Back in the saddle again… and again… and again…

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to learn to code has returned

That old Aerosmith song is playing in my mind, this morning. I’ve been working on my programming skills, over the past week, and amazingly enough, I’m actually able to make sense of things.

This is a huge change, compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Even 5 years ago, I had real struggles with maintaining my attention long enough on anything to learn it. I would get so tired, cognitively, that I couldn’t continue with my learning. And I’d just drop it. I’d learn a bit, then I’d just wander off and forget I’d even started learning something.

Memory is a weird thing, sometimes. I can be so immersed in something… then I’ll get distracted and go do something else, and I’ll completely forget that I was working on anything else.

This is something I definitely need to work on. Because it happens to me at work, as well as at play. I lose track of projects I’m working on, at my day-job. And then I fall behind, and it’s a problem. I get turned around and end up behind the 8-ball, which is a terrible situation to be in for me.

I want to stay on top of things and keep current. But somehow I always get lost in the shuffle. I get distracted. I get tired. My brain starts to shut down on me, even while I’m on auto-pilot, just getting through my days by rote repetition.

So, since I know about this, I need to do something about this.

That goes for my job situation, as well as my own personal situation. In my current job, I need to keep up with what I’ve got going on, so I can just get it done and move on. I don’t want to be with this company past the end of the year. I just want to get out of there, and I need to make a career change back to doing programming again. I’ve come to realize that dealing with people all day in a capacity as a project/program manager is NOT for me. It’s been a good experience, but it’s not for me. I need a break from people and their messed-up emotions. I really want to work with machines. They’re very clear. And they don’t play head-games with me.

Plus, I can listen to music all day if I’m coding. I can’t do that, if I’m doing the people-thing. I need to work in a space where I can see immediate results of what I do. I’ve missed being a developer, and I realize now — once and for all — that this is what I’m meant to do. Not manage shit. Not run projects and programs. Screw that. I just want to build things. Make things happen. Forget the rest. I know where I belong, and it’s not in the position where I’m at now.

So, I’m using my time and frustration wisely. I’m building stuff in my free time. I’m doing tutorials, watching instruction videos while I ride my exercise bike in the morning, I’m building stuff I’ve been wanting to build, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ve got some great ideas, and now I just need to work my way through them. I have another 5-1/2 months till I plan to move on, so I’ll spend time each month working on the core skills I need, building cool stuff that I can show to others, and eventually get myself to place where I’m as confident of my abilities as I need to be, to move on.

There’s a lot going on with me that’s pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting up and running in earnest. I’ll start putting my work out there, as it develops, and see what comes of it. It’s pretty fascinating, really, so this will be fun.

I could use a little fun, for a change.

And this time, I’m not letting myself get sidetracked by distractions. I’m on a mission.


Gearing up for my new job

Getting everything in place

In three weeks, I will be at my new job. It seems surreal. I am finishing up with my current job, just trying to get all my “ducks in a row”… along with rolling with all the change that’s going on in the organization.

It’s a hard time for most people there. And it’s hard to not get pulled down into their frame of mind.

So, to counter-act that, I am expanding my skillset and gearing up for the next stage in my career. I’m taking some courses that will get me prepared for my new job — and my new career. I’ve always been out on the “front lines” of my industry, and this is giving me the chance to get out ahead of it again.

It’s pretty amazing. Exciting. And the beauty part is, the line of work I’m getting into is so new, there are no real college degrees in it, so the fact that I don’t have a Bachelor’s or Master’s doesn’t work against me. Nobody has that, yet. It’s all about practical results. Being able to do the job. Produce the numbers. Meet the need that my employer has.

I’ve got them covered, in that respect.

Anyway, I’m feeling like I have a new lease on life, with this new job. I’m finally getting out of the rut I fell into, when I crashed my head down those stairs in 2004. It’s taken me 10 years (and a few months) to get myself functional again the way I want to be… the way I need to be. And I still have a ways to go.

I can get there. I’m not going to be held back. I can use the same sorts of skills I developed in my TBI recovery to recover my career, as well.

Now, this isn’t all happening overnight, and it’s not happening in a vacuum. Nor is it some situation where my fairy godmother or a genie from a bottle is showing up to shower pixie dust on me. I have put in a lot of hard work, over the past years, to get to this point. I have been studying and studying, working and working. Back when I was injured in 2004 until around 2010, I was unable to read books the way I had before. I had always been an avid reader, but I lost the ability to keep information in mind long enough to go from page to page. I would literally lose the train of thought if it went on past several paragraphs.

