I have a confession to make. I love the bleak mid-winter. There’s a hymn about it, that sounds like a funeral dirge. The first verse starts off with a not-so-perky extended complaint:
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow…
It’s actually a religious hymn about the birth of Jesus Christ, and I don’t want to get too faith-based here, but the bottom line is, the start of the song sounds pretty dire, but it ends up in a happy, light-filled place. If, that is, you’re a Christian believer. Everybody else will probably be left as cold as the first verse sounds.
Regardless of religious conviction, however, the point of the song is that despite the cold and gloom of the winter months, a light comes into the world. And that transcends it all.
Personally, I like the bleak mid-winter, because it slows everyone down. All the running around and chasing after things during the spring, summer, and fall… well, it all gets a little tiresome, after a while. Our systems aren’t really built to keep going at top speed, all year long. Or even all day long. We need our sleep. It cleans out the gunk that builds up in our brains, and it helps our systems restore their balance.
The idea that you can get up at 4 a.m. and push-push-push for 18 hours, till you collapse, and then get up and do it all over again, is a dangerous concept. Some people can do it, sure. But they’re the exception. The vast majority of us really need our sleep to function. And that includes me. A lot of us could also use a nap, each afternoon. That includes me, also. But I only get that on weekends and my days off. All the other days, I have to keep up with others.
Of course, getting enough sleep is more easily said than done for me. Lately, I’ve been pretty anxious about some work issues, and I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. instead of 6:30 or 7:00. So, I’ve been losing sleep. I’ve also been staying up later than I should, watching the tail-end of movies that I really like. It’s irresponsible, I know, and I need to stop it. And I will. But right now, my focus is on making sure I’m functional for today… not focusing on the evening at the end of my day.
But I’ve digressed. I love the bleak mid-winter for its cold, which slows us all down, as we have to deal with more layers of clothing. I love it for its long nights, which help me rest and relax. I love it for its crazy weather that keeps me on my toes. I don’t even mind the snow so much, because it gets me active and out and about. And I love how other people slowing down makes it easier to shop and go to the gym, because people are not feeling up to working out (especially after the initial rush over their New Year’s Resolutions has passed), or going to the store at early/late hours of the day.
The bleak mid-winter solves a lot of logistical issues for me, slows things down, gives me a break from the onslaught of constant go-go-go, and it gives me space to move and think instead of having to constantly negotiate the world around me.
And that’s fine. It’s just fine with me. So… onward.
I just got a notification that my conference call in 15 minutes is cancelled. Glory Be! I really hate conference calls. Especially at 8:00 on a Friday morning. It’s hard for me to hear, sometimes, and I hate having to pay such close attention at the end of the week. I’m wiped out, just running on fumes… and trying to be functional on a phone, this early in the morning is a real task.
But now I don’t have to do it, because the person I’m supposed to talk to has a conflict and can’t find another time till Monday.
Fine with me. Now I can relax and just settle into my work for the day. I have a couple other unavoidable conference calls later today I need to prepare for, and I also have some critical stuff I need to get done by the end of the day today.
I’m so glad it’s Friday. I’ve had a very long week, and I need a break big-time. Last weekend was chock-full of socializing and interacting, and I didn’t have a chance to catch up with myself — or my sleep. I’ve been struggling to keep up with my sleep, getting less than I need. I’ve really been feeling it, so I need to catch up this weekend. Cancel my plans. Just settle in to doing the basics. And give myself some breathing room.
It’s a simple plan with a simple mission. And it works for me.
I had a long day, and then I got home a little late from an appointment. It’s all good – and the appointment went well – but I didn’t sleep as much as I’d wanted to.
I got maybe 7 hours last night. It’s not enough. I needed 8. But I’ll take what I can get. Anyway, this gives me a head-start on the day. Waking up at 5:30 has its advantages.
I had meant to get in a swim, yesterday afternoon. I usually head to the fitness center at work around 2:00, spend about 20 minutes in the pool, then head back to work within the hour. It’s nice to step away, and also to really stretch myself when I’m swimming. The water feels great, and it’s so relaxing and quiet. I’m usually one of the only people in the pool at the time (unlike after work, when you have to wait for a lane). And it’s the perfect break to the day.
