-fiction. Sharing things we read has joined my spouse and me together, and bookstores have been one of my favorite places to meet interesting people.
So, when I was no longer able to read, and I lost all interest in writing, I lost a huge chunk of my life. I lost my safe place, my solace, my refuge. I lost my best friend(s) from before I could even read. It wasn’t just words — it was any story line, any collection of ideas that I needed to keep in my memory for later. I just couldn’t follow. I just couldn’t manage it. Everything just evaporated so quickly for me… and it was devastating and left me feeling left out in the cold.
The weird thing was, it didn’t even register as that huge of a loss to me. Maybe there was part of me that couldn’t face up to the intensity of the loss, and it was so potentially devastating that I could not even really think about it. Or maybe I was just too busy keeping things in order and trying to keep my life in some semblance of togetherness, that I just didn’t have the time to read. That could be part of it.
But whatever the reasons, it was toughto lose that part of my life.
And now it’s back. If I can find a book that deals with something I am intently interested in, that is relevant to my life, and that gives me good food for thought and tools to use in my everyday life, that is a huge help. It keeps me engaged. It keeps me coming back for more. I have another book called “White Coat: Becoming a Doctor at Harvard Medical School” that I am also reading, because I wanted to be a doctor when I was little, and I am fascinated by what makes doctors the way they are. This book is helping me to understand the process people go through to be enculturated into the medical community, and I am getting lots of useful tips about the mindset and the orientation of doctors.
That’s always helpful. I read this book while I am riding the exercise bike in the morning, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through. It’s a little slim on substance, but it’s an entertaining and informative overview of the kinds of experiences that make docs how they are.
I also have another book which my neuropsych loaned to me several years ago. It’s called “A User’s Guide to the Brain” by John Ratey, and it’s all about how our brains work. I have not been able to finish it — I read it 3/4 of the way through, years ago, then I put it down when I got too confused and overwhelmed by all the information. I want to finish it and return it to my neuropsych before spring comes. It’s a goal. If things are going really well, maybe I’ll just start from the beginning and re-read it. I think that would be a good exercise, because it will show me how much I retained over the years. And I think it will also help me better understand it this time, because my comprehension is better and I’m better able to get the gist of things.
Now, I’m not sure how things are going to be tomorrow… or the next day… or the next. It could be that I’ve maxed out my reading-with-comprehension muscles for a little while, and I need to rest for a few days or weeks to rebuild my resources. I do feel a little tuckered out, to tell the truth. But for today, by God, I have finished a book, and it feels pretty damned good!
Now, it’s time to go outside, to get my blood pumping and get some sun on my face. I’ve got a whole Sunday ahead of me, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.
A few days back, I bought some L-Tyrosine capsules to help my body produce more dopamine. I didn’t get the heavy-duty dosage. I wanted to keep things simple, for starters. In theory, it was a good idea, because I have really been feeling the burn of low energy and distractability and memory issues and sleep problems and a lot of other issues that can be related to low dopamine levels.
On top of that, I also learned that the part of the brain that produces dopamine is very vulnerable to concussions, so there we go… more reasons to supplement my system with a little extra.
I’ve been eating more foods that are high in L-Tyrosine, the amino acid which the body converts to dopamine. Bananas, peppermint tea, eggs, avocados… it’s been good. But even though I felt great, I thought I needed to boost just a little bit more, so I picked up a supplement to take.
I’ve been taking it for the pas three days, and today I have just not been feeling well. I feel weird, if anything — woozy and off, with a headache and lots of vertigo. I feel a bit like I’ve been drugged, which tends to happen with me and supplements. I’ve tried to take L-Carnitine in the past, to help with recovery from workouts, but that just didn’t work. It made me feel worse.
L-Tyrosine seems to have the same effect with me.
So, I’m stopping the extra supplementation and I’m focusing on the food. I hate feeling this crappy — especially when it’s my time off from work, and I have free rein to do what I please, however I please, whenever I please.
Well, whatever. I’m going to make myself some dinner and chill out. I’d rather focus on food, anyway, and not get into chemistry which may or may not work. I’ll take it easy tonight… read a bit and work on some finances stuff. Just chill out, while I can. The week is starting up tomorrow, and it’s time to ramp up for the new year. I have another day off work on Monday, then I work one day on Tuesday, then New Year’s Day comes on Wednesday. And then Thursday and Friday come down the pike, and it’s back into it the week after.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time figuring out new year’s resolutions and such. There’s no point to that. I know what I need to do, and I will just do it, regardless of the time of year. The things I want and need don’t have best-used-by expiration dates on them. And they don’t become more important just because of the calendar. I sometimes think of the new year as a fresh start, but it’s really no more of a fresh start than every day of my life. I have the ability to start fresh whenever, so that’s what I do.
