A second bowl of cereal and another break before the next work stint

I just finished my 2nd (of 3) extended work session.

I look outside — oh, it snowed… and then it rained. I hadn’t even noticed. I was buried so deep in my work that I didn’t even notice the snow falling.

Well, in all fairness, it was dark outside for most of the time.

Yesterday was pretty intense. I worked from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., went to bed for a little bit, then got up at 2:30 to work from 3:00 till just a little bit ago. I got a break, this last time, because it was only 5 hours, instead of the 9 hours like yesterday.

Be thankful for small favors.

Another small favor is that it’s cold and damp outside, so there’s no great rush to go anywhere. I do have to run an errand later, before I get on my last work session later this afternoon. But for now, it’s time to kick back, have another bowl of cereal, drink some water, and read a book until I go back to bed to rest some more.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

From head to toe – it’s all connected

It’s ALL connected

I’m figuring out this back/shoulder pain mystery.

Turns out, it’s not just my lower back that’s throwing off my upper back and shoulder. It’s my hips and legs, as well.

I stretch at night to relax, and my left leg and hip have been extremely tight. It’s been this way for a while. I usually don’t think much of it, but the other night, when I was stretching, I spent some extra time loosening up my left hip and hamstrings, and lo and behold, my upper back “let go”.

Deep Muscles of the Back
This full color stock medical exhibit illustrates the deep muscles of the back and spine. The following structures are labeled: semispinalis capitis, spinalis, cervicis, spinalis thoracis, rotares, splenius capitis, longissimus cervicis, iliocostalis cervicis, iliocostalis thoracis, longissimus thoracis, iliocostalis lumborum

It actually makes sense — looking at the deep muscles of the back, you can see how they run from shoulder to pelvis, and while they don’t appear to be exactly what’s been paining me (localized between the shoulder blade and my spine), it’s all connected, so if they’re pulling down, they’ll be pulling off the other superficial muscles that are connected to them.

It also makes sense from a where-did-this-come-from point of view. When I drive (and I’ve been driving a lot, over the past few weeks), I usually keep my left leg bent, and I use it to stabilize myself while I’m turning. That’s great, but it also shortens the muscles in my left leg — especially in the front. So, those shortened muscles pull on my pelvic bone, which pulls the deep muscles, which pull on the surface muscles.

And I’ve got persistent back pain that won’t seem to go away.

Now I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing it. Stretching helps. All the time.

The key is to not let it get a hold of me, but to keep myself strong and limber on a regular basis.

So, that mystery’s dealt with.

Now, to start my Monday.

Onward…

Off to a great start this morning

I didn’t get quite as much sleep as I wanted, last night. After dinner, my spouse and I ended up watching a documentary about people who left a cult, and it was so fascinating, I couldn’t look away.

Kind of like a train wreck. But the film was really well-made and engaging, so it wasn’t all bad.

Anyway, I woke up around 6:30, which means I got 7 hours of sleep, and I rode the exercise bike for half an hour or so. I read a couple of little ebooks and listened to music and also lifted light weights while I was riding. I have a couple of wrist weights that slip over the handle bars of my exercise bike, that I can use to work out my arms.

I have a pretty exciting weekend ahead – with lots of lounging about, going for hikes, and resting — and no, I’m not being facetious. I really am looking forward to being able to just get off the leash and kick back. Unwind. Not worry about much of anything. Work on some of my projects. Finish some things that I haven’t been able to finish… and spend time just hanging out with myself without any pressure or requirements, other than what I want to do.

Pure magic.

It’s funny… I was having a conversation with a co-worker yesterday afternoon. We’re both contractors at the company where we’re working, and we both feel a huge amount of pressure to constantly perform at our highest. They said, “I feel like I’ve been on a 2-year-long job interview,” and it’s the truth. There is such a cultural divide between the permanent full-timers and the contractors, it’s wild. And we are under constant pressure to perform, because we’re so marginalized.

One of the projects I’m working on this weekend, is putting together a portfolio of projects I’ve brought to life at this company. I really have done some amazing work, which nobody could figure out how to do. There were some projects that had gotten started, and then just died on the vine, because nobody followed through. But I stepped in and got it done. I’m not getting egotistical. I’m just saying…

And it’s happened a number of times.

