Oh, the excitement

The transmission went out on one of my cars. It actually imploded, and little bits of the machinery were floating around in the transmission fluid.

Not enough money for another car — so went ahead and had the transmission replaced. Not ideal, but for the money we’d have to spend, we could not have gotten a decent car.

Best just to suck it up and get the transmission done in the car we DO know about, and hope for the best for the next three years.

Money’s scarce. I wasn’t working for a week and a half in December/Jan, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So I lost nearly half a month’s pay, and now I’m feeling it.

Ouch.

Oh, well.

Back to work. Pull in some extra hours and get the overtime. And hope for the best, that no more problems come up.

Health scares. More health scares. My good insurance is valid till the end of this year, then I need to make other arrangements. Like Obamacare or somesuch. It all seems so complicated and confusing.

I joke about it being easier to die, but some days it feels that way.

Not that I want to die. I think I’d settle for just being able to walk away from all of this. Move to the woods.Or go on the road. Just leave it all. People have good intentions, trying to help me get ahead at work, but honestly, I’d almost rather not.

Lord, how I would love to just lay it all down and walk away.

Adulthood is overrated. I want to be a pirate and sail the seas, knocking over pricey sailboats carrying rich couples, leaving the people alone, but making off with their loot.

Just an idea.

But with my luck, I’d get clunked on the head and would end up overboard.

I hit my head on the car door frame again last night. I keep doing that. It’s not fun. I’m feeling okay, afterwards. Same headache as usual. Still, I always wonder if THIS will be the final head injury that truly does me in.

I’m not there, yet. So I’ll count my blessings. And leave it at that.

Onward.

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Back from vacation, and doing things differently

Rowing through the fifth circle of hell – anger

So, my “vacation” was quite different from expected. My spouse got really sick, so I spent the bulk of the time taking care of them, running errands, and making sure they stayed fed and were headed in the right direction – towards recovery.

I did almost nothing that I had planned. I had thought I’d have time to do some writing, but to be honest, when I was there, I didn’t want to do anything other than just roam around, take long walks, and explore parts of the nearby national park I hadn’t seen in years.

One thing became very, very clear to me, while I was away — I have let myself get too complacent, too lax, too mellow. The net result of my chilling out, has been putting on some pounds and also losing my stamina. Keeping up with everything when my spouse is “holding invalid court” — as a sick person who needs to be waited on like some sort of royalty — is NOT easy work. It’s pretty draining, if I don’t stay on top of things.

So, it was pretty rough. But that’s not because of all the demands. The fact is, I am not in as good shape as I need to be, and all the running and juggling (figuratively speaking) showed me where I need to improve. I used to do all this — and a whole lot more — as a matter of course, each and every day. But over the past number of years, as I’ve focused more on taking care of myself and making sure I didn’t get overrun by the craziness of my employer(s), spouse, and TBI recovery, I’ve lost my edge.

And I need it back.

I’ve gotten way too lax about things, and I’ve “let myself go”, for the sake of just enjoying myself and taking things as they come. But you know what? That’s not me. I am by nature a very “on” person, who needs some “off” time on a regular basis to recharge. I’m not meant to be an “off” person who occasionally “turns on” to kick into gear. I need to stay active and involved in my life — to live my life to the fullest, and really keep my energy high. If I don’t, the feeling seems to backfire, and I end up having a whole lot of energy “double back” on itself… it eats me alive.

So, I need to live. And live fully. Not with panic, not with anxiety, but fully alive.

Just kicking back has become a way of life for me, which is not good at all. I’ve gotten into that habit in part because of my past job that had me commuting so much every day. It’s tough to stay active and engaged, when you start and end your day with an hour’s worth of driving. What a horrible life-suck that was.

All that sitting got me tightened up — my muscles, my fascia, my mind — and I was so full of resentment and anger that I had to continually manage, to keep it from wrecking my life — that I got sucked into a downward spiral that shot me straight into the doldrums, where I languished. Hoping against hope that something would change. Eventually it did, but what a miserable time that was.

It was like renting a room in Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell — Anger — and not being able to get the money together to move out to a better place, and having to make the best of it by getting to know my neighbors, have some barbecues, hang out… you know, make the best of it, all the while wishing to God something would give.

