Just for today – every day

This is how it can be – click the image to see the big picture

Something magical happens when I quit worrying about everything before and after Right-Here-Right-Now.

I get to focus on what’s in front of me, and just concentrate my energy on that.

It simplifies things.

It relieves my taxed brain of all the what-ifs.

It makes it possible for me to put every single bit of my attention on the activity at hand, and give it my all.

And that’s a really good thing.

One of the drawbacks of mild TBI is that it can really screw with your attention. It makes you susceptible to distraction. It tires out your brain, which makes you even more susceptible to distraction.

Think about it — there are pathways in your brain that have been all messed up, like roads that got washed out during flooding, or a small town Main Street that got completely wiped out by a tornado. Your brain isn’t gone, but the usual ways of information getting around, are disrupted, sometimes wrecked. And you have to find your way through.

That takes energy. And it can be frustrating. It takes creativity and constant adjustment. And that takes even more energy. It takes self-discipline and self-knowledge to manage your moods and behavior, and not many of us have that in abundance, after our brains are injured.

Me included.

But if I can focus just on what’s in front of me, and not get pulled off in a million different directions, well then… things work much better.

And I can pick my way through the rubble, move it out of the way, and eventually build up paths that take me where I want to go. Over and over, it needs to be done. And it can get exhausting and daunting to do it. But you’ve gotta keep the faith, and keep looking at the signs of progress along the way.

Even the littlest ones.

Focusing on today, the immediate moment, enjoying the good little things, and finding ways I can address the bad little things… that’s the ticket.

At least for today it is.

What do I do with all this pain…?

There’s lesson in there somewhere

I started a new exercise discipline yesterday. Basically, it’s about re-training myself to move. I have a lot of pain and mobility issues, which I usually push right through. But lately, it’s been worse. Life goes on and doesn’t wait for me to get out of pain before it sends things my way. I have had a lot of work to do around the house and yard, lately, as well as helping my elderly neighbors with some upkeep their homes. Lifting and pulling and hauling… it’s been a lot, and it’s not going away soon.

So, yesterday while I was surfing around the web in the morning (before going out to do hard physical work for 3 hours) I came across an approach that addresses the underlying problems with physical pain — basically, the body not moving properly. We can get used to compensating for injuries and change the way we move, and in the process, our muscles get used to doing things they’re not really built to do. And we can get torqued and turned around and stressed in ways that really shouldn’t be.

I’ve had a lot of injuries over the course of my life — head injuries just part of them. I never broke any major bones when I was a kid, but I fell a lot and turned and twisted ankles and joints, jammed fingers and toes, and generally got all twisted up and wrung out. I was very active — and I had crappy balance — so if you put 2 and 2 together, you get a lot of slips and falls and injuries.

I was also on high alert a lot as a kid. I couldn’t hear properly, couldn’t make out what people were saying to me, and I had to really listen hard, to keep up. Nobody realized this, so I had to just deal with it myself. I also had a lot of attention problems, light and noise sensitivity and sensitivity to touch, so I felt like I was always being beaten. Someone would just touch my arm, and it would feel like they were hitting me. It was nobody’s fault, that’s just how it was. My parents were kind of rough with me at times, but even if they’d been the most caring and patient and sensitive people in the world, it still would have felt like they were beating me.

So, there’s that. I still have issues with being sensitive to touch.  I try not to think about it, because it really gets to me — and it’s worse when I’m tired, which is when I tend to get more emotional… so I really try to not think about it.

The net result of all of this, is that I’ve developed ways of moving that really compensate for those things. I’ve been on the defensive for a long, long time — avoiding making contact with people, avoiding people who are demonstrative (especially women), and just keeping to myself, because it’s so much less painful to be away from people. It’s heaven, actually. But outside my solitary heaven, there’s a world I need to move through, and I’d like to do something about all this physical pain I’m in.

