Blast from the past…

I just got a message from a former overseas colleague of mine who is coming to the States next week. I have not seen them in a few years, and it is going to be great to reconnect. As much as that old job (job-before-last) drove me nuts with the time it took to drive to and from, as well as the politics, I miss the people I worked with. I miss them terribly, and I have to admit I would not mind going back to work with them. It’s crazy to think about it, but I miss them so much, it hurts. And looking at the website(s) I used to manage, I feel a pang of nostalgia.

Actually, when I think about it, the people who really made my life difficult there — the people I worked directly with, on my immediate team, were really the ones who caused me trouble. It was my immediate teammates who constantly undercut and sabotaged me. They were a twisted bunch of operators, for sure. It’s just so strange, thinking about how competitive everyone was. It really started with the director who came on-board not long after I joined. That one was a piece of work, and the poisoned the well, because they thought I was a direct competitor for their job.

That was probably for a reason, because their original boss was a nut-case who had a bad habit of yelling and threatening, and I suspect the threat of promoting me was the “stick” they used to knock my boss around.

Anyway, now all those crazy b@stards are gone, including my peers who were strangely closed and hostile towards me, who were always talking about me behind my back and operating and … oh geez… it makes me ill, just thinking about it.

But with those non-team-players gone, there are lot less reasons for me to keep away.

And I have to admit, I miss working for an international company, interacting with people from all over the world. I miss my international friends, for sure. Even the crazy hours talking to Europe early in the morning and Asia late in the evening… I really invested a lot of myself in developing those relationships, and it paid off in a very big way. I’m not sure I’m ever going to have that level of investment in relationships with people I work with. The good ones, that is.

The rotten ones have moved on. So, maybe it’s safe for me to go back.

Or maybe I’m just distracting myself from this new position I have with a really great company. Maybe I’m just being flighty again. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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Last day at the old job went well.

I had a really good last day – last couple of days, in fact.

I finished strong, only spacing out on a couple of meetings yesterday. I did just about everything that I intended to do – with the exception of pulling out every single strand of my knowledge and putting it into coherent documentation. That proved much harder to do, than I originally expected. Translating a lot of non-verbal knowledge into verbal streams that make sense to others, is no small feat.

So, I didn’t kill myself over it.

I spent far more time on just making sure that I left all my bridges intact, that I said good-bye to the people whose company I have really enjoyed, and whose help has really benefited me. It was odd, how many of the supervisors of other groups — who had plenty of interaction with me — didn’t even acknowledge that I was leaving or stop by to say good-bye… crickets, from that level of things. I did manage to connect with a lot of folks along the way, but I was also incredibly busy, and I didn’t get out of the building, at last, until after 6:00 p.m.  Folks told me to leave early, but I wasn’t done yet.

So, I left on a strong note. And I cleaned up my cubicle before I split. None of that nasty crap that people leave when they remove the pictures, unhook the computer, etc. Just a clean space left behind.

The main thing that I wanted to leave behind, was sufficient information and training to get people in a space where they can continue to succeed — and do even better than before. I also wanted to leave on a good note, which I did. I am very, very uncomfortable with good-byes (even though I’ve done so many of them, in my ~30-year professional career). And the fact that it was hard to say good-bye this time, too, says a lot about the connections I’ve built with people.

This time has been very different from other changes, where I am leaving to pursue something better, rather than only fleeing something worse. I’ve been a “professional refugee” for so many years, just going from one job to the next, in search of something better. The thing with my last job is that it is better in some ways than the one prior, but it was far inferior in others. And I realize now that, had I taken a different approach, I probably could have stayed at that other company indefinitely and really risen in the ranks.

Still, there were so many tough things about it — especially the commute — that I’m not sure it would ever work for me. However, if I ever want to go back (which I’m now thinking I may, someday), I know a few ways I can make things easier on myself.

But that’s all water under the bridge. I’m getting ready to move on to the next role, and quite frankly, I have so much opportunity to make this new job into something fantastic. They are giving me carte blanche  to kick it into high gear, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. In fact, the great things about my job-before-last, I can try to incorporate into this new job. And do it on my terms.

I can also incorporate the positive pieces of the job I just left, to make this new position what I want it to be. There were so many good lessons that came from the past year, and what I am finally learning is how to make the most of the good AND bad, while not letting shortcomings get in my way.

And on that note, it’s time to look forward. I’m planning on spending most of the day outside – starting with a long walk in the woods.

Time to enjoy being unemployed for the next 48 hours.

Onward.

Back again… Kind of

Ahhhhh…..

So, I’m back from my travels to sunny California, where the weather was even better than it normally is, this time of year. San Francisco was actually warm and clear — if you can imagine — and farther south towards LA and San Diego, there was yet more beautiful weather. Pretty amazing. Unfortunately, folks are in drought there, so the “nice” weather has a down-side. But for my selfish, temporary purposes, it was ideal.

I spent a lot of time inside, unfortunately. Didn’t get to soak up much sun. 😦 I had a lot of indoor work to do, managing a team of folks who were taking care of some of the logistics… as well as having meetings with colleagues I only get to see once or twice a year. I had to be ON, most of the time — always alert, always ready to interact, always ready to change gears and reach out to people and be responsive to their needs and requests, at a moment’s notice.

