I’m leaving for a week’s vacation today. I have a handful of errands to run before we can get on the road, and then we are heading out to a waterfront town that’s full of art galleries and novelties shops and all sorts of great restaurants. We have a few restaurants that we really like, but mostly we avoid the crowds and excitement, buy Mexican or Chinese takeout and head for the beach for our own waterfront dining. It’s the best way — sitting in the car right at the edge of the water, having a nice filling meal that doesn’t cost a million bucks.
It’s going to be nice to get away. It’ll give me time to think, time to relax. I realize that I’ve been stuck in limbo with my life for some time. There’s been all kinds of drama in my immediate and extended family for the past 15 years — actually, longer than that. More like 40 years. And it’s really dragged me down, watching everyone go through their problems — me included.
But now, here I am, at a place in my life where I just don’t feel like I have the time to fritter away on feeling terrible about things that I can just take care of. I’ve learned a whole lot about how to deal with my TBI issues, and I’ve made an amazing recovery. So why not enjoy it?
Why not, indeed? I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I’ve learned more than enough hard lessons, I’ve been through my make-or-break circumstances, and I’ve made it through. I’ve paid my dues. Now it’s time to just enjoy my membership.
It’s funny… I don’t tend to think of myself as that old. I’m really not. But I have been knockin’ around on this planet for over half a century, and I’m kind of over the whole newbie experience. I’m not a newbie. I’ve been around the block plenty of times. And it’s about time I just settled into living my life and enjoying it, instead of constantly pushing myself to “take it to the next level”.
Please. What next level? No matter how hard I work, no matter how hard I push, there will always be another level ahead of me. So, why not just settle in and get the most out of the levels I reach? I haven’t done nearly enough of that over the years. And while it does keep me sharp and invested in my life, it’s also depleting and drags me down.
Eh, whatever. I’m going on vacation. I’ll probably blog a bit while I’m there. Just relax into it, do some writing, have a good time, while I’m at it.
And now… it’s time for more errands, as I prep for my 7-day escape.
It’s taking a lot out of me, as you may be able to tell from the slow-down in postings on this blog.
I just don’t have the energy I had in the past – not yet, anyway. And I need to find a new cadence to work by. I’ve been very sensitive to perceptions about my performance – especially when I arrive and when I leave for the day. It’s a small thing, I know, but it makes an impression.
Fortunately, my new boss does not micro-manage how I use my time. So long as the results are good… that’s what matters.
I can’t let myself get too tied up in sticking to a timetable. Yes, I do need to show up at work “on time”. But that can range anywhere from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 am.
In any case, today’s a light day, as most folks are disappearing from the office around 1:00. For me, that’s like Christmas, because it means everyone will be gone, and I will have some uninterrupted time to focus and really concentrate on my work. My boss encouraged me to work from home, but I actually prefer to work at the office. I have two computer monitors at work, and I have all the water and light I can ask for. There’s nobody asking me to do anything that they can actually do themselves. And I can be in my own world.
Moving into this new job, I have been forced to make some significant choices. I can no longer spend hours and hours on my other creative projects. I have to pick and choose. I just don’t have the time or the energy to follow up on everything I used to work on. Whatever I do, I have to make it count – like living a haiku life.
I have constraints — not as much time, not as much energy, not as much inspiration, but lots of constraints. It’s probably a little like living in Japan — all those very busy people doing very BIG things on relatively small islands with limited resources. It forces you to make choices. And the results are not necessarily worse.
It’s all about economy, now. Focus. Getting things done in a very brief amount of useable time.
This is useful discipline. It pushes me to do more with less, which is a very good thing. No more excess and largesse… no more taking things for granted. Do one thing at a time, and do that thing to the absolute best of my ability.
Get plenty of rest.
Get plenty of movement.
I think in TBI recovery — or really any recovery where you have less after the incident, than before — this is a useful mindset to cultivate. Going easy. Keeping focus. Holding to a simple pattern, and getting as much out of that as humanly possible. It teaches you much.
Well, I simplified my day yesterday, and no animals were harmed in the process.
I went back to sleep in the morning and got another couple of hours rest, then after I woke up, I laid in bed and checked in with friends on my smartphone. If it weren’t for my job, I would not have a smartphone. I don’t have the money to have one of my own, I don’t generally see the need for them, and I’d just use my computer for Facebook and email and whatnot if I didn’t have one. But the smartphone makes it so much easier to keep in touch – especially via FB. So, I do. When I need to.
Even when I don’t need to, I am getting in the habit of reaching out, just to stay connected with people. Usually, I keep to myself and isolate. A lot. But having social media makes it easier for me to keep in touch. I also have made a point of taking out the “friends” on FB who drag me down, are negative and whiny, and I’ve liked a bunch of positive motivational pages, as well as amazing pictures pages, so I have a steady stream of optimism and encouragement and downright beauty in my life on a regular basis.
It really is addicting, the beauty and joy. In the best of ways. Whenever I’m feeling down and lost, I check in with FB, and the pictures of nature or the positive sayings lift my spirits. If nothing else, they get me out of my own head, which is a dangerous place to be.
