If I hadn’t messed up my laptop the other day, it would be slower than it is right now. I had a whole bunch of crap programs running “in the background” that I didn’t need at all.
And now my laptop is much faster. Cleaner. Nicer.
So, it’s a good thing that I messed up in a small way. Because that let me fix things in a big way. Plus, I learned a bunch of new tricks for how to make my computer really work much better.
The main hurdle in my way was my anxiety and thinking that I couldn’t figure it out. But I took my time and was patient with myself and I got a good night’s rest before I managed to fix it. When I stopped worrying and just “worked the problem”, things came together for me.
Bad experience for half a day.
Good experiences to come for weeks and months and years.
I’ve now entered the 21st century with my laptop. I’ve been running Windows XP since I left Windows 3.1 – so that should give you an idea how long it’s been. I have probably been using XP since the late 1990s, and it’s been getting progressively worse, over time.
First, my old laptop was slow. I mean SLOW. And getting slower. It was partly because the hardware was old, partly because all the new patches and updates to my browsers, software, and different running parts of my system were putting a lot of strain on the system resources. It’s like my computer was having short-term working memory issues – just like me.
And it wasn’t fun.
Eventually, it just got prohibitive. There’s only so much blocking I can handle. Browsers throwing errors all the time, having to wait for updates, everything running slower… slower… slower… And I couldn’t even get a lot of the programs I need to run, these days. These are tools I need to keep my skills up, so I can continue to earn a good living. If I don’t keep my skills up, I am at a big disadvantage. Plus, there are some very cool tools out there, and if I don’t keep up, I’m not only hurting my chances to earn a good living, but I’m also missing out on some pretty cool stuff.
And it’s the cool stuff that keeps me going.
So, I broke down and got myself a new computer — for a fraction of what it normally costs. A new one goes for $1600, but I got mine for $250. And it has a hard drive that’s twice the size of a the top of the line new ones. That’s important, because I do a lot of work with big chunks of data and information, so I need to have enough “overhead” without running out of room.
So, I spent last night setting up my new laptop. I got it all set up with the stuff I need, and I’m adding more as I go. I can now install the apps I couldn’t even come close to, before. Plus, I can get new ones that I never knew about. I now have an email program that pulls in messages from a number of different accounts and lets me keep up on my activity. That’s been a problem for years, because I would need to login to different email addresses, and sometimes I wouldn’t do that for weeks. So, I missed out on important family messages, as well as volunteer opportunities. And I would have to scramble to catch up.
That doesn’t need to happen, anymore.
Plus, I now have a spacebar that doesn’t flake out on me. My old computer had a wonky spacebar that I had to keep punching, to get it to work. I had to press it at exactly the right place, for it to work, and that screwed up my hands, because it was an unnatural position for my thumbs to be in.
Old habits die hard. And when they do, they sometimes screw up your hands.
So, now with my enormous hard drive, and a 21st century operating system, it’s like a whole new day. The sun is rising, and it’s looking to be a gorgeous day. I am keeping my old laptop for traveling, for those times when I just need a way to get online. But this new one… well, it’s pretty sweet. And that makes me incredibly happy.
For the past month or so, I’ve been feeling mentally slower than I’d like. Almost as though I was wading through mud. I tried explaining it to my neuropsych, but I didn’t do a very good job of it.
This week, though, things have seemingly lifted off me. And while I’m not feeling 100%, per se, I’m not feeling as burdened by my slowness as I was before.
First, I’m not feeling as slow as I was a few weeks back.
I started exercising again. That might have something to do with it. Either it’s getting my mind off things, or I’m genuinely feeling healthier. I think it’s the latter. In addition to not feeling as slow I as I was… I’m also feeling comparatively sharper than a lot of people around me. I’ve been watching others around me, and they are not holding up very well. So, I know it’s not just me. And that makes me feel a lot less self-conscious.
Second, I’ve got too much going on, to notice how slowed down I am.
I am doing so much that’s new for me, these days — or that is a combination of old things that are showing up in new ways, that I almost have no way of knowing if I’m actually thinking more slowly than usual, or if I’m just taking my time to make sure I don’t miss anything.
Third, I realize that my old “need for speed” was pretty much of an illusion.