It didn’t give. For three long years. And it really was hell.

Now I’ve been out of that world for three months, and I’m starting to normalize… get my balance back… remember what is important to me. I don’t have to put all my energy into dealing with the emotional flack of a horrible workplace, barely being able to function on the weekends, just spending all my free time languishing like a glorious lump.

I can start putting my energy into the healthy things again. And I can get back to my practice — my martial arts of living.

Over the week when I was balancing work and vacation and my spouse’s illness, it became clear to me that I needed a better way of handling their mental illness. They have suffered from panic/anxiety and depression for almost 20 years, and it has wreaked havoc with their life. All the while, they have been unable to admit that they had a real problem, and that it was hurting them. They have treated it like it was protective for them — living less of a life was keeping them safe from untold dangers. I know where that comes from — their childhood, and also their family story, which is all about unseen threats which must be managed.

Over the years, I have dealt more or less effectively with their mental illness, seeing to various degrees, the depth of their dysfunction. I actually dealt with it pretty well, from the start, even when they were absolutely nuts with anger and rage and fear and a seething cauldron of hyper-fight-flight reactions to everything, including their own shadow. I could keep my own attention trained on my own activities and issues, and I could steer myself (and sometimes them) in a better direction.

Over the years, I’ve had my own issues to deal with, and many of them have been really hard for my spouse to deal with. The old anger, the rigidity in my own mindsets, my outbursts and unpredictability… I was a real piece of work, I can tell you. I’ve been brain-injured a number of times, which made me incredibly difficult to deal with, when I was tired or overwhelmed (which was a lot of the time).

But we had a kind of balance going on, that worked for both of us.

Then I fell in 2004, and everything came to a head. Everything really fell apart, and we were on the verge of breaking apart after 14 years. I didn’t even realize it, at the time. I was really out of it, had no idea what was going on with me.

Anyway, what I realize now is that things have often sucked with us, from day one. But the things that have been good, have been well worth all the suckiness. It’s like the suckfulness didn’t even matter, because the good was more than enough to offset everything. Plus, no marriage is perfect, so was I going to just ditch the love of my life because not everything was idyllic all the time? Nope. I dealt with it.

And now I need to deal with it again. I need to deal with my spouse’s demons, their mental illness, their panic and anxiety and encroaching dementia, with a form of martial art. Keep calm, keep centered, and be ready to deal with the demons that threaten to attack. They are very real demons, and making light of them doesn’t serve me at all. Denying that they exist doesn’t help. And avoiding confronting them is the worst thing I can do.

I need to deal with this. Because try as they might, my spouse has limits, and there are things they just refuse to do for themself that will make things better. They’re trying, yes. They’re really trying. But the demons are always there in the background, with an eye out to get hold of me, too.

They’re greedy demons — panic, anxiety, fear, aggression. They feed on the energy of others, and how they love to feed. They are insatiable, and they will stop at nothing, till they get what they need. I can’t forget that they exist. I’m not saying I have to live in fear. Far from it. I just need to live with awareness, and figure out how to keep my own essence safe and protected, while the demons swirl around, seeking madness.

It can be done. And I’ve been working out, first thing in the morning, for the past four days, strengthening myself and doing exercises to stir up my stagnant “chi” and get good energy flowing in me. It’s helping. And I need to stay with it, not get bored and go do something else, when it all feels too familiar and boring.

Life is waiting. Get strong. Be smart.

Onward.

Tap those brakes…

Just a touch – not too hard – don’t go into a skid…

One thing I’m very grateful for, is that I have not been very sick at all, this past winter. This is a change from other years, when I would get very sick at least once — often twice or three times — and spend a lot of time in bed and/or recovering after the fact at maybe 2/3 of my real ability.

This year, I have a slightly different challenge — things are going so well for me, and I have so much to keep me busy, and I am functioning so well, that I am pushing myself much too hard, and it’s dragging me down.

I’m doing it to myself, really. And it’s no fun.

Yesterday was a tough one for me. The morning was full and pretty packed with intensity. I had a deadline to meet, and the folks on my team who were supposed to work with me to get there, were making extremely poor decisions. Their work product was substandard, and they were telling me that insisting that things work properly was unrealistic and out of line.

