Pick yourself up, dust yourself off…

… start all over again…

And try to not let it get to me.

I had a standoff with a friend last night about something that’s been really bugging me about their behavior, lately. Basically, it boils down to them not pulling their weight with a project we’re working on. I’m working my ass off, and all I hear from them is excuses, as they make even more demands on others to pull their weight for them.

This individual has been in and around my life for the last four years, and it hasn’t been easy dealing with them. I haven’t had to interact with them on a regular basis until lately, and now that I do, I see pretty clearly that they are just a friggin’ wreck. And for no good reason. Here’s someone who has has their share of difficulties in life, like so many of us. But where some folks rise to the occasion and take on what’s in front of them and actually do something about what they’re facing, this individual is intent on making everyone else responsible for their situation — it’s always someone else’s fault, and they refuse to take responsibility for anything.

Because their life has been so hard.

Cue the violins…

Anyway, we had a pretty heated discussion last night, when I was trying to figure out what the hell they were up to, and also let them know that their recent spate of bailing on important work was not acceptable. We went a few rounds of some pretty intense back-and-forth, and the whole thing left me feeling stupid for even opening up the conversation with them. Now I’m “hungover” from the exchange, and frankly I never want to see them again in my life. Unfortunately, they’re a business associate and close friend of my spouse, so I’m probably going to have to interact with them at some point. Jesus. We’re all supposed to get together on New Year’s Day.

No thanks.

This morning, I was up at 4:30 a.m., still revved over the experience, and just wanting to disappear. Just check out. Say adios amigo to everyone and everything, and invite the lot of my spouse’s friends and business associates to go pound sand. So, I went for a walk down the road under the waning moonlight, with the world all lit up around me. It was pretty amazing, actually, except for the hungover feeling that had my head spinning and left me feeling like shite.

I really friggin’ detest those people. They’re freeloaders and posers who are just this far from  getting busted for what they do. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my nose clean, living as honestly as I can, and taking what life sends my way with a grain of salt — and a whole lot of hard work. Then along come these losers who offer nothing, but take plenty.

They say golf is a “good walk ruined”, but my walk this morning came in as a close second. But after an hour and a half of walking and talking it out, I got my head back on pretty straight, and now I can get some things done.

Time for me to get going on the things that I want to do. Keep my head down and just work. Just take care of the things I need to do, and steer well clear of them. Just occupy myself, keep myself busy, and not give them any more time or energy or thought.

Seriously. I’ve got plenty else on my plate already, without these losers dragging me down.

Things at work are pretty intense. They are having another re-org and I’m trying to negotiate my next steps for my job. There’s a lot we don’t know yet — and won’t for another couple of weeks, and rumors are flying left and right. Whatever. Again, I just need to keep occupied, keep my head down, and leave everyone else to their own devices.

I guess the thing is, the more I heal up from all my traumatic brain injuries, and get my life in order, the more I realize just how different I am from the people I’ve been around for so many years. I used to think I was one of them — slacking… aimless… now and then trying to pull a fast one to get over on someone or something, because I felt like life was stacked against me, and that was the only way I had to get ahead.

At the same time, though, I’ve always been a hard worker, conscientious, and dedicated. So, I haven’t really been like those folks on the margins. Not really. I just thought I was, because my head was so turned around and I didn’t understand the true nature of my issues — or how to address them.

Now I do know. And now I’m doing something about it.  I guess it’s a testament to how far I’ve come, that those people’s behavior and activity bothers me. It would probably be more of a problem, if it didn’t bother me.

Anyway, these situations keep coming up, where I cannot tolerate those kinds of people anymore. We have it out, and I cut them loose. They’re basically dead to me, and that’s that.

The only problem is, my spouse is still involved with them. And there we have it.

Oh, screw it. I’m going to get some work done.

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Jealous with my time

So, I had planned to spend this evening with some friends, but I really have a lot I want to get done today. And on top of that, I need to get a good nap this afternoon. So, I am opting out of the social activity tonight, and I’m focusing on just getting things done that I want to get done — that will serve some larger purpose for my life.

