Break it down, and get it right

I’ve noticed a very different way of doing things, now, than I used to follow before.

In the past, I wanted (needed) long stretches of time to think things through, figure them out, and then gradually move through them.

Now, though, I work better when I break things down into smaller steps, focus fully on them, and then let them go after a little while.

I never realized, before, that spending too much time on what I was doing, was holding me back.

But it was. I would get tired. Then I’d get scattered. And I would get distracted to the point where I would lose focus on what I was doing, wander off and do something else, then wonder why I could never get anything done.

I know now why that is/was. I get tired.

So instead of trying to do everything all at once, I break things down into smaller steps and do them one at a time. And I don’t try to do everything all at once. If I plan properly, I can come back and pick up where I left off, and all is well.

All really is well. This is a huge improvement for me. I get more done, and I don’t exhaust myself in the process.


Picking up the pieces – and loving it

Sometimes it all comes apart – so we have to put it back together again

I’m having a pretty excellent time off. It’s absolutely luxurious, to have “off” from Christmas till the Monday after New Year’s. I don’t have to go anywhere, I have no external obligations, and I can just be at home, living life the way I want to, not having to answer to anyone except my best judgment.

Not that I’ve been idle. I’ve had time to take care of a lot of things that have been languishing in the background for some time. I’ve had the chance to really think things through more deeply than ever, and get my priorities in order. I realize that I’ve spent a whole lot of time churning and being busy for its own sake, rather than being strategic and focusing my efforts on the things that would really produce something useful.

Case in point: Research projects.

I have had a number of research projects in the works over the years, and I’ve always approached them as “one-off” endeavors. I would research something, write something up about it, and then move on to the next thing. Sometimes it was a completely different field  — like the time I researched and wrote up something about the mythology of OId England, then started researching archaeological digs of the Russian steppes and wrote something up about that. I researched language and thought… then moved on to quantum mechanics… then transferred my attention to personal training and physiology.

I’ve written different things along the way, and while some of them had some good in them, none of them is anything I’d really want to put out there. The thought processes are disjointed and disconnected, and none of it is rigorous enough to be taken seriously.

All these projects were geared towards different audiences — sometimes at the other end of the spectrum. And none of them were really deep enough to deserve anyone’s attention.

I’ve been flitting from one interest to another for a long, long time, building on my knowledge in new and interesting ways, but never treating anything like it had real substance.

And small wonder. Because all those years, I was dealing with a number of issues with attention and memory, that I never knew were there. I had no idea how much fatigue affected me, and I had no idea how crappy my short-term working memory was. I mis-remembered things all the time, and I had no idea I was doing so. Even when I wrote it down and looked at it later, I didn’t realize just how off-base I was.

Having that neuropsychological assessment to give me feedback and measurements of what my real skills were, was life-changing. It transformed everything, and I’ve been piecing back together my hopes and dreams, once shred at a time. Seriously, I had all but given up hope, years ago. But there was still something in me that pushed me forward, that urged me to keep going, to keep trying, to keep on with everything. I just couldn’t quit. Just couldn’t.

I had to keep trying. Keep looking. Keep searching. Till I found the missing pieces I needed.

Now I have those missing pieces — the most important being the knowledge that I’ve sustained a number of TBIs over the course of my life, and they can and do have an impact on my thought process and how well (or poorly) my body works. When I’m having trouble with my temper because of fatigue, or I’m anxious because of light and sound sensitivity and being in pain, or I am having trouble understanding what people are saying to me, I am much more keenly aware of the reasons for all the blocks and hurdles that crop up — which means I’m much better able to deal with them.

And I do deal with them. In ways I never could before.

After all, you can’t fix things if you don’t know they’re broken. And there was a lot of broken stuff about me that needed fixing.

That broken-ness was more about process and systems, than it was about me and my essential self. It was about how I did things, not who I was. And fixing the broken stuff has made all the difference in the world.

Some people say that finding out what’s wrong, can be defeating and debilitating. I find it very freeing. Because it gives me something to work towards. I am always confident that I can find a way, one way or another. Why not? Plenty of other people do, and they’re not that much smarter than I am.

So, bit by bit, I am pulling things together, and it feels great. Spending more time thinking and strategizing, and less time on busy-work, is just the ticket for me. It’s a great way to finish up the year and start fresh with the new one.


How I am today

I didn’t get much sleep last night. Things have “blown up” at work, and a project I was managing and thought was fine, is NOT fine. It’s crashed (not quite burned), and now I have to get it put back together and back on track.

I’ve done this before at this job, but on a much smaller scale. This one is very big and very high-profile. And the (over)reaction to the date slipping is making me reconsider taking a permanent job there. I had been thinking seriously about going permanent with these folks — they had hinted at it a number of times — and everything was looking good.