So, I started doing these exercises, which are slow and controlled and involve a lot of resting and releasing tension. It feels great, when it kicks in. The thing is, it reminds me of how much pain I’m in, and it shows me how far I have to go, to really get moving properly again. My movements can be very jerky and clumsy, when I’m moving slowly — this new program says that will change as my brain is retrained to move. For starters, though, it’s a little disheartening.

But at least I have a place to start.

It’s also oddly emotional. I’ve been getting really upset over little nothings, this morning. Fortunately, I am by myself, so no one needs to be hassled by my mood swings. I’m just letting the emotions come up and then move on.

It all passes. That’s the one thing I’ve learned through all this — emotional volatility can be so extreme — and so quick. It doesn’t make sense to stay stuck in the emotional stuff and make more of it than need be. I just have to breathe and stay calm and let things just be… then reset my attention to something positive, and move on.

Physical pain is an interesting phenomenon. It can be so emotional (I’m not a fan of that), and it can be so pervasive and inescapable. I’ve been living with inescapable pain for nearly 50 years, and it’s no friggin’ fun. It’s taught me an awful lot, and it’s also altered my life in significant ways. I know what things will improve it, and I know what makes it worse.

So, I’m doing what makes it better. And I’ve got this new exercise routine that looks promising. I just need to do it — regularly and consistently. That is the best way to make progress.

Hello Saturday – welcome!

Got some work to do

I’m having a great Saturday, so far. I woke up early and got some work done on a project I’m helping some people with. It’s been a really good experience for me,because I’vebeen thinking about offering this service to people for a fee. Now that I’ve been through the process, however, I’m not sure I want to spend a lot of time doing this sort of work. It’s a little tedious, and it involves a lot of sitting, which is not that great for me — and is actually what I’m trying to get away from.

So, it’s good that I’ve gone through this exercise. It’s giving me more information to work with — so I don’t waste time on things I don’t really want to do.

I’m also winding down on another big project I have, so I will be able to turn my attention back to TBI S.O.S – Restoring Your Sense-of-Self After Traumatic Brain Injury. I have gotten away from that for several months, and I’m looking forward to getting back to it.

On the bright side, I have been really good about not spreading myself too thin, so I can finish one thing before I start another. This is a big change for me. Massive, in fact. In the past, being scattered and not able to focus on one thing at a time cost me a lot. It kept me from moving forward, and I was always getting down on myself for being such a loser and never being able to complete anything. Now that I have been actively working on my focus, and I have more confidence that I can actually complete things I start — and I know how to say NO to things that distract me — I’m able to follow through, and it’s pretty awesome.

After I do some work around the house today, I’ll have my nap and then sit down to make more progress. It really feels fantastic, I have to say.

So, the day is shaping up nicely. I got a lot of chores done last week, so I don’t have to do a lot of little things today. I have a handful of big, important things that absolutely need to get done.

And now I can do them.

Onward.

My weekly motivation

Here’s your motivation ;)

Well, things are changing some more at work.  It looks like everyone who is here now, will not necessarily be there in a few more weeks. So, that’s interesting. And a little scary. I’m told that I am “safe”, whatever that means.

All that more motivation to get myself in gear and become as self-sufficient as possible. I’ve got a great idea for a new business, which ties together the parts I enjoyed most about what I’ve done in the past, as well as my future interests. And to top it all off, there’s a need and a market for what I have to offer.

So, that’s good. I just need to keep focused on it.

God knows, I’m motivated NOW…

But to tell the truth, that’s just the cold, hard facts of life. Companies don’t know how to run their business. They have completely wrong ideas about what constitutes success, and a whole lot of people in the world are content with just being comfortable… relieving the pain that they cause to themselves… and feeling important. They don’t really focus on results. They don’t really focus on profitability. They are more concerned about how the look to other people, and that’s all that matters to them.

And so they have to downsize. Because they don’t have high-performance lives. They don’t have high-performance workforces. They believe that everyone is on their own, when it comes to motivating themselves, and they don’t do much to help. Their darwinism comes around to bite them in the ass… and they sigh and wring their hands about “unavoidable circumstances”.