In past years, this conference has really torn the living crap out of me, with the constant going and doing and talking and moving and shaking. It’s taken me years to acclimate to the experience of never knowing when I’m going to run into someone I need to talk to. This year, though, I was able to really pace myself and not over-do it. I was present, in the moment, responsive, engaged, and I was actually “on”, with as many pistons firing as humanly possible.

I also took breaks when I needed to, and I didn’t try to go to too many events and sessions that didn’t have anything to do with me directly. I stepped away and took breaks when I needed to, instead of pushing myself back into the fray. I spent a fair amount of time alone, which was good. Best of all, I didn’t feel guilty about it or tell myself I should have been doing something different. I’ve worked this conference two other times, so I knew everyone I was managing, and I knew how the conference would flow. I also knew that nothing terrible was going to happen, if I didn’t do everything that was available to me. In past years, I have felt tremendous pressure (from within) to be 500% ON — ALL THE TIME. Not this year, though. And it paid off. I’m really tired, but I’m not trashed, like I have been in the past.

I had great times with people there. I had some great dinners and breakfasts and lunches with colleagues and other conference attendees. I got a lot of great ideas from people about new things to do and try, and there’s no lack of things to think about and work through, now that I’m back.

Speaking of being back, it’s high time I got ready for work. Jet lag is messing with my internal clock, so it’s time to reset and start fresh!

Onward.

Clearing out the gunk

Had a pretty fiery long weekend — and beyond. Several fights – one of them serious. That was Monday night, after the activity of the long weekend. Total meltdown/blow-up.

Felt like crap afterwards. Really awful. Talk of divorce. What else is new? My spouse plays that card, whenever they want to make me believe it’s serious. It is, and I know that. It’s just a brinksmanship thing they do to push me a little more than they already have.

Not that I would mind, some days. Some days, I wouldn’t mind just walking away from all of this — and I mean ALL of it — and starting again. There are a lot of things I would not miss, not least of which are the obligations that I am true to, for the sake of building up relationships with others… relationships which actually don’t do squat for me, because deep down inside I am a profoundly introverted person. And the social “thing” as most people do it, does nothing for me.

It’s not that I don’t need people. I do – but differently than most people I know. My life isn’t just built around a few key relationships with people with whom I’ve cultivated connections. It’s built around having good relationships with everyone I meet. That’s important to me. Because I don’t actually see a difference between all the different people I know. The “close friends” are as important to me as “casual strangers” — because I actually don’t experience people as strangers. They are just everyday people I don’t know very well yet. As for close friends, there is too much of them that I do not know and understand, for me to consider them close friends. I mean, I do see that difference, and I do feel more comfortable talking to some people than others, but my whole social world is very different from the world that I see so many others participating in.

Cliques don’t interest me. Little clubs don’t interest me. I’m not into the “membership thing”. It’s boring to me, and it shows a real lack of imagination, in my opinion. With me, it’s literally a case of all of us being brothers and sisters in one extended family (heaven help us). It’s not some airy-fairy hippie-dippie ideal. That’s literally how I experience the world.

And it is a pretty damned lonely perspective, too. I can’t think of anyone who feels the same way, who doesn’t strike me as an airy-fairy hippie-dippie poseur. They just don’t seem real. And the people who do consider me a close friend with that bond they feel… I dunno… They don’t feel any more close to me than others, most of the time. A lot of them are pretty wrapped up in their personal pain and unfortunate experiences, so they’re not even fully “there” when I’m around them. In any case, their feelings of friendship towards me just barely scratches the surface of what I feel and how I experience the world, so even their closeness is pretty much a faint shadow of what my experience is.

My spouse is the one exception to all of this. They know me better, have been with me longer and closer and more loyally, than anyone else I know, and they are the one person I actually feel a deep bond with. Everyone else in my life just flits in and out, and half the time I don’t really miss them, when they have other things to do. But my spouse has been there, through thick and thin, and they can hold their own with me, when I am at my best. Even when they don’t understand what I’m talking about, when I start going on about technology and science and what-not, they still appreciate that I have that knowledge. And they don’t push me away because of it. We have our issues, that’s for sure, and some days (like today), I can’t say it would kill me if we split up and I bought an old truck and a junkyard dog and headed out to the wide open West to see what life had to offer me there.

But to be honest, I’d probably turn around, 50 miles down the road, go pick them up… and take them with me.

We’ve been talking about doing that for a long time, now, and maybe someday we will.

Anyway, back to my present state of being. We have been under a lot of pressure around money and getting things done, for a number of years, now. It’s been over three years, since we started down the debt repayment, road, wiping out a ton of old debt that was burying us every month, and living so close to the bone for so long has really taken a toll. It’s pretty awful. When I think about how things used to be … it was much easier, when we had money, and both of us were active and really involved in our world.

But now, after years of poor decision making and relationships with troubled people, we find ourselves really stretched. Money issues can tax even the healthiest of relationships, and we’ve had our challenges along the way, in addition to the money situation.

