Sitting tight and getting my priorities straight

So, I got the job offer last week. Friday, while I was running errands, the recruiter called me and let me know that the company wanted to bring me on as a contractor first, then potentially hire me permanently.

And it gave me pause. It was actually happening. I was actually being presented with a job opportunity that I’d pursued, that had actually gone well, interviewing-wise, and was about to deliver exactly what I was looking for, career-wise.

Except…

The commute would have been about an hour each way. That is a huge discourager, because I already have fatigue issues, without risking my neck on a commute into some of the worst traffic in the area. No thank you.

I wouldn’t be able to work remotely whenever I want. That’s another huge problem, because sometimes I can’t make it through the day without a 20-minute nap. And the idea of having to drive in, every single day (except on those occasions when I have an appointment), drag my a** through the entire week, and then deal with evening traffic in terrible rush hour conditions… Yah. No.

I have no guarantee of what the ultimate terms of employment would be. I don’t know what salary they’d offer me, exactly, and I don’t know what benefits they’d have, what the vacation policy would be, what kind of accommodations I could get to keep functional… As much as they made it sound like I was practically guaranteed a permanent spot, there’s no guarantee of that, and I’m just not prepared to take that chance.

They’re not paying me what I’m worth. The recruiter was very cavalier about telling me the parent company typically doesn’t pay the full market rate, and I’m sick and tired of being told that. The thing is, over the years, one position after another like that has set me back. Because everytime you start to negotiate salary, they start from where you are currently. And that puts me at an immediate disadvantage. I’m sick of playing that game and losing, over and over.

When I did the math, the whole deal just looked worse and worse. I’d need to cover my own insurance for 6 months, my commuting costs would go up, and lifestyle issues just canceled out any benefit I’d get from the technical boost. It just didn’t pan out. If anything, it would have been a step back, which is something I’ve done far too often in my career.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had to make accommodations for my employers and grant them concessions because of my TBI issues. I’ve had to pass on really great jobs, because they demanded too much. Or I had to leave okay jobs because my health was suffering and I was shorting out. But at last, I’m working at a place where I can build my own accommodations into my job, and I’m a “known quantity” in the ecosystem.

So, it’s really not so bad, after all.

And I’m staying put. I’m better off at this company and exploring job options within its vast corporate complex, than venturing out in to the rest of the world, where everything is a big question mark.

That’s one thing I’ve figured out in the past few days.

The other thing I’ve figured out, is that I need to quit worrying about developing commercially viable products on the side. I’ve tried to “monetize” my blog, I’ve started websites, I’ve launched initiatives, I’ve written eBooks, I’ve dug into all sorts of entrepreneurial modes of working and thinking. I’ve been pretty focused on doing that for over 10 years, because I didn’t feel like I could really function in the 9-5 business environment as it existed. The long commute. The long hours. The rigid rules and office politics. It just sucks the life out of me.

I was right. I can’t function in those conditions. But the solution is not to strike out on my own to make my own way in the world, launch startups, forge a new path through the jungle, etc. Rather, it’s to find a decent steady job situation that gives me the stability, insurance, paid time off, and flexibility in hours that allow me to function at my best.  To have the best of all worlds. And quit worrying about all that work-for-myself intensity that I’ve been wrapped up in since 2006.

I’ve found a situation that works for me now. Who knows how long it will last, because supposedly they’re laying off a lot of people. But the part of the company I’m in, isn’t one of the ones where there’s a huge amount of redundancy. And anyway, getting laid off would involve a package of some kind, so that will be helpful.

But whatever. Bottom line is, I’m taking the pressure off myself and ditching the whole go-it-alone mindset. I realize it’s taken a lot out of me, to constantly be pushing myself on my side projects, and it’s consumed a lot of my time that I could be spending on things like blogging here and just enjoying my life. Catching up on my reading. Actually thinking about stuff at my leisure. I used to do that, before I got caught up in the whole entrepreneurial craze, and I miss it. I want to just relax, for once. More than anything, I need to wean myself from the whole stress thing, give myself time to breathe, and develop the habit of just living well.

Writing what I can here. Minding my own business. Taking care of my home and my health. Getting strong and healthy for the long haul. ‘Cause in the end, nobody’s really going to take care of me like I can. Nobody else knows what I need, like I do. And I’m done with chasing castles in the sky.

