Using routine the right way

Like seasons - recurring, yet beautiful

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about the info I read recently about how making breakfast can make you more creative,  and I’ve realized that this approach has been helping me a great deal. I’ve been breaking up my established routines more, lately, and I think it’s been helping me learn better ways of dealing with my life in general, coming up with more creative solutions, and generally improving my performance at work.

I have to say, looking back at my job choices and performance in the years after my last TBI, I was nowhere near the level I should have been at. And my job choices showed it, too. I went from being a senior consultant type of person, to being a “plug and chug” person who could barely handle the most elemental of tasks. And a lot of them I didn’t handle. I just muddled through and hoped people wouldn’t notice that I was screwing up. And then I would take off when things got to be unsustainable and I was pretty sure everything was going to catch up with me, and they’d figure out that I was pretty impaired.

God, when I think back, I was just a WRECK at work. I just wasn’t doing a very good job at all. WTF?!

TBI, that’s WTF. One hell of a TBI.

It took me years to get back to a place where I was even capable of building myself back up. It took me years to stop screwing myself over and digging myself deeper and deeper holes I couldn’t climb out of.

But even after getting back on my feet again and “normalizing” to where I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot every other day… looking back at the last 18 months I’ve been at this job, there are so many things that I was tasked with doing that I just didn’t “get” how to do. It’s embarrassing to think about it now, looking back. Things like sending certain kinds of emails to people, performing certain tasks that I have been doing for years and years, and generally managing my workflow. It’s been a bit haphazard and chaotic, I’m embarrassed to say. And I’m not sure why they’ve tolerated that level of performance in me… unless they figured that I was still on a learning curve…

Wow. That’s a pretty long learning curve. And yet, they keep me around… I guess I must be doing something right.

Anyway, I’m really doing so much better than I have been before, and I think I know why that might be.

Basically, it’s because I have developed routines in my life. From the first moments that I wake up in the morning, to my preparation for going out into the day, to my schedule at work, to what I do in the evenings… and the weekends, too… I have a routine I follow. It probably sounds boring and uber-disciplined, but it has been my saving grace. By establishing what I’m going to do each day, and doing it the same way each day, I have “offloaded” the burden of having to re-think everything I do, and I have more time and energy to think about things that matter more to me — like better ways to do my job, better ways to live my life. I have more energy to repair the damage from before, because I’m not having to figure out what I’m going to have for breakfast each day… how to dress for work… what route to take to work… etc.

The time and energy I save on not having to re-think my breakfast each morning, is time and energy I have for thinking about my day and planning things I’m going to do. The time and energy I save on having a routine for my morning prep for work is time and energy I have for thinking through what I need to get accomplished and forming a picture in my mind of how to go about doing what I need to do.

Getting rid of all the hashing through minute details frees me up to actually have some depth of thought and consideration, so while I may look like I’m on autopilot, I’m actually able to think more in-depth about what I’m doing and experience it, not just “git ‘er done”.

So, my routines have helped me tremendously. They’ve also helped reduce the amount of stress in my life. Having to re-think everything constantly takes a lot of energy and it can become quite stressful, which put me into a constant fight-flight state of mind/body… and that was no good. I was always on  and the adrenaline marinade from having my proverbial foot on the pedal-to-the-metal, day in and day out, was kicking the crap out of me, frying my system, making me way too jumpy — and not helping my thought processes at all.

Another the way my routines help me, is when I break up my routine a little bit, now and then, and do things differently — like in the article about how making breakfast differently can help you become more creative. With my stress level down, and my foot taken off the fight-flight pedal, my system has been able to balance itself out, and I’ve been able to relax a whole lot more… which also makes it possible for my brain to learn.

When you’re really stressed, your brain just doesn’t learn as well as it does when it’s relaxed. So, having a regular routine that gives me a sense of comfort and stability has been critical to my ability to improve and change. It’s like, you need a routine and some “boring” stability to get settled down. Then when you’re settled down and your brain is receptive to new ideas, then you can try new things and shake things up a little bit.

But having that routine in place first is critical. Because when you’re shaking things up, you need to have some sort of mental safety net you can fall back on, if things get too stressful. If things are too chaotic and confusing and unpredictable, it’s easy to go into a mindset of panic and anxiety, and you end up losing ground. But if  — in the midst of your innovation — you have a safety net to fall back on, and you can just go back to your regular routine when you’re scared or stressed, then you have more freedom to experiment.

And you have more freedom to grow.

But you have to have a foundation first. You have to have stability and a sense of calm and comfort, in order to make real progress. At least, that’s my experience.

And it works for me.

Now, I know a lot of people think that routine is the opposite of creativity, but I have found that routine supports creativity. How can you be truly creative, unless you have freed your mind from the truly deadening burden of re-thinking even the most basic activities of your everyday? I know people who insist that they cannot stand routine, that they need to be “free” to go to bed whenever they like and get up whenever they like, spend their money however they feel “in the moment”, and drift in and out of relationships “as the spirit moves them.”