Then things went wrong, and the reactions of people outside my group have caused me to reconsider my plans. It’s one thing for me to screw up this badly — which I may or may not have done. There are some things I could have done very differently, which would have helped. But I honestly didn’t realize I needed to do them, and even though people were around to help me, I wasn’t aware I needed to ask for help.

Now I know.

But the folks outside my group, who are the ones making up the unrealistic deadlines, are having little hissy fits and flipping out. So, the whole grand progressive business world ideal of “failing fast” and “learning from mistakes” is just a bunch of B.S. — what matters is that you meet your dates — and ONLY that you meet your dates.

Yeah, that works out really well, for sure. Talk about sucking the life out of your work.

So, now I’m back to considering myself a contractor who’s just there to do a job. In a couple of weeks, we’re moving to a new office much closer to home, and that’s what I’m focused on — being close to home. I’ll be able to go home for lunch and take a nap. I’ll be able to just roll out of bed and go to work. I will be closer to everything that makes up my everyday life, and that’s what matters.

The simple fact is, I need to not get attached to my visions of how I think things will eventually turn out. I had been thinking that I would just sail through this first set of challenges, and all would be well.  Untrue. I’ve had a number of things blow up in my face, and I’ve had to scramble a number of times. As my boss said, “It wouldn’t be a real project, if there weren’t a fire.” Everybody else I work with has been through this to some degree or another, so now it’s my turn. But what this means for the long term, who can say?

Anyway, I’ll get what I can out of the situation. I’ve been on a roller coaster for the past two days — no, the past two weeks — and my world pretty much turned to sh*t in an instant. All the miscalculations, all the drama. Who needs it?

Then again, just because everyone else is all worked up about things — or my boss is saying they will be, in order to motivate me and get me moving with a kind of panic-anxiety booster fuel… I don’t need to lose my cool over it. Their stuff is their stuff. I’ll just keep going, to get it all done, and keep steady at work.

If nothing else, people are impressed by how calm and composed I am in the midst of it all. This calm, composed demeanor is genuine, and it comes from years of managing outright panic in the face of very real crises. It comes from all my years of living in a sea of confusion and overwhelm, and figuring out how to function, anyway. It comes from years of walking around in a fog and doing a damn’ good impression of someone who’s mellow and chill.

And the good news is, I’ve got it all together. This is the first time I’ve been able to hold my sh*t in the face of very real problems, since I fell in 2004. I’m not melting down, I’m not losing it at work. I’m not flying off the handle, and I’m not flipping out, throwing things and slamming shit around on my desk. It’s cool. I’m cool — on the outside. Inside, I feel like I’m dying — like the Allman Brothers song:

Sometimes I feel… Sometimes I feeeeeeel

Like I’ve been tied to the whipping post… tiiiiiied to the whipping post… tiiiiiiied to the whipping post

Oh, Lord I feel like I’m dyyyying…

But I’m not dying. I know I’m not. It just feels that way. And in another couple of weeks, I won’t feel this way anymore. So, I’m dealing with it, walking through the pain and agony. Every breath pains me, and I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. My demons are flailing around — overtime — and while I can see my way through, who knows what will pop up along the way?

Whatever does, I’ll deal with it. I can do that. That’s how I am. It’s who I am. I used to be like this — in the most trying of circumstances, I would remain calm and prevail. I’m doing that again, and although it feels excruciating… f*ck it. I’m here. And in the midst of this all, I feel like my old self again.

Which hasn’t happened in a very long time. And I thought it would never happen again.

But surprise — there I am again. That side of me is back. It’s partial, and it’s struggling, but it’s there. And that’s good enough for me.

Okay, back to it. Suck it up and wade back in.








Gotta break it down

Good grief. I’ve been trying to get this one thing done for days, and it’s just not happening. I’ve been trying to get it done for weeks, actually, and someone is waiting for me to finish it. It’s an agreement I’m crafting with another collaborator, who can help me get one of my new ventures off the ground, and who is rarin’ to go.

It’s important that I sort this out and put things in place. No, not important. It’s critical. And yet I can’t seem to get started on it.

It’s just anxiety, really. It feels like there’s a lot hanging on it, and if something goes wrong with it, it can lead to a whole world of hurt. I’m sure that’s part of what it is. There’s something that just keeps me from DOing. I get stuck in my head, and it can get pretty dark and musty in there.

The one thing that saves me is when I break things down into manageable pieces and take them one by one. Not take on completing the entire task, but take on just sitting down with one thing and doing that. And half the time I find that when I do that, I can move on to get other things done, as well.

The trick is “chunking out” the big parts into smaller pieces that I can get my head around.

When I take it all at once, it’s just way too much.

So, I gotta break it down.

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