Anyway, I need to collect the evidence of that, add a description of the situation, the hurdles, the challenges, and what the eventual outcome was. Some of the things are amazingly cool. Others are interesting only to the 15 people on the planet who care about the inner workings of obscure technologies. But they all show results, and that’s what I have to lead with.

I think, if anything, this is going to put things in better perspective for me. At least show me that I have something to show for all my work. Because in this company, everybody seems to have amnesia — except for when you screw up.

Folks remember that stuff forever.

And I need to send out my resume to folks I promised it to.

I need to have a standard response for all these recruiters who contact me. Kind of like a form to return to them that tells them what I’m looking for, when I’m looking, and how best to contact me. I’ll attach two versions of my resume – 1 full-length, 1 condensed – along with my portfolio of “solutions”, and have it saved to an email.

Then I can just reply back to all the recruiters who contact me and send this packet along. And I won’t have to think about it each time. Practically automate it. Or maybe I will set up another email address that has an “autoresponder” on it, that automatically delivers my package for me. And I can tell all the recruiters to go there, instead of contacting me at my main email.

Yes! That’s what I’ll do. That will make things a whole lot easier, so I don’t have to manually send out a new resume all the time. What a pain in the a$$ that is. And I need to update my resume on all the job boards to use that new email. It will simplify things considerably, I believe… save me from having to go back to my home computer after a long day at the office.

Sometimes, the last thing I want to do, is network after a long day. Or a long week. Or whenever.

….

Okay, I got that set up, and now I don’t have to worry about “stuff”. And I don’t have to get into digging up past copies of my resume, every time someone reaches out to me. That’s such a pain in the neck.

Anyway, yes, my day has gotten off to a good start. And now it’s time to wash up my breakfast dishes and go for a walk in the woods.

Network chiropractic makes a huge positive difference

Got some relief

Just a shout out to the network spinal analysis chiropractors — this stuff works. I’ve been seeing a new network chiro for about a month, now, and the change in my system is noticeable — and incredible.

I’ve done this before — a number of years back, I was going 2 – 3 times a week,and it really helped me get my system out of chronic fight-flight mode. Then my company movedthe office,and it wasn’t possible for me to make that drive all the time, so I stopped. To be honest, I was also irritated by the spouse of the networker — so that put me off, too. For some reason, all the husband-wife networking teams I’ve encountered (all two of them) have had one good spouse and one pain in the ass. Doesn’t matter which gender — one is level-headed and personable, and the other is needy, pushy, and friggin’ annoying.

I’ve actually left two different networking practices because of “bad egg” spouse issues. But this new one isn’t in business with their spouse, so that makes it eaiser.

So, it’s been going well. Really well. My level of fight-flight stress has gone way down, and my body is remembering what it learned before. I really did make great progress with my prior chiro, I just couldn’t do the drive.

One of the net results of getting out of sympathetic bias, is that I’m less driven to do so much all the time. I tend to put a lot on my plate to keep myself engaged and on edge. It sharpens my senses and makes me feel alive. But it also does a number on my autonomic nervous system —  my nervous system in general.

Now that I’m more out of fight-flight mode, I don’t have that same urgency, that same drive. And it feels pretty good. I can relax and actually enjoy myself. And take naps when I need them.

I’ve also been reprioritizing my activities and projects. Spending more time thinking about things, instead of blindly doing. Just sitting down to think things through. Or go out for a long walk to make sense of things.

And being less on-edge with people and situations, so I can pay attention and be part of the conversation and actually get closer to saying what I mean.

That’s always helpful.

Anyway, I have another unstructured day to do as I please. I took a long, long walk, first thing this morning, and now I’m back for my second breakfast and some reading and sketching out some of the ideas I had while I was walking… And before I left… And after I got back.

The pressure’s off. And I may just lie down for a nap before too terribly long. It’s all wide open, right now, and that’s a pretty incredible feeling.

Onward.