So, I quit reading, period. I read websites, in bits and pieces… news… etc. Whatever I could, without wiping myself out. I studied TBI and the brain, because that was the only thing that held my attention. It was the only motivated reading I could do, and even that was in fits and starts. One of the books that changed my life — The Brain That Changes Itself — I had to read in bits and pieces. In fact, I’m not sure I ever completely finished it (I should do that now).

I surfed the web and researched brain injury. I struggled to find really good sources of information — partly because there weren’t as many out there as there are today, and partly because it was hard for me to sort through all the search results and decide what was helpful and what wasn’t.

I also studied trauma and its effects. I managed to read a few books about trauma, but it was slow going. I had to find summaries online to really make sense of things.

Over time, my ability to read improved — ironically it came back after I had given up on it completely and decided, “Well, I’ll never read again…” It was slow going — fits and starts. But eventually it came back, and I worked my way back slowly.

One of the books I read (Aging With Grace – a study of nuns who outlived the surrounding population by 10-20 years and stayed sharper and functional longer than was typical for their geographical area) showed how “idea density” can contribute to holding off Alzheimers and other kinds of cognitive decline. Basically, with “idea density”, the more ideas that are packed into a sentence / paragraph, the more “dense” are the ideas. And I found out that scientific research papers had a lot of idea density. Not the most, but a pretty decent amount.

So, I started actively looking for scientific papers about TBI that related to me. Long-term outcomes. Childhood head trauma. Behavior issues. Mood disorders. Mental health issues. Sports injuries. Recovery approaches. Rehab. Frontal lobe and executive function. Mindfulness. I specifically searched for information that related to me, that would be useful and meaningful… and I could put to good use.

All together, over the course of several years, I found and downloaded over 300 research papers about TBI and TBI recovery. There were a lot more that I found and did not download. I did not read all of them from beginning to end, but I did read the summaries and abstracts, and sometimes I read the discussions recapping all their findings.

That was the best rehabilitation I could have asked for, because it was intimately related to me, it was self-directed, and I believe it even helped with my gist reasoning.  When I did read the whole papers, and then I read the abstracts again, I could piece together the central theme of the data that was collected, and learn to screen out the things that did not matter. So, many, many researchers have indirectly contributed to my recovery.

Slowly but surely, I’ve felt my abilities improve. It took time, and it took a lot of diligent effort. Each and every day, just about. Each and every weekend. On my free time. During my not-so-free time. I have had a total life orientation towards TBI recovery that has paid off.

I never felt like there was a choice for me. I have been given a lot of gifts in life, and I believe it’s on me to ensure that I return the favor to the universe — or whoever else has helped me.  I really feel that sense of responsibility. Even when I’ve been at my worst, I never lost sight of that. I knew I had to get back… I was on a mission.

Now I can read books again. And I can remember what I read, pages and chapters later. Miraculous. And I’m gearing up for my new job by reading some more. And thinking. And taking some classes. One class I started, but I’ve realized it’s best that I do another class first, so that I have a better foundation. I also need to strengthen some of my skills, including math. Geometry has always made perfect sense to me, and I was doing advanced fractions when I was in elementary school, years before most kids even had a concept of fractions.

It all just made perfect sense.

But over the years, that sense got kind of trained out of me, because nobody was really qualified to help me excel. They were so busy trying to get kids “normalized”, and I was so un-normal in some ways, that they focused on my weaknesses, rather than my strengths. And in the process, any latent ability I had for advanced materials got lost in the shuffle because of my attention/distraction difficulties, behavior issues, and trouble understanding what people were saying to me. I kept getting punished because I simply did not understand.

Now things are different. I’m all grown up. At least that’s what they tell me 😉 And I have to let go of that earlier conditioning. I’m not stupid. I’m just out of synch with a lot of the world. And now I have a new chance to start fresh in a line of work that suits me so well, it’s scary. I’m going to my dream job in less than three weeks, and I want to be ready for it.

So, I’m studying. I’m finding more papers to read, that have to do with my new field, rather than only TBI. I’m also pacing myself, taking my time, not getting ahead of myself and being very systematic about my approach. Because it matters to me so deeply, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

On top of it, I have an appointment tomorrow with a trainer who focuses on strengthening specific neurological features. I’ve been reading about this method over the past couple of weeks, and I’m very excited to see what comes of our meeting tomorrow.

It’s all good.


