Fixing my #backpain – When slouch = ouch

wooden figure slumped over with back painI finally figured this out. My back and shoulders have been killing me for over a week, now, and I haven’t been able to get much relief. My spouse has been putting analgesic cream on it, which has helped, and I found some stretches that help. But still, not as much progress as I was needing.

Then I took a step back and thought about how my shoulders and back and legs are all connected, and it occurred to me that tightness in one area is pulling my back out of alignment. I started stretching my legs and lower back, as well as keeping my posture straight.

Lo and behold, that gave me relief. I’ve been slouching too much while working, for the past couple of weeks. And I’ve been driving a lot. So, my posture is out of whack. And that’s pulling my whole back out of alignment and causing the pain. I haven’t been able to lift weights, and I haven’t been able to sleep well, and that’s never good.

So, I’ve been keeping my posture straight, not slouching, keeping my lower back arched the way it should be. I do it while sitting, while driving, while standing, while exercising. And it gives me huge relief.

Now I need to strengthen my body overall to hold that posture. Tone myself up and make sure I have the structural support I need.

This is doable. Very much so. I’m just glad I figured this out before I did permanent damage to myself.

Onward.

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Starving today

bone with gristle on itI’m hungry today. As in, ravenous. I had my usual breakfast egg with some coffee, but that wasn’t nearly enough. So, I finished off a sandwich I’d made yesterday. I’m still hungry. This feels like the start of a migraine coming on, when everything feels weird and trippy, and I’m hungrier than usual.

It wouldn’t surprise me, if that were the case. It would make perfect sense, in fact.

Yesterday was a long day. I had to work, starting at 6 a.m., then I had to run some overdue errands. I had to prep for a trip to the next state, where my spouse and I were attending an art show by our friend who is literally on their deathbed. We were all hoping they’d be there, but they couldn’t make it.

Dying takes precedence. Especially doing it well.

I’ve had a lot of people pass in and out of my life. Death was a regular visitor to my family, when I was growing up. That’s what you get when you have a large family and you stay in touch with a wide array of second and third cousins (many of them once or twice removed). Grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends of the family… every year or so, somebody who meant something to me died, while I was growing up.

So, yeah, I have some familiarity with loss.

Plus, a lot of people have come in and out of my life through job changes, relocations, and just the usual migrations of people in these times. Whenever someone moved away, never to be seen or heard from again (this was pre-internet times), it was just as if they’d died. And that happened to me a lot.

It’s happened so much, that when people die, I don’t have the same level of devastation that others do. To me, dying is a mystery — which I’m not qualified to understand completely. I leave it up to The Great Almighty to work out. I don’t believe in hell, anymore, so I’m not really torn up when people die, thinking they might burn in fire and brimstone for all eternity. I tend to think of death more as a transition to a different state of being. The body dissolves, but it continues on. We’re breathing air that contains tiny bits of Beethoven, from what I’ve heard.

Anyway, yesterday was a marathon of sorts. I didn’t realize how tired I was, until I’d done my mid-day errands and had my shower… then started to crash. But there was no time to crash. I had to keep going. The 90-minute drive to where we were going took 2 hours (because my spouse forgot some stuff and we had to improvise & make stops at stores along the way). And when we got there, I couldn’t find parking. I couldn’t even find the venue where the art show was… it was really disorienting, and I was tired, so that was exciting.

I did find the place, though, and the evening commenced with way more social activity than I’ve seen in quite some time. I saw a number of people I used to hang out with a lot, and I did a lot more talking to like-minded people than I do on a daily basis. It was a very artsy crowd, which was a very different “feel” than the mainstream suburbanites I’m usually around. It wasn’t better, it wasn’t worse, it was just different. And doing “different” takes effort for me.

The ride home was trippy, too. I was even more out-of-it than I was driving there, and I nearly ran a red light. But we got home safe and sound, and I got in bed at a fairly decent hour. Slept like a rock. Strange dreams, though. To be expected.

Anyway, I have another full day ahead of me — a bunch of stuff to do this morning, then I crash this afternoon. All afternoon. The plan is to have a hot-hot shower at 1 p.m., then go back to bed and not set an alarm. Just sleep.

