Back into the thick of it

windrader foundationThe title of this post is probably a misnomer of sorts. Because I actually never really got out of the thick of it, this weekend… er… the past month. Day after day, it’s been one thing or another, to the point where I’m not even sure what day it is, anymore.

Except for my calendar, which shows me what I’m supposed to be doing, and when.

I feel like I’m continuously building on all my past experiences, which is as it should be, I suppose. The bad experiences, along with the good — but that’s how life should be, right?

I just wish I didn’t get so tired…

Fatigue and brain injury are not a good combination. And more than anything else in my life, fatigue has really torn me down. It’s made my moods unpredictable, even extreme, it’s made my behavior volatile, it’s impacted friendships and work relationships, it cost me jobs, and it nearly ruined my marriage.

So, what to do?

First, have a decent sleep routine. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I do keep track of how I’m doing, and I make an effort to get good sleep whenever I can.

Second, work on my endurance. Do my daily exercises. Pace myself. Build up my strength and my ability to go for longer periods of time doing what needs to be done.

Third, stop doing things that tear me down. Quit watching t.v. shows that stress me out. Stop eating food that isn’t good for me and spikes my blood sugar, then wipes me out. Quit hanging around with people who drain me. And stop all the negative chatter inside my head.

There are things I can do to get myself headed in the right direction, and that’s what my life has to be about. I can’t control what’s going on around me, so I need to strengthen myself to handle whatever comes.

And yes… watch other people do amazing things and perform well.

Like the Olympics. It’s been really good for me to watch the games, this month. Lots of great lessons there.

And now it’s time to get ready for work.

Onward… and upward.

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And… go. At my own pace and on my own terms.

human head with light switch and finger turning it on
I just have to think about things correctly

So, today’s the day we start our 36 hour project. I’ve got 20 minutes to prepare, then everything kicks off.

I’ll be working for the next 8 hours, then I get a few hours off to sleep, then I work another 6 hours overnight. I get to sleep in the a.m., then I may have to work in the afternoon.

My sleeping schedule is going to be completely screwed up, and that’s a problem. I don’t know why this job involves so much sleep disruption. Either it’s cross-country travel, or it’s off-hours work. Either way, it’s not healthy, and it doesn’t let me do my best work.

I haven’t done my best work in years.

Oh, well.

I’m not sure I even care, anymore. The company gives me a paycheck, yes, but I no longer have any emotional investment in them — or my work for them. They’ve made it clear what they think of their workforce. They’ve shorted us on our performance bonus, time and time again, and they lay people off whenever they like. I show up, I do the bare minimum — for the sake of self-preservation — and I collect my paycheck.

They still get more than they pay for, even when I’m not over-the-top productive and 1000% invested. I’m still a top performer, even when I’m not bothering to indulge in any loyalty to them.

It’s a shame, really. I used to be so invested and invigorated by my work. But that’s changed over the past years. And I have to say I’m actually happier now than I was, when I was anguished and fretting over everything I did, how I did it, and whether or not it turned out exactly the way I planned.

I’ve let a lot of stuff go, and it’s helped me.

But still, I do feel a bit of a void, where my personal investment used to be.

Oh, well. There are other things that brighten my day. Like my own interests and projects. Like my hobbies. Like my books.

There’s plenty of other things to fill that void.

Like taking the best care of myself, that I possibly can. No matter what everybody else does.

I just miss caring deeply about my work, sometimes…

Putting one foot in front of the other

footprint in sand with wave coming nearWell, this has been an interesting couple of weeks. I totally screwed something up at work, and I’ve been working overtime since the beginning of February to make it right.

It’s been so wrong, it’s been mind-boggling. How could I have screwed up that badly? Huh. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything this egregious. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.

But there’s a first time for everything.