Rocket Fuel Coffee — It’s not for everyone

So, I shared my “rocket fuel” coffee with my spouse yesterday, and it did not go over well with them. That’s putting it mildly. In fact, they had a panic attack from the rush of energy — which was clearly more about them interpreting the rush of energy as “DANGER! DANGER!” than anything untoward in the coffee. A teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of coconut oil… how much damage can it actually do?

I suppose for people who are sensitive to fats, it could be an issue – and I do need to be careful about how much fat I have in my diet – and there could be allergies to the butter and oil that cause issues. But even so.

My spouse’s response to the sensation of all that energy was so over the top — nearly spiraling into a full-blown panic attack — that it was pretty clearly psychological as much as physiological.

Eventually they calmed down and managed to make it through the evening without further incident. But they spent an awful lot of time fretting about their fears and “weird” sensations.

For those with a history of unresolved traumas, my butter-fat coffee “rocket fuel” recipe could be a big trigger. Especially if you associate having a lot of energy with “DANGER!! DANGER!!” I believe this is the #1 reason why people with a history of deep trauma gain weight, develop diabetes, and have a host of other sedentary lifestyle issues. They don’t exercise because the increase in energy and blood flow are associated with DANGER! of the deepest kind, and they do everything in their power to avoid having that sensation, instead of facing it head-on and overcoming it.

This is not a judgment. It’s an observation. I wish it weren’t so, but I’ve spent the last 25 years observing many people in my life with histories of deep trauma and abuse, and I see the same patterns over and over.

That issue — the unresolved trauma, and the running from the sensation of being preyed upon — seems the biggest healthcare issue of our day.

How the hell are you going to get healthy, if every cell in your body screams in terror and shuts down, when you start to feel your pulse rise and adrenaline start to flow? How will you ever get any exercise? How will you manage to extend yourself to get beyond your comfort zone and stretch your abilities?

How indeed?

Anyway, that little drama eventually subsided last night, and I am really very disappointed that my spouse can’t handle the butter-fat coffee. It gives me so much energy — and it’s the right kind of energy. It’s really what they have been wanting and jonesing for. They said so themself. Maybe they can have a little sip — start out more slowly and move up… I just get so tired of them running from every temporary inconvenience, for the sake of feeling “safe”.

Sometimes you have to work through a little temporary discomfort to reap the big prizes. That’s what my life has taught me, anyway.

But enough about them. As much as I want to help them, if I can’t… well, I can’t. I need to focus on my own progress, my own orientation, my own perspectives. That’s what I can influence. That’s what I can improve.

And so I am.

I’ve been working hard on my tech skills, learning new techniques and approaches, and realizing just how much better I am thinking, than I was just a year and a half ago. Back in late 2012, I had a technical screening interview, and not only was I not nearly as capable as I thought I was… but I also didn’t realize how much I still had to learn, and how far I still had to go. It was crazy, really — I was interviewing for jobs, thinking that I had my act together, when I was so far from being there, it was embarrassing. But I didn’t even realize it, until I was under the microscope… and a very humiliating microscope it was, too.

Now, I’m focusing on the basics — starting at the bottom and working my way up, and it’s going much better. The things I was studying 18 months ago are much more common sense to me, and I can understand complex concepts a whole lot more easily. I think it’s a combination of being more familiar with the concepts, and also having my brain working better.

My rocket fuel coffee is certainly helping, I can tell you that. I am much clearer than I have been in a long, long time, and I have more stamina and focus overall.

Aside from the coffee, it’s pretty amazing, how much progress I’ve made — mentally and behaviorally — in just 18 months. I’ve been feeling like I’m sluggish and falling behind, feeling like I’m never going to get ahead, and my desired future is so far out of reach, it’s not even worth it to think about moving forward. But now that I’m digging into the skills thing and focusing on that (rather than concentrating on how unhappy I am with my situation), I’m realizing that my brain is working better.

Things that used to baffle me, now make a lot of sense. And looking back on the code I wrote, years ago, I can see that I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought I was. And I can see that I’m actually better now. I can order my thoughts more clearly, I can manage the “flow” of appropriate or distracting thoughts in my head much better, and I can tell when I’m at an impasse and need to step away and try something completely different.

And looking back, I am really glad I did not make a move to another job in the past, because no way was I ready. I just didn’t have my act together, even though I was convinced that I did. Things broke down in the interviewing and screening process for a reason — I just wasn’t ready, yet.

I’m not sure I’m ready now… but I’m getting there. I still have a fair amount to learn. And the beauty part is, I actually am learning.

