Pacing myself for Christmas

Christmas wrapping
The final push is on…

It’s Friday. I have the day off work. I still have to do some daily “housekeeping” tasks for work, but it’s not that big of a deal, because it doesn’t require that I pay attention at all. Just start a program at 6:30 a.m. and wait for it to finish a few hours later. I should probably fix it so that it kicks off by itself.

I’ll do that later today.

Yesterday was get-it-all-done-before-the-snow-flies day. We’re supposed to get a bunch of snow and rain today, which could get messy. It’s not the kind of weather you want to be driving in, so I won’t. My spouse and I spent yesterday afternoon and evening doing our last-minute shopping, and we got just about everything done. So, that’s good.

It wiped me out, but it was good. Now I just have a bunch of stuff to wrap. And that’s fine. Because I have three days to get that done — a big improvement over past years, when we couldn’t get ourselves in gear before the very last minute.

All that last-minute shopping of years gone by just boggles my mind. How did we do it? Chaotically and crabbily, as a matter of fact. And it pushed me to my limits, year after year. But Ye Olde attentional problems and executive function issues kept me/us from getting ahead of the game and preparing in a timely manner. We always needed the stress of last-minute pressure to put us over the finish line, and it took a toll, year after year.

Of course, that’s just how things were, so we never thought to do things differently. And it took a toll. Good grief, when I think about all the drama and yelling and frustration… and how my spouse and I just took that for granted… I’m glad things are different now.

Part of it is that we’ve both gotten older and more tired, so we don’t have the energy for all that whoop-de-doop. Who has the energy for squabbling? What does it accomplish, other than sharpening our sense of being “ON”?

Come to think of it, that was a huge draw for us. Getting all worked up over things was a great way to perk up the old tonic arousal and get the brain to think it’s awake. That “pump” from the drama literally made me feel like I was alive again… a better state of mind than the steady level of dullness that came after my concussion(s). So, getting all “drama’ed out” was a way for me to wake myself up and get myself feeling normal again.

That’s not a small thing. It’s a critical thing. It was central to my Sense-Of-Self, and while it did make me pretty tedious to deal with during the holidays, it nevertheless played a role in making me feel like myself again.

But eventually that got old. And I learned new ways to perk myself up. Like getting regular exercise, first thing in the morning. Like getting the crap food out of my system. Like finding things that really made me feel great and focusing on them… not the things that made me feel terrible and perked me up as a result.

It’s an ongoing process, of course, and I’m not perfect. I still have my moments. Heaven knows. But things are a heck of a lot better this year, than they’ve been in past years.

And this year really I’ll be ready for Christmas.

There’s a first time for everything.

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Try again…

Everything gets all jumbled up, sometimes
Everything gets all jumbled up, sometimes

I got some of what I intended done, yesterday. But I spent a lot more time being distracted and letting my mind wander in all sorts of different directions.

A lot of remote managers at work are in town, this week. And the recruiter who placed me in my current position stopped by my cubicle yesterday. They haven’t done that in close to a year. What the heck are they doing in my part of the universe?

I could be wrong, but it seems to portend yet more changes on the organizational horizon.

And that is most distracting to me.

HowEver (and this is a big new development for me), I actually know what direction I want to go with my career in the future, and the path is open for me, anytime I want it. I’ve got a veritable army of recruiters all eager to place me somewhere and get me into a good-paying position. The more I get paid, the more they get paid.

So, it’s no big deal, if I get laid off.

But it is a big deal, if I’m not prepared — and that’s something I forgot to do, yesterday. Last week, I found a bunch of free training at our company’s employee intranet, that will really help me gear up for the next steps in my career. It will help me get free and be fully qualified to do the kind of work I am aiming to do. And I did some of the training on Friday afternoon. But yesterday I was so distracted by so many different things, I forgot to resume it — that is, I forgot why I should resume it. I didn’t have good focus, and I was pretty scattered, trying to organize myself and get my planning and follow-through system in place.

I worked at it all morning, and by afternoon, I was tired, but I pressed on. And I actually “got lost” in the process — ended up spending way too much time re-hashing numbers and calculations and scheduling items, that I would be better off just putting aside and coming back to, later.

Plus, I didn’t get my swim, yesterday. My last meeting ended early, and I could have gotten to the pool in time. But I got distracted and by the time I got around to driving to the fitness center, the parking lot was full, and I realized it was way too late to be swimming.

So, I turned around and drove back and finished up the day on a pretty strong note.

Still, I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do. And I need to have a better system for handling things. I get so caught up in things, I lose track of time… and then I get tired and get even more distractable.

So, I need to break down my activities in to smaller “chunks” that I can handle more effectively… and not get lost.

This is especially important for this new training I’m doing. I’m really excited about it, as it offers me a clear path forward — and the methodology they use is not only widespread, it’s also really, really good for me. It “ticks all the boxes” for me in my work, and it’s a skillset that’s very much in demand, so there’s no lack of work.