Well, THAT was interesting :)

Just let it go…

So, last night I went to bed in intense pain, almost unable to breathe.  I couldn’t move, without searing pain shooting through my muscles, so I got in bed early and tried this new “somatic” approach I found by accident while looking for an image to use for one of my posts. The image said “Fine tuning the nervous system will have your body respond in a different and more positive manner”, and it struck a chord with me.

I checked out the site, and I discovered this different way of moving and relaxing and releasing which was unlike anything else I’ve found. It’s not about pushing and pulling and making the body do things it “doesn’t want” to do. It’s about retraining the body to do what it “wants” to do, but has forgotten how, over all the years of use and misuse.

It’s about making a movement gently and slowly, then un-making that same movement much, much more sloooowwwwllllyyyyy… and then relaxing, so the brain can release the chemicals the body needs to release. Pretty amazing, actually. It sounds good, but logically (based on my past experience), it doesn’t seem likely.

Still, I tried it. What else could I do? Just lie there in excruciating pain, struggling for breath?

Well, whatever it is that makes this approach work, it worked wonders for me, last night. I really did feel amazing — the pain was actually gone. And I could breathe. I could really breathe — deeply and slowly without struggling.

Pretty phenomenal, actually. And when I really paid attention, I could tell that I was using extra muscles to move different parts of my body. When I arched my back, for instance, I could feel my legs pushing — which is totally unnecessary. But I guess because my back has hurt for so long, I just got used to pushing with my legs.

So, I stopped that and backed off on the effort, and it actually became easier for me to move.

And it’s good. A vast improvement. I did sleep wrong on my arm and I woke up with pins and needles and swollen hand, but that happens. I got up and worked it out, and now it’s gone. So, that’s good too.

The idea of being able to move without excruciating pain is, to put it lightly, very exciting to me. It’s like getting a whole new lease on life. Just being able to breathe last night and relax… pretty phenomenal. I’ve never been very good at relaxing — always too tense, always too wound up. Until several years ago, I couldn’t see the point in relaxing — probably because I didn’t yet know how to do it in a way that really released the tension and pain. Whenever I relaxed, the pain would become overwhelming. So, my solution was to just keep going, just keep pressure on, and not give myself enough time to stop and check on how I was feeling.

That works… to some extent. But the real change comes from actually knowing how to relax and breathe and also release the tension. It’s all come together relatively slowly for me, after years and years of pain. I guess I’d gotten to a point where I figured it was permanent. But now it seems that it might not be… And that’s pretty exciting.

What could I do with more energy? More flexibility? More movement? I know it would definitely take the pressure off… and also simplify my life. When I’m in pain and I’m stressed, I do things like adding way too much crap to my plate that I think “must” be done. It doesn’t have to be done. I just think it does, because my brain is looking for more stimulation to keep its attention off my discomfort. I’ve been doing it for years, so it’s habitual.

Because I hadn’t found a better way.

Here’s hoping this new way continues to work. I have a feeling it just might.

Onward.

Me and my seclusion

Ah, solitude…

An interesting thing has happened with me, since I changed jobs and have more time to myself at home now. I seem to have turned into a bit of a hermit.

Actually I’ve always been a hermit, only now I have the time to go back to it more than ever. I’ve been keeping to myself for the past three days, not doing more than I absolutely have to, and not going on social media much — other than finding WordPress blogs about TBI and concussion.

And it’s really, really nice.

I had struggled for years with feeling like there was too much hustle and bustle in my life, with my day job being the biggest time sink of my life, not leaving me much time to relax and take it easy. Since around the time of my mild TBI in 2004, when I was working just 20 minutes down the road from my place, most of my jobs had long commutes. I did have a contract position for a little over a year, in 2006-2007, and I had another job close to home in 2010-2011, but for most of the past ten years, I’ve had long commutes — an hour (plus) each way.

I had not realized, till lately, how much that has taken out of me. It wasn’t just the commuting that sucked, it was the fatigue. The constant fatigue and exhaustion. And it took such a toll on me.

The biggest casualty of that weariness and time sink, was my peace of mind. My seclusion. My quiet. Looking back on my life, I realize that until fairly recently, I just took for granted that it was going to take me at least an hour to get to work. Sometimes two. It was the price I paid for a good job.