It may feel to them like they’re being creative, but I see a lot of them really suffering with problems and issues that never, ever go away. They get stuck in these cycles of personal problems that they never have time to really think deeply about, because all their energy is used up “being creative” about the smallest of details in their lives. And the result is chaos — personally and professionally. They go from one crisis to the next, over things that could be solved if they slowed down long enough to really look at what is going on with them, and if they gave some honest, extended consideration to how to fix those things.

But honesty scares them. And so does the idea of routine. So, they end up stuck. And they’re not nearly as creative as they’d like to be, because all their energy is used up performing low-level activities that can be put on auto-pilot.

And God forbid I suggest that they do things differently. It’s wild, seeing how intensely they defend their “creativity” when all it seems to be is a series of distractions that keep their minds off their troubles — troubles which never, ever go away.

Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. After all, I used to be like that. For real. I was so caught up in the low-level details of my everyday, that I never had any energy left over for the things that actually mattered or would let me get ahead. I was so stuck, and until I developed a routine for each day and stuck with it, I couldn’t get free.

Things are different now. Very different, indeed.

Routine is my friend.

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Balancing work

I’m tired this morning. Haven’t been sleeping much, lately, and have a lot to do today. I got a fair amount done this morning, now it’s time to rest. I’ll get up later and have another “go” at it — chores to do, work to do, lots to do. And today is half over… But it’s not going to get done that well, if I don’t rest. So, I need to rest now. Work later, when I’m rested and it can go quicker and more smoothly…

News that has absolutely nothing to do with me

Newspaper Boat
Watch me sail away with the news...

News of the coming election is heating up, and with it comes a seemingly unending flurry of news and reportage about all the candidates, their track records, what they will or will not do, what they did or did not accomplish, what they said, what they ate, what they wore. That’s really bad news.

Danger – danger! Warning Will Robinson!

It’s bad news, because this is exactly the kind of stuff that’s murder on me – the seemingly important news that changes and shifts and provides me with absolutely no redeeming value in my life, other than to get my mind off what I’m doing at the time. It’s intriguing, alluring, and totally consuming. It’s murder on whatever hold I have on my distraction at any given point in time.

Especially when I’m stressed and am having a hard time concentrating, or when I’m tired and I’m losing steam, a little distraction can turn into a lot of problems. Sure, it can help me relieve pressure. The only problem is, I tend to get wrapped up in the distraction, so that it becomes the main focus of my precious time and my limited energy.

And that’s not good.

I guess I need to get a lot more aggressive about ruling things out — cutting things out of my attention field that don’t add to my ultimate goal — that get in my way. That are entertaining for a short while, then stop adding anything to my life. Things like political discussions, which are so much gum-flapping at this stage of the game. It’s all narcissism and self-aggrandizement at this point, and precious little that’s substantive is actually being said. It’s mud-slinging from the get-go, to get opponents disqualified — or at the very least, to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of voters, which seeds can (and will) be watered and tended and nourished for months to come, as we lead up to the next Big Decision about who gets to run the world.

What does all this have to do with me, really? The “information” we are getting is so skewed and slanted, if it were a building, it wouldn’t pass code, even in Haiti. And that’s pretty bad. It’s so much fluff and dust and redirection, it makes my head spin. And I have no idea who is actually telling the truth.

It’s not going to be easy to keep out of the political discussion scene, this season. I have a lot of friends on Facebook who are vehement about their own political views — and I have friends on the extreme left and extreme right, which makes things interesting, when I feel like speaking MY mind 😉  So, there’s bound to be a lot of dust kicked up in the coming months. Flying in my eyes, my mouth, my nose, getting stuck under my fingernails and in places the sun don’t shine.

To the best of my ability, I’m going to do myself a favor and keep a fairly low profile with regard to the political scene. It’s really a distraction I can’t afford. I have work to do, I have a job to do, and I need to make way for the new things. I can’t move forward, until I have the existing projects squared away, so that’s really Job One for me, these days. Regardless of what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Now, part of me feels like I need to do this, to encourage more meaning in my life… More mindfulness. Less craziness. But there’s a more basic reason for this — I cannot move ahead in my life and get things in order, unless I get my act together, clear out some of the old stuff that’s familiar but bogging me down, and move on to the next thing.

I had a good training at the end of last week, which adds more information to my overall skill offerings. It rounds out my professional profile nicely. And I’m really stoked. Now I need to move these things out of the way that are keeping me from getting on with it. Pronto. Just do it.

So long as I keep allowing myself to be distracted by things that have Absolutely Nothing To Do With Me, I’m going to stay entertained. But I’m going to be stuck in the same place.

And that’s no good.

So, where *does* the time go?

Who the hell has time for this stuff?