As much as I want to be able to do all those things, the fact is I need to keep rested and relaxed and also not over-extend myself. It is so hard saying “No” to people, especially when I want to do those things. But half the battle of getting to an enjoyable “yes” is working with responsible “no’s”. And in the end, having more energy and time for a few things, sure beats spreading myself too thin on many things – no matter how much I enjoy them.

This is a sign of huge progress for me. In the past, I would just push and push and push and wear myself out, make myself so very tired — because it infused me with all sorts of stress biochemicals that provided relief for the pain of my daily struggles. Now I am making choices that reduce the stress, not add to it. Now I am taking action that, while not popular, serves me so much better in the long run.

The fact of the matter is, I live and work with people who do not “get” my need for sleep and rest, and who don’t understand what it’s like to have to function while you’re bone-tired, day in and day out. They don’t know what it’s like to be constantly stressed over stupid crap, and not be able to filter out too much light, too much noise, too much activity. They thrive on it. They love it. They absolutely soak it up, while it just ruins me. It. Just. Ruins. Me.

And I can’t have that. Everybody else can go do their thing. I need to pace myself and not let the dizzying frantic-ness of all my friends and family get to me. I need to protect myself. Yes, even from the people I care about the most.

So, today it’s going to be taking care of chores around the house, running some errands, getting a good long nap in, and checking some items off my list. I may work on my taxes a bit, too. I got my federal taxes filed yesterday, so now I need to do the state ones… and for some reason they always seem more complicated, even though they’re based on the federal numbers. I’m looking forward to my nap, this afternoon.

And tonight it’s going to be a bit of studying, a bit of practice, and relaxing on my own time with a movie I’ve been wanting to see. And getting to bed at a decent hour, so I am fresh and rested for tomorrow… and my new life.

Getting my music together

Get up... get down.

So, I’m downloading the new iTunes so I can update my music on my iPhone (it’s company-issued, and I’d probably not even bother with it if I didn’t have it for work – these things add way more complication to my life than I care to add, myself).

I spent a fair amount of time yesterday collecting music I’ve got scattered in different places into one location on my computer, so I can get to it more easily. I had planned to take care of some work-work tasks, but I used up the time I was intending to spend on getting work-work done, so I didn’t get those handful of little tasks done yesterday. Then I ended up sleeping all afternoon after I got back from my social excursion and errands, which is exactly what I needed. I didn’t reach the goal I’d set for myself, but I don’t care. I needed to sleep. And I needed to take care of myself. So no, I didn’t get those tasks done. Today is another day, and I’ve got another 24 hours till I need to be in the office again.

I got together with my old friends yesterday — the folks I used to hang out with now and then before I fell in 2004. I must admit, I didn’t do a very good job of keeping up with them when I knew them — they were more acquaintances to me — friends of friends who would get together for coffee and just hang out every week or so… in a kind of rolling group. You never knew who was going to be there, or what you were going to talk about. And sometimes the antics got a little obnoxious, so I didn’t get really invested in that “gang”. Ironically, they always thought of me as “one of them”, which I found out yesterday.

After I fell and smacked my head in 2004, I really had no use for anyone, and I withdrew into a cocoon of trying to figure stuff out. Nothing made sense to me, and I couldn’t seem to find any answers. So I isolated. When I started reaching out for help, I stopped isolating so much. I started talking to doctors and then to friends about my situation. Then, when I found out how hard it was to talk to people about TBI, I withdrew again and just tried to keep my act together and figuring things out for myself.

When I found my NP, I found someone I could talk to about my situation, but I still didn’t reach out much to friends. Dealing with my TBI was such a big part of my life, that if someone wasn’t actively involved in some sort of recovery, I didn’t have much to say to them or much reason to interact with them.

Yesterday was quite eye-opening for me, and I think it’s brought a lot of things to light with me. Namely, that before I started seeing the neuropsych, I was pretty insular to begin with, and there were a lot of things that kept me from really interacting with others. I’ve gotten hit on the head so many times over the years that I guess I just got used to keeping to myself and staying quiet so people wouldn’t realize how clueless I was and how long it takes me to catch up. It’s that “Better to keep silent and have people think you a fool, than open your mouth and confirm it” strategy. Which tends to work, because when you’re quiet, people think you know something they don’t. They rarely guess the opposite.