Please. That is very sad.

So, that being said, it’s time for me to go study and work on my business ideas. I have several, which I have researched and believe have a good chance of being useful to others. It’s really about being useful to others and communicating the value to them. It’s all about everyone else and what they need — and how to provide it to them.

And that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done in my 9-to-5jobs, and it’s served me well.It’s what keeps me safe, when others arebeing shown the door, and why not translate that to the outside world?

My main hurdle in doing all this, is distraction and losing focus. So, I have to keep my eyes on the prize and get there, one step at a time. Keep my priorities tightly trained on my intentions, and measure my progress at every step, so I know I’m going in the right direction.

This applies all across the board, quite frankly. And whether I am doing this in my own life and businesses,or I’m doing it “on the job” for someone else, the benefits and results are the same — good and solvent and always learning.

Onward.

When getting stopped… gets you started

Stop… then go

Okay, this is promising. Since my week+ off, I have been seriously thinking about how I organize my time and do the things that I want to do. I’ve been taking a close look at how I do things… how I hope… how I dream. And I have had some really useful insights.

In the past couple of years, I started a new company. I had an idea for an invention, and I went through the whole process of documenting it and filing provisional patent papers, building a website, selling a few working prototypes, and trying to get it off the ground. It was a good idea, I thought. I still do think so. But this past year, I have let it slide. I couldn’t figure out why that was. It was/is a good idea. Why not make it work?

The thing is, I have realized that I actually don’t want to be in the manufacturing business. That’s what it boils down to – manufacturing. And as much as I want to see my country be able to revitalize the manufacturing sector and give good jobs to Americans, I don’t want to be one of the people doing it. In fact, I really dislike manufacturing, as well as creating all kinds of new stuff for people to buy and sell. I’m much more of an ideas person.

Of course, I’ve always been involved in production of some kind or another, over the course of my life. I’ve worked in greenhouses and factories, and I’ve been involved in website production for decades. It’s been my bread and butter… the thing that kept me afloat over the years, making so much possible.

So, of course I think of how to do more production — this time under my own chosen circumstances — when I think of creating a new business. But when I get down to it, and I really start to do that handiwork, it occurs to me that my time is much better spent thinking and creating ideas, rather than physical things. And my abilities and knowledge are put to much better use, when I focus on putting them out there, rather than doing them in the background, while I trade my time and energy for money.

One of the things that’s always held me back, is the fact that I don’t have a college degree. I went for 4 years, but I couldn’t finish on time — for a number of reasons. And then I got busy, my life got exciting, I got hurt a bunch of times, and being as tired and as hurt as I was, finishing my degree just didn’t seem like it was within reach. I also got sick and tired of all the academic crap, and I just wanted to make money and live my life.

Nowadays, having a degree is almost a requirement. I can slip by, given my life and work experience, but it’s getting harder to do that, as more people with college degrees are getting more and more experience to compete with mine. So, I have to make my own way — and that means having my own business that I can develop.

And it means I need to realize what kind of business I don’t want to run. That includes stopping momentum on another business I’ve been seriously considering starting. I made some minor progress on the project about six months ago, but I suspended it for some reason I can’t recall. For the past several weeks, I’ve been doing the analysis to see if it makes sense, and – lo and behold – it does not. There could be good money there, but it’s more manufacturing. It’s on a much smaller scale than my other idea, but it’s still making stuff to send out to people. It will put me on a time clock, pretty much, getting stuff to people when they want it. It’s going to lock me into being responsive and customer-service-oriented.

And that’s not what I want to do.

I know that now.

So, this is a good sign. I have been spending the morning doing an inventory of all the projects I have started over the years, and it’s looking pretty comprehensive. And I know what I want to do next with a lot of them. This blog is up at the top of the list. I’m going to continue on here, and keep going with my other projects. Stay focused and realistic, and take my time at them — but not too much time, because then I get bored and start to distract myself for no good reason.

