Each year better than the last – I hope

Looking back… looking ahead

Now that Christmas and Hanukkah and Winter Solstice have all passed, it’s time to start looking ahead to the New Year. Kwanzaa is still underway till January 1, and the Seven Principles that mark this time give me good food for thought, even though I don’t actually celebrate it formally. Yuletide is also underway till January 1 (or the 13th, depending what part of the world you live in), allowing everything to just slow down for time to reflect and look ahead to the new year.

I’m celebrating the spirit of Yuletide more than any other holiday this season. It’s been a quiet time, without a lot of travel, and minimal racing around to take care of presents and what-not. If anything, I’ve been pretty neglectful of others, this holiday season. But you know what? They’ve been totally neglectful of me, too, so we’re even. If anything, the past years have been about me and my spouse doing a hell of a lot more for them than they did for us — doing more travel, making more of an effort, going out of our way to keep everyone aligned and on track with coordinating our holiday activities. This year, we haven’t done all that — and guess what… nobody picked up the slack. So there you go — they must not care that much, so… what-ever.

It’s time to us to take care of ourselves for once.

And we’ve done just that. I’ve been in a pretty low-key frame of mind since before Christmas — all the excitement of work notwithstanding — so, it’s been a very “Yule-like” time. Things have slowed down. I’ve allowed them to slow down. I’ve taken time OFF from all the sense of obligation and duty and required activities, to just rest and relax and not race around like a chicken with my head cut off, as I did in prior years. I’ve done energizing things that are good for me, and I’ve been eating lots of new foods that support me and my brain, as well. I’ve cooked up some pretty excellent dishes lately, if I say so myself, and my spouse says I’m becoming quite the chef 🙂

Looking back on the past year, it’s odd — I can remember bits and pieces of it, but I don’t get an overall sense of how the year was. I know it’s been challenging, and I’ve been actively looking for a new job for much of that time — especially in the past three months. At home, things have stabilized somewhat — with less undercurrents of stress and strain, but some extreme meltdowns that have taken a toll on my marriage. I’ve been through a lot of intense challenges with my spouse, including issues with money and infidelity and physically unhealthy choices. All in all, though, I think we’re on the up-swing, and taking time out from all the travel to see family, as well as me getting my own “house” in order, has benefited us a great deal.

I feel stronger and more stable than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. And yet, there’s a constant sense of confusion and disorientation that is always in the background. I am more functional than I can remember being in a good long while, and the circumstances of my life are leveling out and becoming more “structurally sound”, but at the same time, I’m in a fair amount of general pain much of the time, I have tremors and shakes, and my brain is definitely not firing on all pistons. I feel like I’m maybe at 65% on a regular basis. 85% if I’m lucky.

And that makes me sad.

But I think perhaps I am acclimating to the instability. I’ve decided I’m going to just get on with my life, even though I can’t seem to get rid of the memory problems, the sleep difficulties, the constant sense of fatigue, confusion, distractability, getting things turned around, and getting lost and not knowing where I am for a few minutes at a time… and more.

My solution is to just keep going and not get sidetracked and depressed by what’s going on inside my head. If I can just keep going, keep working at things, and do my best to learn from my lessons and try again, this all doesn’t need to hold me back permanently. It might slow me down, but it’s not going to stop me.

I’m also coming to terms with the idea of not being Alpha in every situation at work — and beyond. At work, I have been long accustomed to being Alpha and being in a leadership position of some kind. But now that things are shifting and changing at work, I’m not sure if this is going to last. There are so many people at work who are a hell of a lot more possessed by the demons of blind ambition and greed, and I just can’t see competing with them around the clock. There’s all sorts of politicking — and if it takes politicking to get ahead, then I’m going to step back and not engage with that, and allow myself to simply be happy in the position where I am.

Now, I don’t for a minute expect that I’ll stay in that subordinate position for long, if I get the attention of the right people who recognize what I’ve got to offer. I do want to get ahead. I need a raise. I need a promotion. I need to really put what I know and have learned into action. But I need to be smart about it and not just charge forward into the gap, without understanding what’s ahead of me. If a promotion means I’m going to have to travel all over the world and not be home more than two weeks out of every month, then I’ll pass. There is that possibility. But who can say? Who can say…

Anyway, I can’t invest too much time and effort in thinking about what may be… inventing all sorts of dramatic stories about what that will mean for me. Who knows what will happen? I need to conserve my energy, because I continue to have some limiting difficulties — the headaches and the joint pain which suck a lot of energy from me… the confusion and disorientation that keep me guessing and demand even more energy from me to keep up and do my part… the vertigo and tinnitus that are just so damned distracting… and the attentional and distraction issues that interrupt what I’m doing with a regular dose of screw-ups.

I need to keep going, and in order to do that, I need to take good care of myself and also practice things that will keep me sharp and make me sharper, while not using up a lot of time.

  • Ride the exercise bike or move and stretch, first thing in the morning to get my blood pumping and clear out some of the sludge that’s built up. (10 minutes a day)
  • Practicing juggling one thing at a time, tossing it into the air, and then catching it.  I do this with my toothbrush each morning, to improve my eye-hand coordination and also my focus and attention. (1-2 minutes a day)
  • Working on my balance and leg mobility with exercises on a daily basis. (5 minutes a day)
  • Doing my measured breathing that regulates my heart rate and keeps me calm. (5-10 minutes a day)
  • Allowing myself to really, truly relax on a regular basis — just letting myself collapse into bed or on the couch, and letting the fatigue just wash over me. (The first few minutes when I go to bed)
  • Increase my dopamine levels by eating more foods with L-Tyrosine and also taking the supplement… and also taking Oil of Oregano, to keep my body from breaking down the dopamine and seratonin in my system. (In the regular course of my day.)
  • Drinking plenty of water to flush out the sludge.
  • Studying anatomy and physiology, to help me better understand the inner workings of my physical life — and how to improve my health.