Holy crap, I just looked at the calendar, and lo and behold, I have just a little over two weeks before my massive deadline comes due. It’s just as well. This project has been a lot more massive than just about anybody has realized – if others haven’t figured it out, that’s my doing, really. I’ve made extra effort to shield them from the complexity. Of course, now I have only myself to thank/blame, if I’m not getting ample backing. But sometimes it’s easier just to put my head down and keep going, not spend a lot of time trying to get people’s heads around stuff that’s gotta get done.

I woke up at 3:33 this morning, and I haven’t been able to get back to sleep. So, here I am, finally just giving up and spending some time doing things other than going crazy in my head about all the stuff that still needs to get done. I haven’t done much writing here in the past day or two, and I miss it, when I don’t do it. Regardless of how many people read this, the act of writing it is the thing that saves me from my own silliness.

Maybe I’ll look at Facebook for a while…

No, cancel that. I can’t deal with Facebook this early in the morning. Or other “social media” either. Somehow, it always seems to leave me cold and hungry, after I do it. They’re great drugs, if you consider our ‘Thirst For Knowledge’ May Be Opium Craving – I wrote about that back in March of 2009, and it still rings true. The constant stream of information (meaningful or not) is like a drug for us. And like a drug, it ends up leaving me feeling cold and metallic and empty, once the initial rush is gone. It’s so pointless, really… all that time and energy I’ve spent “following” other people… who are leading nowhere. It’s one thing, if they have meaningful information to pass along, but when all they “tweet” about is their public transit adventures, I have to question my sanity at following them.

I’ve un-followed and un-friended a number of people because their chatter was a time-sink I could no longer afford. Seriously – do we really need to know your every move and thought, burp and fart?

Now, I will draw the line at what I consider “essential” information – the kind of information that gives me insight into really important issues, like healthcare and how people deal with daily challenges and crises. Maybe it’s a good sign, when people are consumed by all sorts of fluff. It means that they have extra time on their hands, and life must be going really well for them. Or it could mean that they’re embarked on a very elaborate escape scheme that has them so totally consumed that they can’t possibly think about all the other crap in their lives.

Either way… whatever. What other people choose to do with their lives is their business. But for me, life is precious and often all too short. I need to make the most of what I’ve got, when I’ve got it.

Anyway, back to the calendar, which is right in front of me, as I sit downstairs at the desk that’s the common work/surf/research station in my house, listening to the crickets and other insects outside playing their high-pitched songs… This summer has flown by at an alarming rate. June was a good month, then July picked up speed and trucked on through, and August is 2/3 gone, by now, with me shaking my head, wondering — what happened? It’s been a really, really busy summer with work, and I’m just now starting to be able to get my head above water. On the bright side, as the dust starts to settle and I am able to catch my breath, I find that I have a better attitude about many of the projects that I have been working on over the past year. Now that I’ve been super-compressed with time, getting some of these things off my plate is de-compressing me, and I’m coming back to the work with fresh eyes and a new attitude. I’ve done things one way, then another, then another, tried a bunch of different approaches, found out what didn’t work, and eventually I’m coming out to the other side with better time management skills, a better sense of my work, and a more mature perception at work – both from me and about me.

A lot of the people I work with have kind of disdained me and my “intensity” at work. To me, they appear to have been skating along for a number of years, doing this’n’that, doing just enough to get by, without a really intense sense of pressure or urgency to what they do or a deep commitment to the little details that set the pros apart from the rest of the crowd. This is entirely different from my approach, which is all about paying very close attention to those details, seeing where things can be improved, and keeping vigilant about possibilities for continual improvement. It’s how I’ve worked for many years. I can’t help it if I work with people who don’t have that same focus. But I can help not falling into that same trap. It’s a lot of work and it’s a bit nerve-wracking at times, but I have to resist. I must.

One of the big challenges of the past year has been the constant negotiation I’ve had to do with a boss who is big into just doing enough to get by, and who has been pressuring me to not put those finishing touches on things because they’re “not my job”. On top of that, I have another indirect boss, who is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and wants all those perfect details incorporated. The only problem is, they think that everyone should be able to come up with perfection on their own, without any sort of collaborative effort or input. It’s fine if you’re exactly like them and you have the same sort of personality and sensibilities. But when you have a different perspective, they’re not much help at all.

So, the past year has been an extended process of balancing between these two individuals, while keeping steady, myself, with how I think the job should be done.

Fortunately, history is in my favor, as are the results. Granted, I haven’t hit the due dates for every single project I’ve been on, but I have managed to raise the bar on the quality and detail of the work my group has been doing. And these details take time. So I’m less worried about the exact timetable, than I am about the fundamental quality and value of what we are creating and doing.

Because it’s the details that will get you over the long run. They’re the ones that trip you up when you least expect them. And if you spend a little extra time thinking things through and heading problems off at the pass, then you’ll have more time later to really focus in on the stuff that matters, instead of chasing down every little problem that comes up.