I had it in my head that I needed to be going 500 mph all the time, when in fact “haste makes waste” and I was bumbling all over the place, screwing up, messing things up so royally that I was constantly scrambling to catch up. I wasn’t necessarily operating at a higher speed, I was having to back-track and retrace my steps a whole lot, which had me in a frenzied panic state, a lot of time. I thought it was speed, but it really wasn’t.
Fourth, I’ve realized that while my processing speed may be slower than it used to be, that has its advantages – namely, that I can slow down to sift through more information.
I’m 10 years older than I was when I had my last TBI. And a whole lot has happened to me, since that time. I’ve been through a lot of upheaval and struggle, and I’ve had some big wins and losses along the way. I now have more “data” to sift through in my head, and that means it’s going to take me longer to put things in order and make sense of them. Even if I’d never gotten clunked on the head along the way, I would still need more time to parse through everything and make sense out of it.
Fifth, I may feel slow today, but I am pretty sure that can change.
I haven’t been sleeping as well as I should, and I know that has an effect. It’s also been a long winter, and I’m foggy and dull. I have seen my mental performance turn around in the past, and with the right hygiene and exercise and just getting all the gunk out, I know from past experience that that can have a positive effect on me.
I’ll just keep trying. Everything changes, and this can get better. I just need to keep a positive attitude, use my head, not be stupid about my sleeping habits, and do the best I can each day.
I’m glad I didn’t get rid of my old bike — “Old Ironsides” I call it, because it’s an ancient three-speed similar to the one my dad used to ride to work each day. I guess I hung onto it, because it reminds me of those days when my dad was still young and vigorous and had the energy to bike to and from work — and come home for lunch in the summers so we kids could spend time with him.
Anyway, I picked up Old Ironsides one day when I was out doing errands. Where I live, when people don’t have use for things that haven’t yet worn out, they put them out on their curb with a ‘free’ sign, so people will help themselves. I threw Old Ironsides in the back of the van, and it’s been in my basement for the past 11 years or so.
I’ve pulled it out, now and then, to ride around, but it’s an old rattle-trap, with a slightly bent wheel in the front, and a bit of of bumpiness when you ride along. But the brakes work, and the gears still shift. It’s still a solid bike, and I’m glad I hung onto it.
I have been really challenged with my physical fitness, lately. I am lifting weights more deliberately now, and I also spend time each day juggling, which is good for my coordination — and my frustration tolerance. I have an exercise bike, and I ride it sometimes. I also take long walks on the country roads around my home, as well as hike in the woods. But sometimes I need more.
I used to have a really awesome bike — a Specialized Roubaix road bike, which was so light, and so good on bumpy surfaces. It was easy to ride, easy to handle, easy to put in the back of my little car and take wherever I wanted. The thing was, when I had it, I was struggling with balance issues, and I was not doing well with being out and about on my own. Riding my bike on back roads really concerned me, because of traffic and distractions and the potential of falling.
So, I sold the bike to someone who would love and care for it very well. It was a wise choice. But I have missed that bike ever since.
In the past years since I sold it, I have gradually gotten better about my balance and my ability to stay focused on what’s happening in front of me. I am still uncomfortable with the idea of ranging far and wide beyond my home on a bike, because I can’t afford to get hurt and not be able to get home. There are also lots of hills around my house, so it’s a killer workout to ride bikes around here.
But within two miles of my house, there are enough gently rolling hills and enough untraveled back roads that I can ride Old Ironsides on. It really gives me a workout, just pedaling up gentle inclines — let alone the 45-degree slopes not far from my front door. I have enough road to ride, just within a 2 mile radius, to get some exercise, get my blood pumping, and feel the wind rushing past me. Also, my bike is not good enough to go that fast, so the issue of velocity is… negligible.
So, this afternoon, I dragged Old Ironsides out of the garage, hauled it down to the gas station, filled up the tires, found my good bike helmet, threw on a fluorescent orange t-shirt, and took the bike out for a spin. I didn’t have to go far, to tucker myself out — but I also had a good time pedaling and covering some ground. I know it’s not the most advanced piece of machinery, but it got me exactly where I wanted to go, and back, so that’s good.
I’m feeling really positive about this. Another fall is not something I care to experience, and that chance was always in the back of my mind with the other bike. This one is literally incapable of moving at the kind of speed that’s a danger to me. It’s sturdy, solid, and it does the job it’s meant to do — move a person from one place to the next quicker than they could go on foot.
So, I’ve had my exercise for the day, and I’m looking forward to doing it again, when I get some time. Safety first. And then plenty of fun.