I’ve got my own realm here on the good earth.

And there’s plenty to occupy me here.

Advertisements

Second interview, second thoughts

handshakeI had an in-person interview for a new job on Friday.

All in all, it went well, I think. We seemed to connect well, and it’s the kind of work I want to get back into. I pulled together an updated portfolio of my work in a big hurry on Sunday morning. I had a lot to do, this past weekend — including an all-day event on Saturday and a ton of yard work and other chores on Sunday — so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked.

But I got it all together within a few hours on Sunday, and I’m fairly happy with the end product. It also lit a fire under me to really pull together a good portfolio of my work. That’s the one thing I’ve been missing, all these years. To be honest, I never actually needed it before, because at the level I was operating at, and based on the companies I’d worked for, everybody just knew I could do the job, hands down.

Now things are different, though. We’ve got all kinds of people making all kinds of claims about what they can and can’t do, and the job market is glutted with posers. So, a portfolio is the first and last line of defense for both job seekers and employers.

Even if the job doesn’t work out — and I suspect it won’t, because I believe they have an open work space floor plan, and that doesn’t work for me. I’m a really “visual thinker” and rely on the part of my brain that processes imagery to do my job. So, if my line of sight is not blocked and I’m constantly being visually interrupted, I can’t do my work.

I learned that lesson loud and clear years ago. And I’m not going back to any environment that’s even remotely “open workspace”.

I’m also not a huge fan of long-ish commutes. My commute right now is pretty good, and the route also includes a number of stores, so I can shop on my way to and from work, without disrupting the rest of my schedule. That matters. It makes a huge logistical difference in my life.

I also can’t work full-time in an office. I need to work from home at least two days a week. I might need a nap, and I need to be at home for that.  Additionally, not having to drive my car every single day makes a big difference in my fatigue levels, as well as the cost of fuel.

Plus, the company wants me to come on as a contractor first, then get hired. I’m not sure I’m okay with that. It leaves a lot to chance, and while they may say they’re stable and supported by their parent corporation, I’ve been around long enough to know how quickly that can change.

Anyway, I haven’t heard back from the recruiter yet. Who knows what will come of it… But if it doesn’t pan out, that will be a relief, too, because I won’t have to make any more changes for a while. I can sit out the holidays and take my time off… and not worry about anything other than a few little projects I have going on.

That, and building out my portfolio.

Who knows what will happen? It’s impossible to say. But whatever happens, it’ll work. I’ll make sure it does.

What Twitter Stands For

rageThis
Will
Incite
Them
To
Extreme
Rage

That’s pretty much how it seems to me — especially considering how peaceful my state of mind has become, since dropping off Twitter. Seriously, my internal life is much quieter, ever since I walked away from the 140 characters of overly brief annoyance and provocation.

As an extended bookmarking and link-sharing mechanism, it’s great. But people can’t seem to resist the temptation to editorialize — and that’s a terrible idea, if you only have a few lines.

Under-doing anything tends to be a bad idea, and trying to pack extended thoughts into a condensed “container” has been the bane of my existence. Truly, Twitter represents just about everything that makes life difficult for me (and countless other TBI survivors) in this modern world.

First, it’s too abrupt. There’s no time to really think things through, when all you have is 140 characters. When your brain needs longer to function (and that goes for anyone who really wants to have a more studied life, not just folks with brain injuries), that very brief space is like a vice closing on your cognition.

Second, it’s too quick. People who have conversations on Twitter drive me nuts. There is no way I can actually have a meaningful exchange with anyone — even people who agree with me (and vice versa).

Third, it lends itself to extreme impulse control issues. The two elements above can stoke the fires of anxiety and frustration, tiring you out and further exacerbating an already shaky control over escalation.

There’s more, of course, but those are the big three for me — and the thing that makes them all even worse is the cognitive drain and encroaching fatigue that accompanies following and reading streams of tweets. If you’ve got slowed processing speed (that would be me), it can demand a lot to have even one back-and-forth. I tried it, a few months back, and it went downhill quickly. I got bent out of shape, and so did the other person, and the only thing that came of it, was irritation … and a touch of fleeting rage.