Anyway, I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that it’s been a whirlwind tour, and it’s paying off at last. People are seeing the sense in what I’m doing, and why. They’re starting to get it. And they’re starting to realize that there’s a method to my “madness” — and it’s not madness at all. It’s experience. It’s commitment to quality. It’s determination to stick to my own values and goals and bring ’em on home. They’re not laughing at me nearly as much anymore.

I’ve really needed them to get this. For everyone’s good. And it’s been slow going, showing them how and why I do the things I do. But I’ve had to do that. I guess I’ve instinctively known from the start that I couldn’t just show up and start telling people how to do things. I had to show them. I had to demonstrate what works, so they can get it themselves. And it works. I’m glad I stuck with it.

Now I’ve got to keep sticking with it.

I feel like I’m finally at a place where I can just settle in and relax into my work — not slack off and do nothing, but have a level of ease and proficiency with it that lets me do my work to the best of my ability and really take things to the next level. I also feel like I am more at a place where I am not flying blind anymore, and I don’t have to sweat and hassle over how to get things done. Now I can let the intense, bone-breaking pressure off, and I can turn my attention away from my anxiety… to reduce my extended work days, or at the very least have a better integrated workday, so I have room and time for everything. I’ve been so focused on this job, and turning things around for myself and my team, that I have blocked out a lot of other things that bring more texture and depth to my life — like relaxing. I don’t need to do that anymore. Now I can relax. I can turn my attention to other things and get back to enjoying my life more fully.

This is good.

And I know where the time has gone – into the nooks and crannies of my life, like so much hot asphalt being poured into potholes in a road. I’ve been smoothing things out and fixing things up, despite all attempts by people around me to prevent that. I’m getting to a place where I no longer have to stop at each pothole and fill it up. The holes are being patched, and the work is getting done. One way or another.

Onward.

War and peace

Working away...

Been thinking about war, lately. With Memorial Day just past and all the world events (like the legislation that looks like it’s going to pass, giving the President the right to wage wars anywhere in the world without Congressional approval), I’ve been thinking about what place that concepts associated with war have in my daily life.

Apparently, they have had a pretty prominent place in my life. Everything from the corporate environments I work in, which have conference rooms designated as “war rooms” and meetings called “triage” and where onetime National Guard members and former servicemen and -women interact with each other in a hierarchical way, using terminology that has a distinctly military feel to it… to the imagery I use in my everyday life… war is always there.

My neuropsych has taken issue with my referring to interactions as “push-backs” and my daily life as “barrage”, as being decidedly conflict-oriented. But the whole push-back thing is common vernacular in my job, and frankly, with the amount of work that gets thrown my way is pretty much of a barrage. And that’s my experience of it. Having people show up at my desk in an aggressive stance, pushing and threatening… it does tend to be a bit of a barrage. And there’s a lot of it.

My neuropsych is trying to train me to think about these conflicts and interactions in ways that are not battle-oriented. They’re trying to get me to think about my LIFE in ways that are not battle-oriented.  I’m not sure how well it’s working out. Sure, I get that it can be more constructive to conceptualize solutions that are mutually beneficial. And that’s generally how I try to orient myself.

But sometimes, things get to be a battle. And there’s no way around it.

Interestingly, I’m finding a lot of comfort in reading military memoirs. Stories of Patton and Montgomery. Accounts of fighter pilots doing the impossible, and military campaigns that went well… or didn’t.

I’m not sure what the attraction is. I’ve never been a very militaristic person, and I do believe that conflict is often an unnecessary distraction from what really needs to get accomplished. I guess it just helps to read about people who have had to overcome serious odds in life-and-death situations, when I feel like I’m surrounded by spoiled, coddled co-workers and family members who can’t manage to do the most basic of things, like do a full day’s work and get out of bed at a reasonable hour.

It just feels like so many people around me are weak and unwilling to work. I tell myself that that’s on them — I get a great deal of satisfaction out of earning what I have and putting in a full day’s (and more) work. It works for me, and I feel a little sorry for people who can’t be bothered with experiencing a little discomfort for long-term gain.

But I rely on people to get my job done and live my life. So being surrounded by people who can’t handle any sort of stress or strain, and who buckle at the first sign of trouble… well, that is troubling.

It’s not like I’m a hard-ass. It’s just been my experience that life will throw a lot of crap at you, and you just have to soldier through and keep going. It’s worked for me over 25 years of being steadily employed, and I have yet to see any other strategy that actually works in the long-term. Sure, focusing on the positive and envisioning the world you want to create is all very well and good. But there’s an awful lot of boring old work involved, too.

And trying to avoid the discomfort of work with mental gymnastics and rationalizations that paint a boring, drab, uncomfortable experience in a positive light, ultimately will fail to produce the kinds of results that actual work will. Because any sort of prolonged success will necessarily demand a level of tolerance for discomfort and boredom and drudgery that sees you through all those hours of effort.

Peace is fine. Peace is nice. But being able to handle yourself in wartime conditions can also come in handy.