So, it’s taking a toll. And things really flared up this past weekend. It’s the holidays, family are pulling on us, we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances, but nobody seems to understand just how broke we really are. It’s freaky, to be this close to the edge, and have nobody realize it. Of course, we can’t tell people about it, because then a hell of a lot of judgement is going to rain down on our heads, adding insult to injury.

No thanks.

So, we just keep plugging along, by ourselves… And the biochemical stress sludge builds up and up and up… until it boils over, and we both melt down — or one of us goes off, and the other chimes in. Then we really get rolling, and by the time all is said and done, we are both wiped out, feeling like crap, and feeling like we’re back where we started, all those years ago, when things were really, really bad between us.

Things have been getting progressively worse, over the past years — mostly because of money problems and also work issues. The more I am aware of how I want things to be, the more I’m aware that they’re nothing like I want them to be, and it just depresses the sh*t out of me. I used to be able to just work like a mad person and find some relief in that, but it’s not like that for me anymore. Now I’m just so tired all the time, I’m irritable, I get pissed off over every little thing, and I’m nowhere near as easy-going as I used to be, because now I have a much clearer view of my own self-worth, and I’m not willing to put up with just any old thing, for the sake of having peace.

It was like that with me for years. I didn’t make too much about getting yelled at constantly, at getting hounded and treated like crap. I was making decent money, and as long as I had enough to keep myself entertained and do the things I wanted to do, it didn’t matter how I felt about myself. The fact that I was earning a good living was enough.

Now, however, that’s totally different, and in the absence of money, I require a lot more respect and consideration, which my spouse isn’t always ready to give me. Plus, they’ve got severe anxiety issues, they don’t take care of themself physically, and that makes them even harder to live with.

So, things get bad… and then they get worse.

Main thing for me, right now, is just getting past all the biochemical sludge that’s built up over the last long weekend. And making plans for how to spend the next long vacation I have coming up — over a week between Christmas and New Years. I’m going to need to structure this time pretty well, if I’m not going to go off and get freaked out and end up in shouting matches, all the live-long day. Being off work and interacting with someone who lives like they’re on permanent vacation and expect me to do the same, is intensely stressful — especially considering the dire financial circumstances we’re in. It’s just not good, and I’m the only one here who seems interested in doing anything about it.

It’s a problem.

But I do feel like there’s a change coming. I found some errors I made on past tax returns, and I’m refiling, so I may get some money back from the government from that. I’m also collecting all my expenses and numbers from the past year, so I can do my taxes early and get a quick refund in February. That’s my plan. It’s the only one I actually have, right now, aside from some small business ideas I have brewing.

It’s all a process, of course…

The main thing, is to keep going, keep clearing out the junk, not overload my system with a lot of junk food, sugar, cheap carbs, etc. And get enough sleep.

I did that last night, and it feels phenomenal.

So, enough of all this talk of drudgery and sadness.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relationships after TBI – the road back

tbi-and-marriage-1
Coming to terms can be difficult

Here’s something a reader just shared — a web page full of informational videos on Relationships after TBI from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center – a site which shares information on TBI and how to address and recover from it.

The featured video is a great one – about a couple who have made tremendous progress since the husband’s TBI. It’s truly inspirational to see them, and it’s clear that things haven’t been a bed of roses for them.

One of the great things about this is that there’s actually work being done on helping couples to handle the changes and challenges after TBI. It’s absolutely true that TBI affects everyone, not just the survivor, and having people out there who can share the information and help others to do something meaningful with it, is very heartening.

The road is long, but it can be so rewarding
The road is long, but it can be so rewarding

It’s also very heartening when I see and hear stories about spouses who step up and really work at things, instead of just giving up. This varies from person to person, of course, and everyone’s resilience level is different, but TBI doesn’t have to be a death sentence for marriage.

I encourage you to check out the videos at the MSKTC

Good sense and balance

Keeping balanced – it matters

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there — I hope this day finds you in good form and in a positive frame of mind. And if it doesn’t, I hope you can find some relief and find a way to enjoy yourself at least a little bit today. Father’s Day doesn’t last forever, but tomorrow is another day.

I’m a bit under the weather today. I’ve been feeling pretty down on myself after the meltdown on Friday, and yesterday was pretty much of a bust, because I was so wiped out and tired from everything that’s been going on, lately. Plus, I completely spaced on getting my dad a Father’s Day card, and by the time I remembered it, it was too late to buy it and the post office was closed. I must admit I’m dreading calling him up. He loves to talk, and I’m feeling pretty wiped out. Not sure I’m up for a discussion. I’ll need a nap before I do that.

Today I need to just chill. Normally I chill on Saturdays, and I did that some. But it’s hard for me to relax when I am stressed, and I was definitely stressed. Tired. Fatigued. Wiped out. Done.

It’s a fine line I have to walk — between activity and rest. I got up this morning feeling like total crap. Had a half-assed exercise session, went through the motions of my morning routine, and helped my spouse, who is not feeling well today, either. Getting out of my head — that’s important. And when I think about it, the thing that gets me the most and pulls me down the most, is when I get stuck inside my head. It’s just not good. I need to get out, get engaged, get active… and I need to also balance out my activities so that when the time comes, I’m actually able to enjoy myself and be really engaged with people and activities.