And that’s what it takes: a good balance between doing and not-doing, between going and resting. I’m at my best, when I’m hyper-engaged and keeping really busy doing things that matter to me. I haven’t done as much of that in the past couple of years, as I would have liked to. For some reason, everything felt like it was stacked against me, and no matter what I tried, nothing really worked out. But now this sense has unaccountably changed, and I’m feeling more optimistic and practically directed, than I have been in a while. It feels pretty good. I just need to remember to take good care of myself. When I’m starting to get signs of a migraine, take some time off to recover… and then get back into the flow with a good balance of what-is and what-will-be.

It’s always a balance, and now that feels even more important.

I’ve got stuff to do. I’ve got a life to live. There’s nothing like having someone close to you die, to remind you of how short life can be, and how important it is to bring your best to each and every day.

Duly noted.

Now, it’s time for another glass of water.

Saved from conference call hell… at the very last minute

red vintage phone with rotary dialI just got a notification that my conference call in 15 minutes is cancelled. Glory Be! I really hate conference calls. Especially at 8:00 on a Friday morning. It’s hard for me to hear, sometimes, and I hate having to pay such close attention at the end of the week. I’m wiped out, just running on fumes… and trying to be functional on a phone, this early in the morning is a real task.

But now I don’t have to do it, because the person I’m supposed to talk to has a conflict and can’t find another time till Monday.

Fine with me. Now I can relax and just settle into my work for the day. I have a couple other unavoidable conference calls later today I need to prepare for, and I also have some critical stuff I need to get done by the end of the day today.

I’m so glad it’s Friday. I’ve had a very long week, and I need a break big-time. Last weekend was chock-full of socializing and interacting, and I didn’t have a chance to catch up with myself — or my sleep. I’ve been struggling to keep up with my sleep, getting less than I need. I’ve really been feeling it, so I need to catch up this weekend. Cancel my plans. Just settle in to doing the basics. And give myself some breathing room.

It’s a simple plan with a simple mission. And it works for me.

… onward …

The 5th of July

US FlagHappy Belated Independence Day, everyone. I hope you had a good one. And thank you to all the veterans and other public servants who dedicate their lives to making this country what it is today.

The 5th of July is much more significant to me, because — like other things in life — after the fireworks are over, the parades are all done, and the excitement of the celebration is a fading memory, the reality of our situation sets back in again.

And we have to do the daily work of just living in this world.

It’s not glamorous. We don’t get trophies and medals for just showing up, each day, and the mundanity of the everyday can get to be a little much. Plus, today it’s raining. We need the rain. We’re lucky. I can think of a lot of people in this country who would do just about anything for some rain. And I wish I could send it to them. But I can’t. All I can do is give thanks that we’re getting some today.

And also be thankful that it didn’t happen all weekend to trash my days off.

Well, even if it had, that would have been fine, because I laid low all weekend. I was working on my skills. Building on some of my old “muscle memory” for things I used to do on a daily basis. I did a pretty good job, but I also got a little turned around and ended up messing up a bunch of stuff. But that’s good. Trial and error is how I learn. And the worse the mistakes I make, the better I learn.

Plus, these are all things that I’m just doing for myself, by myself. It’s not like I’m getting paid to do them (yet).

Now it’s back to work. I didn’t get any emails from coworkers over the long weekend, which is a miracle. Then again, a lot of folks are laying low and not putting 100% into their jobs, because they don’t know if we’re going to have jobs in a few months. Our collective focus seems to be on the future, not the present, with everyone kind of checked out about our current jobs.

Nobody seems to particularly care. Some people are trying — working overtime — and others are rolling their eyes behind their backs, because they are clearly trying too hard. And some of the “keeners” (those folks who are so “keen” on doing their best) are some of the least appreciated and most dismissed people around. I guess it makes sense that they’d be trying so hard… but then again, nobody knows what the heck is going to become of all of us, eventually, so most of us are just taking a break from our Uber-Alpha Type-A schtick.

So, la la la. What-ever. I’m sure we’ll find out what’s happening to us, eventually. For now, most of us are just puttering on through, waiting for… something… to happen. But some of us are looking well into the future and planning our next moves. I’m doing that. I printed out a list of things I need to study up on and practice, before I make my move. And by the time the fall rolls around (I’m hoping I get to hold out till then), I’ll have that much more skilled accomplishment under my belt. And I can make my move — on my own terms.