Why complain?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my work with my neuropsych, lately. My work has gotten past the basic survival stuff, where I’m just getting my head around what is going on with me. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m looking beyond my immediate issues and focusing on the big picture, to where I can make a difference in my own life — and possibly the lives of others.

I’ve always had a deep need to make difference beyond my own individual life, and so often my issues have gotten in my way.  Susceptibility to distraction and short-term interference… the anxiety that would come up and completely turn me around. And of course the anxiety is fed by the cumulative effects of that “TBI Cascade”:The Downward Spiral of Agitation and Fatigue

It doesn’t always happen like this, but the fact that it has happened in the past, makes me susceptible to anxiety about it happening again.

I think that’s the biggest thing hanging over my head – it happened before. Is it going to happen again? The fatigue, the confusion, the agitation, the busy-ness, the frustration, the pain, the distractability, the failure to understand, the failure to be understood. Anxiety over all this actually makes things worse, and it can be a real killer.

One of the ways that my neuropsych has helped me immensely is by helping me think through how to handle these things. The main thing they’ve accomplished is convincing me that I can handle these things. That I do have the resources and the capability to deal effectively with these problems. Before (as in, just about all my life), I would let them get the better of me, and I would get so turned around and upset by what happened — and the prospect of it happening again — that I would be completely thrown off track. Not good. Not good at all.

It didn’t help matters at all that people around me all treated me like the things that I had done and said in the past defined me in the present and also determined my future. What a load of crap. I see that now, but when I was 10 years old, being browbeaten by my father for being “stupid” and screwing up all over again, I couldn’t see that. The adults in my life couldn’t see it, and I certainly couldn’t, at that age. I mean, part of me knew they were all wrong about me, and I wasn’t stupid and retarded and mentally ill, the way they said I was. And I constructed a private world inside me (not unlike Marwencol) where I could be safe and act out in my own mind the kinds of scenarios where I was safe and secure and could be fully functional.

I had a very lively imaginary life, when I was younger. It was the one place where I could be safe and normal, and nobody gave a crap about the things I messed up. Nobody ever gave up on me in my imaginary place, they always gave me the benefit of the doubt, and I was always treated with respect and high regard by the imaginary personalities I invented  and interacted with behind closed doors.

Even up till the time when I started my neuropsych rehab, I was engaged with this imaginary world. I would have some great conversations with people in the car, driving to and from work. Some people talk to themselves. And I guess I was, except that my conversations were always directed towards another person who I imagined was there. That person would always be attentive and respectful and treat me like an intelligent individual. I didn’t have to constantly prove myself to them. Maybe I was talking to my “better angels”. But at least I was interacting. Some people don’t even bother to pretend. They just shut themselves off and don’t even try. Or they find solace in playing roles in the outside world that someone else invents for them. They aren’t really there and the roles aren’t really them, but they find solace in them, and they are able to function in the world as a result.

It’s like I was role-playing for life.

But anyway, back to complaining… I have to say, after working with a neuropsych for the past three years, I have found my physical issues to be much more manageable. Fatigue can be managed by just being realistic and mindful about my energy levels. And the pain has been greatly alleviated by reducing stressors in my life (not to mention exercising more and seeing a network chiropractor regularly for several years). So many of my really BIG physical issues — tinnitus, pain, balance problems, sensory sensitivities — arise from fatigue… when I manage my fatigue with common sense and responsible choices, many of them let up. And so many of my cognitive issues arise from the physical issues that arise from fatigue, so having a way of dealing with the fatigue and sleep problems and energy levels, that I get to solve a bunch of different problems by handling that core issue.

So, where does complaining come in? Well, basically, it comes into play when I am feeling hugely sorry for myself, and I am thinking that I can’t do anything about what’s going on with me. I tend to complain when I am over-tired and in this mindset that I am “stuck” with whatever bad situation is in front of me. Instead of doing something about it, I belly-ache and whine and moan about this, that, and the other thing.  And nothing gets done. Nothing changes.

Which is completely contrary to the truth of what is possible. The truth of the matter is that I do have the ability to change things. I can make different choices in my life that lead to different outcomes. I needn’t stay stuck in how things are, when they don’t serve me and my goals. Of course, in order to see that things don’t serve me, I need to know what goals I have, what I intend to accomplish, and how to bring that into being.

It’s all management issues. And when I get overwhelmed and tired and forget what I’m about, it can be all too easy to fall back into complaining-mode.

But why complain? Really? I have more power than I realize, to effect the kinds of changes I want to see in my life. We all do. The problem is when I/we get too fuzzy and foggy and overwhelmed with minutiae to develop a clear idea of what those changes can/should be.