Sometimes, it really wears me out. I have some trouble coordinating my breathing, so I don’t usually do a crawl – I do backstroke and breaststroke, so I can control my face being above water. Sidestroke, too. and a bunch of other ways of getting through the water that don’t have names I know of.
Sometimes I swim with only my arms, keeping my legs crossed behind me. Sometimes I swim with only my legs, lying on my back and relaxing my arms as I flutter-kick my way through the water. It’s a good balance. And after a good workout, I get worn out and sleepy for the last few hours of the work day.
But that’s fine. I have a sip of coffee. I drink my water. I have a bowl of raisin bran. And I’m fine.
I sleep great, too. When I’ve had a good workout, I can just drift right off and stay asleep. Yesterday was a full day, with lots going on in my head. It’s all good, but it was brain-busy. And I didn’t sleep through the entire night.
Well, maybe tonight I will. I’m getting back in the pool today – no matter what. It’s a priority. Sleep is a priority.
I had a pretty good day today. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a “rage issue” this morning, when my routine was disrupted and my spouse was hounding me for information. I was off my game and reacted poorly. Tailspin commenced.
But other than that, I’ve gotten a whole lot of stuff done that’s been needing taken care of.
Hauled the trash to the dump.
Emptied the dehumidifier.
Watered the flowers that have been withering in the heat.
Put the last air conditioner in the living room window.
Assembled the new shelves I bought my spouse a few weeks ago, and set them up in the corner where they’ll double as “stuff” and clothing storage.
Cleaned out the refrigerator and got rid of the science experiments blossoming in the containers.
Did some other cleanup.
Had a little nap.
Made a really delicious dinner.
Caught up with a friend who’s been wanting to connect. Had a good conversation for a couple of hours.
Memorial Day. Thank you to all the vets (living and passed on) who have sacrificed so much for us. We literally would not be here without you.
I just wish you had a nicer day, instead of all the rain and cold.
Then again, if you’re like me, you welcome the downtime. And you can use a break from the rest of the world. This is your day. You should enjoy it.
I’m staying off Facebook today. Twitter is another thing, but Facebook has gotten too volatile for me, of late. I need to rest. I need to sleep. Nap. Take it easy. And let my frazzled sympathetic nervous system chill from all the fight-flight. Just chill.
I worked out more strenuously, over the weekend. So, now I’m sore. And that’s good. It means my body needs to rest, and I’m more than happy to do that. I did some balance exercises this morning after riding the exercise bike, just to get myself woken up. I was going to ride a long time on the bike (I had extra dessert last night). But I got tired.
Yeah, I need to rest.
So, that’s what I’m doing. I have a bunch of reading I want to do, and a bit of writing I need to do, as well. Ideas I’ve got going, which I need to continue to develop. The nice thing is, I can just let them develop and not make myself nuts over it all. This is a big change for me, and it hasn’t been an easy one.
For years before I fell in 2004, I had a number of my own businesses going in addition to my 9-to-5 job. I was quite prodigious, I have to say. Always on the go, always cooking something up. And I created some pretty cool products and services that other people really got some use out of. I was part of some pretty exciting ventures over the years, and even though I had a ton of fatigue and sensory issues all the time, I was able to power through them and keep going on the adrenaline alone. It was so exciting, and it was very satisfying to be part of teams working “on the sly” towards common goals.
After I fell in 2004, I couldn’t keep up the pace. I tried. For years, I tried. I really pushed myself to continue to code and be involved in events and ventures. I hatched all kinds of startup plans, and I went so far as to start a formal business for one of them. I had project plans for about 20 different ventures, most of them around selling information and spinning books off into videos and online courses.
But I couldn’t get any traction on them, I’d get confused and discombobulated and turned around… and then frustrated and angry and difficult to live with. So, about 4 years ago, I started backing off on a lot of those things. And I started culling the list of ventures I had planned and waiting in the wings.
It was a hard change, because DOING BIG THINGS was always such a part of my identity and my sense-of-self. And no longer having a full roster made me feel lost and disoriented and un-moored. Like I’d been cut loose from my anchor and set adrift in the big, wide sea.
But you know what? After a while, I realized that it was a huge relief for me to not have all those things constantly “cooking” in the background. And I realized I could actually start to relax. I became less and less reliant on Super-MEGA-PRODUCTIVITY for my sense of well-being and direction, and I actually gave myself a chance to catch up with myself.