So, it’s important that I follow through. And that I not forget to keep going with it. I really went off the rails yesterday. Then again, I did get some important things done, so it wasn’t a total waste.

I just need to try again today.

And so I shall.

Onward.

Things to do differently this year

Starting ahead of time is probably the best idea

After going through all the pain of sorting through my taxes from several years, I am strongly motivated to do things very differently this year, than in past years.

What became very clear to me, in the course of sorting through all my past records, is that lack of organization has really messed me up in so many ways, financially speaking. And this is the year to do something about it.

I had not realized — partly because I glossed over certain parts of my tax prep that I thought were “non-essential” — was that there were deductions I could have been taking all along, that I didn’t. Perhaps the tax law has changed, so it’s more prevalent, now, but I uncovered close to $1000 extra dollars that I could deduct, simply by claiming my spouse’s van for business expenses in a different way. They use that van almost primarily for business, and if they didn’t have their work, they wouldn’t be driving it. They put hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles each year on that vehicle specifically for business.

So clearly it counts as a business expense.

Live and learn.

After finalizing the last of my old tax returns, I took some extra hours yesterday to download all my bank statements and put them into a spreadsheet. And I started organizing them and figuring out what can be counted towards what deduction and what kind of income.

And so it starts. In tried doing this a few years back, but I was very unorganized. And I got confused. So just like I did with the refiling of past taxes, I gave up after a very short time. And I never looked back.

Till yesterday.

I can really tell that my thinking is much more organized than it used to be. This is leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be. I think a number of things have helped me:

First, keeping this blog going.

It disciplines me to organize my thoughts each day — usually first thing in the morning. Because I’ve got over 500 followers, and more keep joining, I really feel a responsibility to write something useful and meaningful, not just toss a bunch of blather out on the screen.

Second, the logic work I’ve been doing.

I’ve been specifically working with logic problems for about a year and a half. I come up with a statement, and then I prove it to myself on paper with a detailed step-by-step explanation. I don’t do it for others, rather for myself. I’m my biggest critic, after all, and if I can’t convince myself, I’m not going to convince anyone else. I really believe it’s helped me collect and organize my thoughts in ways that few other exercises have.

Third, working with a lot of different kinds of people and organizing them to get things done.

In my job, I am in charge of making sure people get things done, so that’s really forced me to think in organized terms that direct people in a certain way. I’ve had to really dig deep to learn how to do this … and I’m still learning. And it’s doing wonders for my ability to gather, process, and organize information. That whole process actually started in my last job, so now I’ve been at it for about five years, and work has been hugely helpful in getting me more cognitively functional all across the board,

So, yes, I’m better organized in my thinking. And now I need to get better organized with my doing. I need to get my papers in order — all the bank statements in a folder together, all the bills in a folder together. It’s really a question of just having a place to put them all. I need 3-ring binders, for sure. That is a simple fix for what amounts to an incredible amount of needless complexity in my life.

I bitch and moan about how complicated the modern world is, but I also don’t do myself any favors, at times. If things are too confusing at a 50,000 level, then I need to get in closer — more frequently — and take a closer look on a regular basis. I can break this down into more manageable pieces — and I can also use it to my professional benefit, because my household expenditures numbers are data I can use to create meaningful visualizations that will not only be good experience for me with the new programs I’m trying to learn, but also help me understand my world better.

The beauty part of all this is, because we’re now halfway through April, I have three months’ worth of numbers to plug into my 2015 taxes spreadsheets, and I can get a jump on things.

Plus, if I keep on top of it, next year I won’t get sidetracked by all my disorganization and freeze response, and end up pushing against the deadline to get my taxes filed. AND I can have a good sense along the way, of where things are problematic, financially, and need to be fixed.

I’m also going to continue with my logic problems. They really seem to be helping me. That, and being really engaged with my work… letting myself mess up without getting too bent out of shape about it… learning as I go… it’s all good.

So, this feels good. I just need to keep at it.

Onward.

Everything in its proper order

Everything has its place. It fits.

I’m taking the opportunity tonight to put my situation in order. I haven’t been feeling well for the past couple of weeks, but people are counting on me… so I am taking some extra time to get my ducks in a row before I travel again next week. I’m doing laundry, sewing a rip along the pocket of my good overcoat, and collecting all my gadgets for the road. I didn’t  take my tablet with me, last time I went, and I regretted it during all flights, both to and from.

I really don’t want to go on this next trip. I want to stay home and rest, not hob-nob and network. I want to go for long walks in the woods and contemplate abstract concepts, not wrangle with taxi drivers who don’t speak any English. I want to lie around the house in my sweats, read books, and cook good food to eat, not live out of a suitcase and have to steam the wrinkles out of my suits by hanging them on the door while I shower.

There are a million different things I would rather be doing, including feeling strong and rested and good about myself, instead of tired and weak and harried and frustrated over the concealed slowness that always threatens to derail my progress and expose me. Expose me.