Nope, just not worth it.

It’s a constant struggle, in this world, to keep focused. Especially in the world where I work, it’s brutal. Absolutely brutal. And as the whole restructuring thing goes on, and I contemplate what I will do if I lose my job, I think about what kind of work I really want to do. I’ve been in the tech business for quite some time, now, and over the past 5 years or so, it’s become so much more “interrupt-driven” — which is a disaster just waiting to happen for me. I have to constantly guard against interruptions, constantly managing others’ expectations, training them to know that I will not drop everything I’m doing, in order to allay their irrational fears.

On top of it, the tech world is chock full of “youngsters” who thrive on constant change and interruption. And it’s full of execs who want to pay rock-bottom prices for folks just now entering the workforce, who may be “up” on the latest technologies, and promise to propel them into the brilliant new future ahead. Someone like me, who’s getting long in the tooth and is harder to fire (the longer you live, the more “protected status” you are in the workplace), becomes a liability after a while. I’m at that age where people start to get sick. Their bodies start to break down. Their minds start to go.

So, why would they keep someone like me around?

And why would I stay? Seriously. Why? If there is anything else I can do with myself, that will earn me a living, I should seek it out and do it. Get the hell out of the tech scene, with its stupidly long hours, its constant sitting/standing, its perpetual upheaval and disruption. That’s what it’s about, in any case, and it’s actually not what I’m about.

So, whether or not I’m let go today, I’ve got my Plan B in process. This job cannot be the be-all-to-end-all for me. No way, no how. I need more to my life, and I need to create that new direction for myself — not expect someone else to provide me with the opportunities.

I lost sight of that for the past three months, thinking that this job was going to tide me over for the next five years, at least. Now, nothing is certain. Nothing is fine. I wish to God I could find work that will let me just settle in and play my part for the long-term, but it’s becoming clear that I’m going to have to create that situation myself.

Anyway, it’s all very exciting. And it’s all a learning experience. Fortunately, my job involves work I really enjoy and that makes me good money, so I can focus on doing the things I know will translate into good money later on, and keep my head out of worst-case-scenario land.

Business as usual. Not usual at all. Which is usual.

Just have to stay steady in my own mind.

Onward.

Quick Update – Why not me, too?

Destiny awaits – a whole new life on the other side of this test…

I’ve been all over the map, lately, scrambling to get my job situation sorted. I actually got the job — and signed the offer letter and paperwork yesterday. Woot! I figured out that the one document I thought I didn’t have was attached to the email that had the link to the online form — it wasn’t attached to the form, itself. So, it’s not me. The instructions were just very unclear. I’m a little dazed about how quickly things have gone – and how smoothly. I’m a little suspicious, but who cares? I’m going with it, because good things happen to other people all the time… so why not me, too?

I have to take a drug test for my new job. I have to drive to a collection facility that’s a 30-45 minute drive from work. I have some time tomorrow afternoon, so I will call to make sure they can take me at 3:00 p.m., and then plan accordingly. It’s a little bothersome to have to do this, but other people have to do it all the time… so why not me, too?

Now I have to give notice. My boss is actually out of the office for the next two days, and I want to tell them in person, so that will have to wait for Monday. Unless they come in on Friday. I think they know I’m on the verge of leaving. They are not giving me a ton of projects, and they are keeping clear so that I can finish up the major initiatives I’m undertaking. They have been hinting about others in the division looking for work, and they seem resigned to it. So, they may be resigned to me going, as well. Other people are looking — who are actually less skilled and less experienced than I — and they are finding better jobs… so why not me, too?

Now I’m working on putting together a “play book” for whoever is taking over the work I’ve been doing. It’s not rocket science, the main ingredient is willingness to learn and work. Willingness. There’s a lot of opportunity for the people who want to go for it and are willing to put in the effort. I did it… so why not them, too?

It’s another gorgeous day here. Looks like the intense storms earlier in the week cleared out a lot of atmospheric gunk.

All good … onward.

Another job interview – another chance

Okay, this is going to be interesting.

I have another job interview today, and I am incredibly dizzy. It’s insane.

I’m supposed to be at all these calls today and have all these meetings before I leave the office, but I am very, very dizzy, and I’m not feeling like myself.