That’s where long weekends like this come into play — an extra day to rest and rethink my life. I do a lot of rethinking on a regular basis. I have to back out of the busy-ness of the day-to-day and remind myself of what I want to do with my life, as a whole. It’s not just about what I want to accomplish at work, not just what chores I need to get done, what tasks I want to check off my to-do list. It’s about something much larger and more important, more lasting, more enduring, and ultimately more impactful, than just taking care of stuff that needs to be done.

Why complain, when I can create something far better?

Why indeed?

Without music, it’s a little too loud

I’m a little cranky today. Haven’t been sleeping much, and I’ve got a bunch of things I have to get done asap. People are a bit irritated with me. Others are not, but enough are, that it’s bothering me. I’m hungry and tired and frustrated, and I just don’t know how I’m going to get things done.

I’ll get them done, of course. I pretty much always do. Sometimes I’m later than I — and everyone else — would like me to be, but it’s still no fun having things pile up and feeling stressed over everything.

It’s just that old insecurity coming up — the constant worry that I’ll overlook something, or I’ll miss something, or I’ll think I’m doing a really great job, only to be told, “No, you’re not.”  Makes me want to weep, and since I’m not the sort of person who’s okay with being weepy, that impulse just makes it worse. Pisses me off. And I feel even worse than before.

Oh, screw it. Put some music on. Get settled. Have something else to eat/drink, and do what I can to the best of my ability.

Yes, get some music going. The noise in my head is way too much to take. I’ve always been a quiet-type of person. Sure, I have my rowdy streak, and when I get going it can be hard to rein me in. But when people describe me (as I’ve heard them), they usually say something about me being quiet.

What they don’t know, is that inside my head, it’s very, very loud. There are a ton of competing senses, observations, debates, confusions, excitements, and all manner of various distractions that keep my head going. It’s practically a shouting match, at times. Squabble, squabble. Yes, it’s a very noisy place in there.

It’s always been this way. When I was a kid, I externalized a lot of that stuff, and I drove everyone around me crazy. Seriously. I was this wired little monkey who couldn’t keep still. If Ritalin had been available I probably would have been so drugged… But let’s not think about that…

Anyway, I do have a lot to get done, and it’s not going to get accomplished by sitting around feeling sorry for myself or dwelling on my insecurities, etc. I’ve started tracking my overall energy level with a graph that shows where my energy is at, based on my number of things to do, how well-rested and well-fed I am, and how my moods are. Somehow, having a visual of where I’m at makes a huge difference to me. It motivates me to get my chores and such done, so I can free up the energy to do other things. It puts my to-do list in some sort of visual context with my whole live experience, and it shows me how/when I can improve my situation — by taking care of things I need to do.

It’s good.

It keeps me focused, with forcing me to keep a list of things I need to do/get done. If I don’t actively keep track, I lose track. And the voices/messages rattling ’round in my head, telling me I’m no good, I’m lazy, I’m ineffective, I’m clueless, just get the better of me.

Getting out of my head is key.

And putting on some good music is a start.

Remembering where I am

Now, where was I...?

I’ve been tired, lately. I’ve been working a ton, trying to get things done, not always feeling like I’m prevailing.

I’ve also changed up my morning workout routine, and I’ve been sore and stiff — moreso lately than usual.

So, my system has been more taxed than I’d like it to be. And in the back of my head, there’s this voice telling me I’m pushing myself too hard.

The problem with that voice is, it always thinks I’m pushing myself too hard. It likes to “take a break” and step back and zone out in its own private Idaho. It likes to distance itself from the rest of the world, vanishing into the mists of its own fantastical version of the world. It likes to make up its mind about how things are, without checking in with anyone else. It likes to stay hermetically sealed off and disengage from anything and everything around it that might make it uncomfortable.

And it has a bad habit of interpreting a bit of discomfort as cause for alarm. It has a bad habit of telling me that if something is difficult, then it means there is something wrong with me… that I can’t handle it… that I’m stupid… that I’m wasting my (and everyone else’s) time by pretending I can participate in the world and contribute.

Bad habits with rotten consequences.

I have been feeling really down, the last day or so. Overwhelmed and depressed. And I’ve been almost sucked down into that depressive abyss that’s never a good place to be. I tend to go there fairly often, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and under-supported, and I can’t see my way out to accomplish what I need to do.

The thing is — and I should know this by now, but I tend to forget — when I am tired and mired in my to-do list, I can really perspective. And that’s no good. I can get so depressed and down. Teary, insecure, easily upset… it’s dismaying for myself and my spouse… and I can’t always seem to shake it. When I’m tired and mired, I lose sight of how far I’ve come, how much I have going for me, all the things I plan to do — and certainly will. I get sucked into the quicksand of my own overwhelm, and that’s a scary place to be.

I didn’t get enough sleep yesterday. I know that. I knew it yesterday, but I pushed through, anyway. I let my fatigue drive the action of my day, rather than me driving it — and taking 45 minutes (which I actually had available because one of my meetings got canceled) to just step away and rest. Here, I thought I could use the time to catch up and do things, but I ended up in a malaise of fatigue that caused me to get even less done yesterday than I could have.