It’s taken years for me to feel more comfortable with this — and I have to admit there are times when I revert back to my old over-doing ways. But nowadays, it comes more naturally for me to plan less, rather than more. And in the end, whatever needs to get done, gets done.
Today, though, not much really needs to get done. I’m chilling out. Relaxing. Giving my body and mind time to catch up with themselves. Without pressure. Without agenda. Just so.
I keep sleeping in past 8 a.m. This is new, since I returned from my business trip. This morning, my spouse had to wake me up at 8:15, asking if I was planning to go to work today.
Well, yes, I had planned on it. But if I don’t have to do it, so much the better 😉 No, really, I hoisted myself out of bed, did a shortened version of my morning exercises, and made my breakfast. Now I’ll do a quick post before taking off for the office.
I got 9-3/4 hours of sleep last night. I think that’s a record, of late. The last few nights, I’ve been sleeping from 10:30 till 7:45 — even past 8:00 — which has been putting me at close to 10 hours, for the past three nights.
And I didn’t even realize I was that tired.
I guess it’s all catching up with me — and not only from the business trip last week, but from the past 10+ years of grappling with sleep issues. I’ve been exhausted for so long, I don’t even know what it feels like to be fully rested. And my neuro thinks that it’s one of the root causes of my dizziness and lack of balance. My old neuropsych said that sounded “preposterous”, but if the brain is in charge (at least in part) of your sense of equilibrium as well as coordinating your movements, and your brain is tired, then doesn’t it make sense that a tired brain would lead to an un-balanced body / proprioceptive sense?
That seems common-sense to me. But I’ll let them fight it out on the experts front.
Plus, not everyone metabolizes it the same way, so saying it’s benign in every single case — especially mine — is pushing it. And that’s beyond pointless. And a little worrying.
But on the bright side, my own situation is worlds better — at least for now. I may have to start setting a clock to wake me up by 8:30, if I don’t wake up, myself. I’m accustomed to waking up at 5:30, but I can do with out that, for sure.
Aside from the jet-lag and time-shift that came with the business trip, I think another thing that’s really helped me relax and sleep more, is taking some concerns off my plate. I’ve decided I’m not going to go back to school to finish up the B.A. I failed to get, 30 years ago. I was in trouble with the law, I was in trouble with my family, I couldn’t stay steady with anything I was doing, I was with a bad group of people who were very self-destructive, I was out of money, and I was too booze-addled to make good decisions. Finishing my degree just wasn’t possible.
My current employer pays for both graduate and undergrad education, so this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to finish my degree. But let’s be honest — there is no way I can hold down a full-time job, take care of my spouse, and take care of my own health, AND go to school, even part-time. Even doing one course, would be too much for me. Two to three hours of classes a week plus reading, plus studying for tests… with my learning differences, and my crushing fatigue… there is no way that could work.
So, after having this bright hope that I might be able to do it, I let that go a few weeks back. It feels like a surrender of something I’ve wanted with all my heart for so many years, but it just doesn’t make any sense. If I ever find a way to support myself that doesn’t involve being at an office and constantly dealing with people for 8-9 hours a day (and beyond that, considering all the emails and texts that come in at all hours), I’ll consider going back to school. But not if it puts me in debt. And not if it destroys my quality of life.
The wild thing is, ever since I let go of that plan/dream/ambition, I have felt so much more relaxed. Yes, it’s a loss. Yes, it’s disappointing. Yes, I kind of feel like I’ve failed. But this frees up that part of my brain that has been connecting my future success to the way I was always taught I could succeed – through getting degrees and adding qualifications and certifications that come from others.
As it turns out, I realize that I really am on a different path than that. I belong on the frontier. My great-great-grandparents were pioneers who traveled to the West when it opened up, and they paved the way for others to follow them. I’m actually not happy about some of the things they made possible — the Dust Bowl, rounding up Native Americans and putting them on reservations as well as genocide against this country’s first residents. That’s a hard legacy to carry. But at the core, at the center of it all, I am essentially a pioneer, not someone who settles spaces that others have opened up. And I’m the kind of person who thrives in unstructured environments where the rules have yet to be written.