It’s pretty amazing, actually. The feeling of being able to read words again and make sense of them… the feeling of being able to type things up and try them out… the feeling of seeing things that I’ve written come to life on the screen in front of me… I haven’t felt this great and hopeful for years. And I feel like I’m back on the good foot after so, so long. Almost 20 years ago, I was in this position — tooling up my skills to get the hell out of a job situation that just did not suit me. Where I was, job-wise, was totally insane, and I knew I needed to get out. Just like right now.

There are so many similarities between where I was back, in 1995, and where I am now, it’s wild. Only this time I have more perspective and more experience, so I can make my move to a whole different level. A whole new level. I know the industry I’m in much better, and I have decades of experience behind me. The best part is, employers who pay good money are getting pretty sick and tired of slackers, and they’re looking for folks with good work ethics and years of experience.

Like me.

The beauty part is, I’m actually in a good position to do this — I have tweaked my daily routine so that I have a couple of hours to learn and experiment, first thing in the morning. And I have cut out so many distractions from my daily life, that I have time to spend on my skills. I have also discovered this rocket fuel approach, which I can also do with tea (so I’m not wrecking my sleeping patterns with drinking coffee after 2 p.m.). I put some grass-fed butter in my tea, melt and stir it in, and when I drink it, I get another huge boost of energy that doesn’t get me all wired — it just keeps me going.

And then I can get to sleep at a decent hour. Last night I was in bed at 10:30, which is huge progress for me. I could have even gone to bed earlier, if I had just given up on the logic problem that was stuck in my head. I was tired. I wasn’t wired from too much coffee late in the day. And I woke up today at 6 a.m., which means I got 7-1/2 hours of sleep — more than I’ve been getting, lately. I could have easily gotten 8 hours, I believe.

“Rocket fuel” tea might be my ideal solution for late-in-the-day energy crises. I can do this and keep myself supported AND not get myself so caffeinated that I can’t get to sleep at a decent hour.

But anyway, the day is waiting. I’ve got a full docket today, and it’s going to be quite busy.

I’ve found a happy medium, however, where I frankly don’t really care about all the stress and strain. I do the best I can, and I trust what I’ve done. I don’t stress over not being able to complete everything, because I know full well that the workload they have on us is humanly impossible — and they do it on purpose, to just see how far they can push us.

I feel a rant coming on, so I’ll step away from it and just get back to “my happy place” of not really caring, one way or the other, whether things turn out well for the company or not. They clearly don’t care about my well-being, so why should I care about theirs?

Self-protective indifference works… for the time being. Soon — in the not so distant future — I’ll be in a position where I can afford to care again.

But right now is not one of those times.

Right now is the time for me to take care of myself, brush up on my skills, and do what I need to do for myself.


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.

Sleep – to be functional, and also to enjoy

Sleep makes it all better

So, I’m extremely happy to report that I got about 9 hours of sleep last night. Perhaps a little more. I did some reading before I went to sleep, so that might have added on to my awake-time, but who cares – I woke up about 9 hours later, and I am actually feeling human again. This is huge progress. Usually, I push right through — have a bowl of ice cream or some other sugary snack to keep me awake. Or I go channel surfing and indulge my inane side with late-night talk/comedy.

Not last night, though. I ate my dinner, helped my spouse with some web searches, and went off to bed.

This morning I woke up and started reading my book again — it’s a how-to book for my work, with stuff I have been needing to know, and I cannot advance my career until I know it. This is stuff I needed to know four years ago, when I had a different job that was much more technical than what I’m doing now — it’s the stuff I actually was doing… but didn’t understand at all. I fudged my way through that work, and it was pretty painful (and I made a quick exit at my first opportunity)… but now I need to get back into it and really understand it, not just fake it.

Faking it is not an option with me anymore – after doing it for years, I can no longer keep two steps ahead of those who might find me out. So, my only course of action is to study and learn and master the material. It’s not that difficult, actually. I just have had a hell of a time in the past reading and understanding and putting what I was reading into action.

It’s pretty wild, this whole reading and comprehension thing. I struggled with it for years, after my last TBI. I couldn’t read anything for about 5 years — it just didn’t make any sense to me. I would read online articles, that I thought made sense, but I was really just skimming through them, and I had no real comprehension. And that was a tremendous loss. Because reading was always my “thing” — it was an integral part of who I was, and when that went away, part of me went away, as well.