Maybe I will work from home until later today, when I have to leave for my interview. That will solve a number of issues

  1. having to get myself going, when I am dangerously dizzy
  2. changing from work clothes into interview clothes without attracting attention at the office (I could just drive home to do it, but that will add considerable time to my drive)
  3. leaving the office conspicuously early and having to explain why

So, a work from home day, it is. I can make sure I’m clearing out the allergies that are making me so dizzy — a little exercise, plenty of water, taking things slowly…. and then get suited up for my interview with plenty of time to spare. Fortunately, I’m able to do that, because this is a great opportunity for me to move forward, not just stay comfortably in one place.

Again, thought, staying comfortably in one place is fine, because it will allow me to finish up some projects that have been lingering. I really need to sort things out with them and just get some of them done. Enough, already. I need to free myself up from them and move on.

So, lots of opportunity… and a handful of challenges. It’s all good, actually.

Onward.

Correction: I’m done feeling sorry for myself

Time to look on the bright side – the day is waiting

Had a few minutes to decompress and re-adjust. I can see how the new version of this day will work in my favor, compared to what I originally planned.

Originally, I planned to spend hours at certain jobs around the house that need to be done. I was going to take my time and really dig in.

Now, I don’t have that kind of time, which might actually make it easier to do them. Less chance for me to get worn out. Less time for me to spend getting all OCD about things.

No matter what, our circumstances always hold the seeds of success.

So, I’m going to find them, and just do it.

I have another weekend in less than a week, after all.

Another drab day…

But it’s promising to be a good one. 🙂 Things at work are interesting, since the re-org announcement last week. People are still trying to figure out what to do with it.

I know what to do with it — look for the opportunity and go for what’s possible… what’s in front of me.

A lot of people are caught up in the “change thing” — they got really invested in their identities based on their roles as they once were, and now that their roles are changing, they need to adapt their identities along with it.

Personally, I’m working hard towards my own goals. I realized over the past week that I have been living like I used to — neck-deep in debt and not looking to the future, because I was just treading water all the time.

I don’t have to do that anymore. I have some things I can follow through on, some dreams I have been wanting to make a reality for many years. And now that I’m out of debt, I don’t have that same terrible pressure leaning on me.

That’s a relief. And it’s also a relief to realize it. I’m getting my strength back, resting up, getting my head turned around in the right direction, and it feels really good. I tend to be too rigid in my thinking and get stuck in old ways that don’t really have anything to do with how things are now. I am much more fluid now — and that has a LOT to do with having a much shorter commute, and also not having so many bills to pay.

This is good.

The day can bring what it will. I’m good to go.

Onward.

 

 

The chance to make a difference, every single day

Yes
Yes

Death is never an easy thing to deal with, and losing someone — or something — that means a lot to you, is just plain hard. Grief has a timetable of its own, and even when you think you’re past it, it can come up again — days, months, years after the fact.

I’ve been thinking a lot about loss, this fall. I’m working on my book TBI S.O.S. – Restoring a Sense of Self after Traumatic Brain Injury, and I’ve been thinking about all the ways that TBI has taken something from me over the years… including my Sense of Self.

Now a dear relative has died, and I have the opportunity to look at how that loss is affecting me and many others, whose lives they touched. Looking back at their long life — over 100 years — so many people and situations came across their path. Lots of good situations, lots of hard situations. And the last thing you could say about their life, was that it was easy. The last thing you could say about their personality, was that it was easy-going. They had a hard life, and they developed the mettle to deal with it. They weren’t always fun to be around, and they could be mean-spirited and cruel. But in the end, they really had a positive impact on so many lives. So many, many lives.

No matter their shortcomings — and we all have them — they always stayed true to their commitment to make a positive change in the world. That’s what their life was really about — through teaching, volunteer work, and active service on many boards in their community. The number of people coming through their hospital room at the end, to say good-bye and thank them for their service, was amazing. So many people who gained because of their commitment.