But for now, it’s time to chill. And make some good food for dinner.
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 notrace 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 whatwill 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.
One of the worst things about the holidays for me, is how distracting the whole experience can be. I don’t live close to my family — in more ways than one. I have a very technical career that is nothing like what the teachers and preachers and caregivers in my family pursue. I also live in an area that is more affluent than theirs, and I have very different values and priorities than when I was younger and living at home.
And in the course of my normal everyday life, that’s fine. I am aligned with my own values and I am on my own track and path. I have my plans and my desired direction, and I stick with it. I have my daily routine. I have my priorities clear. And I take definite steps in the direction of my choosing.
But during the holidays, all that changes. It begins with Halloween, when my regular schedule is up-ended by the sudden appearance of “seasonal” distractions — in grocery stores, things get moved around, candy starts to appear, all sorts of new items appear on the shelves, and I have to adjust my usual course through the store to find what I want — as well as block out the distractions of Halloween items which just take more time to think about and parse.
Thanksgiving isn’t much better. If anything, it’s worse, because there’s travel to families involved, and usually in the aftermath, I get sick. And I stay sick for the month of December, which frankly really sucks and makes it harder to just live my life. Also dealing with my family, even though I do love them and enjoy being around them, is a huge time and energy sink. Plus, when I am around my family, my focus gets diluted, I start to think about how things were with me when I was younger, and my values and priorities shift a little bit to be more like they used to be — as in, I start to think more about writing that novel, and less about honing my technical skills. I start to think in broader, more abstract ways, rather than in specific, concrete ways. My family is a very heady bunch of people, with very strong beliefs that I used to agree with and relate to. Being away from them and their way of life, it is relatively easy to focus on my own priorities and tend to the things that matter most to me. Being out of my element, in their midst, throws me off – as little else can.
Family is really important… at the same time, it can be a real hindrance. Especially when everyone in your family thinks of you in a certain way — and that way only. They don’t think about me as a person who has to get more sleep than most. They don’t think of me as a person who is easily fatigued and overwhelmed. They don’t think of me as someone who needs a little extra time to cover all my cognitive bases when I am making decisions or doing something new. And they don’t think of me as someone who needs to make adjustments in my work, because the way I think and feel and relate to the world requires that I make those adjustments to take care of myself.
My mother can’t wrap her head around me needing naps in the afternoon while I’m at work. My father doesn’t get why I work such long hours and stay so late, to avoid traffic. My siblings all seem to think that I live this charmed life of affluence and ease, because I have no kids. I haven’t told everyone about my TBIs — just my parents and one sibling. But the ones I’ve told still aren’t getting it. They’ve made it clear that they’re not going to even make the effort, and that’s that.
So, I do the best I can with what I have with these folks. I love my family and I love spending time with them. At the same time, though, their way of life and their philosophies and their orientation to, well, just about everything, is sharply different from my own — and many of the differences have to do with the accommodations I have to make for myself, and the lack of energy I have to go “bounding about” doing mental gymnastics about things that I don’t believe anyone truly understands, anyway. Maybe my life is simpler, because I’ve let go of a lot of devotion to holding specific opinions and wanting to figure everything out. Come to think of it, I’m sure it is.
It’s having to deal with my family’s devotion to being “Right” and figuring things out, that is so exhausting for me. ‘Cause then I have to re-orient myself to myself and my own beliefs and priorities, all over again after the holidays.
I realized, over this past weekend, how much Thanksgiving threw me off, when I went down to visit my family. It’s like getting pulled back in time… and then having to extract myself from the sticky goo of my past. In a way, it was good that I traveled, after I got back from Thanksgiving, because it gave me time to reset my mental compass. But now I’m sick, and I’m looking ahead to another trip down to my family, and it’s starting to get on my nerves.
Ah, well — so go the holidays. And at least I’m aware of how much my family re-calibrates my thinking when I am with them… so when I get back from the Christmas trip, I can dig in again and work on my job skills, rather than thinking about that novel I was going to write, that I was so sure would be a best-seller. Cripes, but there’s a lot swirling in my head that I need to manage.