Part of it, of course, is physical — it’s tough to stay fully engaged when you’re physically exhausted. But a lot of it is mental, too. Being able to put aside my poor-me attitude, feeling sorry for myself, wallowing in self-pity because things aren’t working out the way I want them to… Please. I have ongoing issues with feeling sorry for myself, feeling neglected and dismissed, and not standing up for myself. Part of me thinks that people should magically be able to tell what I need, when I need it — including my spouse. But they only have as much information as I give them, and I’ve been focused on NOT drawing attention to myself for so long, that how would anyone know that I really need something? How would anyone know that something is really important to me, unless I tell them?

Clearly, I need to make some changes in how I interact with people. I have been hiding out, basically, making it my mission to put others first and do for them what they need done. That can be very fulfilling and satisfying — to lose yourself in service to others you love, and to live not for yourself but for the greater good. But there comes a time when things like adequate sleep and a regular schedule become paramount, and then you have to tend to your own needs — and educate others about how best to interact with you.

I heard it said once that “We train other people how to treat us,” and the more I think about it, the more true it seems. Yes, we train others how to treat us, and since I have been training my spouse and my employers and my coworkers to not worry about what I need, in the course of my daily life, small wonder that my own wishes are the last thing they think about when they are coming up with their plans.

Yes, more work to do… And it can be quite tiring. On the bright side, though, these difficulties are actually signs that things are changing for the better in my life. Up until a couple of years ago, I was so oblivious to how poorly people treated me — and how I sought out the company of people who treated me likd sh*t — that I unconsciously ended up in one bad situation after another. The employers who treated me like I was disposable, were the ones I actually sought out. And the ones who treated me well, I avoided like the plague. My “best friends” usually laughed at me and made fun of me and talked down to me. And my favorite activities were ones that really wore me out and stressed me to the point of breaking, over and over again.

I was a real “stress junkie” — but I wasn’t just getting a fix. I was actually trying to wake myself up, to get my brain to kick into gear, because if I didn’t have that stress in my life, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t follow what was going on around me. It wasn’t a case of poor self-esteem that caused it — my poor self-esteem came from my need to be in rough, tough, abusive situations. And that need was purely neurological, not psychological, stemming from poor “tonic arousal” that was the result of too many traumatic brain injuries.

And the thing that stopped me from getting the kind of help I needed with my relationships, my work, my situations in life, was the confusion between cause and effect, and the true nature of my danger/risk-seeking activities and my craving for really sh*tty interpersonal relationships. It’s not about me seeking out people who treat me like crap because I feel badly about myself due to others treating me poorly early in life, or whenever. It’s about me having a neurological and biochemical need to be challenged and pushed — and people who treat me poorly are really good at that, without even thinking about it. They’re quite good at it, actually, and so it works out well for all of us — They have someone to abuse, and I’m a willing and ready target.

But low self-esteem is not the CAUSE of this cycle. It’s a RESULT of it. To stop the cycle, I need to get to the cause. Here’s a picture of my conception of it.

How it all connects

And out of the end-result of the low self-esteem, feeling inadequate, being down on myself and feeling damaged, comes the impetus to seek out yet more stress and danger and risk — in relationships and work, etc.

So, there it is. I can see it clearly in front of me, and it makes total sense to me. Now, what to do about it? Having this knowledge is one thing. Putting it into action is another.

It all takes practice. It takes repetition, to turn the cycles around. It takes a series of little successes and lessons from failures, to make progress. The main thing for me, right now, is focusing on the fundamentals — getting adequate rest, and keeping up with my breathing and body scans, which help me to manage my stress and keep the fight-flight parts of my brain from flipping out over every little thing.

The problem on Friday was that I was tired. I was fried. I was also stressed from things going awry, over and over again. I was also pissed off that I wasn’t getting any help at all, and I felt really used and taken advantage of and manipulated, which in turn put me into even more of a fight-flight frame of mind/body. Now seeing how my weekend has been hosed, I have a chance today to restore some of what I lost over the past two days. I have to be really easy on myself and be grateful that I am able to see what’s going on with me — and be very grateful that I can get help tomorrow from my NP. I need to be able to trust myself, which I’m not feeling much like doing, right now, and I need to believe that I will be able to learn from my mistakes and missteps and come out stronger in the end.

Ultimately, I think the real answer to so much of this, is finding things that truly excite and interest me, and being able to pursue them. When I can replace the negative, draining stress with something that really picks me up and keeps me engaged in life and gets me out of my head, I find myself energized and really involved in my life and with others, in ways that the negative stress can never achieve.

Will I ever have no need for the negative stress? I’m not sure that will ever happen. But for now, I know about it, and for now I can do something about it. And so I shall.

Time to go back to bed. So I can call my Dad later.

Whew – that was close!

Last Friday I had probably one of the worst days at my job. I got lectured by my boss about having done something that got them in trouble with their boss, and it threw me for a loop. So, I wrote this angry, rambling post about what a jerk they are, telling the world that I realized that many of the issues I’ve been having at work with them may be less about my problems, than theirs.