Seriously, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. But it was bound to happen, eventually, under the current conditions:

  • Limited sleep
  • Additional travel
  • Intense pressure
  • No management support
  • Uncooperative coworkers who don’t keep me in the loop

The whole thing is really messed up, and I ended up at the forefront of it all. The good/bad news is that there are more pieces of this Monster Project coming not far behind that will have the same kinds of problems that my part of the project did.

So, I won’t be so alone, anymore.

Not that it’s any consolation.

I was pretty torn up about the whole situation, last week. Wrecked. But I’ve acclimated to this particular failure, and now… well, I just don’t care. What it means for my future… don’t care.

They’re going to re-org us, anyway.

Some people dislike my boss, and a lot of other people dislike my boss’es boss. And chances are, they’ll interpret this failure of mine as a failure of leadership (which would be nice, to not have to take the fall for a broken system). Everybody knows I’m smarter than the person who screwed up, last week. Something else must be wrong.

Well, anyway, it’s Saturday night, and I’m exhausted. Had a full day today, after a full week. Tomorrow might give me a break. We’ll see. I’m tempted to just stay in bed all day, but that will never work. I often think about doing that, and then 20 minutes after I wake up, I can’t take just lying there anymore. So, I get up. And get out. And put one foot in front of the other.

Some days, that’s all you can do.

 

Yeah, well, nobody ever said it would be easy…

pier and lighthouse in distance across a lakeI’m regaining my balance, after a pretty intense week. I’ve been working long hours, sitting for long hours, and that’s brought me a whole bunch of pain. On top of that, I attended a memorial service for a friend who passed, yesterday. They were very close friends with my spouse, who is taking the loss very hard. Death is never easy, but when it happens at a relatively young age, and the person taken is a central part of the community and people’s lives, it takes on a whole other dimension.

I’ve been up to my neck in one problem after another. It’s been like trying to stay afloat in the ocean during storm surges. No sooner does one wave ease up, and I catch my breath, than another one comes along.

It’s been pretty brutal on me, and having to juggle the logistics of the memorial service arrangements added to the overall stress. I was one of the people who spoke about the deceased, and I had to come up with something meaningful to say, which I did – and it was very well received. It was an honor. But it happened at a really bad time. Which, of course, I can’t control. At all. These things happen.

And I bottomed out. It was like driving down a rutted road and hearing the undercarriage of my car scrape every couple of meters. Nerve-wracking. Grueling. And I know my “miss” at work, which really screwed up the project I’ve been managing, is being taken very badly by others. Even though I’m not the only one working on it, I still seem to be getting the blame. And lo and behold, before my follow-up meeting yesterday, I was informed that my boss’es boss and his boss’es boss and his boss’es boss had a meeting. I’m quite sure they were talking about my project. How could they not? It was such a glaring failure, it’s breathtaking.

But hey, at least I go all-out, when I do things. There’s no half-measures for me.

All in all, looking at the project in whole, it occurs to me that one of the things that made my “miss” so dramatic was that I rolled it back. I pulled it back from the live website and went back to the technology that we were replacing. That doesn’t happen in the company that acquired my former employer. They roll stuff out and move on — even if it’s broken. They leave broken sh*t hang around on the website for years, and they don’t think twice about it. That will never do. And if they fire me over this, good riddance. I don’t want to work at a company that does that.

No wonder they’ve been losing close to a billion dollars a quarter. Not a million (with an “m”), but a Billion (with a “b”).  Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why it hit me so hard, and I think the big reason was that it just wasn’t consistent with what I expect of myself. It went directly against my Sense-Of-Self, and the person I believe I am. It also went against the kind of person I present myself to be around other people. It was a flaming disconnect between Who I Am, and what I did. And I lost all sense of who I was, where I was going, and what was to become of me, in the process.

I had the same level of intense personal anxiety and despair that I had for years, after my TBI in 2004. And it was even more extreme, because I believed with all my heart that I’d gotten beyond the “lost-ness” of my past. I believed I’d trained myself out of my ineptitude, that I was keeping up, that I was on top of things. And when it turned out I wasn’t, it hit me hard.