I’m being smart about it — laying the groundwork and using my noggin. 2015 is off to a good start.

Onward.

Tuesday… feels like Thursday

Losing track – in a good way

 

I’ve been reading a book that I’m really enjoying — Profiles of Power and Success by Gene N. Landrum, Ph.D. There are all sorts of tasty tidbits in there, when he talks about the fourteen men and women he chose to examine as transformational leaders in their respective fields. He also talks about what miserable failures so many of them were.

Napoleon graduated near the very bottom of his class in military school. Edith Piaf never learned to read music. Isadora Duncan, who pioneered modern dance, only had one hour of ballet training and no other formal dance training. Landrum says, “great achievement has little to do with scores on a test, but more to do with performance on the stage of life. Jules Henri Poincare scored at the imbecile level on Alfred Binet’s IQ test at a time when Poincare was universally acknolwedged as the world’s foremost mathematician.”

So, yes, I do feel better. Not that I want to delight in others’ misfortunes, but hearing about how many people who changed the world for the better had either no formal training in what they did, or performed so poorly in their training, gives me hope. Because it says there’s something else at work when it comes to making your life worth living — and that something else is us.

Spurred by my enthusiasm with this book, I have been giving a lot of really serious thought to where I am going to spend my energy in the next year. I have a number of projects I would like to start (some of them I have already started), but I don’t want to spread myself too thinly, and I don’t want to sink a lot of time and effort into things that won’t pan out. I started a big project last year that took up a ton of time and seemed to show great promise, but in the end, I was looking at a likely prospect of losing money, it would have taken up far too much of my time, and I needed to back off and not pursue it further. I may pick up again later, since I have all the infrastructure in place, but I need to really think it through for it to make sense.

It took up so much of my time… only to fizzle out.

This coming year, I need to be smarter about things. A lot smarter. A lot more strategic. Less flailing around and busy-work. Less running around from place to place, and more sitting and looking at what I’ve got, prioritizing everything, and deciding how I want to handle it.

I’m already off to a good start. I’ve lasered in on two Big Ideas I have which show some real promise for supporting me and themselves.

I’ve also identified a handful of secondary ones that I want to do, just because I want to do them. Those are my “passion projects” which are all about doing things that will benefit others, rather than supporting me. This blog is a passion project for me, as is my book on TBI SOS – Restoring A Sense of Self After Brain Injury.  Some things should be sold at a fitting price to people who value them and are willing to commit themselves to valuing them. Other things should be done with no expectation of return. TBI SOS is the latter. I need a balance of both, in my life. Yes, I do need to support myself and my work. But there are an awful lot of people suffering who need the help, and if I can provide it, then so much the better.

Anyway, I’ve been zero-ing in on my projects, culling the ones that take way too much time without giving much in return, and building up the ones that have a real chance of taking off. And in the past few days, I’ve made tremendous progress in the couple of projects I am focusing on. I have been planning and finding resources and getting clear on how I want to proceed. No more of the crazy running around from one thing after another. I’ve been doing that too long, and I’m tired of having nothing to show for all my work.

And it’s good. It takes the pressure off, and it also makes me a lot more productive. I’ve gotten so much done, just in the past few days, it feels like I have almost a whole week behind me. And it’s only Tuesday morning. I’ve been able to go out for long walks in the woods. I’ve been able to run errands. I’ve been able to lie down and take naps. I’ve been able to finish a big piece of a project I’ve been working on. I’ve come up with a bunch of ideas about how to streamline and automate my activities, using technology as my friend.

One example is with my blogging. I have a regular ritual each morning to sit down and write something pretty much every day. The intention is to publish something each day. But I don’t always have the inspiration or the time to do this every single morning. So, when I am feeling really inspired, I will write up a handful of posts, and then schedule them to be published at regular intervals, so I’m freed up on other days to do other things that inspire me.