In the past years, I have more actively read — specifically to practice understanding what I read. I can’t take that for granted, anymore. And in fact, as I look around, I realize that an awful lot of people (who may have never had TBIs) also don’t really “get” what they’re reading — they just think they do. But anyway, back to me… I need to really exert some effort in reading with comprehension — reading and understanding what I’m seeing… and also (in the case of this technical training), doing what I am reading about. It’s not a given that it’s going to make total sense to me — I need to exert myself, I need to make an effort. It doesn’t just come easy-breezy to me anymore.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. And it just wears me out. Seriously. I get so tired. I have to pace myself. But I also can’t let up. I need to keep going, but I also need to keep my strength up… or I just don’t enjoy what I’m reading. And if I don’t enjoy it, then it becomes that much harder to do, and the words become that much harder to remember and understand.

Now, when I get good sleep, like I did last night, everything changes. It’s no longer a struggle and a trial. Sure, I still need to keep focused and maintain my level of effort, but it’s not nearly as painful as when I am tired. And when I am rested, I remember why I am doing this — to learn and grow and take more control of my life, and get back to earning the kind of salary that I should be, so I can have the kind of life that my spouse and I should have.

Okay, that being said, it’s time to sign off now and turn my attention to that work again. I got a good 9 hours of sleep last night, and I feel human again. I’m going to use my first good hours of the day building my skills and moving towards the future. And I’m going to enjoy myself.

Rock on.

My favorite time to change my life

Things are looking up – getting brighter every day

It’s the end of January, and I’m starting to feel like things are moving in the right direction for me, again. This time of year has often had a lot of change associated with it. I have made some of the biggest choices about life changes at the end of January/beginning of February… and I have also had some of the most significant things “just happen” to me — like serious health issues coming to a head, and relationships hitting snags.

Some people would get nervous and pull back. Some people would really think twice before leaving their house. Some folks would probably stay inside and not even look out until well into March, given my history with this time of year.

Seriously — things like winding up homeless on the streets of one of America’s biggest cities… accompanying loved ones to the hospital for extended stays… major job changes… moves across the country… big stuff that not everybody wants to bother with, but I seem to be magically inclined to.

Yes, some people would hold back or find another way to pass the time. As for me, I’d rather tackle it head-on and see what comes of it — see what I can make of it. It’s tax-preparation time. The last of my paperwork should be arriving in my mailbox any day now. Big stuff moving. Big things happening. Skills are getting sharper — I can feel it.

And it’s good.

I spent the morning yesterday (and part of the afternoon) working on a pretty cool skill I really need for my next job change. It came out well. So well, in fact, that I felt confident sharing it with others who do this kind of work. Now it’s out there “in the wild” for all to see and comment on. Hm. We’ll see if anyone notices…

Anyway, even if nobody ever notices and nobody else gets any use out of what I did, I can still use it as an example to explain my approach to people who ask why I do the things I do, and who want to see my technical style. And that’s good for something.

So, things are good. Things are changing. I didn’t get nearly enough sleep last night, but I can always take a nap later today. Flu season really took the wind out of my sails, and I’m still operating at about 85%, best case, but I’m getting there. I’ve been getting up and exercising first thing in the morning, like I used to… and it feels good. Not as crazy-hectic as it used to be — just good.

So, things are changing, and things are looking up. Very much so. I can’t say that I’m overjoyed about how things are going, all around me, but I’ve let go of the stuff I cannot change, and I’m moving on to the things that I can. This working situation has been like a rock in my shoe — it’s not stopping me from moving, but it’s making it awkward and sometimes painful, and it is keeping me from picking up speed. That’s very much how it is – I have no idea, from one day to the next, how it’s going to be, so no sooner do I start getting some momentum, than the rug gets pulled out from under me.

So, rather than cursing this perpetual darkness, I’m lighting a candle. I’m studying. I’m learning. I’m doing. And it’s good.

The days are getting longer, and that means more light. In every way.

This really is my favorite time to change my life.


Beginner’s mind all over again

I spent a little time yesterday at the library, looking through books that summarized things I knew by heart, left-right-front-back-and-upside-down in 2002, which I have really struggled with, since my TBI in 2004. It’s like I have to start from scratch.

Learning all this stuff — much of it all over again — is turning out to be a total trip. It’s like, I can remember a lot of it… faintly… and I know I used to do this on a daily basis, and it used to be second nature to me… but now it feels like I’m in fresh new territory all over again.

I can’t let myself get down about this. I truly can’t. That will stop me from where I’m going. The rest of the world – as far as they’re concerned – thinks I’ve been doing this stuff regularly, and that I’m up to speed. That’s what the recruiters think, that’s what the folks who are hiring think. They don’t see the big black nebula that sucked in my life and skills in 2005… that just got worse, over time.