And it’s pretty much stress-related. I find that when I am really stressed, I turn to writing fiction for relief. I start writing novels. Or short stories. It calms me. It gives me another place to “go”. But it also distracts me from doing what I need to do. The rush I get from starting something new is a powerful opiate for me. It dulls the pain and gets me thinking about all the new possibilities in life. But after the newness wears off, it’s just another thing I have to do — and it just drags me down.
So, enough of the novel-writing. At least for the next six months. If I’m ever in a position to just kick back and spend hours on end doing nothing, and my job situation is secure and stable, and I don’t have pressing financial needs, I’ll turn to writing fiction. But until that time, I need to keep steady in what I have been planning and working on for the past months — beefing up my technical skills, focusing on certain specific areas where I feel I can really contribute and make a positive difference, and worrying about a decent paycheck, not whether to write in first or second or third person.
One thing I know for sure, that is giving me a great deal of comfort — I would much rather be an individual contributor and work with numbers and code, than deal with people each and every day. I don’t want to be a manager. I want to make things, create things, invent things, render things. I want to interact with machines that will just tell me yes/no… instead of the endless dancing around all the issues and the nuances of human interaction. It’s just too stressful for me. It’s just no fun. It might look more impressive to the rest of the world, but it’s not what I want to do with myself.
I DO know what I want to do with myself. And that is a huge comfort. Especially on days like today, when everybody is clamoring for some sort of overdue thing, they’re getting snotty and irate because it’s closing down on year-end and they haven’t met all their goals, and I feel like I’m going to fall over and/or throw up.
I DO know that I’m outa there in the spring. I will have my skills in place adequately to do just that. I DO know where I’m going to focus my attention, and I DO know how important it is to not lose my train of thought again. I’m also aware — more than ever — of how distracting my family is for me, when it comes to living my life. I have to sorta kinda guard myself from their well-intentioned “guidance” and fend off their “caring” interference. They mean well. I know that. But they just don’t help, when it comes to making decisions about where I need to go next in my life.
Maybe it all boils down to possibility and opportunity. I know I live in a much wider world than they do, and I am much more hooked into what else is possible for me. I need to keep that in mind, as I move forward.
And so I shall. The last big trip of the holidays is coming up, and I’ll be seeing a lot of family — both sides, actually — on the road. My spouse’s family is much more supportive of my career than my birth family, so that will be a relief to be with them. I will need to create some sort of reminder for myself about what truly matters, over the coming months, and I will need to be careful to keep on track, so I don’t get pulled off the rails too much — or at the very least, I can get back on track after the trip is over. I’ll have to think about how to do that… it may be a real challenge. But then, real challenges are usually easier for me to handle than the “easy-peasy” ones. So, my task is clear.
Well, the end of the year is soon upon us, and with it comes some soul-searching and reflection on the past 12 months. The past year has seen tremendous growth for me, and as with many things that demand a lot of me, I find myself pretty worn out, right now. Technically, I’m supposed to be leaving to visit family several states away, in a few hours, but that’s looking less and less likely, as both my spouse and I have been ill over the past month, and we’re still not 100%.
We need to be 100%, so it looks like holiday family time may take a hit this year.
This is really the first year in nearly 20, that we haven’t made some sort of trip to see our families. We’ve always been good about it, making mammoth trips to see bunches of people in multiple states, but this year is different.
I think one of the things that makes it different, is that this year there’s a whole lot more riding on us both being as functional as possible. We have pretty high stakes in our work – my spouse recently took their professional work to a new level and has been reaching out and connecting on a much larger scale than ever before, and my own work has really taken off as well. Both of us have been putting a lot more of ourselves into our work, and we’ve been getting a lot more out of it.
But it’s problematic, to be forced to choose work over family — or in the present case, our own health over the wishes of our relatives. It’s not so much that we don’t want to go, as that we just need to get healthy, and traveling during peak travel times when we’re both sick is probably not the best thing to do.
In past years, I’ve gotten hurt during holiday seasons because I was pushing myself too hard, I wasn’t paying close enough attention, and there were car accidents and falls that really hammered me pretty hard. The last holiday accident I had almost wrecked me for good, and it’s taken me 6 years to get back in the swing of things, back to about where I was when I fell.
The good news is, I’ve been able to get back. The bad news is, it’s taken a lot out of me, it’s been a long and very confusing and at times alarming process, and I’ve had to re-learn a lot of my old functions in a whole new way. Again, I have managed to get back, but not without tremendous amounts of effort, plenty of blood, sweat, and tears, and some serious dents in my sense of self.
It has not been easy. And now I am tired.