And then I come back later to the writing, when I get my inspiration back. It usually doesn’t take long.

It really takes the pressure off. Committing to doing something every single day, can be hard for someone like me. Some days, it just doesn’t work out. But with different tools, I can overcome those blocks, and work around the limitations.

That’s what the folks in Profiles of Power and Success did. And if they did, so can I.

Onward.

Focusing on our strengths

Pick your direction

TBI is a funny thing. It can take so much away from us. And it can also add more things that we never had before.

I’m not sure if it’s me or my brain or just the normal parts of ageing, but I seem to remember less and less of my past, as time goes on. I can’t really remember what I have talked about with my neuropsych, in the past. I don’t know what I’ve mentioned to them, what issues I’ve worked through… it’s kind of fading away in a fog.

And I’m not sure I care. Because at the same time I’m losing connections with that not-so-happy past, it sorta kinda frees me up to enjoy a much happier present. And it’s the things in front of me — the blue sky overhead, the warm temps today, the taste of my tea saturated with butter and honey (it’s completely awesome – you should try it sometime), and the feel of just having time OFF from the grind for a week and a half.

All the aches and pains of my day-to-day haven’t disappeared. In fact, they’re coming on pretty strong, now that I’ve started stretching and exercising more. It’s been tough getting to sleep with all the pain in my lower back going on. And I’ve been dizzy and off balance and have had these headaches… but what-ever. That’s not the only thing I have to pay attention to.

So, I don’t. I look elsewhere. And I can find so much more else to focus on. How amazing is that.

And I think about how incredible it is, that I was raised in a time when the main goal of educators and people who were sent to help others, was to get everybody in a central zone of ability — to bring the weaknesses up to snuff, and not focus so much on the strengths — just fix what was wrong, and leave the rest alone.

But now I’m living a life that’s focused on the strengths I have — making them better, and not letting the weaknesses dominate my life. We all have strengths and ways we can contribute in the world… we just get caught up in trying to fix the things that are wrong, and we end up having our lives revolve around them.

The thing about focusing only on all that’s WRONG in the world (and our individual lives), is that we can always find something that’s wrong. No doubt about it. But while we’re concentrating on what’s WRONG, we so often miss what’s RIGHT. And then we miss out on the chance to strengthen the good, while we’re chasing down the bad that never ever seems to end.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate, actually. Looking around, I can see a lot of my peers who have been held back by that old mindset we were raised with. So many of them are still caught up in negativity and trouble-shooting states of mind, while the good they have right in front of them is rarely seen and fully appreciated. A lot of people my age still think of themselves as deficient… chasing after accomplishments and trophies to smooth over their lingering sense of inadequacy and prove to themselves that they’re okay after all.

And I totally understand how and why they feel that way. I’ve been there, too. Especially me, who has so many things I can quickly and easily point at and say, “Ah ha! That’s messed up!”

I guess I just count myself as incredibly lucky that I don’t always feel that way anymore. Some days I do, but on the whole… it makes more sense to me to focus on the things I can change for the better and move ahead… instead of just running around filling up the divots on the proverbial golf course of my life.

Well, it’s all a process and a journey, and I may feel completely different tomorrow. For today, though… right now… I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m not going to wreck it by hunting down what might be wrong that needs fixing.

Onward.

Remembering why I’m doing all this

It all stacks up, after a while

So, I’ve got a bunch of writing projects going, and in my usual fashion, I’m devising great plans for these works. I’ve always had a bit of a superiority complex with regard to my thinking. That’s mostly because I spent the bulk of my life locked inside my head, without a lot of “intrusions” from the outside.

So, of course I was the most brilliant person I knew! ;) When you’re the only one in the room, you can easily be the smartest one there.