The fact that I don’t feel that way is yet more evidence that my recovery is commencing — and that I’m in better cognitive condition now than ever before. I no longer rely on stress and strain to wake myself up and make myself more alert. I no longer just assume that having a good job comes with a high price tag. I’m not in the “no pain no gain” mentality, anymore, and that’s huge. Absolutely huge.

And it gives me hope. Because doing away with the habit of using stress-and-strain to wake myself up and make me more alert, means I’m inherently safer in the way I live my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have either gotten hurt… I have nearly gotten seriously hurt… or I made choices that could have put me in an early grave… because I needed the rush to wake myself up. Just on a very basic level, on a day-to-day basis, I used stress to numb my physical pain, to heighten my senses, to make me more alert, and to get myself going when I was feeling sluggish.

And I didn’t worry too much about not having a lot of time to myself. Because going-going-going and getting a ton of things done was so important just to my basic sense of well-being. Yeah, I valued my time alone, and I have gone for years being pretty much of a hermit in my own time. But there wasn’t this powerful devotion to seclusion.

Nor was there good discipline around using it well.

I had a lot of plans, I had a lot of hopes and dreams. I had a lot of ambitions. But none of them truly amounted to anything, because I did not apply myself on a regular basis. I did not use the time I had to make progress. I flitted from one idea to the next, thinking I was just being “free”. And now here I am, years — decades — on down the line, without much to show for all those dreams and ambitions.

I’ve been down on myself for having gotten to this point in my life without a whole lot to show for what I really want to be doing with myself. But that’s not going to change anything. It’s not a good use of time. Now I feel 1000% more focused on what I want to do with myself, what I want to do with my time and my energy. And the fact that I am no longer on constant edge, looking for the next adrenaline “bump” to get me past the pain and confusion I feel… well, that makes a huge difference.

I would not be here without my TBI recovery, and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way to get here.

It’s turned out to be an amazing day. And I have been taking time to chill out and relax. This is my third day “off” and I am enjoying it like nothing else. I have a few things I still need to take care of, but an overall sense of calm and “chill” has come over me, and I finally, finally, finally feel like I can truly relax.

I’m doing what I want to do — which is reading and writing and working on concepts and mental “constructs” that explain significant parts of the world to me. You might call it “thought experiments”. Or philosophy. But I haven’t been formally trained in philosophy, and when I read “the philosophers,” it just sounds like Woodstock jabbering away in a Peanuts cartoon.

What I’m doing is a more basic, fundamental approach to understanding the world, and it makes sense to me. It doesn’t rely on jargon and specialized terminology or catch-phrases to make its point. It’s just my breakdown of understanding about how things are put together, why they are the way they are, and what it means for me and others I know.

And it’s good. It feels like an actual vocation — a calling. And since I’m not getting any younger, I guess I consider this my legacy for future generations. Keeping things simple, and understanding the world in a clear and collected way. In a way, it’s the next logical extension for my recovery — challenging my mind to be calm, clear, and collected… and to eventually share what I have garnered. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to share it, or with whom. For me, the main thing is the exercise, the work of it. The discipline. It feels good.

And I know it is helping my brain.

Speaking of helping my brain, I’ve started juggling again. I took a break from it for a few weeks, then I picked it up again, and I am actually better at it than I was before. I was afraid I might lose my ability, but my brain’s new wiring seems to have settled in and solidified, and it feels good.

It’s all part of my recovery. It’s all related. I’m at a place now where I am actually — really, truly — enjoying my life, and my efforts now are focused on deepening my ability to do that. I have been struggling for so long, battling so much, getting hurt and having to recover… getting hurt and having to recover… dealing with my and others’ health issues… dealing with the upheavals of life… and always feeling like I was playing catch-up.

I don’t feel that way anymore. If anything, I feel like I actually know how to handle things — and that I WILL be able to handle them, come what may.  It’s a far cry from how I have felt for many, many years — probably ever. And I am enjoying myself immensely.

So, it’s back to my solitude. I am working on some ideas that have been on my mind, lately. They emerged out of conversations I’ve had with people over years and years and years, so who can say what my influences have been? Everything, I guess.