Onward.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Happy-New-Year-20162016 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.

Happy New Year!

Taking it all in

When the fruit is ripe - pick it... and enjoy
When the fruit is ripe – pick it… and enjoy

Constantly striving and struggling takes a toll. It takes an enormous toll, in terms of energy and insight and being able to enjoy your life. When you’re constantly GO-ing, when you’re focused on being active and reactive and pro-active, you lose sight of the good that you can let in.

Sometimes you lose the ability to let it all in. There’s a lot of good in the world, but we can be so busy fighting and pushing, that we’ve got nothing left for just sitting back and letting the good things be good — and enjoying the fruits of our labors. It’s no fun, being literally unable to reap what you’ve sown.

It’s like being a farmer in a country that never has a summer or fall. It’s work-work-work, year-round, without any hope of harvest. I used to know a farmer who lived in a northern area that had something like three months of growing season.  There was snow on the ground from September till May, and then the ground had to thaw. He was not a happy farmer. He was exhausted. Eventually, his barn burned, and he had to move.

I’m a bit like that farmer — but sort of by my own making. I have been pushing and striving and struggling for such a long time. Damage control. Chasing my dreams. Making the products of my imagination become real. And all that pushing has seriously worn me down… to the point where some days I can’t see the point of anything, anymore.

Then something occurred to me yesterday, when I was feeling down and blah:

I am actually living my dream.

See, when I was a kid, all I wanted to do, was be a writer. I wanted to write things that were helpful to others and provided insight into everyday life. I also wanted to be free of editorial control, so others would not tell me what to write, what to say (or not say), and I could do so on my own terms.

My goal for many, many years, was to become a freelance writer. And for a while I was doing that. But I ran up against problems with editors and schedules, and I could never seem to finish a job properly. Whether it was a freelance editing job, or it was technical writing, I was just not good at being independent and keeping it together.

I wanted to be independent. How I wanted that! And for a while, I was. On and off, I have “done my independent thing” and taken contract jobs, while managing freelance projects on the side. That’s what people did in my world of technology. And that’s what I did, too.

But it was always a struggle. And my writing wasn’t helped by the pressure to make ends meet.

For so many years, I felt like a permanent job was a millstone around my neck, that I was going to be pulled down by companies that didn’t know how to run themselves. That was actually the case for years, because I worked at companies that just couldn’t seem to figure it out. Now those companies no longer exist.

And for some reason, I thought that ALL companies were like that. Because that’s all I’d ever known.

So, for a long, long time, it was a double-whammy of pressure to make ends meet with companies that couldn’t keep their act together, the pressure to make it on my own — on m own terms — and the struggle to find the time and opportunity to write. I have written almost daily for decades, now, and it’s the one constant in my life. So, dealing with the pressures at work and all the existential difficulties that go with trying to make ends meet, keeping the dream of writing alive was pretty much a challenge.

It’s not that I couldn’t write. It just didn’t feel like I was a writer. It felt more like a task, than an art, and I lost touch with so much insight, over the years, because I was so stressed. If it wasn’t problems at work, it was  problems after another concussion — and the two fed each other, actually. I didn’t have the same sense of writing that I’d had in my 20s, before I had the mortgage and disabled spouse to provide for. It was nowhere to be found, and I thought the only way to get out of that was to get going on my own terms and live the dream of total, complete independence.

Well, now things are very different. And although the company I’m working for now is going through its own reorganization (who isn’t?), and my job and position may be very different in another 6 months, I feel more independent than ever before. It’s not so much the company, as it is my position. The job I have now is truly on par with the work I’ve done in the past, which is nothing short of amazing. I thought that sort of position would never come ’round again. I thought I was toast. But now I know I’m not, and I have the opportunity to focus on a whole new type of work that demands expertise and skill in much the same way that my programming did in the past.

And the best part is, while I am bone tired by the end of the day, it’s a good tired, and while it does wear me out, it also energizes me and gives me real hope for my future.

Plus, I can write again. I mean, I have been writing — a lot — for a number of years on this blog. And there’s no lack of projects I have in various stages of completion. But now it actually feels like I’m writing. It’s actually sinking in.

It’s important to let it all in, if only every now and then. It’s the thing that lets us see that all we’ve been working for, is actually paying off. That there is something to show for our efforts.