On the other hand, my perception of myself in the outside world has been extraordinarily poor. In my mind, I’m the dumbest person outside the safety of my own head. That’s not such a stretch, when you have trouble remembering what people said to you, 5 minutes before. Ever try to hold an extended conversation with someone, when you can’t remember what they said, a couple of ideas back?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I’ve been writing and thinking about who I could send my pieces to. My head has come up with a massive publicity campaign that will get the attention of People Who Matter, and I’m already envisioning fielding all the phone calls from people who want to explore the possibilities of what I’m suggesting. I have a whole drama designed in my mind.

The thing is, it’s starting to get overwhelming. I’m starting to freak myself out. And I have to remember why it was that I started these writing projects in the first place:

For me.

To work on my thought process.

To refine how I think and get better at research and systematic thought.

To get better at continuing projects and sticking with them till they’re done.

That’s why I’m doing this. Not to get rich and famous, not to revolutionize a whole field of research, not to stir things up. But to refine my own thought process and become more organized, clear, and systematic in my thinking. Much as I like to dream big, the practical reasons behind this are even more important. Revolutions come and go. Rich and famous is nice, but I’m not getting there without working on myself. And stirring things up without having a solid, well-organized thinking foundation is just asking for trouble.

I’ve been unhappy with how I’ve been working, over the past… 30 years. I’ve started so many things, and then I never finished them. Some of them are really good ideas, too. And I’ve got to change this pattern where I’ll get going, then I get distracted by something else that seems like more fun, drop the thing I’m working on, and go off and do something else. As a result, I have a lot of good ideas sitting in my desk drawers that are half-baked, just kind of sitting around, gathering dust.

I don’t want them to gather dust, anymore. I want to be able to complete a project — or two or five or ten. I want to finish what I start, and be lifted up in the process. And I want to do it for the sake of doing it. For the sake of being lifted up. If anyone else benefits in the process, that’s fine, but the main focus needs to be on myself.

Okay, time to get back to work. There’s a lot of progress I still need to make.

Onward.

Who am I today?

Summary / Bottom Line

I don’t feel like myself, these days. I haven’t felt “like myself” in a long time. And all the hopes and dreams I once had as a kid, seem so far from me. But maybe, just maybe, I am truly living my hopes and dreams… I just don’t feel like I am. And that changed sense of myself is keeping me from realizing how much my life really does resemble my onetime hopes and dreams. Restoring a sense of self can be a huge challenge with traumatic brain injury, and adjusting to how things truly are, versus how they appear to be, or feel, is one of my biggest challenges.


I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my identity… who I was when I was a kid, who I am now, and who I’ve been along the way. I recently had a birthday, and while I don’t feel like I’m having a mid-life crisis, I still have been thinking a whole lot about whether I am where I expected / hoped / planned to be, when I was younger.

I know that “life happens” and we can end up very far from where we wanted to be when we were younger. And to be honest, I’m not even sure if I had specific plans about the trajectory of my life, when I was younger.

I do know that what I wanted more than anything, was to become a scientific researcher. I wanted to go to school to get a bunch of degrees, and then focus on research. I’m not sure what kind of researcher I wanted to become — I just wanted to study, collect information, synthesize it, and publish it.

I also wanted to be a writer. Maybe more than being a researcher. Being a writer is what I always wanted to BE. Research is what I wanted to DO. In a way, being a writer is like being a researcher – it’s not the same type of science, but there’s a sort of science to it — observing, drawing conclusions, testing your hypotheses, etc.

Over the course of my life… well, life happened. I got hurt. A bunch of times. I fell and hit my head a bunch of times. I got in car accidents a bunch of times. I was attacked. I did stupid things. And I got hurt. I also had a lot of chronic pain that knocked me out of the running when I was in my early 20s. And I got in trouble with the law and some rough characters, and I had to go on the lam when I was in my late teens, which limited my future prospects.

Now, looking back, I see how so-so-so many opportunities have been out of reach for me, because of everything that happened back then. I have done my best to patch things up over the course of my life, and relatively speaking, I’ve done extremely well for myself.

But am I really where I want to be today?