Lesson learned.

Today I’m still tired. But I have a plan. And I’m also aware of my state of mind, due to my fatigue. I’ve got a lot to accomplish today, so I need to be smart about how I use my energy. Focus in and get specific, necessary things done, rather than filling up my to-do list with wishful items.

I won’t let myself start to spiral down — I know I’m tired, and I know I feel overwhelmed, but I also know that I have a whole lot going for me, and I can do this. I need to keep in mind how far I’ve come, how much I’ve accomplished… remember where I was, just three years ago. I really have come an amazingly long way. Now is not the time to give in and succumb to doubts and insecurities that are coming up mainly because I’m tired and stressed. Those things are passing. The enduring thing is the total package of good that I’m making possible, each and every day.

So, I’ll be smart about this energy management business. I’ll use my head. I’ll conserve energy where I can… and I’ll tap into energy where I can find it. It’s all good. I just need to keep present and keep my sense of perspective, so I don’t make things worse than they really are.

Stop. Then go.

Ready, set...

I’m taking some more time tonight to step back and take stock of my situation with work. This is important. I get so caught up in my doing-doing-doing, that I tend to lose sight of the larger picture. I took the day yesterday to do this, and it was good. It gave me some much-needed perspective, and that was good.

I know it’s not in my job description to step away, now and then, to take stock, but I feel like I’ve got to, nearly a year into this job.

Actually, maybe it is in my job description to do this – not explicitly, but it’s implied that I’ll do what I need to do, to ensure I’m doing the best I possibly can. And if that means taking some time to step away, then so be it. I just can’t get stuck in taking breaks, that I don’t actually come back online.

Like yesterday – I stepped away for half an hour, mid-day, to rest and relax. It was pretty good. I need to remember to take some extra clothes to change into when I lie down, because I got up looking a bit rumpled, and that’s no good. This mid-day nap business is going to take some getting used to. But I know I need to do it, because my sleeping schedule is shifting, and I need to get enough rest to keep going all day long, without having to pump myself with caffeine from morning till night. I get too wired, and my stomach hurts me.

Anyway, after my nap, I was feeling pretty good. Relaxed. Then I had a meeting with my boss’es boss, and they (in their usual form) were ON. They seem to have this as their new persona at work — being Way On — bad-ass, tough, pushy, aggressive. It’s ironic, because at the start, they were anything but… but I think their boss has been putting pressure on them to become a bad-ass, for whatever reason. Maybe they think it delivers better results?

Nah. It just puts everyone on edge and makes us all more prone to mistakes and oversights… which is what’s been happening. I don’t think they see it, though. They think there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not performing properly. Hm. Certain gaps in knowledge, there…

Anyway, the point is not that management is a misguided pain in everyone’s ass, but that when I got up from my nap, I needed to get back in the game… not languish in that sense of feeling solid and centered and grounded. It’s one thing to be solid and centered and grounded. But when the expectation is that you’ll be ON, and that’s part of your job, well, I have to figure out a way to do that. Even though it seems counter-productive. Even though it seems more like people are trying to prove something and put on a good face, than actually get something done, you know?

Regardless of what I think of the nature of the situation, I still need to adapt to it and rise to the occasion, which means coming back online when the situation calls for it.

It’s the coming back online that’s problematic for me. I do tend to get “stuck” in the sense I had of being relaxed and mellow and calm and centered.

I get caught up in a loop, and it feels comfortable for me, and I don’t want to get out of it. I take time off, but then I have a hell of a time coming back online. And then I get all turned around and bent out of shape, because things aren’t going as smoothly as they might.

I would like to stay in that place where I’m chill, but in the environment I work in, that’s a huge problem. Because we’re not supposed to be that way or do things that way. We’re supposed to be always-on, always pushing, always moving forward, never looking back, finishing off jobs and moving on to the next thing. And never, ever let your guard down and let people see your vulnerabilities. That’s not allowed. Showing any sort of vulnerability in the workplace… it’s heresy.

Occupational hazard? Probably.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, first thing is to realize that this is the situation, and be prepared for it. Not be surprised when people expect me to be ON and refuse to interact with me as regular people who share common goals, common dreams, common interests, common space.

And not be surprised when people come gunning for me, looking for vulnerabilities they can exploit to make themselves feel better about themselves. Ironic, how I seem to have landed in the midst of a group that just loves to do that. My boss, my boss’es boss, and my boss’es boss’es boss are all that way – and in this situation, the trickle-down theory does work.

The thing is, I have the distinct impression that they are really very unhappy in this way of doing things. They can’t see their way out. They are all tired and overworked and exhausted, and they are falling back on old patterns that play to their most base aspects. They are pandering to their “lower selves” and that’s familiar and comfortable for them. They may not be happy with it, but they are comfortable with that familiarity. They may have never worked in environments where another option was open to them, where they were able to let their guard down. They may also be pushed against the wall in life in general, and they may have too much to lose by letting their guard down.