Well, okay then.

I did as much as I could, I sent an email to my boss explaining the situation, in case they caught hell for the result — which was entirely possible. It wasn’t about “tattling” on anyone, just giving the person in the line of fire the right information to defend their position — which is always a likelihood where I work.

After that, I checked out for the day. I set my out of office message for noontime on, then I logged off around 2, took a shower, and went to bed. I was incredibly dizzy and seriously wired. All the frenetic activity of the past several weeks, without any serious extended downtime (as in, more than several hours at a time), has kicked my ass. I felt like crap, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.

So, I crashed. I got about an hour of sleep, then I lay in bed reading FB and news. After a while, I got up and decided I needed to ride the exercise bike, because I needed to move some lymph. The lymphatic system is what moves waste out of our systems, and it doesn’t move on its own. Circulation moves it, so if you’re sedentary and you’re not moving very much, you end up with a bunch of gunk in your system. It’s basic physiology/ physics. If you want to feel better and take a load off your system, get your heart rate up and get your blood pumping, and the lymph will clear out the crap.

When I got downstairs, my spouse was there and they started to ask me about things I was supposed to do for them, over the past several days. I have had no time to do much of anything, other than work-work, as well as take care of myself, and it really pissed me off that they couldn’t say anything to me without it adding crap to their endless honey-do list. I swear to God, I get sick of being treated like “the hired help” at home. I don’t have any other use and purpose, other than doing my spouse’s bidding? Geez.

So, I snapped and went off, and of course I looked like the crazy person, because I was just so beside myself, with being so dizzy, not feeling well, and not feeling like I can ever get a break — especially in my own home. Everybody wants something. Everybody needs something. And because I’m able to give everybody just about everything they want, just the way they want it (that’s been my bread-n-butter for as long as I can remember), the requests just keep on coming.

When I protest and put my foot down about everybody pulling on me and demanding sh*t from me, everyone wants to know what I want from them.

Here’s the thing:

I DON’T WANT ANYTHING FROM ANYONE.

I WANT TO PEACEFULLY CO-EXIST WITH OTHERS IN A NEUTRAL SPACE, TO LIVE MY LIFE FREE OF OTHERS’ CONTROL AND JUDGMENT AND MANIPULATION.

I WANT TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE AS AUTONOMOUS ADULTS WITHOUT A HIDDEN AGENDA.

I WANT TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE EMOTIONALLY SELF-SUFFICIENT AND DON’T WANT TO USE EVERYONE ELSE AS A CRUTCH TO SHORE UP THEIR FLAGGING SELF-ESTEEM.

I WANT A BREAK FROM BEING EVERYONE’S “SAFETY BLANKET” AND I WANT PEOPLE TO LEARN TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES AND APPROACH ME AS ADULTS WHO ARE ABLE TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR OWN SENSE OF SELF, WITHOUT DEMANDING THAT I DO IT FOR THEM.

I have no need to control others. I have no need to manipulate others. I am wholly capable of knowing who I am and supplying my own self-esteem and going quite happily about my business without needing to be constantly reminded by others who I am, what I’m about, what matters to me, what my goals and values are, etc. etc. etc.

And I am sick and tired of being surrounded by others who can’t figure that sh*t out. At home. At work. Out on the street. In groups of friends and acquaintances. They’re everywhere.

I swear to GOD, I have had it up to here with people who just help themselves to other people’s energy and attention, like it even belongs to them.

It doesn’t. My energy and attention is my own, and they can’t just waltz in and help themselves to it.

And I deeply resent others who have such a sense of entitlement to my energy, my attention, my focus, my help.  Friggin’ vampires.

Yes, I make them feel better. Yes, I help them feel more balanced and confident and self-assured. But what does it do for me? Not a damn’ thing. If anything, it just drags me down and prevents me from taking care of my own stuff.

And I fall behind. And I get overwhelmed. And I run out of energy. And I end up extremely dizzy with a splitting headache and a foul temper that just makes me feel like crap after my outbursts.

Which is really bad for me.

And it cannot stand.