I’m not sure. This life I’m leading doesn’t look and feel like I hoped it would. It feels strange and foreign to me. Hell, I feel strange and foreign to me. I feel like a stranger to myself, half the time. I don’t have that feeling of being “comfortable in my skin” that people talk about.

Now, I used to have that feeling. I used to have a clear sense of who I was and what I stood for. And I didn’t let anyone hold me back. Even when I was getting in trouble with the law and then went underground, living overseas till things quieted down here, I had a clear sense of who I was, and what I stood for. I had to change my life for a while, and I couldn’t do a lot of the things I had once enjoyed doing — like going anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted. But it didn’t feel like I’d lost a part of myself. I’d screwed up for sure, but I was determined to fix things.

When I was in all that crippling pain, 25 years ago, I had to let go of a lot of activities that had once meant a lot to me. I had to stop exercising and spending time outside in the sun. The diagnosis that the doctors came up with was probably wrong (I never had tests that confirmed or denied it 100% — they didn’t have good tests, back then). But I had to take steps in any case. As it turned out, the things that I was told not to do — exercise a lot, move a lot, test myself physically — were exactly the kinds of things that I needed to do to alleviate my pain. Movement and staying active was NOT going to hurt me. Being sedentary was.

In those years when I was dealing with the pain, I lost of lot of things that meant a lot to me. I couldn’t eat and drink the same things anymore, and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. But I didn’t have a sense of having lost myself. I was still who I was, and I was clear about that.

Now things feel so strange and foreign to me. It’s hard for me to describe. Even though I know I’m doing better, and I have numbers and feedback from friends and family that indicate I’m improving, I still don’t feel like myself. It’s hard to describe — just that someone else seems to have taken up residence in my life.

I know my personality has changed a good deal, since my fall in 2004. And it kind of freaks me out, because that wasn’t the first mild TBI I’d ever had. I’ve had a bunch — probably about 9. I’ve been assaulted once, had at least 4-5 falls, got hurt a couple of times playing soccer, got majorly dinged while playing football, I’ve had a couple of car accidents, and so forth. But not until I fell in 2004, did it totally screw up my life.

Not until the past years, have I felt like a stranger to myself.

It’s kind of getting me down, too. At least, it has been. I try not to think about it, but it’s still always there… Who am I today? What am I going to do today that doesn’t seem “like me”? What am I going to feel and think and say and do that doesn’t seem consistent with the person I know myself to be?

That feeling of observing yourself going through life… it’s weird. Disorienting. I resolve over and over again, to hang in there and just keep plugging, until I see some glimmer of who I am. And sometimes it works. I’ve been feeling more like “myself” lately, which is nice. But at the same time, I don’t quite trust it. Like in Flowers For Algernon, when the main character stops taking the medicine that made him think and act like a normal person… and he drifts back into his old state. Whenever things are going well for me, I feel like I’m looking over my shoulder for signs that I’m slipping back into not recognizing myself.

I would like to stop this. It’s not fun, and it’s not productive. It serves no one, and being on high alert over it just kills my quality of life.

So, over the weekend, when I had time to think about it, I realized that maybe it would be better if I just acclimated to this feeling and let it be. It could be that I actually am getting back to my old self — I just don’t have the sense that I am. It could be that I’m even better than my old self. There’s a good chance of that, because my old self was majorly concussed and had all sorts of issues that I didn’t even realize. It could be that I’m in better shape than ever before… but I don’t have the sense of it being so, and therefore I don’t trust it.

I don’t feel like I’m myself, most of the time. Maybe all of the time. But maybe I actually am. Maybe the missing piece is NOT my personality and my identity, but the sense of my personality and identity. Just because the sense of being who I am isn’t there, doesn’t mean I can’t BE there myself.

Rather than getting all caught up in recreating that sense of myself, maybe I need to just get on with living, regardless of the sense of myself. Maybe I just need to trust it… not place such high demands on what qualifies me as me, or not-me.