And that’s exactly what happens to you after TBI, in general. You lose yourself. You lose connection to the person you were. And the more advanced you are, the more disorienting it can be. It can be absolutely crushing, to lose access to the Whole You that was so well trained in life, who could do things just by reflex before… but suddenly can’t manage the simplest things like tying a shoe properly or remembering more than 2 things on a shopping list.

It’s crushing. And I got crushed last week. Absolutely hammered. From the   inside, and the outside. Because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m not supposed to fail that majestically. People are relying on me to NOT screw up to the degree I did (and I fully admit it and take responsibility for that). I let them down. I let myself down. I messed up. And now I have to dig myself out of the hole I fell down.

Of course, it’s not all about me. It’s not 100% my fault. What happened was the result of an extended process of everything being supremely screwed up, and people in a position to help not doing anything — in fact, doing the opposite: withholding help, keeping me out of the loop, not communicating, not collaborating, and forcing me to do their damn’ job. I was the last best defense against those people, and I wasn’t up to the task.

So, we live and learn. I’m working my way back to firm footing, even though everyone around me (except for people in my immediate group) are backing away from me like I’m anathema.

Well, good riddance. They’re part of what’s made the company lose so much money over the past years, and losing their allegiance is no loss to me at all.

Life goes on. Some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. This year is off to a crappy start. So it goes. Here’s hoping it gets better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of my trying.

when things fall down

things are pretty much falling down for me, these days

i don’t want to complain, and i’ve done enough commenting about how things have been developing for me, over the past years

unfortunately, the things that i’ve poured myself into have not panned out

and it seems like pretty much of a waste

i’m not sure what the point is, in doing all of this

no matter how hard i try, things don’t seem to ever turn out the way i plan, or even the way i need

maybe in the short-term, it looks like it, but over the long term… nope

all the things that looked like they were doing great — it’s all very precarious and fragile, and it doesn’t take much to wreck something that took years to build up

so why bother building it up?

seriously, why bother? if everything is so precarious and so easily wrecked, why sink a lot of time into it?

it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me

so, i’m backing off on my investment in a lot of things around me

there’s too much that’s out of my hands and beyond my control

i have no use for people who set me up for failure, and i have no use for people who sit by and don’t lend a helping hand and watch others slip into oblivion

i have no use for people who profit from others’ failures

which means i have no use for a lot of the people in my life, these days

everybody wants something, yes

and what do i get in the bargain?

everything is falling down for me, right now

and i don’t even know if i care

I don’t have to do a thing… everything changes for me

In years gone by, I had a terrible time sticking with a job for longer than a year or two. I’d get so overwhelmed and exhausted, I’d have to leave before people figured out that I was, in fact, overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’ve had a tough time sticking with this current job, too. And now it seems like I’m going to get a reprieve from the monotony of same-old-same-old, because apparently the company is being sold… again.

It’s only been a few years, since they shuffled us from one company to another. From what I hear, there were a lot of layoffs. I haven’t been personally impacted, other than losing a couple of people who were occasionally really helpful to me. And I certainly haven’t had my world rocked by restructuring, the way others have.

But this time might turn out to be pretty significant.

Or not.

It’s impossible to tell.

All I know is, the change I’ve been craving is right around the corner, most likely.

We’ll see how this goes…

Onward.

Being realistic about my next steps

I need to be realistic about how I piece things together. There’s a lot to consider, and I’m not doing myself any favors by deluding myself.

I had a good conversation with a recruiter the other day about a new job opportunity that sounds like it would be a pretty good fit for me. Well, partially, anyway.

I tend to get so focused on Making Things Work that I can lose sight of whether or not I really should make something work.

In this case, the positive parts of the job opportunity quickly took precedence. The job involves leading a team of web developers and redesigning a website that’s in need of an update, and having long-term prospects at a local company – instead of having to travel across the country on a regular basis just to remind people I exist. And those parts sound really appealing to me.