At the time, it felt really good to vent. I felt 100% justified, and I felt like I was coming to my own defense against injustice. It felt good to announce to the world that my boss is a jerk (I used much harsher terms, actually) and vindicate myself in the face of their (seemingly unwarranted) criticisms.

Fortunately, it turns out, I never published the post. It’s in draft status in my blog. And I plan to keep it that way. The thought occurred to me to delete it, but it’s a good reminder of how I can get really carried away when I’m tired and feeling pressured.

See, here’s the thing — the whole rage and temper and meltdown business is one of the particularly problematic things about TBI. At the time, when all the fight-flight chemicals are rushing through my veins, it makes perfect sense to my brain to fly off the handle. Impulse control goes right out the window, and the idea of NOT doing something rash is the farthest thing from my mind. It feels right and good and justified — it feels so right, how can it be wrong?

Well, it CAN be wrong. If only because feeding into it is going to cause even more trouble, on down the line. It’s bad enough that I had a bad day. But if I’d managed to publish that post, I would have not only spread the badness to everyone who was reading it, but I would have also had egg all over my face. Because in retrospect, they were a little right about what they were lecturing me about. They just did it in a way that I found humiliating, disrespectful, condescending, patronizing, and all the other attitudes that are hot-buttons for my temper.

And that will never do.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this list of questions people have been typing into search engines that get them to this blog. Rage and anger, temper and road rage, are frequent items. I think I’ll step on over to the post Quick responses to loaded questions and continue adding…

Keeping at it

It’s May. May Day. First of May. Labor Day in much of Europe, if not the rest of the world. Those of us in the States will need to wait till the end of the month for our Labor Day. We’ll just have to keep going.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I do what I do, what has worked, and what hasn’t. I wonder a lot about why I have difficulty with seemingly simple things, and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s often the simplest things that are the hardest for me to do.

Toss me into a pit of vipers with a grenade that’s just had the pin pulled out, and tell me I need to make a noon deadline or we’re all going down, and I’m fine.

But give me something easy to do and tell me to take care of it whenever I get a chance, and it may never get done. No matter how simple it is.

And I look around at the lives of people I know. I roam around Facebook and I look at the pictures of people I know — or am supposed to know — and I marvel at their lives. They seem to have so much going on. They seem so much farther ahead of me. They seem to have so much more accomplished, under their belts, or to their credit. They have kids and whole families and their own businesses and more. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to them, but I can’t help it. I have to wonder, is that how I was “supposed” to turn out?

According to my family, yes. That is how I was supposed to turn out. A pillar of the community with loving spouse and a handful of kids and a good job that I stayed in for the long haul.

But looking around, I’m not sure that anybody is like that, anymore. Even the people on Facebook who seem so, well, adult, compared to me.

The ones who really intrigue me are the people I know socially, whose official photos look like completely different people. They look so professional, so together. But I know different things about them — like how they called from the road, coming back from a trip to go see a sick family member in a different part of the country, and they were totally shaken by the experience because nobody from their family seems to understand them… or how when they’re not dressed up, they look completely different from how they look online — and they don’t act anything like they look.

Again, with the persona stuff. Again with the image we project to the rest of the world…

I wonder what kind of persona I project to others. I wonder if people see the Gaga-like force of nature, or the 10-year-old kid I still feel like, wondering what the hell is going on in the world.

Hard to say. Anyway, that’s a slippery slope, because the persona and the person are not always synonymous. They overlap and connect, sure, but each is just a collection of fragments that we assemble for whatever reason to serve whatever purpose.

Getting clear on which fragments I want to pull together, at this point in time, is my main concern.

Here, now, in this moment, who do I need to be, to be the best and truest me I can access?

It takes a lot of energy to get clear on this. It takes a certain presence of mind, as well as a certain consistency, to make a good go of this. If you keep projecting different aspects of yourself to the same people, they may never figure out who you are… or they’ll make up their own minds in ways that may not help you at all.

Like this friend of mine I’ve talked about a little before — the one who yelled at me and made fun of me when I couldn’t remember something they thought I should. This friend of mine is probably my longest-standing friendship, going back more than 15 years. We’ve been through ups and downs, and we fell out of touch for a while. But we got back in touch, and we had seen each other through some pretty challenging stuff, over the past year or so.

One thing has always bugged the crap out of me, however — this friend of mine does not treat me very well. They condescend to me because I haven’t got a couple of college degrees like them, and I’m not as “cultured” as they are. I won’t even go into how — when it comes to depth and breadth of immersion in culture — I’ve got them trumped all across the board. And as for that education stuff… well, I friggin’ grew up in the midst of academics and Ph.D.’s and MD’s and Esquires — from all over the world, thank you — and I learned a long time ago to not get too impressed by letters after someone’s name. Still, they have always insisted on “pulling rank” on me, as though their Ivy League credentials make them the superior being.

Please.

Can we please get real?

I think the thing that’s fed this dynamic has been my willingness to be real with them. To not put on airs, to not parade around like I’m God’s gift, to just be down to earth and not be all hoity-toity and overly impressed with myself. I think we can get into trouble real quick, if we start taking ourselves too seriously. Years ago, I met someone who was really into harlequins, court jesters, and the like, because they were the only ones who would actually tell the truth — all under the guise of humor and antics. It made sense to me, and I kind of picked up on that orientation.