And maybe — just maybe — the life I have now is exactly what I was hoping /expecting / planning / dreaming I’d have, back when I was a kid. Looking around at my study and thinking about how I live my life, I realize that I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do, when I was younger — reading and researching and writing and publishing. I write and publish this blog. I read and research TBI-related materials (especially concussion and mild TBI) and I spend a lot of time thinking about them.

I also read and research other subjects and write about them, though I haven’t published much of that … yet. I am getting to a place where I soon will, and then I will have that to my credit, as well. This is all done independently, according to my own standards. I’m not doing it professionally, but I have managed to help some people, here and there along the way. That much is clear from the comments on my blog.

So, even though it may feel like I’m one person, the objective facts reveal something quite different. And for me, it seems the challenge is to not let feelings of weirdness and alienation and failure stop me from just getting on with my life.

At some point, I just need to trust. I’m working on it.

Onward.
 

Just keep your spirits up

Create something to believe in!

I woke up this morning having the keen sense that over the course of my life, I’ve come through a huge number of obstacles. Emotional swamps, mental jungles, physical minefields, and logistical nightmares.

I’ve been on the wrong side of the law, and I’ve been on the receiving end of foolishness at that hands of those who have been far outside their rights.

I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve traveled my own path, and now I find myself actually doing better for myself… happier, healthier, more content, more optimistic… than most of my peers. I also have a much more engaged and involved relationship with my life and everything in it, than 90% of the people I know.

Despite the pain and suffering — some of which may never actually go away at all — I am here, and I’m in a very good space.

What’s the secret?

Keep your spirits up. Do whatever you need to do, to keep your mind and spirit alive and involved. Keep your body in good condition and don’t abuse it with bad food, drugs, too much drink… too much anything. But most of all, keep your spirits up.

Someone once told me that my journal writing over the years was a “Proustian” waste of time — a lot of navel-gazing that provided no apparent benefit. Likewise, I have launched many, many projects which ultimately came to naught. For years, I felt like I was a failure because I could not “make it happen” for myself, and I struggled constantly with so much. I thought for sure that if I did things the right way, I would eventually be rid of the pain, the suffering, the hardship, the challenges.

And my life would get better.

Now I realize that even though all the pain, suffering, hardships, and challenges are still around, the thing that has really changed is me. I have acquired the skills I need to meet the hardships that come from TBI … and to figure things out as I go. I am still learning — and each day offers me one more way to make right the things that are wrong in my life. I didn’t get here by accident. I got here by keeping my spirits up, by staying interested in life, by always having some activity going on that keeps me intrigued and engaged.

Even if I don’t “make it” with my projects and end up rich and famous, the simple fact of the matter is that it keeps my mind fully occupied, and it keeps me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I come up with some crazy concepts, too — many of them far beyond the scope of my actual interests and abilities. But I dream big, and I chase after those dreams as if they truly will come true.

When they don’t… and they often don’t… well, that’s not the point. The point is that I have been engaged on a very high level, and my energy has been good, and it has kept me from being my own worst enemy. Maybe someday some of my grand plans will pan out. But the main thing is the working towards them, and keeping my spirits high in the meantime.

Most of the things I dream of, I don’t tell anyone about, because they’re really just for me, to keep me going — and when others get involved, they tend to dilute the process and hold my mind and heart back.

To each and every one of you reading this right now, I encourage you to pick something big and crazy to dream, and keep that dream alive in your mind. Pick something that would give you so much pride to accomplish, and then secretly set about making that dream come true. Don’t tell anyone else about it — just figure it out for yourself, dream it big in your heart, and let that carry you through your days.

Any kind of recovery — whether it’s TBI or not — requires a huge amount of energy and stamina. I can take a monumental effort each day, just to keep going. So, find something to spark your spirit, then dwell on that, feed on it, let it bring you joy and happiness and encouragement, and stick with it like your life depends on it.

Because maybe it does.

Onward.