Try again today

Yesterday was a pretty productive day, all the hurdles notwithstanding. I took care of some things that I needed to take care of, I solved some things I needed to solve, and I discovered a new direction I can go with my career — I’ve been reading some industry news, looking for an area that has good growth potential, as well as a need, AND which matches my past experience.

I think I’ve found something, and it’s pretty exciting. The litmus test for this is — is this something I would want to do on my own, even if I weren’t getting paid to do it? And is it something I can do on my own and build up more skill and experience and demonstrated results, which I can show to future employers and clients?

This has passed both tests, and it builds on areas where I had big strengths in the past. Those strengths have not been compromised by my TBI like my ability to learn new programming languages has.

I spent some time last night practicing, and it felt really good. Smooth. Like I wasn’t even working — which is how it feels with me when I am doing something that comes naturally to me. And I find it fascinating. It’s part art, part science, and it’s something I can do primarily with computers, versus having to do everything with people.

People are really starting to annoy me, and I could seriously use a break from them, rather than continue to chafe and grouse and get on people’s nerves.

That part of my life is just working my last friggin’ nerve.

But enough of that — I want to focus on what’s good.

What’s good, is that i made my morning prep checklist last night, I printed it out this morning, and I am 5 for 6 on the items i need to do each morning to prepare properly for my day. The one item didn’t happen because I woke up too early, I got all bent out of shape, and i started the day with an argument – at 5 a.m.

Crappy way to start the day, but then things got talked through and it’s better now.

When I think about it, if I had done that first item on my list — sit and breathe — I probably wouldn’t have had the argument. Just something to remember for tomorrow. And days after that, as well.

Anyway, each moment is another chance. Each day is a new set of opportunities. And I think I might have a plausible route of escape from this madness I’m caught up in at work, right now.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. I can sorta kinda see it, but I can also feel the cool breeze on my face.

Life goes on, and so do I.

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The key is thinking it through

Well, I got about 8 hours of sleep last night, which is great. I had meant to sleep on Sunday, but I got busy so I never got the chance. On the bright side, I figured out how to finish something I started a number of years ago, and haven’t been able to finish, for some strange reason.

I’ve got paperwork I have to complete for my insurance company, so they can properly adjust some of my old records. I have not been able to finish it, for some reason — I think it’s just seemed way too complicated for me to complete. It’s not… hundreds and thousands of people do this paperwork every day, but I haven’t been able to do it. I just haven’t been able to figure it out.

But now I have. It just came to me, one day — all of a sudden, it stopped being an impossible problem. Like the window fixture that was hanging off a loose nail for more than a year, that I would just look at, then walk away from. Strangely, it seemed like an impossible task. Then one day, I just got the step stool and a hammer, and I fastened the fixture in place the way it was supposed to be.

When I got down from the step stool, I felt this strange combination of elation and dismay — on the one hand, I was overjoyed that I’d figured out how to do it. On the other hand, I was a little dismayed that something so simple should have taken me so long to figure out. Over a year, this fixture was hanging loose. It took me a year to figure out how to get the step stool, climb up, and nail the hardware in place.

Was I really that damaged? I had to wonder.

Anyway, this paperwork thing is a little like that. I had an epiphany the other day, where I suddenly realized how I could handle it. And now I just need to go to the motor vehicle registry and turn in the simple form that I couldn’t figure out how to fill out. I have tried reaching out to my neuropsych for help with things like this, but they tell me I don’t have a problem with them, and when I announce with glee that I figured something out that everybody should know how to do, they just look at me like there’s something wrong with me.

Yeah, no kidding. It’s weird, how truly simple things can just not get done… but complicated things like finding and changing jobs can come pretty easily to me.

But of course it’s the simple things that are the most common and the most necessary in life, so I guess I just have to keep going with it.

The main thing for me, these days, is thinking things through. Figuring out how to get things done — really investing the time in walking through the steps I need to follow. I tend to get so overwhelmed in the course of everyday life that when I get home at night — or over the weekends — I just need to take a break from the focused activities and recharge my batteries with some unstructured activities (like naps and reading). But then I don’t get everything done that I was intending to.

Oh, well.

I guess I’m working on my everyday living skills… figuring out, again and again, how to take care of things that need to be taken care of. I sat down yesterday and walked through my finances for the rest of the year, using a spreadsheet to show how much money I would be bringing in with my job and counting how much I was going to be spending. The rest of the year looks pretty good, and I’m going to be paying off some old debts early, in fact, so I’ll have more money in my pocket in another few months. It feels good to work through all that, to think it through and see what’s coming down the pike.

Even if I didn’t get those little tasks done that I’d intended to over the weekend, I got something really great done that I’d been needing to do — calculating my personal finances and figuring out a good way to go with my life.

And it’s good.

All about the basics

I’ve been having a bit of a difficult time, lately. I’m feeling out of sorts and off-kilter. Work is strange, with lots of change going on, and I really wish I were more effective. But every time I think I’m getting closer to getting on top of things, something else happens, and I feel like I’m back at square one.

No sooner do I get one really complex project done, than another one comes up. And then there are the constant distractions.

It’s really frustrating, and I’ve been looking around for other work. I had a series of conversations with a recruiter for a very successful company, a few weeks back. They wanted to bring me in for interviews. But there were a lot of changes happening at the company, and it just didn’t seem like it was a very stable place to go to. They also got downgraded by analysts because their instability is affecting their bottom line. So that’s not a place I want to go to.

I’m feeling scattered. A little confused. Not having a lot of direction. I feel like I need to make a move, but I’m not sure where or in what direction. That is to say, I decide I want to go in a certain direction, then I change my mind for some weird reason. It’s no good doing this. I’ve got to pick a direction and go for it. Find a line of work that has certain specific criteria — the right pay range, the right area of interest for me, and an area where I can move and develop in the future.

I also need to let go of the old past ways and move on to the next chapter of my professional life. I look back at the things I’ve done in the past, and while they were good to me then, the world has changed, and the opportunities just aren’t there as much anymore.

So, I need to adjust. And I need to commit.

Part of the issue is that I’ve been feeling pretty energized about some things, and when I feel energized, I tend to fly off in all different directions, following each little impulse that comes along. It may be entertaining, but it gets me nowhere.

When things are going well and I’m rested and feeling the strongest, is when I run the greatest risk of getting off track and ending up on the rocks. Like a cruise ship captain who decides to improvise in shallow waters.

We know how that turns out.

Time to get myself off the rocks. Time to get on with my day.

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.

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.