So, I’m freeing up my “brain space” to make room for my new work direction. I’m making the most of my current job stability to really think about where and how I want to work in the future. I’m not rushing out to find a new job, right now, because I need time to think and really get clear about what I want to do. After years of hard work and sacrifice and doing a lot of jobs that I didn’t want to do because they were good experience, I’m finally at a place where I can literally pick and choose the direction I want to go in. I have the experience that others really, really need, and after years of rehabbing with a neuropsychologist, I once again have the temperament and behavioral control to work effectively with others.
I was this close to being able to do that, back in 2004, when I fell and got hurt. I was 18 months away from cashing in on my shares, that would have let me pay down my house and refinance the remainder at a very attractive rate. I was 18 months away from financial independence, which was no small feat for someone without a college degree, who everyone said would never get far in life because of my failure to complete pretty much anything I started. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train. It was my future – the future I had worked so hard for.
Then I fell, and everything fell apart.
I’ve been rigidly locked onto the idea that I had to finish my degree, in order to get anywhere in life. But in fact, that falls back on thinking from when I was a teenager. As an adult, I’ve always been a pioneer, a leader, someone who ventures into spaces that haven’t yet been explored. The things I’ve done, have been things that nobody else thinks are possible.
But I know they’re possible, as do the others I work with.
Now I need to look again to the future and find where I need to be. Not just where I am right now, but where I need to be, on down the line. I want to make the best of everything I’ve got, and take it to the next level.
And so I shall.
Holy smokes, it’s amazing what some extra sleep will do for you…
I didn’t get out and hike yesterday. My business trip was catching up with me, and I also needed to catch up on some reading and writing I’ve been meaning to do.
So, I did that. And looked out the window at the world in my back yard.
Then I took a nap – 3 hours. That surprised me, because I wasn’t actually feeling all that tired, when I lay down. I just knew I needed to give it a try. And after lying there for 15-20 minutes, I finally drifted off… and woke up around the time I needed to go shop for supper.
Now I’ve got one day left in the weekend, and I absolutely have to get outside. It’s spring, dammit. And I need to take it in, already. The weather’s a bit cold, but that might discourage all my neighbors from rushing onto the roads. Or maybe it won’t. In any case, I need to at least take a quick walk on my “short” hike. That should take me an hour or less, and it will stretch out my legs, which have been quite cramped and non-active for some time now.
I’ll have my lunch, change into my hiking grubbies, and head out.
My approach to sleep and work and taking time out during my business trip has really paid off. I got almost 8 hours of sleep last night, and I’m not feeling nearly as jet-lagged as I expected to. I’ve been back for 2 days, now, and although I am still a bit foggy, it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been.
It’s not much worse than I usually feel on a Saturday.
So, that’s completely awesome.
What worked for me was this:
Be completely uncooperative and resistant about anybody pushing me on my bedtime. Don’t take sh*t from anyone who tried to give me a hard time about not staying out till all hours.
Do my best to blend in with my surroundings, so as to minimize flack about not being a “team player”. Go along with the things I could go along with — dinner with the team, group activities, up to a certain point, and of course doing my job reaching out to customers and having good conversations with them while on the expo floor.
Take time away from people whenever I got a chance. Just retreat to my room, keep the lights low, don’t turn on the t.v. by reflex (I only turned it on twice – once to see what channels were available, once to check out), and decompress.
I did a lot of all of the above. And it was a really challenging time. But I came out of it in one piece, which is fantastic. And I’m not a miserable git, to live with, as I have been in the past.
Now I’m back to exercising in the mornings — I couldn’t get myself to the pool or gym on my trip, because I was pretty maxed out, cognitively and sensory-wise, so the idea of venturing into a swimming pool area or a gym with other people in it, was just too much for me. So, I didn’t bother.
It feels good to be back on the exercise bike, as well as lifting my dumbbells again. It’s also good to be back in a quiet house, where I can move at my own pace, and I don’t have people constantly texting me about meeting them here, there, or some other place. I get to stand at my desk and think, type, think some more, type some more. Check Facebook. Think about things. Just get my act together and regroup.
And go out for a hike later. It’s a little cold and rainy today, but that means there won’t be that many people on the trails, which is good. I’m in no mood to interact today. Just want to be a recluse and regroup after my trip.
So, I shall. I’ve got all day today — and tomorrow — to catch up. And for once, I don’t need to completely collapse and melt down, after that gauntlet run. I ran a good race, and now I can rest.