It’s important to let that happen.

So our world can open up again, and we can know that all is not in vain.

A productive weekend, even so

How could I pass up this?

Well, most of what I planned to do over the weekend did not happen. I had every intention of finishing my taxes, which I started weeks ago, but that was not to be.

Instead, I spent Saturday working on a programming problem that still had me stumped by the end of the day. It soaked up the entire day and rendered me distracted and confused and frustrated, and I was only a few steps closer to a resolution, when all was said and done.

On the bright side, it became incredibly clear to me that programming as a way to make a living is NOT what I want, anymore. I want to design programs, not code them up. And this is something I can do, for sure.

This is really good news because I got an amazing idea over the weekend, which I think has a lot of potential, and it’s something I can pretty easily document and hand off to a capable developer to create. If I insist on doing the coding myself, it will only slow me down. But this is the sort of thing a really capable programmer could “bang out” in short order.

So, I’m pretty psyched about that.

I have been getting in my way with so many things, mainly because I have been rigid and hard-headed and haven’t been willing to entertain other possibilities — or let go of old things that no longer fit me.

But after a full day of focusing on the computer screen, trying to solve one little problem that had me hung up all day, it’s pretty clear that I don’t want to do that anymore. I ended up sore and stiff and feeling like I’d been trampled by elephants. Plus, I spent a full day off — which was beautiful — inside, staring at a computer.

No thank you.

Saturday evening, I made up for that and went for a long walk in the woods. Saw a herd of 12 deer. Got some good exercise. Unwound.

Sunday I turned the tables and started the day with a walk, then did yard work for about four hours. Got a lot done. Wore myself out. Took a long nap. Got up and went for a ride with my spouse, to get some fresh air and just hang out. We’ve both been working really hard, and we needed some “away time”. And we got it. It was really nice to just get out of the house together and relax.

Last night, we had supper, watched some television, and then I trundled off to bed. I briefly took a look at my taxes, but the weekend was mine, and I wanted to just enjoy myself. I would have made better use of my time working on taxes Saturday, than getting stuck on that programming problem, but that didn’t happen.

The thing is, I hate using my free time off for drudge work. The kind of drudge work I had to do, is really best broken up into chunks of time — focusing in for only a few hours, instead of a full day. I really need my time off, to do what I please, when I please, and concentrate on the things that I want to do. I spend my weeks taking care of other people’s business. The weekends are mine. And I have a hell of a time relinquishing them for anyone — especially for something like taxes.

So now I need to finish up my filings in the next two days. It’s no big deal, because I am 80% done. It’s just that extra 20% that has me stumped. I figure I have tonight and tomorrow night — and possibly Wednesday morning — to do them, so that gives me plenty of time. I’ll go into work early today and tomorrow, so I have at least 4 hours each night to devote to them. That is more than enough time, actually, so I’m not really worried. It’s just a thing I need to get done with 100% focus.

Yes, getting my workdays out of the way and having free time in the evenings is the right way to go. And after my taxes are done, I will focus on my new project, getting the documentation together so I can find a programmer. I had a really great weekend, even though it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.

It’s all good.

Onward.

Getting better – patching up

Ah, the weekend.

It’s about time. I had a very long week, and I’m ready for some unstructured time. I’m also ready to just kick back and do some reading and cleaning around the house. The spring cleaning/reorganization bug has bitten me, and everywhere I look, I see an opportunity to change something for the better.

I’m really enjoying being off the clock, off-topic, off-schedule. My weeks are so schedule-driven that there’s not much time to just chill out and let things sink in. A perpetual state of mental indigestion pervades my weeks – there’s just not enough time to let it all sink in.

And

Just

Be.

I’m looking forward, today, to just doing what I like without trying to manage the long-term results. I get pretty sick and tired of that whole “results-oriented” mindset, where everything you do has to directly point to a specific goal and desired outcome. Yeah, whatever. It’s all a chimera, anyway, where everybody’s fooling themselves into thinking they’re going to control their environment and “make it happen”. And getting everyone around them “on board” with it, as well.

If you don’t go along with the group hypnosis, you’re not a team player.

Guess that makes me not a team player.