But anyway, enough talk. I hope you can find some time to enjoy yourself today.

And Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there.

Rest is my friend – five things that changed my habits for the better

Go to sleep, I’m a bear… Wake up, I’m better.

Today is another “on” day for me. Yesterday I had to step away from my LIST of to-do items that I’d put together on Friday, and just move at a more restful pace. I’ve been pushing pretty hard all week, with a lot of good ideas which promise to bring good things to me.

But by Saturday morning, all the Activity caught up with me, and I had to just back off a bit. I juggled a bit in the morning, wrote a little bit, then got together with friends, took a long nap, and got up to do a little bit here and there in the evening.

All in all, it was a good day. There were some things I was really hoping to get done (some that I really needed to get done), but I didn’t. And that’s that. I don’t really care, right now. The main thing was, I got some rest, caught up with myself, and gave myself some breathing room.

That’s important. I tend to push myself so hard — overachiever that I am — that I don’t give myself enough down-time to recoup. And that is far more damaging than any lack of ambition or “failure to launch”. Overwork and overtrainng are all very well and good for the short term. I almost have to do it, sometimes, to get things to lodge in my brain permanently.

But every single day of every single week of every single month of every single year?

Thankfully, I’m learning to do things differently.

It’s interesting, what changed that mindset for me. Most of the time, I try to overpower my unhealthy tendencies with raw, brute force. Willpower. Resolve. Even a bit of guilt. But that doesn’t work. What does work, is introducing a new piece of information into the mix that provides a better Idea about what will be most effective.

Case in point: Rest. And its importance.

I have intellectually “known” for a long time that rest is important. It helps the brain consolidate memories. It helps the body remove toxins from the brain. It is important for rebuilding the capabilities that you’ve fried, in the course of everyday overwork.  I know that rest helps me keep emotionally centered, as well. It keeps me from snapping out. It keeps me from getting depressed. It gives me a great sense of well-being and ability.

But have I made a point of getting to bed at a decent time and sleeping all the way through the night?

Until recently, not so much. I “knew” I was supposed to, I had the whole raft of ideas about how helpful it was. But not until I had an Experience of the incredible help that rest gives me, have I enthusiastically gone to bed at a decent hour — during the week before 11 p.m., on the weekends, before midnight.

What changed things? Having a bunch of good great experiences with Rest, that really brought home how much it helps me.

First, actually being able to rest in bed has been huge. I bought a new bed a couple of weeks ago, and ever since then, I have not had any trouble falling asleep. I used to lie in bed for hours, unable to sleep. I couldn’t afford a new bed. And I had to make do with what I had. But it was rough. I never actually put it together that the problem was the bed. I figured it was just how things were. For some reason I didn’t get that the lumpy mattress that wasn’t flat and forced me to balance my weight in different ways was keeping me up. Now that I have a new bed which is exactly flat and very firm, I have been falling asleep almost immediately. The only times I don’t, are when my body is seizing up from not stretching enough. But when I get out of bed and stretch, I’m able to relax, and I fall right to sleep. And I sleep pretty much through the night — except when I wake up in a sweat, which has been happening lately, with the change of seasons and the stresses at work. Now, when I think about going to bed, I don’t dread it because I expect to lie there for hours, unable to sleep.

Second, waking up rested is a whole new thing for me that puts a whole different spin on my day. I’m actually semi-functional, first thing in the morning. And with my rocket-fuel coffee that gets me going, my mornings are now something I look forward to, and get myself out of bed for. I wake up feeling so great, that I can’t wait to get to bed at night, so I can have that feeling again.

Third, getting a little bit of rest at work in the afternoons, has completely transformed my days. I used to really dread my days, because I would burn through all my energy by noontime — if not before. Then I’d spend the rest of the day scrambling to keep up, feeling like crap, eating junk food that would rev me up and make me crash, offsetting that effect with more coffee… and more coffee… and more coffee… and ending up so wired by the evening, that I could not fall sleep, even if I was on a decent bed. Taking a quick power nap for 20 minutes in the afternoon, when I just can’t go on anymore, has completely turned that around. Now I know the pressure is off, and if I need to step away and take a nap — or just close my eyes for a short while — I can do it. I generally keep a couple of hours open and free of scheduled meetings, most afternoons of my week, just so I know I can step away, if need be. And I do it. It makes all the difference in the world, to sleep — or simply relax. The boost I get, coming back after a nap, not only makes me more productive, but it makes me feel so much better about myself and my abilities, that I actually don’t mind being at work. I don’t dread and resent it the way I used to, which is a real blessing.