Anyway, yesterday when I got to the meet-up place, there were a bunch of folks there who really welcomed me warmly. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I had been under a rock for all those years. They were still happy to see me. I have definitely changed, since I last saw these folks and I could tell that they could see it also — I have changed for the better, because I’m a hell of a lot more interactive than I ever was before, and I’m a lot more open and involved in discussions than I ever thought I could be. And in the process of being more interactive, I discovered that folks in this loosely affiliated group have been going through all kinds of crap that makes a person wonder if they’re a magnet for hardship.

One has been having food allergy issues and has been having cognitive issues, like forgetting words and losing track of sentences and being wiped out all the time with fatigue.

Another went through a bunch of job changes and is still reeling from the roller-coaster.

Another quit drinking and has been going to AA.

Others have had deaths in their families and are struggling to deal with all sorts of family stuff.

Another is going through a nasty divorce, with their soon-to-be-ex threatening to have them arrested over “any old thing.”

Others are either going through menopause or have gone, and they’re “all over the map” as they describe it.

Interesting bunch of folks, to say the least. So clearly I’m not alone when it comes to having to struggle with a lot of stuff.

I would think, from reading the list of “adventures” above, that this would be a pretty maudlin group who sit around and feel sorry for themselves. On the contrary, it was a pretty good time. We had some good laughs. I said nothing about my TBI, but I did mention the job situation, and a lot of folks could relate. In the process of talking to folks, I realized — even more clearly — that many of my troubles from the past month have been somewhat self-inflicted, coming as much from my wounded pride and frustrations with management and the stress of the short timeframe for such a high profile project, as from any circumstances outside of me. I haven’t made things any easier for myself, and I really got that loud and clear, hearing folks talk about their own situations in passing, and listening to me grouse about mine.

The nice thing was, nobody seemed to judge me for my frustration, and they just kind of nodded when I realized – out loud – that I was just feeling sorry for myself, and I needed to get a grip. And they talked about their own difficulties with a humanity that we could all relate to.

The consensus at the end of our little gathering was that we’re all just human, and that we often don’t make things any easier for ourselves… but we’re works in progress, so we’ll just keep trying. I was really surprised at how together everyone seemed in the face of some pretty heavy stuff. But maybe it was the heaviness that forced everyone to put things in perspective. And maybe it was the extra 8 years or so, since I’d last seen them, that basically grew us up.

What I took away, for myself, was the realization that I’m really not alone, and that I can actually get together with people whose lives are different from mine, but who have the same kinds of challenges and the same degrees of difficulty to deal with. I also saw – right in front of me – that everyone is dealing with something, but that something doesn’t have to be the ONLY thing in your life. And no matter how screwed up things may be, you can often find something redeeming in your experience to share with others. The individual details may not even matter all that much, when it comes down to it. The important thing is to find the common ground we all share — and just be human with each other.

In retrospect, we didn’t really go into a lot of personal detail about things, and the rough patches we tended to gloss over. But we didn’t cover them up. They were just background information behind our conversations about sports and music and our families and our jobs and our pastimes, and what we’d been doing with ourselves lately.

So, it looks like I’ve found a real-life group of folks I can relate to, which is huge. I may get together with them again next week, or I may not. It depends on my schedule, but the important thing is — I know they’re there if I need them. They may turn out to be totally different next week, or the week after, but at least I had a good experience yesterday. It takes the pressure off my working relationship with my NP, because they’re no longer the ONLY real-live person I can talk to about my life and what’s going on in it. I can’t have my NP be my only in-person source of support and feedback. They’re good for some things, but not all things, and I’ve been needing to reach out for years, now. Even before my last TBI, I needed to reach out — on my own — to others, but I just never really did.

Now I have. And it feels pretty damn’ good.

Now, let me restart my computer and resynch my music.

Onward.