I’m feeling better this morning than yesterday. It was a little rough at first, but I got myself up, had some breakfast, moved around a bit, had some vitamins, a warm drink, and some Advil. Now I’m working on my cup of coffee, slowly… thinking about how I want the rest of my weekend to be.
I was feeling incredibly low, on Friday night. Just burnt out and wiped out from drama at work and how hard it has been to actually connect with other job opportunities. This is a tough job market, if you don’t have easy-to-plug-in skills or a degree, and that’s me. I have been doing what I do for a long time, but I’m not some easy-to-pin-down, cookie-cutter worker bee anymore. And I don’t have a degree and all sorts of certifications, so that disqualifies me in the running, from the get-go.
I was reading an article last week, about how the automation of job searches is passing over some really great candidates. I think I’m falling into that category, and I suspect that I’m getting passed over because I don’t list any degrees on my resume. The thought has occurred to me to just make something up and lie about my qualifications, to get past the automated “gatekeepers”. People would probably believe me, too. But with my luck, I’d get caught. And anyway, I can’t live with that hanging over my head.
All that thinking and reading about how bad things are didn’t actually help me. And it really dragged me down. I get locked into one way of thinking a lot, which is not good, and then I get stuck. It’s worse when the one way is depressed and suspicious and anxious.
So, I broke it up yesterday and got out and did things. I wrote down a lot of my frustrations and got them out of my head and onto paper, and that made me feel much better. Then I took care of some chores and just tended to the day-to-day, and that felt better, too. I moved, I took action, and I did a few things for my Big Project last night, that I’ve been meaning to do. It felt good to finally check them off my list.
By the end of the day, yesterday, I was feeling much better. In spite of simplifying my day, I got a lot done, and I made steady progress. And I even had time to watch a little television before I went to bed.
An interesting thing happened last night as I was getting ready for bed. I looked outside, and it looked like it was still evening, with the sky still light and the world around me still lit up. I could hardly believe it — it was nearly midnight, and it looked like it was 4 p.m.
I went downstairs and walked out on the back deck, and the full moon was bathing the whole world in a bright silver light. It was much milder last night than it’s been in weeks, and the stars overhead were phenomenal. So, I pulled on a couple of layers, got my hat and gloves and a flashlight, and I went for a walk.
The evening was so quiet, the roads were empty, and the moonlight was just amazing, flooding the world with silver light. Everything was lit up, and shadows of great trees sprawled across the road in sharp, craggy relief. Outdoors it was totally silent, except for the sound of distant traffic and the rustling of little creatures under the autumn leaves in the woods along the road. It was as though the whole world were there for me alone, with all my neighbors either tucked in and lights-out for the night, or staying up late with all their house lights on.
What an amazing walk it was. I wanted to keep going, but I was really tired and I hadn’t had a nap yesterday. I needed to get back, and not so far off in the distance, I could hear coyotes calling. So, it was probably best that I head back. The coyotes in this area don’t usually bother people, but why take a chance of surprising them at midnight.
Back home, I could feel myself so much more relaxed after my walk. Just having the silence and the space and the room to move — all under the brilliant moon and stars — what a gift it was.
Which brings me around to the topic that has been on my mind a lot, lately — gratitude. I’ve realized that with all the changes at work and all the reorganizational challenges, I’ve lost sight of the good that’s come with the changes. There are a number of things that have gone away, that we’ve lost — a lot of autonomy and freedom to move and make our own decisions, as well as the amazing commute that was a real blessing when I had it. In the midst of seeing all the things that are wrong, I’ve lost sight of the things that are right.
A part of me has been stubborn about admitting that some things are right, because part of me thinks that will validate the stupidity that seems to reign supreme, and somehow make it alright. It’s not alright, and there are some serious issues at play in that place, but when I focus on the bad, it blinds me to what good I can find. And it drains me. It doesn’t only hurt the company (which many folks at work would actually like to hurt), it also hurts me. It saps my energy, it taints each and every day with bilious resentment, and it makes the already difficult things that much harder to handle.
And that will never do. So, I’m finding a new way of approaching thing — Seeing the bad (the awful, actually) and seeing how it can lead me to something new and different. There are so many different options available to me — new paths to explore, new ways of interacting, new ways of working, new projects — why get dragged down by the sh*t, when I can be looking to a new way, a new approach, a new chapter of my life?
Indeed, the fact that things are so bad right now, can actually make my life better. I can see them for what they are, not fight and resist and resent them, but simply see them for how they are — plain and simple. I don’t need to complicate matters with all sorts of mental gymnastics that keep me locked in place because I’m gyrating through all kinds of emotional drama. I can simply — very simply — see things as they are, accept that they suck, objectively move on to what is next in my life, and be grateful that they provided the impetus for me to do more with my life.
It is taking me a long time to move along to what’s next, but maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I have not been thinking about things as expansively as I should be. Maybe I have not been considering all the options in front of me. Maybe I really do need more time – and I need to stretch.