I’m feeling pretty exposed, these days. My head hurts. A lot. And I haven’t been moving and exercising the way I should. I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to slow down and mindfully “move into my day”. I just want to get up, eat a little something, and dash off to work. I want to get moving, I want to jump into the flow, not pause and concentrate on my motions, my form. I want to just go. Just do. Just roll on into what comes next.

Which is a positive sign, I suppose. It’s not just me wanting to escape what’s in my mind — although that is part of it. It’s also me realizing that there’s a whole world out there, and I want to be part of it.

If only I weren’t so tired.

But I do tend to be tired, so here’s my conundrum — hold back because I’m beat, and take care of myself so I feel better… or just keep on keepin’ on, and make the best of things as they come.

Better yet, I could decide not to choose. I could do both. I could look for balance.

Yes, balance. I’ve heard of that.

Let’s try balance.

Balance, plus a little bit more. Seeing as I’m back to reading again, I feel this intense need to read about and to study as much of life as I can get my hands on. Books by heretics. Books by brown-nosing sycophants. Books by partially talented (though who am I to categorize anyone?) writers who long to take wing and burst into song, and give it their all in the process. God, but I need to “un-couple” — you know, lift the linchpin out of the coupling that binds me to the train of boxcars that rolls through my ordinary life, and really — by all that’s right and fair and wrong and unfair — let myself slow. Or jump the tracks. Or simply break pace for even just a few seconds from the momentum of the day-to-day.

Drink bitter tea that will kill my cold before it gets hold of me. Eat spoons full of honey that take the bitter edge off my frustrating days. Lie down on the couch and look at the whorls of the ceiling while my spouse talks to their family about the latest kindred drama. Pick up a thick pen and feel the heft of it as I scrawl across a piece of paper.

This, all, is what makes it all worth it for me — so much in the details, so much to be felt, seen, thought, sensed, lived. So much in the cracks and corners of life — the sight of a wide open field under the morning sun, as I roll by on my way to work, the sound of one of my favorite songs that Pandora just happens to play, the creak of that janky strut in the back of my car… All of it adds up to one big — well, life.

And here I am, back to the balance idea.

Because it’s all there, you know. It’s all there for us to see, feel, think, sense, taste, touch, hear. To live. I can let the fatigue knock the stuffin’ out of me, as it almost did on my way home from work tonight. Tired… so very, very tired… and the darkness all around me streaked by the lights of cars and houses passing by…

Into the night… through the night… there is dark and there is light and there is everything in between. It all has its place, and my own place seems to be as much about getting out of my own way, as it is doing anything at all with what I’m given.

I’ve been given a lot. I’ve also lost a ton. I can read again. That is something. It’s really something indeed.

And for that, I am very grateful.

Onward.

Getting it all together

I’ve got a meeting with a recruiter later today – just an informal get-to-know-you type of meeting. I’m preparing in advance, with a fresh copy of my resume, a portfolio of work I can show them, as well as familiarity with the rates that are being offered in the target areas where I’m looking. I’ve figured out what I need my rate to be, and I’ve figured out the logistics of simplifying my life along specific lines — being able to take public transit, having a regular workday (instead of a non-stop constant push to produce for the sake of being busy), narrowing the scope of my work to be a handful of things, instead of everything, and getting out of the office politics business.

I think I’m probably better prepared now, than I’ve ever been for any other jobs I’ve ever gotten. Before, it was just take-what-comes, and then worry about fitting myself into a position later. That has kept food on the table, but it hasn’t made me all that happy. No situation is perfect, but I’ve had to shoehorn myself into some pretty unpleasant situations — and that’s largely because I was not the best prepared with my own requirements and clarity about what I wanted to do with myself.

This time, it’s very different. I’m getting all my ducks in a row, getting clear about what I will and will not do — and making careful notes to myself that I can reference. I have a lot of options available to me, and at the same time I’m surrounded by people who have plenty of agendas of their own, which I need to watch out for.

In the past, I have just “winged it” — but this time I am getting things in order, so I can be thoughtful and aware and put my best foot forward. It’s a change that feels a little uncomfortable, because I like to fly by the seat of my pants at times. But so often that has gotten me flown into a bunch of sh*t coming off a fan. And I’ve had some pretty unhappy results.

I think probably the best solution for me is to simply contract. The times when I have worked on contract were actually really freeing. I didn’t have to worry about the politics, I could just make my money and go home, and not have to worry about bonuses and all that. I friggin’ hate bonuses and performance reviews. I just want my money up front. Pay me what I’m really worth — what my work is worth to you — and be done with it. Enough of the politics… the stupid, stupid politics. The games, the maneuvering, the intrigue. Screw that. Show me the money.

Well, anyway, we’ll see how it goes today. I’m feeling pretty positive, overall, while not getting cocky about things. Just preparing. Planning. And showing up as present as I can be.

Onward.