All these things are really good for me — and I can work them into my daily routine. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to do them as a regular part of my life, without up-ending my routine. That is totally do-able, because I can find time when my breakfast is cooking, and I’d just be sitting around anyway.  I just need to do it. And I need to not just take things for granted, because I’ve been doing them a while and it feels like I don’t need to do them anymore.

That’s probably the biggest threat to my well-being in the new year — getting complacent and just assuming that “I’m good” and I don’t need to keep up my routines and activities. That state of “good” can rapidly decline, as I’ve learned time and time again.

So, as I look forward to the new year, I’m thinking about the basics. Focusing on that, and not making myself crazy with a whole lot of dramatic schemes and Big Plans, like I have in the past. I’m settling in, in a way, and it feels pretty good. I just can’t get complacent. Gotta keep working at it. Each day.

Well, speaking of working at things, I need to get a move on and get my ass in gear. I have some errands I need to run before everything closes for the day.

Onward.

The magical learning loop

Look – learn – act – look – and learn again

Speaking of re-adjusting and recalibrating, I had an epiphany in the grocery store the other evening, when I was picking up supper after a long day of yard work. I was dog-tired from working, I was a bit banged-up from moving and lifting and hauling, but I felt great. As I was walking through the store, I was getting sort of confused, not being sure where I was or where I was going. No biggie. It happens. I get disoriented for a few seconds — usually because I’m overwhelmed with the bright lights and the activity around me and fatigue — so I stop what I’m doing, I take a few breaths, I look at my list, and I continue on. This happened several times, and after the 2nd or 3rd time, I realized that it really wasn’t bothering me. I was so friggin’ tired (I worked my ass off on Saturday and never got the nap I needed), and I was out of it and spaced out and disoriented and feeling like a zonked out zombie. But it didn’t bother me. I just dealt with it.

This is a huge change from how things used to be — I used to get so worked up and bent out of shape about this kind of stuff. I would get anxious and nervous, my heart would start to pound, my head would start to race, and I’d have all these crazy thoughts running wild in my brain. It would practically incapacitate me, and it just freaked me out. And in the process, things would get even worse than they already were. And I’d be even more disoriented, confused, and forgetful.

But yesterday it didn’t. It just sort of was what it was… I knew I was tired — and for a very good reason. I knew that when I get tired I get forgetful and spaced out. I also noticed that there were a lot of people around me who were in really crappy shape — the father who couldn’t keep his kids in line without yelling at them… the guy who was all over the produce section with his cart… the ladies who were so engrossed in the displays that they blocked the aisle with their carts and wouldn’t let anyone pass… everybody was sort of at their wits’ end — probably for the same reason I was — we’d all been working our asses off for the past two days, maybe longer.

At the same time, the folks who worked in the store were very cool. They greeted me like they knew me, even though I didn’t recognize them. Maybe I should have recognized them – I don’t know. All I know is that they were very pleasant and personable, and it’s always nice to have someone greet you and treat you like a decent human being.

I also noticed that I was really relaxed. I mean, really relaxed. I was tired, yes. I was out of my head, yes. But I was relaxed and chilled out and putting out a vibe of real confidence and calm. I was dropping stuff left and right, bumping into things, forgetting things, not knowing where I was or what I was doing, here and there. But it wasn’t bothering me. I just kept going. I just kept on keeping on.

And it worked.

Not only did I pick up all the supper items on my list, but I also remembered a bunch of other things we needed, and I came home with two full bags of groceries that we needed for the coming week. Score.

And then I went out and seeded my lawn — at least, that’s what I thought I was doing… until I realized that I’d bought fertilizer earlier that day, not seed. And I was going to miss the opportunity to seed my messed up lawn before the rain comes later this week. That really threw me for a loop – I had it carefully planned, how I’d rake up all the dead grass, then seed, and water, and then I would be done for a few days.

Except that I didn’t buy grass seed.

After getting a little tweaked over it, I let that go and just decided to fertilize my lawn instead. God knows, it needs it. So, I got out my spreader, gave my lawn a nice dose of fertilizer, and watered afterwards. It wasn’t a total waste, and in fact, it’s probably an even better idea than seeding right off the bat. I just picked up seed the next day, when I was less tired and could read and comprehend the labels on the bags — which was giving me a LOT of trouble at the hardware store the day I bought the fertilizer — I could hardly comprehend anything I was reading, and the words weren’t making any sense to me. But I got in and out without too much drama.

Anyway, this is something new for me — not only taking steps to avoid issues, but learning how to gracefully handle the times when issues are in my face and unavoidable. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been pretty focused on keeping bad things from happening. A huge amount of anxiety has followed me everywhere in life because of that. But now I’m getting the hang of not having the screw-ups really screw me up — just learning my lesson, dealing with what comes up, and getting on with the next thing.

Just keeping moving. Learning. Living. Using what I learn in that “learning loop” and taking things to the next step without missing a beat. Paying attention to the feedback that comes from the world around me and finding the pieces that will help me get to the next level — or just to the next step.

And trusting that I will be able to apply what I’ve learned in a way that makes things better the next time.