The weird thing is, I didn’t have real problems thinking and focusing and producing work until around 2007… 2-3 years after my fall in 2004. From 2004 through 2006, I was faking my way through and doing a pretty good job of some rudimentary stuff, and I was passing for competent, because I was doing pretty basic, elementary stuff.

But after 2007, everything just sort of fell apart, and I think a lot of it had to do with me not keeping current on the emerging technologies, because of fatigue and confusion and fog and all the hell that was breaking loose around me. More than the injury, the chaos that surrounded me afterwards, really did a number on me.

That’s all water under the bridge, though. My main concern right now, is getting myself back on track and getting myself to a place where I can feel comfortable and confident in my skills. I’m not sure how long this is going to take. It could take a number of months. But I am focused on what I want to do, and even if I am delayed, I am not going to be stopped.

I have my work cut out for me, but I know where I’m going, and I know what skills I need to build up, so I’m doing just that. I’m keeping concentrated on the specific areas where my long-term interests lie… and that’s a good thing.

So, it’s beginner’s mind all over again. In a way, it’s okay, because a lot has changed, since I last did this kind of work on a daily basis. How can I be expected to be up to speed on it all? I haven’t been in the loop, quite frankly, and I haven’t invested the time in practice, which is what you need to do with this stuff — practice, practice, practice.

I see myself shirking, here and there, avoiding things that intimidate me. But now I see what I am doing, and this weekend I intend to just dive in and do it. Just do it. Take a chance. Re-learn much of what I have lost over the past several years. And revive some of my old projects that were pretty advanced, if I say so myself, until I got scattered and wandered off to do other things that added nothing to my life.

So, onward. Time to rekindle that old sense of discovery and fan the flames… not worry so much about struggling with things the way I do… just keep going and keep practicing. Because one of these days, I won’t struggle with it. And that will be a good day.

Doing everything that needs to get done

Today is my last official day of recuperation from this flu. I am feeling a whole world better than I was, a week ago, and despite the persistent cough and chest congestion, I am feeling up to getting back to my regular life. I may work from home tomorrow, because of this cough, and not wanting to push myself too hard, but I do plan to get back in the saddle and get back to regular life.

This past week has been a real mix of ease and difficulty. It is not easy for me to sit still and do nothing, but I haven’t had the energy to do much of anything – even if I wanted to. I’ve watched a lot of samurai movies, and I’ve slept a great deal, and I’ve done a fair amount of work on one of my little pet projects I’ve been meaning to work on, so that’s something. But my hopes for digging in and getting some headway on some of the new material I’ve been wanting to learn… that hasn’t happened.

Which is just as well. I really needed down-time to just veg and chill and not do much of anything, other than eat and drink and sleep and take care of myself. Up until Thursday, I really wasn’t in any shape to do much of anything, anyway. I did manage to get some errands run, that I’d been needing to do, which is good, but other than that…

Well, at least I’m pretty clear about my work situation — about being really motivated to get the hell out of my present situation, ramp up on my skills, and make a really solid move into a more specialized area than I’m working in now. I need to specialize, not generalize. And I need to get back to doing the kind of work that suits me the best — building things, inventing things — so that I can both do fulfilling work and also command a higher paycheck.

That’s a win-win for me, in a very big way.

One of the most important pieces in all this for me, is the passion element. Imagination. Creativity. The work I am doing now is so profoundly dry, and the biggest challenges to it are around getting people who don’t want to work, to do the work necessary to just get things done. There is more of that ahead of me in my new role in this new organization, too — the plodding, tooth-pulling work of getting people who can’t be bothered, to actually give a damn and do their part. Apparently, I’m really good at motivating people and getting them on-board, so they’re expanding that role… never mind that my greatest joy comes from getting computers to do what I want them to do (and what they are built to do), not wrangling with human beings who can be so adept at avoiding doing what cannot be avoided in the first place.

I need to have some joy in my work. I need to have some pleasure in what I do. So, I’m going to use this opportunity to “slingshot” around this pain in the ass position they are putting me in, and fly higher than I’ve ever flown before. It’s a tall order, I know. But it’s worth it to me. It is so worth it.

Because in whatever work I undertake, I need to have some motivation behind it. I need to have some passion. Because work is… well, work. It’s not always some free and easy walk in the park – it takes commitment and dedication and perseverance, to achieve mastery, and you can’t sustain the energy you need for the long haul, with a lackadaisical attitude and a lax approach. You have to have a steady stream of interest, challenge, delight, discovery… and more… for that payoff, that reward. It’s not just about money, it’s not just about prestige. It’s about being fed a steady stream of interest and improvement and insight, to keep the fires burning, to keep the light lit.