The ironic (and pretty funny) thing is, by not signing up with everyone else’s idea of how things should go, I actually get closer to the ultimate desired result. Pretty funny, actually. You get there by giving up trying to get there.

Ha.

Anyway, it’s all fun and games for me, for the next 48 hours. 51 weeks left in my current contract. Thinking about the future. Playing with ideas. Having some fun with it. And really enjoying my time… whatever it is I’m doing.

Onward.

 

 

Picking and choosing and taking a break

I’ve been having a pretty good day today. I got a lot of reading done, this morning, then I went for a long walk to think about where I want to go with my life this year.

I am doing something that a lot of people seem to be doing this year – not making any real new year’s resolutions, just doing the right things for the right reasons and developing positive habits. I had a couple of good “talks” with myself today, as I thought about where I am putting my energy and attention, and I realized how much time I have been wasting on distractions and saying “yes” to every little idea that comes to mind.

For the past several weekends, I have lost days to coming up with ideas that seemed great at the time, but ended up being dumb ideas… Or just weren’t anything that will get me closer to my goals of creating peace and a good structure in my life on a regular basis.

They were distractions. That’s all. And I’ll never get that time back.

Oh, well. On the bright side, I have been coming up with some much better ideas about how to spend my time — and the nice part is, a lot of it involves saying “NO” to things that pull me off base. I have been putting together a schedule of sorts, to see where and when and how I am going to do the things I want to do. This is in addition to working full-time, so obviously I need to be very careful with how I spend my time.

I also need to allow myself to just breathe. It’s all a balancing act, really.

The thing with my head, is that it gets to stuck in its ways. It gets an idea, and then it stays stuck in that, even after it’s not working anymore. And the idea of NOT doing it, makes me more anxious than the thought of wasting countless hours and days and weeks and months (sometimes years) at pursuing it over and over and over again. My head is funny, that way.

So, I’m pretty beat, tonight. I had a good long nap, but I’m still tired. I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. And then getting up to see another day through. Life is pretty cool for me, right now, and I’m feeling really good about taking some of the crap off my plate, so to speak. I don’t need to do everything. I can take my time, in some respects, and I can hurry up in others. It’s up to me, really. I get to choose.

And so I shall.

Onward.

Taking a break, breaking it up

All the colors are brighter, these days

This has been a heck of a fall. And winter is on the way. But now with my new job, I can take a bit of the logistical pressure off, and I can focus on projects that I haven’t been able to make good progress with.

I’ve really chafed under the “stranglehold” my commute had on my life, for what feels like so many years. That, and the frantic-ness that came with handling all the stressors from my attention problems, sensitivities, etc.

It’s amazing what extra sleep and a shorter commute will do for you. Simply amazing.

It’s giving me time to think… and dream… and plan… and take action.

Imagine that. After all those years of really battling to keep my dreams alive, it turns out that the missing piece was really reclaiming the time and energy that got sucked into my commute.

It’s tough to dream and plan and follow through, when you’re exhausted all the time. It can be done, but it’s better with rest.

So, this is good. I’m taking a break from some of the crazy appointments I’ve had to drive to, after work, and I’m taking time to read and write and just chill out — no pressure — make a nice supper … do some yard work … lift weights in the morning before getting into the day … rekindle my interest in different meditative practices that fell by the wayside.

Nice.

In a way, it’s like I’m on a sort of vacation. Being able to get the sleep I need, and not be stressed out about when I get to work… being able to take time to run errands during my lunch hour… and knowing that I can get where I need to go in 15 minutes or less… it’s absolutely priceless. And it frees me up to break up my routine and “paint outside the lines” of my life. I can try new things, read new books, chill… and also spring into action whenever something interesting comes up.

It’s better than a vacation in some ways, though, because it’s structured and it’s social. It gives me the chance to be around people for a set time each day, to orient myself outside my own head, and have meaningful interchanges with others. Left to my own designs, I tend to pull back and keep others at a distance. At work, that’s not possible. I have to talk to people, and they have to talk to me, so it’s good for us all.

Of course, I’m not opposed to a real vacation — and that will be coming during the week between Christmas and New Years, when things quiet down, and my spouse and I stay home instead of driving all over creation to see family, many states away.

This is good. It’s shaping up nicely. The colors are brighter, the day is looking better with each passing week.

And now, off to work I go.

Onward.