And it occurs to me, looking back at this relative, who had so many obvious flaws, that if they can make a positive difference, then any of us can. And we should. We simply need to have the willingness and the energy to keep going. We need to have that commitment. Each of us, in our own way, has at least one gift we can offer and develop to benefit others. And each of us, when we reach out to the people around us in a spirit of genuine helpfulness, can do something positive in this world to make it a better place. We don’t have to be famous or rich or mathematical geniuses to forge ahead. We can find our own small ways to pitch in and help, and do it better in our own way than anyone else ever could.

In a way, the fact that my grandparent was a difficult person, makes their contribution all the more inspiring. They freely admitted that they had limitations, and I know that in their later years they regretted a lot of things they had done in their youth. But they kept going. They kept learning. They kept showing progress and changing with the times. They didn’t push people away because of their limitations — they engaged with them and they learned from them, as well as taught. And in the end, what really matters is the good they brought to the world.

Looking at their example, I can see so many parallels with my own life — struggling with limitations, overcoming them, finding new ones to deal with, and keeping on till I could see past the most recent obstacle and get a clearer view of the world around me. Each barrier, each obstacle has taken me higher — so long as I’ve engaged with it. And each time I’ve overcome, I’ve gotten a better view of where I stood and what my options were.

Brain injury has been a real blight on my life. It’s stolen many good years from me, and it nearly ruined me, 10 years ago. But through following the example of my grandparent, and just keeping going, I’ve gained so much more than I ever could have, otherwise. And for that, I am truly grateful.

We all have something to offer. We all have something to contribute. And that “something” will necessarily change over time. As we age, as we learn, as we grow, as we go through the changes in our lives, our bodies and brains and outlooks change, sometimes turning us into completely different people. The loss of a job, the loss of a spouse, the loss of a home, a sudden change in fortune – for good or for ill – can drastically alter us and our relationship to the world and others around us.

That doesn’t mean we stop being able to help and contribute. That doesn’t mean we stop being useful and needed. Sometimes we need to recalibrate and shift our attention… look around for new ways to be of service. But those ways are out there — if we keep steady and look for them, with an open heart and lots of humility.

Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now. I’m in a pretty philosophical frame of mind, these days.

On Thursday night, I’ll be driving to my family again for the viewing and funeral. I’ll probably be “dark” during that time, with everything going on. Right now, I’m making my list of things I need to do ahead of time, getting things together systematically, so I can just pick up and go on Thursday after work. I need to do laundry, buy food for the road, collect my thoughts for a short eulogy I’ll be giving, and basically keep myself steady and rested for the next week.

These things are never easy, but I do have a heads-up about what’s to come, so this will be logistically easier than the last weekend, when it all sort of took me by surprise. I was ill-prepared, in some ways, but it all came out okay in the end, I guess.

The main thing to remember, is that I’m doing really well.  I have NOT melted down, since getting back, and I’m keeping steady and calm. I have a long day ahead of me, but that’s okay. At least I have a plan to follow, and I know how things are going to shake out.

Anyway… onward.

The most magic 30 minutes of my day

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Yesterday I had a nap. I stepped away from my desk for about half an hour to recharge my batteries. I walked 5 minutes to my car, which was in underground parking quite a ways from my office, put the seat back, put the headphones on, made myself comfortable, and I did my progressive relaxation.

I even got about 15 minutes of sleep in the process.

And when I woke up (which was 2 minutes before the alarm I’d set), I felt amazing. Refreshed. Alive. Human.

Then I collected myself, walked the 5 minutes back to my office, and I got on with the rest of my day.

I have heard it said that naps can disrupt your sleeping pattern, and it’s better to keep yourself awake and go to bed early. They obviously do not push themselves to perform at the level I do, from the moment I wake up in the morning. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I’m in GO mode. I have to be, because getting myself up in the morning is a monumental task that takes everything I have, some days.

Anybody who thinks I can make it through my day on a night’s worth of sleep has obviously never experienced the kind of exhaustion point I get to, around 2:00 p.m. each and every day. It is pretty brutal. By the time the afternoon rolls around, I’ve been going full-tilt-boogie for 6-8 hours. I can continue push through, sure, but I am good for nothing, the rest of the afternoon. Seriously, good for nothing. Even the things that I love doing — and that I push myself to do — turn out to be a waste of time.

Wheels spin. But they get no traction.

But if I can sleep… that is another story.