Fourth, learning to juggle much faster than I thought possible — after giving myself time to rest in between practice sessions — is truly inspirational. I love having this feeling of surprise and delight that I can actually keep more than one ball in the air. I never thought I could juggle. I tried many times in the past, and it never “worked”. But now I am learning pretty quickly, and the thing that seems to make the difference, is Rest.

The first day I was trying to keep a couple of balls in the air, I did it for a count of 42, max.

Then 37 times.

Then 35.

Things were clearly not improving, so I lay down and took a nap.

And when I got up, I kept the balls in the air for 135 tosses. That’s quite the improvement. What a confidence-booster! And I credit Rest for that.

Last but not least, I like myself a whole lot better when I’m rested. I am much easier to live with — both inside my head and outside. I have a higher tolerance for frustration. I can think more clearly about things to come up with good solutions. I don’t have the same temper flares, my fuse is a lot longer, and I don’t have the extreme outbursts that come when I’m really wiped out. Just the other evening, after helping a friend move, I started harassing my spouse about something they had done that was troublesome, but not exactly catastrophic. I had it in my head that if they kept doing this, Something Would Go Terribly Wrong, and I needed to “nip it in the bud”, so to speak.

The net result was that we were both pretty unhappy by the time the conversation was through, and I felt like sh*t as a result. There was no need for me to go off like that, but I did. Because I was tired. Getting more rest over the next few days did wonders for my mood and my stability. Too bad my spouse is the kind of person who holds grudges. They’ve recovered less well than I have. (But that’s on them – I’m not responsible for their state of mind, much as they’d like me to be.)

Now Rest is my friend. We’re on good terms. What a difference Good Rest makes.

Found something to help me sleep

Check this out – click here to find it on Amazon (no, I don’t get a cut from your purchase – I just want you to have this)

Okay, so I’ve been functioning on an average of 6 hours of sleep a night — my acupuncturist says that this should be enough for me. I’m getting older, and as you age, you tend to need less sleep.

My neuropsychologist, on the other hand, knows full well that it’s no good for me to get 5-1/2 hours of sleep one night, then 6-1/2 hours the next, and 6 hours the next, and then (if I’m lucky) 7 hours of sleep. They know what havoc it can wreak with me, and there’s none of that fanciful “6-7 hours is more than enough” stuff coming out of their mouth.

I know, myself, that 6-7 hours is nowhere near enough. I’ve been struggling along with about that much sleep, each night, for quite some time now. Months. If not years. I function better on at least 8 hours a night — but I’ve been struggling to get even 7 hours at a shot.

Last night I got about 8-1/2 hours. Woo. Hoo. I went to bed early at 9:30, and I woke up around 6. I woke up actually feeling like I’d gotten some sleep. Pretty amazing. And I’m ready for whatever the day brings, which is a handful of errands, followed by a get-together with friends (and some strangers) to celebrate someone’s pending nuptials.

So, what worked? What helped me get to sleep by 9:30? Well, a couple things:

  • I was actually tired last night – I could feel it in my bones. This is different from how things usually are with me, because I’m usually so tired that I cannot even feel how exhausted I am. I’m wired, pushing through on adrenaline, and nothing can stop me or even slow me down. It’s a terrible way to live, and going to bed is a real chore and a struggle when I’m that exhausted. But last night, I could feel how tired I was. I was yawning like crazy before, during, and after dinner, and I couldn’t even keep my attention on the television, so I turned it off, did the dishes, wrote a little bit, and went to bed. When I got in bed, it felt so amazing to be horizontal and just be able to sink into the mattress and let it all go. How did I manage to let myself feel tired? Here’s how:
  • I had a nap yesterday afternoon. I managed to step away from my work for 45 minutes, and go to my car, which I parked in a remote dark corner of the parking garage. I lay a jacket over my body and face, and after I few minutes of getting comfortable, I slept. I’ve had a hell of a time being able to relax at work. I’ve tried stepping away to sit and meditate, and that does help me at times. But nothing helps like just getting 20 minutes of sleep. That’s the only thing that actually keeps me going. The only problem is, I haven’t been able to come close to feeling sleepy at work. I know I’m wired. I know I’m beat. I know I need to catch some zzzz’s. But I haven’t been able to get myself there. Till yesterday. How did I manage to sleep? Here’s how:
  • I put on my “Stress Hardiness Optimization” (S-H-O) relaxation CD, and I just let it all go. I originally intended to just do the relaxation, but I often end up sleeping when I do that, so that tells me I really needed to sleep That’s what happened yesterday. I got a little turned around with the settings on my phone, and I had to fiddle with that a little bit before I got the tracks to play properly, but I did figure it out eventually, and that was good. I had a some trouble just relaxing at first — which is to be expected. But after a little while, I was able to just relax and let it go… and then I got some sleep. I only slept for 20 minutes or so, which is all I needed. And then I was up and ready to go back into the fray — which is what it is.

I’ve missed listening to those MP3s and I realize that they’re really an important part of my continued recovery and functionality. I have been listening to Belleruth Naparstek, now, for about 7 years. You should really check her out, if you get a chance. I believe she’s got MP3s up on iTunes, and you can get her CDs off amazon.com. I can’t recommend S-H-O enough – it’s literally a life-saver. She’s got a bunch of different recordings — for sleep, overcoming trauma, anger… you name it, she probably has a CD to help with it. Even dealing with dying (if that’s happening in your life, these days). And it helps. The science is sound, and my experience is even better evidence for me.

My experience is really all I need, to be truthful. It tells me, this works.

I found out about Belleruth from a friend who was dealing with PTSD, ’round about the time when I was figuring out my TBI issues, and I went to see her when she spoke, a few hours away from where I live. I was skeptical, at first, because it seemed like so much woo-woo flowery touchy-feely “wellness” stuff, that it turned me off.

But I tried to keep an open mind, and when I heard her talk, and I overheard others at the conference talking about her — and not only frilly psychotherapists, but tough guys who taught inner city public school — I was warming up to her work. And when I read her “Invisible Heroes” book and read about the physiological science behind PTSD and recovery and the role that guided meditations can play in recovery, I was well convinced.

And when I started using her CDs myself, I was converted 100%.

I have listened to her stress hardiness exercises intermittently over the years, and they really helped me, at the start of my recovery. But I got away from it because it started to get boring. And when they upgraded my phone at work, I lost the MP3s I had on my old phone, and I didn’t get around to putting them on my new phone. Yesterday, I had some time in the morning before I went to the office, so I put the MP3s back on my phone, and I’m really glad I did.

I think the thing that works for me — that makes the S-H-O work for me, is that I can turn off my head and listen to someone else do the talking for me. And there’s music that sets a slower pace… and the whole thing is engineered to calm down your system and strengthen you. It’s actually designed for military and first responder personnel, as well as people in intense work situations — the last of which applies to me. I am in an intense work situation, and I need the extra help. Removing stress from my life is not an option — it’s there, and it’s going to be there, and as long as I’m dealing with my TBI stuff (which is all the time), there is continuous stress in my life. So, I have to find a way to optimize my system for it, rather than running from it or trying to get rid of it.

So, I got my sleep last night — 8-1/2 hours worth. Woo. Hoo. This is seriously good news. And now I need to pace myself for my morning and give myself time later this morning after my errands, to listen to S-H-O again and do my relaxation. Maybe even get some sleep. Because the one thing that helps me sleep through the night, is getting a little nap during the day.

It just makes everything more workable. It totally saves my ass. And for power naps and stress hardiness optimization CDs, I am eternally grateful.

Onward…

Finding that balance

Gotta climb it — but where to start?