The thing is, when I checked out the website I’d be working on, and I checked out the company, I realized I’d be starting a really awful commute. It would take me into the thick of some of the worst traffic in the region, on a daily basis.

Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of the technology they use. I’m not sure I want to be using it, each and every day. Especially after a long commute from home, in terrible weather.

So, the shine has kind of worn off the opportunity. And I’ll probably respond to the recruiter that I’m not interested because of the commute. Right now, my commute is relatively easy, and I can work from home pretty much when I like. Plus, I get a week off between Christmas and New Years, so that’s huge. Paid time off that doesn’t count against my vacation time. I know it’s concession bribe from the Overlords to keep us happy, but it works. It does make me happy.

Anyway, I have to be really realistic about what will work for me. Diving into a whole new work situation that involves more driving and (probably) more frantic activity, politicking, and is pretty much of an unknown… That’s not the right move for me, right now. It makes no sense to get a better job that makes my life worse. It’s supposed to help me all across the board, not cut into my quality of life, for a few more dollars.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of “embracing my limitations”, this is one situation where it only makes sense to be realistic and not indulge in that against-all-odds thinking that I CAN DO THIS!!! Other people can fight the odds and prove They Can Do It!

I really just want my life back.

Onward.

Settling in for the winter

snow covered buildings
I’m actually looking forward to this

It’s going to get cold this weekend. Low double-digits, so I hear.

Good. I prefer the cold weather. I sleep better when my bedroom is cold and I have a lot of blankets on top of me.

I also prefer being cold and warming up with exercise and movement, versus being hot and not being able to get cool. It’s a lot easier to get warm, than to cool down.

Plus, I love the snow.

Good thing. Because I hear we’re going to get a lot of it this winter.

So it goes.

The time change is doing me good. It’s never easy to change up my schedule and routine, but the “fall back” really helps me. It gives me an extra hour in the morning to go about my own business before I dive into work. And I like having it dark-ish, versus having a lot of intrusive sunlight that I can’t get away from.

I rest better when it’s dark.

I sleep better when it’s pitch black.

And when I sleep better, everything gets better.

I’ve been sleeping pretty well, the time change notwithstanding. I’m tired when I go to bed, and I sleep soundly. Even if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can get myself back to bed. And when I wake up, I’m up. I might not always feel 100% refreshed, but I do feel ready for the day.

Especially lately. For some reason, I’ve been feeling more ready for the day, than I have in a long time. And I’m feeling more engaged in what I’m doing, than I’ve felt for a while. This massive deadline that’s looming… it’s going to come and go. And life will go on.

The Main Project I’ve been working on has been rocky and problematic for nearly a year. And there’s a lot of stuff that has just dropped off — including things we really needed to not drop off. At this point, my life is all about just getting to the finish line, tallying up all the stuff that didn’t get done properly, and then doing due diligence afterward to make sure that it all gets reported, and we find a way – somehow – to tie up the loose ends.

I’m working with a lot of people who don’t care about loose ends. All they care about is getting to the finish line, regardless of how it all turns out. That’s unfortunate. But there’s only so much I can do. And I’m not going to ruin my peace of mind over other people’s laxness and refusal to do what needs to be done.

I’m not wrecking my health over this. That would be silly and counter-productive. I’m taking care of myself, protecting my health and state of mind. Doing what I need to do, to stay level and stable. And not getting irrationally caught up in pipe dreams that any of this is going to change dramatically for the better.

I’m putting my resume out there, but nothing is happening. Not a thing.

I definitely need to expand my skillset and refresh some of my abilities. That’s something I can focus on this winter, while I figure out my next steps. It’s probably for the best that I’m not finding another situation quickly. It gives me pause… forces me to reconsider my approach and be more realistic about what I can expect from the job market.

And what I want to do with myself.