Knowing that I can sleep later on, and that I’ll be able to recharge my batteries, also makes it possible for me to push harder at the beginning of the day. When I think I’m going to have to pace myself… that my energy stores from a night’s sleep are going to have to last me all day, I hold myself back in the mornings. I’ve just now realized this, actually. When I wake up tired

Today is a completely new day — or so I keep telling myself. I’m a little tired this morning, to be honest. It’s been a long week, and I’m tired already at 7:00 a.m. I will pick up speed later today, when I am working. I’m not going into the office, so I have more time to focus on working, and less to spend driving. I also have more time to spend thinking about my own projects and making some good progress on them — without the pressure of daily performance of way too much work in way too little time.

So, there is hope for me today. I don’t have to be subjected to the upset and uncertainties of all the people around me (I came back from my nap yesterday to find my teammates huddled in a corner bitching and complaining about working conditions.) I can set my own pace and do my own work, without others interfering with their emotional incontinence.

It’s a relief not to be at the office, because the environment there is pretty depressing. It’s just a constant pressure cooker of uncertainty and chaos. When I say “chaos”, I mean there is a total lack of recognizable patterns to anything that happens. That is to say, there is no regular cadence, no regular pace, not much that’s predictable at all, from a day-to-day standpoint. It’s constant interruption and constant uncertainty. It’s not like I need any guarantees in life. But it would be nice to be able to not have everyone around me intent on interrupting my train of thought to ask me questions they can answer themselves.

It’s almost as though they are just stopping by to feel a little relief from their uncertainty.

As a matter of fact, I think that’s exactly what they’re doing — just stopping by to get a little boost to their self-confidence and sense of belonging. Because that’s what I bring to the table — respect for others, the ability to calm people down when they are all worked up, and a certain sense of calm in the center of the storm.

On the bright side, it’s great that I’m able to do this for people. On the downside, it doesn’t help me get my work done… and it’s actually keeping me from making progress in my own workload. Other people not being able to manage their own internal state, is probably the biggest hurdle to my own productivity. It’s not that their frame of mind is upsetting me. They are literally keeping me from doing my work, because they keep running to me and interrupting me and hijacking my workflow, to answer questions they never should have had to ask.

Sigh.

Anyway, in another 13 weeks, this is going to cease to be my problem. Oh, hell — if I can get things wrapped up before then, I’ll be free to go even earlier. I don’t have to be locked into a specific timeframe. I have had this July deadline in my mind, because that’s when I’m scheduled to be done with my big-ass project. But I might get things done even before that.

So, there’s some leeway there. And I’ve just thought of a way I can speed things up — some of the stuff I’m depending on others to do for me, I can do myself. They’re not experienced (or actually smart) enough to figure it out. Plus, they friggin’ hate my guts for reasons that are all about their crappy self-regulation, their incompetence, their jealousy, their brown-nosed politicking (which cannot stand the glare of objective scrutiny), and their sad work ethic (or lack thereof — I actually expect them to do their jobs, ogre that I am)… as well as shoddy management which just lets them get away with anything they damn’ well please.

So, the inmates are running the asylum. In a very big way.

And I have less than no confidence in them.

But the happy and sane part is, it doesn’t matter. They can be all pissy and pitch their hissy fits from their corner of the corporate cosmos. I can just work around everyone, and actually get sh*t done. I don’t have to be dependent on them to get their acts together, in order to move forward. And on top of that, I can be sharpening some excellent skills of my own in the meantime.

This task is a huge opportunity, but those idiots are not seeing it. I can see it plain as day, and I can hear the trumpets from heaven loud and clear. Their ineptitude is opening a door for me to step through, and that makes me incredibly happy, now that I think about it. For that matter, I can spend my weekend working on this, and actually get it all done in time for Monday — AND have it be an excellent investment in my future.

So, that’s good. And it’s giving me a big boost. It’s not all a waste of my time. It’s not all an exercise in futility. Far from it. It’s actually a positive thing, and turning it around in my mind to see the opportunity and the door opening a little more to my fantastic future is the first step in the right direction.

As long as my head is clear about this, and I’m rested and energized and keeping my batteries charged, it’s all good.

Later today I will have my nap. My magical 30 minutes to recharge my batteries. But for now, it’s…

Onward.

 

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.