These are all things that have been rattling ’round in my head for some time, now. Plain and simple, I’m in a kind of a holding pattern, and I need to find ways to use this time wisely. I’m not sure that making myself more “plug and play” is the answer — I’m capable of more than that, and being slotted into a cookie-cutter position is not going to do it for me.
The thing I also need to remember is that I have a number of different projects in the works, and some of them are really taking off. So, if I start a new job, that’s going to suck a lot of time and energy away from my overall “supplies.” Yes, it will stress me and “wake me up” and make me feel alive again, but long-term, this is not sustainable, and it’s a recipe for eventual pain and suffering.
So, simplify, simplify. Keep things basic and focus on the fundamentals. Apply myself in intelligent ways, and don’t get caught up in distractions that feel like they’re “taking the pressure off” when they’re just distracting me and interfering with what I should really be doing.
When I think about it, I have plenty to keep myself occupied, plenty to add meaning and purpose to my life. I can let the job situation just BE, for a while, focus on other things, and think about where else I want to go with my life.
It’s all good. I just need to stop complicating things for the sake of the drama adrenaline rush, and let myself be grateful for what I have.
It’s not all about what I’ve lost. It’s also about what I’m gaining.
I have friends in recovery who say that “KISS” stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. I get it. They don’t want to get too cocky, so they tell themselves they’re “stupid”. That’s fine, if it works for them, but I have had so many people telling me I’m an idiot, over the years, that adding myself to that list doesn’t help much.
I like the abbreviation KISS, but I need something that’s more than just name-calling.
So, how ’bout this — KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE.
Yeah, that works – not just in the choice of words, but also in the spirit of things.
Keeping It Super Simple is more than a motto – it’s a way of life. I’m realizing, more and more, that I’ve been over-complicating my life, thinking I need to “re-engineer” my life. I get caught up in all sorts of grand meta-projects, which promise (in my mind) to wholly transform my existence.
But what I really need to do is simplify things and stick closer to home, honing the things that I already have, and not worrying so much about wholesale transformation. I need to start where I am and keep things super-simple, so that I don’t get too overwhelmed.
Overwhelm is a huge problem for me. I realize that more and more, as I branch out and become more pro-active in my life, rather than just reactive. I’ve been responding to crises for so long, it’s second nature to me, but taking action and being pro-active and deciding what direction I am going to go in, and how I’m going to get there… that’s new for me. Like anything new, it takes practice. And it’s not all that easy. Most new things aren’t, after all.
What I’ve noticed is that when I get my heart set on something, I can get very “romantically involved” with it — I love the idea of doing such-and-such — becoming the World’s Greatest Manager, for example. I become very enamored of the possibility and potential, and how it can transform the world around me. But in the process, I get caught up in all sorts of little details, I get side-tracked by different sorts of different information that seems intriguing and promising, and I eventually overwhelm myself with all the new information.
I get maxed out by all the excitement… and then the romance fades, the allure becomes tarnished, and I run out of energy. When I run out of energy, I feel like crap, and when I feel like crap, I start to get down on myself, and I’m just not a happy camper. And I forget — literally forget — about all the progress I’ve made, thinking that I’m just a loser who can’t keep their sh*t together.
I forget how much progress I’ve made. I forget what I’ve been doing, and why I’ve been doing. And I forget how much I love to do it, overwhelm or no.
This is what has happened with me a number of times, as I’ve tried to “re-tool” for my job change. I got into a lot of abstract theory and high-level consideration of the ephemera of what I’m studying – and I got so overwhelmed with all the information, that I lost sight of the ultimate goal — to get some solid experience doing things, to build up my portfolio, to demonstrate what I do, and to brush up on my skills at doing it.
I’ve just recently pulled myself out of yet another tailspin, refocusing myself on what I really need to be doing. I kind of went overboard with the abstract stuff and veered off course, only to find myself back in the same old cul-de-sac of unhappiness and discontent, which I was trying to get out of. It’s like I am driving around in a new neighborhood, and I’m so busy looking at my GPS that has old data, that I miss the turns right in front of me that are newer than the GPS data.
I need to quit looking at the GPS and just drive the car, you know?
Anyway, I’m feeling better this morning, because I’ve done just that – gone back to building my portfolio and working on my skills and refocusing on where I need to concentrate. I had a lot of grand plans in my head about what BIG THINGS I was going to do with myself, but what I really need to do is focus on the basics, the essentials… and make sure that the right people can see what I’m up to. I have spent way too much time in my life not telling others about what I’ve been up to – not showing them, not telling them, just keeping it to myself. And that hasn’t helped my career or my future very much. In the cases where I was working with people who knew me, I was fine. But showing up to deal with others who don’t… it’s a huge problem that is holding me back.
So, I’m getting past that. Being social on a much more professional scale. And getting on with things. Just getting on with them. Not holding back, but really showing what I can do. It’s not vanity, it’s not cocky pride, it’s just being honest about what I’ve got to offer, which is a lot.
Anyway, the day is waiting. Time to get a move on and see what else can happen for me. And not call myself “stupid”.