So, clearly I need to change the way I do things and get my act in order. Gotta draw some boundaries and take care of my own damn’ self. And I can’t do that, if I’m exhausted and completely depleted by other people’s draining needs.

I’m feeling better today — more rested, after getting to bed relatively early last night. I was in bed around 10:30, which is about where I need to be. I woke up around 4:00, which meant I got 5-1/2 hours of sleep, which is NOT enough. But instead of getting up, I just lay in bed, relaxing. I just lay there in the warm bed and breathed… paying attention to how I was feeling, and consciously relaxing.

It felt pretty good, too, and although I didn’t get back to sleep, at least I was resting. And when I got up, I felt better.

I really need to get back to listening to Belleruth Naparstek’s “Stress Hardiness Optimization” CD. It’s designed for first responders and other folks in high-stress situations, to help them relax and overcome the negative effects of stress. I used to listen to it all the time, then for some reason I took it off my smartphone, and I replaced it with the soundtrack of “The Crow”. If you know the death-metal soundtrack to “The Crow”, you know what a 180-degree turn this is.

And you know how much sense it makes, to swap out the listening material on my smartphone…

Anyway, these are just things I need to address, and I’ll address them. I’ve got a lot of problems that are really good problems to have — a job that challenges me on many levels and has a ton of opportunity… a house that needs to be taken care of… a marriage I need to sustain… and time that I need to manage properly.

I just need to make sure that I don’t overdo it.

Well, it’s time to get going. The day awaits.

Onward…

Making room for more

And so another small chapter draws to a close, and a new one opens. Today I am finally going to start my vacation. The past few days have been pretty difficult for me, being off work notwithstanding. Since Friday night, we have been hosting a friends, in one capacity or another — there’s the friend who showed up on Friday night and has been staying with us at the vacation rental, whipping up drama along the way and generally being underfoot. There’s the other friends who came out for the evening last night and had dinner with us. And then there are the friends who are on the phone, calling and checking in and needing something when we get back next week.

It’s been a rough several days for me, with Saturday through yesterday (Tuesday) not giving me much rest or a break from constant stimulation. And it’s been driving me nuts. I am so exhausted, my spouse doesn’t seem to get how fundamentally fatigued I am — not just today, but in general — and that I need rest and quiet for more than an hour at a time. And for some reason they don’t get the idea of long-term sleep deficit.

How ironic. When they are just a little bit tired from an exciting day, they will sleep for 12 hours and not think about it. But when I’ve been going full tilt boogie for weeks on end, with maybe 5-6 hours of sleep a night, they still expect me to be part of their late-night plans.

Frankly, it makes me want to divorce them. I can’t live the rest of my life exhausted, and I feel like they have just used me up and are ready to throw me away. I was so tired the other morning, after being constantly pushed, and being woken up at 5:30 by them being up and about after staying up all night, I just snapped and flipped out at them in that way that makes them afraid of me, and has them “handling me with kid gloves” for days on end.

I just need a break. From them. From the people. From the distractions. From the social activities that give me no enjoyment, only drag me down and make me feel broken and inept.

I need some solitude. But at the same time, my spouse still needs me to help them do the most basic things, like put on their shoes and eat regular meals, because they either cannot reach their feet from back pain, or they cannot be bothered to keep on a regular schedule.

I don’t know. I don’t want to sit around bitching about situations that I have helped to create. I’ll have to find a way to work with this, if I want this marriage to work. For the most part, it does, but there are some things that are so critical as to be non-negotiable. At least, they should be. Like getting adequate sleep and recovery time.

The real problem is not with my spouse, however. The real problem is with me – not being clear about what I need to do and have to take care of myself, and not speaking up for myself. It just depresses the hell out of me when I have to fight for something as basic as a good night’s sleep. It seems like the sort of thing that should be self-evident and go without saying. That, and routine.

But my spouse doesn’t see it that way. From their perspective, my need for structure makes me a “Nazi” and it ruins their spontaneous fun. They like to just go with the flow… as though the world were made up of limitless time and money and resources. And if they don’t get what they want, then it’s a cruel crime being perpetrated on them to make them unhappy. Everything is personal with them. And they get very peeved very quickly… and they’ve very vocal about it, as well.