Sadly, the world seems to be favorably inclined towards people who take themselves really seriously, which bodes well for people out in the working world, in general, where you almost have to overstate your importance, in order to catch — and keep — anyone’s attention. This interest of mine in seeing –and telling — the truth, doesn’t always work in my favor. I have scant expectations of climbing the corporate ladder, given this penchant.  Unless, that is, the working world changes — or I can find an environment where honesty is rewarded, rather than shunned in horror.

But I digress. I really wanted to talk about how this issue with honesty and showing sides of yourself and people making up their minds about you carries over to this onetime friend of mine. Apparently, I gave them enough “fodder” over the years, to reach conclusions about me that are dismissive and demeaning, and make it okay for them to ridicule and diminish me. And part of me feels like I should have been more careful. I shouldn’t have been as real with them, as honest. I shouldn’t have revealed the soft underbelly I’ve got, and I definitely shouldn’t have told them about my TBIs. (Ironically, they’re in special education, so I thought they would understand, but it turns out, they still don’t get that you don’t treat people like they’re less-than, just because they’re different.)

I thought they’d be able to be supportive, or at least non-judgmental. But boy did I misjudge that. Now I have to go out and find other friends. Because this one really isn’t working out. Thinking back, some of the best years of our friendship were when we weren’t in regular contact with each other.  So, what the hell have I been doing all these years, keeping the connection on life support?

It’s depressing. And now I’m looking at more work — having to step out in the world and find out where else I can find friends. And see if I can cultivate some better connections with people I already know. It takes time and attention and work. I’m not feeling really up to it, right now, but I’ll just keep on keepin’ on and see what comes of it.

Onward.

Improvements all around

I've got some work to do...

It’s raining today. And lots to do. I’ve got leftover work I couldn’t get finished this past week that won’t wait — I have to square it away for Monday. And I’ve got other work I’ve got to get finished for some folks I’m freelancing for. There’s a lot on my plate, and there’s usually someone at work pissed off about things not going they way they’d like.

Not that they help. The directives tend to come from four levels above me, and they keep changing. Every week something different comes up, and I get the distinct impression that the people who are running things either don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t know what they want — or both.

This could be maddening, if I let it drive me crazy. I know my boss’es boss is easily pushed by the Person Who Is Constantly Changing Their Mind (who happens to run the show). I think most people in middle management are easily pushed by this person, who seems to have some Svengali-like hold over their minds, hearts and gonads. It’s very odd. The interactions I’ve had with this Terror have never struck fear in my heart. If anything, the “Terror” has been open to listening to what I had to say, they could be reasoned with, and when I stood my ground on principle, they backed off.

In some cases, they even told me that they would defer to my judgment, which is nice. They thanked me for keeping them honest, when I wouldn’t back down.

And yet, the folks who report directly to the Terror are all running around in a state of high anxiety and crisis, apparently due to pressure from THE TOP.

Hm.

Kind of reminds me of the Elvis Costello song – I used to be disgusted… now I’m just amused. It gets a little wearing, being so tweaked over the volatility of someone else. I could certainly do that, but what would be the point? I just need to keep steady with my own agenda and my own work. And to remember that I have an agenda… which would be looking out for myself within the context of the broader company, which spans many countries and continents, and within the context of my broader life.

There is, after all, more to my life than making my superiors happy.There has always been more to it for me, than that. It’s one of the things that’s made me both useful and a little dangerous — the fact that I stay true to myself and my vision and my goals, even in the face of external pressure. If something matters to me — and I mean really matters — I stick with it and don’t let anything or anyone stand between me and that goal. The only thing that can keep me from achieving it, is me — and I’ve done just that more times than I care to think about.

I literally am my own worst enemy, in so many ways. I’ve pushed myself, driven myself, exhausted myself, undermined myself, and done so many counter-productive things that made it much harder than necessary, to get from Point A to Point B… let alone Points C – Z. And when things didn’t work out, I was all too quick to just throw up my hands and say, “Oh, well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” and just walk away.

Crazy. What’s even crazier, is that I’ve gotten used to it and I’ve developed a whole repertoire of sour-grapes-type “explanations” for why I never followed through.

I’m working on that. I’ve figured out a bunch of issues and patterns I tend to follow, and I’m coming up with better ways of handling situations as they arise… and avoiding them to begin with.

One thing I’ve become keenly aware of is how I have traditionally made bad choices in friends — people who didn’t treat me right, who made fun of me, who gave me a hard time, who really dragged me down, and cost me a lot in terms of money and time and energy, not to mention reputation.

Thinking back, I have not had many good friends at all, over the years, who really treated me the way I deserved to be treated. And the people who have treated me well, I ran from.

I mean, it’s bad enough that I have spent so much time dealing with bad friends, but why the hell would I run from good ones?

Why indeed?

Well, I think I’ve figured it out. And it has to do with the same things as procrastination — but in a much darker way.