It’s this way with anything and everything that you seek to master — whether it’s a programming language, or a musical instrument, or a chess move, or a series of tasks you’ve been assigned at work, or recovery from a near-catastrophic injury. You’ve gotta have fuel for your fire, in order to do what you need to do. You’ve gotta have a regularly renewed source of strength and inspiration, to keep going, even when things look like they’re at a standstill. You have to find a way to tap that root of strength and perseverance deep down inside you, so you have something to rely on when everything around you seems lost.

This has never been more true for me, than now. The stakes have never been higher with me, and I’ve never had so much to lose – or to gain. Back when I was first learning all this technical stuff, I was intensely motivated because the job I was in, was nothing short of hell. It was just a terrible, terrible situation – and I knew I had to get out. So, I set about learning the things I needed to learn, to get the hell out — and after about a year of really focused attention and work, that’s exactly what I did.

Now, I find myself in a similar situation to before, but this time with more issues — and more baggage, as well. Just a few short years ago, I struggled to read and comprehend much of anything, my distractability was off the charts, and my spoken communication abilities were really suffering. I got overwhelmed and exhausted and ended up living in an endless chain-reaction, rather than deciding on my own direction.

I really got lost. I lost touch with what I wanted to do with myself, I lost touch with the direction I wanted my life to go, and I became so deeply embroiled in the simplest of everyday struggles, that I didn’t have any energy left for taking steps to extract myself from that situation. I didn’t even have the energy for figuring out what I needed to extract myself from.

Things are different now, though. Things are shifting and changing, and thank GOD the jerks up the chain of command have quit… one after another… so their static isn’t constantly messing with my head and sucking the life out of me. The simple fact that I don’t have to deal with that psycho-craziness makes this transition easier to make. And the simple fact, too, that I have been at this job long enough to not look like a “jumper” when I quit, makes it easier to entertain other possibilities.

So, extra stress has been removed, soul-sucking distractions have been removed, and that frees up a lot of energy I need to direct towards constructive activity. I can accept that I am where I am for the time being, and I can just let that be — as I move towards where I want to be. With all the changes going on at work, there’s also less impetus for me to be obsessed with creating ideal outcomes, because the Folks In Charge have pretty much removed that ability from our grasp. Everything sucks at work, right now, and that’s all there is to it. But in a way it’s a relief, because now I don’t feel so compelled to try to make everything All Right. ‘Cause it’s just not gonna be that way – now or anytime soon. The Folks In Charge have pretty well seen to that.

So, I’ve let it go… once and for all. And it feels pretty good. I just show up at work, do what they ask me to, and make the best of things, while I’m designing my escape on the side. They can do what they want. It doesn’t prevent me from doing what I want. And rather than cursing the darkness, the little candle I am lighting and keeping going, will guide my way home.

This actually is a very exciting time. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I have a lot of energy and motivation. Unlike the past, I have a path forward I know I can take. It won’t be easy, and it’s going to take a lot of work, but I can do this. I can do this. And with one more day of rest and recuperation ahead of me, I think of my future with hope.

And anticipation.



Healing from TBI: Find what you love… and go after it

So, I’m taking a break from the “issues” to celebrate for a few minutes. I have found a kind of work that really, really moves me – and it’s complicated, so not everyone can do it (and drive the market rates down).

I’ve been narrowing my focus on what I’m learning for my next job change, trying to steer into more specialized territory where the rates are higher and I have to deal with less distraction and chaos, each day. And I believe I’ve found it — plus, it’s something I absolutely love.

Amazing, absolutely amazing. The great thing about this is that while the details of the work are quite daunting for me — there are a lot of new terms and new concepts that I have never encountered before — the final product of these things is so compelling for me, that I just don’t care if I don’t know it all right now.

And I feel a lot like I did, when I first got into building technology – like the whole world is out there waiting for me. I don’t care how complex this new line of study is. I don’t care how many new terms I have to learn. I don’t care if I get stuck on a piece of info for days, even weeks and months at a time — I love it. It brings me life. It brings me back to life. And I feel like I’m really “rebooting” and finally getting a handle on where I’m going and what I want to do.

Slowly but surely, I am getting there. I started out wanting to make a change, and I started looking around for what is in demand in the job market. I made lists of skills I need to have, to earn the amount I need to just live my life and not have to worry about being so close to the edge. Then I started researching those things, and I realized I was casting too wide a net – there was no way I could possibly learn everything I needed to learn to be really top-notch.