The thing is, I knew a lot of this when we first met. And back in the day, it wasn’t a problem. It was just one of the things that made them… them. And I loved them for it. Time change and people change, of course, and ever since my TBI in 2004, I have had less and less patience for that kind of behavior. Also, since commencing my recovery in 2007, I have really changed a lot, becoming less and less like them, seeing how a lot of our behavior has been really unhealthy and outright harmful.

And my tolerance has dropped through the floor.

Which is never good. Ultimately, as much as I carp and complain about the traits and qualities of others, the real issue is my tolerance level, and my ability to take care of myself without someone else thinking for me. It’s just part of being alive and being an adult, of course. And it’s not like I’m being held against my will in a horribly abusive situation.

Far from it. I just need to tweak a few things and more actively manage my own fatigue levels.

I need to keep myself from getting this tired, this delirious, this fragmented. Of course, the past several months have been sheer hell, and those types of conditions don’t happen all the time, so this is a bit of an anomaly. I know how to recover from this. And I will recover. It’s just a matter of managing it better.

And also making room for it, when it happens.

Some of the things that have made this time even more challenging than it has to be, are:

  • I haven’t made sure that I got enough rest each and every day. I haven’t communicated clearly to everyone that I need to rest, when I need to rest, and I’ve pushed myself harder than I really should have.
  • I haven’t worked out with my spouse the “terms” of my recovery. My exhaustion has sort of blind-sided them, when it’s come up, because they think about their own needs 99% of the time, and if I don’t tell them over and over what’s going on with me and what I need to do about it, they get very angry and resentful towards me.
  • I haven’t made it clear to people just how exhausted I am — most of all my spouse. I’ve just been pushing myself on adrenaline, and at the same time my gears are pretty much stripped, I’m still exceeding the proverbial speed limit — in 2nd gear. To all appearances, I’m still functional. I can still drive. I can still walk a straight line. So, I should be fine, right? Not exactly. Judging by my appearances, my spouse has been very unclear about the problems I’m having, which has made it tough to communicate to them and manage their expectations and also carve out any type of relaxation time for my recovery.
  • I am still pretty much in denial about living with a narcissistic borderline sociopath who lies and cheats and steals to get what they want out of life, and lives on the edge because that’s the only way they can every feel truly alive.

The last point is the main one, which makes things difficult. I just need to face up to the fact that I am married to and living with someone who has been deeply, deeply wounded in the past, and is still hobbled by their scars. I cannot even imagine the hell they went through as a child, even from the partial details I know (which is not everything, because they can’t remember a lot, themself). Their old wounds refuse to heal — in part because from what I can tell, they cannot bring themself to face the whole truth about their family situation. And they keep going in spite of it.

That last bit is what I need to focus on — the fact that they keep going, no matter what. Because as difficult as it can be for me to live with them, they actually do a lot of great work with people. The work they do with others to help them heal has literally saved lives. And there are countless people with a similar background, who have been helped — really restored to life — by their influence in their lives.

And this is what keeps me in this marriage, continuing on, despite the harm and pain and struggle. Because what comes out of this marriage is life-giving and restorative for many, many people far beyond the domain of our relationship. And as much as I complain about their negative traits, the positive traits are what help keep me alive. I wouldn’t still be here, if it weren’t the case. In fact, this blog is happening and helping people, because of the stability and support that comes out of the good parts of this marriage. My spouse doesn’t know I maintain this (as far as I know), but the support they offer and the help they provide does keep me going.

So, this marriage isn’t just about us, it’s about the work that we both do. And the stability of this marriage, for all its ups and downs, makes it possible for us both to do our work.

The main culprit in this dynamic is intolerance, judgement and fear. It’s me getting uptight when I hear them making up stories to make other people feel better, or to get their own way. It’s me focusing on the negatives instead of the positives, and making things much worse than need be. It’s me not taking care of myself, not accepting the fact that I need to sleep — a lot — and I need to be proactive in my management of my own issues. It’s me not including my spouse in my recovery and recruiting their help in getting me back on track.

Yes, they do have some serious mental health issues. But at the same time, they do an awful lot of good in the world and they help an awful lot of people on a regular basis.