See, with people who treat me like crap, I’m much more alert. I’m awake. I’m on guard. Every bit of my mind and attention is pumped. And I feel alive. I feel like I’m actually with it. In fact, the worse people treat me, the better I feel like I can function. Because I’m so ON, thanks to the constant threat of ridicule and mistreatment at the hands of these “friends” of mine.

As for people who treat me well, I have almost no use for them. They don’t wake me up. They don’t make me feel like I’m “on”. If anything, they relax me and that makes me feel dull and dense and not entirely with it. Maybe it’s that general level of wakefulness that’s missing, or that slower processing speed. All I know is, people who are nice to me don’t hold my attention. If anything, they make me feel kind of bad about myself. Because I’m just not as present with them as I am in situations where I’m under constant threat.

Here’s a picture of the situation, as I understand/experience it:

Sad, but true

I hate to say it, but there’s something about being treated badly, that makes me feel good — and I really feel it’s due to the level of wakefulness, which is also connected with my agitation and restlessness that sets in even more when I’m not all awake. When I’m not awake, I become itchy and anxious and agitated. This does not make me feel good — about myself or the people I’m around. If anything, it makes me feel worse.

So, bad friends make me feel good, and good friends make me feel bad.

How’s that for a TBI after-effect?

Pain in my ass.

Anyway, at least now I’m aware of it. And now I can come up with some alternatives for handling the situation. Because you can’t go through life all alone and isolated… and surrounded by people who mistreat and take advantage of you. Something’s gotta change, so it’s time to take a look at this and see what I can do.

I think I really need to find connections with people who I can DO things with — structured activities, rather than sitting around and “relaxing” — which doesn’t relax me at all. I need to be doing something, learning something, engaged in an activity that holds my attention — but doesn’t tire me out too much.

Here’s an idea — I’ll join a Meetup for a language I’m learning — French, for starters. I’ve been checking out meetup.com and it looks like there may be some meetings in my area, which is a great thing. Who knows? I may make some good connections.  At least I’ll get out and meet new people.

And keep an eye out for the people who are pretty rotten. There are always some. Not that I plan to go into this with an attitude… just keeping in mind that I tend to gravitate to people who are not particularly nice to me, is helpful, and I can then manage to it. It’s when I’m not aware of the potential for getting caught in another web of destructive human interactions that I get into trouble.

Not that I’m very pleased about this aspect of my life. I’d like to think that I am surrounded by people who give a damn about me and will be there when I need them. I’d like to think that I have friends I can count on, who will stand with/behind me when need be. But as long as I prefer the company of people who treat me like crap, that will remain an elusive goal.

There is some good news, though.  Again, here I am looking at the fact that certain patterns in my life — which were always interpreted as being a sign that there was some deep-seated emotional/psychological issue at work — actually have a lot more to do with my neurology than my psychology. I don’t seek out the company of jerks because I think less of myself or I have some deep-seated self-loathing going on. I do it because it wakes me up and makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like myself, where being around people who relax me and don’t put me on edge, actually make me nervous and agitated.

So long as my brain isn’t fully engaged and fully charged up, I feel a lot less “human” than I would like to be.

And that’s no fun.

So the challenge now is to find ways of being fully engaged, fully awake, fully with-it, when I’m around people who treat me with respect and consideration. To find ways of being fully “on” when I’m not in constant danger. To find ways of getting myself in the game, without compromising my chances of developing positive, productive relationships with people who genuinely appreciate my company and input.

It’s a fairly tall order. Old habits are hard to break. But now that I’m aware of the fact that I need to make some improvements… well, I can.

Overslept – thank heavens

Source: public-domain-photos.com

Today is a big day – my new boss starts today. Actually, it’s my boss’es new boss — the existing boss’es boss who flipped out over my faux pas a few weeks ago wisely perceives that they need an additional layer of management to help with all their reports. It’s good. Plus, there is a chance that it may mean I get a promotion (and possibly a raise) in the deal, because it’s common knowledge that I have a ton more experience at what I do, than what my current boss does. And it could mean that the two of us become peers, rather than me staying subordinate.

Plus, my spouse has a conference call this morning with a potential new business partner which could really help bump their business up in a way it’s been needing to, since around 1999, when a former business partner changed their business model and moved on. Ever since that, my spouse has been seeking a replacement business partner, but they never materialized.

Now they’re materializing, and it looks very promising. Good stuff. That, on top of the fact that my partner is getting more and more clients for their business, and they’re developing new services that are catching on in the community… more good stuff.

It’s exciting. And uncertain. And I haven’t been sleeping well, lately, which makes this the prime opportunity for a freak-out melt-down, which happened last night (this morning) at around 2 a.m.

For some reason, my brain decided that my spouse has been lying to me about a relationship they’ve developed with a co-worker — someone they work very closely with, and with whom they have admitted they have “chemistry”. It’s been a pretty sore spot for me for the past 9 months or so. It’s been a subtext in our lives that I have tried valiantly to be tolerant and understanding of. My spouse has assured me, time and time again, that there is nothing untoward going on, and I’ve had to believe them.

But lately, between being tired, starting the new job, and the great new business developments… not to mention the change of the season which always gets me a little down… it’s been getting harder and harder fight back the tendency to suspicion and distrust.