So, this is interesting. I had two full days to get a lot done, but that backfired on me. I got almost nothing done that I intended to, including a couple of Very Important Tasks that I need to have completed by next weekend, which will set the stage for how things turn out in the coming months. I had planned to spend a lot of time on them over the weekend, and really dig in. I was really looking forward to it, too. But as it turned out, I ended up spending most of Saturday doing errands for the house and sleeping… and I spent most of the day yesterday helping my spouse get ready for their upcoming business trip, as well as going to see a double-feature movie with some friends last night.

It’s good that I took time for myself, got some rest, and saw friends. I don’t do enough of that, as it is. But the things I needed to do, were things I really needed to do, and they didn’t happen. That’s not good.

A combination of things got me in trouble.

  • First, looking back, I was way too optimistic about how much time I would have over the weekend. Seriously, I needed to rest. A lot. I push myself so hard during my weeks, it’s quite unrealistic of me to think I’ll keep up that pace during the weekend.
  • Second, I gave myself way too much time to do the different things I was planning. I tend to think that having a long stretch of uninterrupted time is going to help me focus in and get the job done. But in fact, having a big block of time overwhelms me, and then I end up doing a million other things — big and small — because I think, “I have enough time to do the important things later. I just need to warm myself up.” The thing about “warming myself up” is that I tend to wear myself out, in the process.
  • Third, I had too long a list of things to do. And the things on the list were too big, to begin with. I didn’t just pick a few pieces of those critical things I needed to get done and focus on them. I put the whole honkin’ beasts on the list. It was like being a near-sighted rock climber who’s looking at a massive wall of rock with no visible foot- or hand-holds. There was no way I was going anywhere.
  • Fourth, I am incredibly nervous about this next stage of my projects, and I just got freaked out… and ran away.
  • Fifth, I isolated. I didn’t communicate with anyone on my project(s). I just kind of disappeared. I just couldn’t deal, so I didn’t.

Looking back, I’m very disappointed with myself. I did some healthy things right this weekend — and to be honest I really felt great. But I also floundered around a bit, and I’m coming out of the whole experience feeling like I’ve failed. Fact of the matter is, I did get good rest over the weekend, and I did take good care of myself in a non-work way. But I didn’t live up to my promise(s) to myself, and that really bothers me.

The problem wasn’t what happened – it was what I expected to happen. It’s what I promised myself — that I could not deliver. I bit off too much, and then just spit it all out and (metaphorically) went fishing. What else could I do? I had set myself up to fail, even before I began.

I think that rather than setting myself up for failure, one weekend after another, I need to have a better plan. I need my Saturdays and Sundays to catch up with myself and my home and my marriage — I need my weekends OFF. That way, I can rest and rejuvenate and get myself back to where I want to be on Monday. There are ample hours in the week to take care of the things I need to do — and the one project-related thing I did right over the weekend, was to reschedule some of my work for the next three days, when I’m flying solo and I have the house to myself and am not distracted by domestic demands.

I also need to be more realistic about what I’ll want to do on my weekends. Yes, I can tell myself I’m going to do this or that, but when push comes to shove, my heart often isn’t in it. By Fridays, I am pretty wiped out, to tell the truth, and my reasoning abilities are starting to lag behind how I am on Mondays. I have a bad habit of loading up on all kinds of planning on Thursdays and Fridays, which blocks out my weekend and fills it up with “must-do’s” as though I have no life at all. It’s a pattern that I need to get out of. And now that I’m aware of it, I can do just that.

So, what’s next?

  • List out the critical things I need to do this coming week, break them down into little pieces, and then take them just One At A Time.
  • If I find myself going beyond my allotted time, I need to stop myself and take a break. I instinctively push myself time and again, because I am getting tired and I don’t realize it. The break that I take can be rest, or it can be doing something else. But I need to break the momentum.
  • I also need to be easy on myself and realize the good that I did for myself this weekend. Life happens. I needed to sleep, and also to be social. I need a well-rounded life, not a constant grind. And that’s what I had this weekend. Not bad, really. Not bad at all.
  • Last — and not least — I need to get out of my head and just get on with things. Too much time on my hands opens my mind to all sorts of distractions, and when I get thinking about things too much, then I end up stuck in my head, which is never good.

And now the week is waiting, along with everything I’m setting out to do.

Onward.