I’ve got a lot of insecurity about whether or not I can do it — when I fell in 2004, I lost my ability to focus for extended periods of time, to remember things, even to read and retain what I read. That’s changed dramatically over the past several years, and I’m starting to feel like I can get back on my feet with learning and practicing and re-honing the skills I used to use all the time.

I can use the winter to do this. Now that summer is past, all that frantic running around has tapered off, and the nights are getting longer, I can concentrate. And so I shall. One day at a time. One exercise at a time. One experience at a time… settle in. Get to work. Stead on.

Onward.

Yeah… and so it starts again

drift-boat-in-rapids
How my life feels, right about now

I’m going to restrain myself and NOT refer to the people managing the company where I work as “Lying sacks of sh*t”. Let’s just say, things have apparently changed, since they last told us that the rounds of layoffs were over, a few months back.

They’re not over. Not even close. And they will continue to happen, because the deal that’s supposed to be so sweet, is becoming a bit sour.

I just heard that there are supposed to be more layoffs in another 4 weeks or so. Wonderful. That will give me time to spruce up my resume.

Please, please, please, may I get a decent package and be released into the wild. I know I’m supposed to be careful what I ask for, but the way I figure it, I am eminently replaceable. The company that’s buying mine already has people working with the technology I work with, and they look to be 20 years younger, which means they are cheaper — and easier to let go, at some point. Now’s the time when they can let me go and not get dinged for it.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe.

Who knows? All I know is, my patience has run thin, and I really don’t feel like doing anything for anyone, anymore. The whole thing about trading my time and talents for a paycheck just seems like a bad joke. I’ve given enough. I’ve contributed enough blood to the cause.

It’s a strange feeling. I feel as though I’m in a motorboat, crossing a swift river. And my motor has died. I’m trying to get it started again, pulling and pulling on the starter cord, but I can’t seem to get my motor to start. And the river just keeps flowing.

I really feel like jumping overboard and swimming for shore… and getting off the river. I feel as though that’s what the whole corporate scene is like — going on a boat ride down a river. You can’t control the river, you can try to maneuver around rocks and through rapids, and you can alter your speed, but as long as you’re in the river, you’re never getting to the other side. Even the people running the show aren’t getting to the other side. They’re swept along, the same as the rest of us.

So, I think I need a different river. Or a smaller one. Once again, I remember why I always prefer to do contract work. People who run things at “stable” companies often seem to have different priorities than keeping the business running smoothly – especially when they’re huge. I’ve been working at top-10 multinational corporations for most of the past 30 years, and it’s always the same.

On it goes. I work with a bunch of people who have been through this a bunch of times. I’m not sure how they do it. Living with a sword of Damocles always hanging over your head… not fun.

So, it’s time to take action. Decide where I want to go, and what I want to do, and just do it. I actually have a project I was working on about a year ago, that sputtered out. But I really think it needs to be revived again. I have a handful of projects — all organized around a central theme — that I think could be good and useful for other people.  And I could also do some public speaking about it, as well. It could be an additional way for me to make some money, and it might even expand into something bigger. Now than I think about it, I actually have a number of things I can bring together… and actually build a business out of it. Heck, I have the start of an eBook that actually has a lot of really great content in it. I can use that as a starting point, and work from there. I know there are some places in the area that can use this — and I might be able to branch out, as well.

It’s funny — I had actually started to build out this business, in the few months before I got approached by my current employer, and it looked like I was going to be able to knock it out of the park. But when I got this new job, I put everything on hold, because I wanted to focus on this job. Now things are changing again, and it’s actually the perfect time to revive that business idea. Not only does it give me a good way to “channel” my anxious energy, but it also gives me something to work towards.

The more I think about it, the better this sounds. It really, really does. And I had forgotten how much work I had put into this, in the months before I started this new job. It’s pretty amazing, really — and once again, my “blinkered” perception rears its head. I get so hyperfocused on what’s in front of me, that I lose sight of the larger picture — and things that occurred in times that I’ve forgotten about. It’s a good thing I store everything on my hard drive — and on an external one, as well — and online in my web storage space. Otherwise, I’d just forget all about things.