I guess one way to look at this place I’m in now, is like it’s a much-needed rest period after a time of tremendous growth. When you expend a lot of energy at something, you necessarily need to take some down-time and rest and recuperate. I haven’t really had a chance to do that for the past several years. It’s been constant going-going-going, and I haven’t been in a place where I felt like I could finally let my guard down and just BE. Now, this holiday season, I am feeling more like I can just be. My job is good, people are very happy with my performance, and the next year looks like it’s going to be a good one, too. Plus, I’ve been pushing like crazy, the past few months, and I’m finally to a place where I can take a break, step back, review the year, and prepare for the next. I need this time to do that. I really do.
I just wish I didn’t feel so damned guilty about it.
I wish I didn’t feel like I was letting my family down by not going.
But I do.
Guilt or not, the fact is, I’m not fully recovered from my illness, and neither is my spouse. And if we push ourselves even harder, then we run the risk of complications — and starting the next year off completely wrong. That’s just not good.
So, we need to think about alternatives. I know that Christmas is supposed to be the time to give presents and share time with each other, but that’s not the only time of year for that kind of activity. The occasion is a solemn one for many, and I appreciate that. But it’s always rubbed me the wrong way that Christmas alone was reserved for that kind of generosity of spirit, and the rest of the year it was fine to not be that way. Personally, I would like to see the holiday spirit extend farther into the year — all year, if possible. The time for hope and faith and giving is never over – it is always needed, and it’s always welcome. And to whatever extent possible, I would like to extend it in my own life throughout the year.
I’d like to work it into my routine, so to say.
I’ve been thinking a lot about routine, while I’ve been driving to and from work, lately. I posted about needing routine a few days ago, and it’s still very much on my mind. I am a creature of habit, and the good habits I’ve created have saved me many times from disorganization and chaos. When my routine and my “systems” are disrupted, life becomes needlessly complicated and very frustrating. Maybe I’m being overly rigid, but for going about my daily business, they really are indispensable. They save me so much time and energy and aggravation, I can’t even begin to say.
I’ve made good progress, developing my routines, and I think now I need to reset them.
See, the past few years have been about getting myself to a more functional place. My main concerns were things like getting myself up at a regular time, going through my morning activities in a systematic fashion (so I could remember to wash my hair and take care of the household pet and get my breakfast — all without melting down and starting the day off on the wrong foot), and structuring my days so that I could get a reliable amount of sleep every night, and also get much-needed exercise each day.
But now I find myself well able to do all that, and without needing notes and reminders and prompts, to the same extent that I did. I’ve restored a large amount of basic functionality that I lost in the last injury, and I’ve also developed strategies and strengths that I never really thought I could, over the course of my life. I’ve done really, really well. And now it’s time to take things to another level.
It’s time for me to start approaching my life not in reaction, but as a director of the events of my life. I’m a lousy victim, but I have to admit that I’ve always been in the habit of responding to emergencies, rather than creating something different and better in advance of the emergencies. I’ve been well accustomed to handling crap that came up (a lot of times seemingly out of nowhere), but when it came time to plan out things ahead of time and ensure that they came into being in a timely fashion, well, that’s where things really broke down.
I hope — no, plan — to change that next year. I’ve been noticing more and more places where I have blind spots, or I get blindsided and don’t react well. So, this coming year I’ll be spending more time thinking things through ahead of time, so they don’t come up so much. Of course, there’s no way to prevent every unfortunate event, but at the very least, I can invest more time and energy in anticipating things that can reasonably be anticipated.
And I can invest some time and energy in coming up with viable alternatives when things do go south and become a big problem. Like balancing health with family time. And making sure that work and rest aren’t mutually exclusive.
So, I have my work cut out for me. But it’ll be well worth the effort, I believe.
Anyway, you never know how it’ll go, till you try. And try, I shall.
I know it’s Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day is still a week off, but it’s never too early to consider the course your life has taken, and make a note of where corrections need to happen.
The things I’ve done right have had to do with learning to pay close attention to what I’m doing and be mindful of it. To see where I’m getting into trouble, and how to get myself out of it.
The things I would like to do better, have to do with that mindfulness, as well. I need to keep steadier with regard to my self-assessments, and deepen the reflective portion of my life.
I’ve got a few days to contemplate this, while I’m visiting family for the Christmas holiday. Time to slow down and reflect. Give some serious thought to what I’ve done right, this past year — and there has been a lot of that. Also give some serious thought to how to continue this trend and make it more durable.
All good food for thought, while I’m not in the thick of things back home.