Anyway, they’re kind of stuck and caught. And misery loves company. The thing is, I have no intention of being miserable. And I have no intention of staying in this situation where I succumb to the unhappiness of people around me. People make their choices, and I make mine. I choose to make other choices. I choose to promote some change in the workplace, in the corporate world. I choose to create the kind of world I want to live in, and get some work done, and have a good time, too.

I choose to take up with people who are as aware as I am of the issues that the workplace is creating for people, the illness it is fostering, the unhealthy relationships it’s instigating, the stresses it’s building… all for the supposed purpose of “success”. There are a number of thinkers at work in the world who are working towards changing the corporate landscape to be more… human. And I need to align myself with those folks.

Stop. Just stop the participation in the bad habits, the bullying, the pressure tactics, the undermining, the playing along with that way of doing and being.

And go. Go into the midst of the storm, stake out my place and say, “You know what? I’m not going to do things that way. You can choose to behave that way and do those things, but I’m not gonna. You can try to screw me over, throw me under the bus… whatever. I really don’t care. I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do it in a way that respects the dignity of everyone involved and doesn’t treat others like objects to do my bidding, or threats to my ultimate goals.”

I’m going to build up my strength, add to my endurance, take good care of my physical health. I’m going to work my ass off to get to a place where I can support my own body weight and move through the world with fluidity and ease.

And I’m going to rest. Because the body and the brain and the spirit all need that. I’m going to stop. So I can really go.

Toward rut-less-ness

A new trail...

I need a new gig.

Not a new job. Not a new life. But a new way of structuring my days — that incorporates a whole lot more flexibility into my schedule.

I guess I need a new kind of gig.

I took some time yesterday to step back from everything and really think things through. I worked from home and took a nap in the afternoon. Took my time at things. Didn’t focus so much on the little tasks, but thought about the larger picture… what I’m actually DOING with my life.

It’s not enough, anymore, to just take care of issues and meet requirements. I need something more. I need some meaning behind it all. When I was 25, it was enough to do what other people told me to do, and it was profoundly fulfilling to just do the things that I thought I couldn’t do.

Now, though, things are different – very different indeed. And why I do appreciate the need to deliver on promises and achieve goals, there needs to be something more to it, than just doing as I’m told.

I think a lot of people get to this point when they get to be around my age — mid-40’s — wondering “what’s it all about?” I won’t say it’s a “mid-life crisis”, because it’s not a crisis. It’s more of a check-in along the way. I also won’t say “mid-life” also because I plan to live past 90. I’ve got relatives who are in the 100-year range, and they grew up without a lot of the medical and health resources I have. I believe it’s entirely possible to life well past 90, in my case. So that’s what I’m planning for.

That means I’ve got a ways to go. And I need to pace myself. I need to not drive headlong into the future just for the sake of driving. I need to live my life fully — mindfully. I’ve tried it other ways, and I got hurt a lot, when I did it that way.

I don’t want to get hurt, anymore. It’s time-consuming, soul-consuming, and very, very expensive. Hard to bounce back from. Been there, done that. Still kind of there, in fact. Don’t much care for it.

So, back to this “rut business”. I’ve noticed that I’m getting more and more tired, as time goes on. I’ve changed up my sleep schedule, because I just don’t do well with going to bed early. But I don’t really sleep in, either. I’m getting maybe 6 hours of sleep a night. 7 if I’m lucky. At the start, it wasn’t a big deal, but it’s catching up with me.

I really need to start taking naps around mid-day, and stop pushing myself through. Or at the very least, step away and do progressive relaxation for 15-20 minutes. I feel SO much better, when I am at least slightly rested. I’ve also noticed that being tired takes all the joy out of what I’m doing.

Sure, I may be feeling high and pumped from the extra adrenaline, but it’s taking a toll on both my body and my spirit. I want to enJOY what I’m doing with myself each day. And I can’t do that, when I’m overtired and struggling just to keep awake. When I’m rested, everything just flows… and I don’t need as much structure, as much of a rut, to keep me going. I just keep going, because it feels great, and I’m really into what I’m doing. When I’m rested, when I’m alert, I’m so much better able to participate and contribute. Because I’m all there — and I don’t have to funnel my energy into the most basic activities. Rest takes care of those for me, so I can focus my attention on the higher things. The really, really important things — like what all I’m doing with my life.

And why.

I really do need to be disciplined about this nap business. Really make the effort. Do this nap thing on-purpose, regularly, for six weeks — that’s how long it takes to develop a habit — and see what it gets me. I suspect it’s going to really help. I’ll have to report in regularly about this… now I’m curious.

Well, speaking of discipline, it’s time for me to get ready for work. I’ve had my exercise and my breakfast, and I’ve written a little bit to keep myself on track. Next up — the rest of my day, wherein I work with others towards common goals and greater prosperity for us all.

ONward.