Now, you have to understand — the potential “other man/woman” has been a regular presence in our relationship for as long as we’ve been together — nearly 20 years. There have been “others” who have been more or less intimate/inappropriate with both of us. And we’ve both always had some other people experience sort of “spark” with each of us. We’re very different people, but we’re both very much alive, and people are attracted to our liveliness. It goes with the territory. Plus, we’re married, but we’re not dead, and we both appreciate an attractive, alluring individual when we encounter them.

When we’re strong, we’re fine. Neither of us has let infidelity get hold of us, and we’ve always come back from those kinds of gray areas stronger than ever.

But this time is different. For me, for my spouse. My spouse has traditionally turned to me for support (both moral and logistical and economic) when they needed an extra set of eyes for a marketing piece, or a strong back for lifting and carrying gear, or a little extra $$$ to pay a contractor or some other obligation. In many ways, I’ve been a silent partner in their undertakings. But over the past year, they’ve resolved to be more independent, more self-sufficient, and not depend so much on me.

It’s for good reason — one that has as much to do with me, as with them. As I’ve emerged from my latest TBI fog, I’ve realized how much I tend to overdo it, how I tend to over-extend myself, and I’ve realized that helping my spouse with as much as I have has taken a significant toll on my energy stores, which has made the rest of my life more difficult. So, I’ve requested that they “use” me a lot less for their events and activities, and they rely more on their support network for getting things done.

And they have. So I have been doing much better about handling my energy stores and my overall activities. But it also leaves me feeling unwanted. Unneeded. Cast away. Pushed aside. Discarded.

How does that work, exactly? I say I can’t keep holding down three jobs (my 9-5, another regular job I have that takes from 5-10 hours a week, plus helping my spouse), and I need a break from being their utility person. And when they give me what I ask for, I feel like so much human refuse. What’s up with that?

I think it’s human nature, actually. And I think it points out that I have used my position with my spouse, over the years, to “give them a reason” to stay with me. If they were dependent on me, then they would put up with my moodiness, my temper outbursts, my wild emotional lability, my melt-downs, my blow-ups, my friggin’ temper flares… and my intermittent troubles, thanks to intermittent TBIs. I figured, as long as they needed me for the most basic, fundamental stuff in life, they would keep me around. And I wouldn’t be alone.

But now that’s changing. And my job is changing. And the world is changing. And the seasons are shifting. And I’m tired. So, I become convinced that they’re having an affair and lying to me about it and hiding other things and making a fool out of me, talking about me behind my back with friends in common, and generally keeping me around until they can get enough money together to leave my sorry ass.

It came to a head at 2 a.m. this morning. Ugh. Fortunately (and I think this may have to do with my spouse having grown up in a household with volatile, sometimes violent parents) my partner was able to keep cool and not flip out on me, and what could have escalated into a full-scale fight that ended up with me driving off in the car and sleeping in a parking lot somewhere, ended up with us just talking things through.

And I got my head to calm down. With the help of my spouse, I managed to tame my crazy-ass broken brain that fixates on stuff and then turns it into something Big And Bad and awful, and got in touch with the fact that I’m feeling pretty alone in the world, right now, without any real-world friends of my own to just hang out with. I don’t have a real-live support network. Work doesn’t count – you need to maintain some professional distance there. And the friends that I have in common with my spouse… well, I haven’t done much to reach out to them. I’m so tired, so much of the time, I just can’t find the energy to reach out. Even my family is at arm’s length for me. We’re all so busy. So busy working just to keep it together and make ends meet.

Anyway, about 3:00 a.m. I managed to calm down enough to go back to bed. My spouse and I have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for almost 2 years now. They kicked me out a few winters ago, when my volatility got to be too much for them — they’d come to bed later than me, and I’d freak out on them waking me up and screwing up my sleeping pattern. Not good. Not pretty. So, I moved to the “guest” bedroom, which by now is really my bedroom. It’s a little lonely, and the mattress leaves a little to be desired, but it’s dark in there all night (my spouse likes to sit up late reading, and they like a night-light on all night), and with my earplugs in (to block out the sound of them moving around, which seems all the louder when I’m tired), I can sleep through.

Which is what I did today. I slept through the 6:30 alarm and woke up at 8:00. I had wanted to get into the office today early, so I could be there when my new boss gets there, but you  know what? I’m rarely there that early, and I’m going to stay late today, so why do something to throw myself off and put myself in an untrue light?

Plus, my present boss gets in around 9:30, and I don’t want to upstage them. I just want to start off on a foot that gives folks an accurate view of who I am and how I work — not manufacture an ideal image that I can’t live up to.

So, I’m running later than I expected to, and that’s fine. I’m also back on-line with my spouse, and I’m thinking about how I can change my life this autumn/winter to make it more “mine” the way I am now, instead of a shadow of the life I had before my last TBI. Much in my life has changed, since I embarked on my intentional TBI recovery, and I’m finding that the ways I’ve been over the years have not been true to who I really am, and how I really am.

I need change. I need something better. I need something that’s mine.

I did oversleep today, but it gave me something I’ve been needing desperately — more rest. The kind I can actually use.