Nothing is 100% good or 100% bad. There are up-sides and down-sides to everything. I just need to find the up-sides and stick with them.

Because ultimately, making room for the “bad stuff” helps the good stuff happen all the more.

 

Clearing the clutter

Okay, the flu is subsiding, and along with it goes my regret over not pushing myself harder to do everything I’m “supposed” to do… as well as my interest in the flu vaccine and my appreciation of Tamiflu. A reader tipped me off to aluminum being used as an “immune agonist” (something that triggers your immune system to go into overdrive) in the flu vaccine, which would not bode well for someone who is already dealing with enough brain complications. Like I need to add a direct shot of aluminum to the mix… not. The other thing about these immune agonists is that they can blast your system and get it stuck in high gear, like a runaway Prius, essentially making you artificially sick for longer than you would otherwise be.

It’s interesting, that the whole concept of vaccines triggering the immune system is sacrosanct and unassailable by the mainstream medical establishment, while homeopathy, which operates on the same basis — except in much smaller, individual ways — is persona non grata in mainstream medical circles. I’m not advocating homeopathy, by any stretch — sometimes it works for me, most of the time it doesn’t. I’m just saying there’s a curious inconsistency there.

My fever is down to normal again. It’s been in the normal range since yesterday, with a slight rise past 99 yesterday afternoon and evening. This morning I am normal. I am still coughing up mucus, and I am still weak and get worn out after going up and down the stairs just once,  but I am definitely on the mend. That being said, I’m discontinuing the Tamiflu, after reading about what’s in it. It’s only supposed to work for the first 36 hours, anyway, and I’m past that point, so I’m stopping it – even though common wisdom is that you need to finish everything you start. Personally, I’d rather deal with the rest of this with sleep and fluids and not eating a bunch of crap (not to mention airing out my room frequently, changing my bedding, and bathing often to wash the infection off me) than be dependent on something like Tamiflu.

Of course, I’m all spunky now — but where was I just 48 hours ago? Pretty much of a simpering hunk of bones.

But it happens. To the best of us. The main thing is what comes out of it in the end.

What’s coming out of this for me is a renewed vision of where I’m headed with my work, my career. After all the meetings with the New Boss last week, I had a lot to think about. And the bottom line is, they keep changing their mind. One minute I hear, I’m going to be earmarked for a top slot with people who report to me. Then I’m told that I’m going to basically be the organization’s Blue Heeler, running around and nipping at the heels of all the people who don’t want to cooperate. Then I hear that I’m going to be doing something else. It doesn’t inspire much confidence. Being flexible is fine. Being flaky is not. And I just don’t have time to get dicked around by people who either don’t know what they want, or aren’t strong enough to stand up to bullies. Being bullied by one or two people is bad enough, but the whole organization? No thanks.

So, back to my original plan… beef up my skills and keep moving. I’m getting a little sick of being pulled this way and that, so I’m just going to keep with my own blueprint and take it from there. I’m going to use this opportunity as best I can, learn what I can from it, and in the meantime use my dissatisfaction as motivation to make my own progress and improve my own lot. It’s nice to think I can rely on others and trust them, but now I have seen how very un-strong they are, how easily pushed they are from this to that direction, and there is just no way I am taking my lead from people who are that weak and un-grounded.

It’s like that “crack the whip” game we used to play when we were kids — when the person at the head of the line gets “cracked”, the people at the end get whipped around.

Yeah, no thanks.

So, it’s all evolving. I can’t get down on myself for having thought I could make something of this new opportunity. I wanted to at least give it a chance and see if it could work. Maybe I could make it work, but it means: more time away from home, more time traveling, more time commuting, less time to actually do my work, less time for the things I want to do with myself… not to mention more of the kind of work that I just don’t like to do — politics, organizational navigation, all that… through an organization that treats me like a second-class citizen because I’m not at HQ. After all the years that I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, I just can’t see the point.

So, for now, it’s where I am… but for the long-term, I want something different. That something different will have to wait until after I’m better, though. Right now, it’s about all I can do, to get clear in my head about what direction I want my life to go. So, I’ll watch another samurai movie, have some chicken soup, and get some more sleep.

What will be, will be. But something that goes against everything I want for my life, doesn’t have to “be” forever.