Yeah. That’s it. I need something that’s actually mine, that I can call my own. And this is it. Other people have kids… or pets… or some cause they rally around, that brings meaning and purpose to their lives. I have no kids, I have no pets (not since the last cat died, 4 years ago), and my causes are personal and private — not the kinds of things I bring out into my outward life.

I just need to get creative and pick the direction I want to go — then go there.

I’ve already picked it. Now it’s time to go.

Onward.

Getting my plans together

These things happen
These things happen

So, yesterday, when my boss cancelled our bi-weekly 1:1 meeting for next week, I could have taken it a number of different ways:

  1. They are really busy.
  2. They will be out of the office.
  3. I’m getting laid off.
  4. They’re getting laid off.
  5. They’re going to be so busy dealing with everything around the layoffs, that they won’t have time for me.
  6. I’m transferring to another group and won’t be reporting to them anymore.
  7. They just have a conflict that day, so we can meet another time.

Honestly, any of the above could be true. And I’m prepared for just about any eventuality. I have been looking through my files for projects I originally intended to complete in the next 2 years, but I put aside because this job is taking all my time. And if I do get laid off, I’m at no loss for what to do. I really hope that happens, provided I receive comfortable safety net of at least 6 months’ pay and insurance coverage to carry me through. I just don’t want my spouse to worry — as they always do, anyway. But I don’t want to give them any more reason to be concerned.

I really do have a ton of stuff I need to get done, and having a few months off will go a long way towards clearing the decks. It will also give me lots of time to gear up for the next phase of my work. The job I’ve been in, has been interesting. But it’s also shown me what I do not want to do — I’d rather not have to deal with people. I want to deal with data. Numbers. Patterns. People make me crazy, and I get tired of being all social ‘n’ sh*t.

Numbers and patterns and algorithms, on the other hand…

Anyway, things should be interesting at work today. I think it’s going to be very quiet. I hear people openly discussing their concerns — especially folks who are older. I’m 50, so that puts me in the cross-hairs. Who the hell is going to keep me on, with my senior-level salary, when they can get people literally half my age, who are much more hip and attuned to the latest trends?

Who indeed?

Please-please-please lay me off, with a tasty severance package. I’ll do fine. I promise.

But they keep me around, that’s fine, too. That just limits how much I can do at any given time and it focuses me. It just pushes out my timeline by 6 months or so. Possibly a year. But the main project I have in mind… that’ll keep. There’s no rush on it. But it’s ready right here and now, if I can devote my full time and attention to it.

Good lord. And here, I thought that I was all set. The job has been great, and I’ve really been enjoying it, for the most part. I thought I was set for at least the next five years, since people either stay on for a long time or they go after a relatively short time. I feel like one of those people who could be around for a long time. But that might not happen.

OR…. it may happen, and in another five years, I’ll be blogging about my job and how it’s going.

Whatever happens, this is a time of change and transition. I need to find another neuropsych, and I’m putting together my list of requirements for them. I feel like I’m writing a job description to interview people, and maybe I am. It’s a big deal for me. I have a number of areas I want to work on, and my current neuropsych doesn’t have the orientation I need, in order to move forward. They don’t seem to think it’s a good idea for me to be “Type A”, but you know what? That’s how I am, so being any other way just doesn’t do it for me.

I need to get back to that. I’ve been stabilizing myself, getting my head in order, for nearly 8 years, now, and it’s been good. I’ve overcome a tremendous amount of obstacles in my thinking and attitudes, rebuilding capabilities and executive function that have really set me in the right direction.

Now I have a solid foundation – including with my professional life – which gives me a springboard for jumping ahead to where I really want to go.

And it’s all good. None of this can be bad.

What may come, will come. La la.

I’ve got work to do.

Onward.