So, I started weeding things out and deciding what I would NOT study. And I just kept looking for what caught my attention and held it, like nothing else.

Now I’ve found it… and I’m really, really pleased. It’s such a relief. And it’s tremendous fun. As it should be.

I have every confidence that I can learn this material and do an excellent job of mastering it and applying it. I just love it, I can spend all day at it, I feel totally consumed and absorbed in it. And that will only help me, as I prepare for the next phase… of everything.


I’m looking forward to this year being over

It has been a long year

It’s November. That means I have less than two months till 2013 comes along. I’m not sure why the passing of time should matter so much to me. I know the “new year” is an arbitrary measurement, a marker we have invented for ourselves to see where we are in the grand scheme of things. But this has been a really crappy year, and I am looking forward to moving on to new things.

Yes, new things. Yes, moving on. 2012 really sucked. Sorry to not be chipper and up-beat about it, but honestly, it has been a lousy time that’s gone steadily downhill, and I can’t wait to be done with it.

I can’t wait to be done with this stupid job, I can’t wait to be done with this stupid company, I can’t wait to be done with the stupid commute. It has just been such a waste of time and energy, it’s not even funny. It’s all been blah-blah-blah jockeying for position and striking a pose and “inspiring confidence” in people, regardless of the facts of the matter. Please. Blowing smoke (frequently up someone’s orifice) and repositioning mirrors, so nobody figures out that you don’t have a friggin’ clue – you’re just there to make their life easier.

Anyway, on the bright side, this downward slide has really brought my own personal priorities into clear view. And I’ve been forced — forced, I tell you — to come to grips with what it is that moves me, what it is that drives me, what it is that I actually (want to) get up for in the morning. And I’ve had to push myself pretty hard to get past those intense roadblocks in my head that tell me, “You can’t – you can’t – you can’t do it. You’ll never be able to do it. You’ll never be able to learn. You’ll never be the same as you were before.

Seriously, the chatter in my head is much worse than any external opposition. It’s just crazy – insane – how much negative chatter goes on in there.

And it gets worse when I am tired, which is a pain in the ASS.

Probably the worst thing about TBI, is that chatter… all the messages that build up over time, like lacquer on my brain, that tell me that I can’t do this, that I’ve screwed up that, and I will never be the same as I was before. This year has been profoundly difficult in that regard, as I’ve struggled so terribly in my workplace, surrounded by so much distraction and interruption, and it’s eaten away at my self-confidence and ability to just think. It’s felt like a constant battle to just keep focused on anything… and eventually I’ve just given up on it and I careen from one thing to the next, waiting for someone to tell me what they want from me, before I do anything – because it changes so much and so frequently, and I literally can’t keep up, with the workload (which of course is then interpreted as my fault because I’m just not as good as I say I am, or some-such).

How sucky is this… But at the same time, it can give me energy and motivation to do something about the situation. I have found things that really do move me, that encourage me, that enthuse me, and that I really look forward to doing. The things I’m learning are quite fun, and they get my creative gears turning – so long as I don’t get down on myself and all bummed out about things.

See, that’s the thing — getting stuck in feeling down on myself, and getting all up in my head over crap that won’t last, or isn’t even for real. I can come up with a thousand different scenarios in my head about what’s really going on, and none of it could be true… although it feels real enough to me.

I just have to remember to channel my energy into productive things. I got depressed last night and ended up watching television shows about other people doing things that I wanted to be doing – like traveling and hanging out with friends and experiencing new things. Instead of actually doing something constructive, I watched other people doing what I wanted to do — on television.

Oh, hell. Whatever. Next week is going to be quiet, because my boss’es boss and the team members who are in their “inner circle” are all going to HQ to schmooze with the big guns there. Fine. They should go. It will make things a lot quieter and a lot easier to deal with, than when they’re around. I’ll keep studying and taking care of my own business, and just keep plugging away at the things that will get me out of that place… the things that take me out of that place right now, because they are so compelling and so intriguing to me, and I love to think about them.

Some people have drugs to calm and soothe them. I have technical designs and a new direction for my life and work.

So, while I’m waiting with bated breath for 2012 to be over, I’ll keep plugging away at my tasks at work and keep chipping away at the stuff I’ve got simmering on the back burner. Above all, I need to be systematic and deliberate about what I do, not get pulled off into a thousand different directions all the time. If I’m going to move forward, I need to do it in a relatively straight line, so I don’t wear myself out zig-zagging all over creation. One day at a time, one hour at a time, one breath at a time, I am getting there…

Come on, 2013!

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