After a brain injury, it’s awfully easy to get stuck in every single moment.
Everything seems different. Everything is different. Your brain has changed, and you have to devote a whole lot of time to each and every moment, as though it were the only one in your life.
Focusing on the present with laser-like attention became my main form of brain injury rehab. After all, I had to retrain my brain to make sense of what was going on around it, and I had to acclimate (all over again) to certain things I had once taken for granted.
Like brushing my teeth and taking my shower and getting dressed in the proper order each morning.
Like washing dishes and cooking and fixing simple snacks without losing my temper.
Like going to bed at a decent hour and getting up to exercise each morning.
The things that I had once taken for granted… well, that familiarity was taken from me, when I fell in 2004. And everything fell apart.
We don’t realize till it’s gone, how much we really do take for granted, and how much we depended on the predictability to structure our lives. When it disappears, all hell breaks loose. Literally.
But now, after 10+ years of really drilling down on the details of every day, moment to moment, I seem to have turned a corner. And now I’m looking at the “long haul” — what’s ahead of me, not next week or next month, but 10 years down the line… 20… 30… and beyond. I wasn’t born yesterday, but I also come from a long-lived family, and I can realistically expect to live at least 20 years longer than my peers. Maybe even longer than that.
So, I’m shifting my attention away from immediate stuff and concentrating on the big picture. What else is out there? What else can I learn? How else can I grow? Where can I find interesting things to expand my mind and life?
It’s all out there, waiting for me. And it is for you, too.
I’ve been watching Marcus Lemonis on “The Profit”, and I have to say, I’m inspired. The way he gets people organized so they can better run their businesses, is very impressive. The show only reveals part of the process, which I’m sure is much more arduous and drawn out, but the end result is impressive. Even the folks who don’t work out, still demonstrate important lessons about how to run things — and NOT run things.
My study can use some of that organization. I have been really busy, the past several weeks, and it shows. Papers and books and folders are all over the place. And I’ve been scattered — dashing from one shiny object to another.
So, I’m doing something about it. I’m narrowing down the list of projects I’m working on and getting rid of some things along the way. If I can get better organized, I will have more time to work on specific things.
I also need to narrow down the list of things I am no longer interested in. It’s pretty amazing, looking around and seeing so many books and papers and collections of information about things I’m just not interested in, anymore.
But it’s tricky. Because my “interest” tends to come and go, and I’ve frequently decided “no more of that” and put away the books and supplies… only to have to dig them out later, when they suddenly became more interesting to me.
More quandary… I woke up early again today. I think I’m just jazzed about having extended time off, and all the ideas I normally don’t have the time to really dig into are pushing at the edges of my thought process.
They’re like neglected children — or puppies — all clamoring for attention.
What to do?
Well, first, I need to realize that this is a really good problem to have. A lot of people never figure out just what they want to do with their lives. I know what I want to do, and I’m doing it.
I just need to figure out how to make the most of it — and also get support from others to keep doing it. I spend a whole lot of time researching and writing and publishing, yet so far, the majority of the support has been motivational, moral support. I’m not knocking that — far from it. The “emotional paycheck” (as they call it) has been hugely important to me.
The thing is, emotions don’t really pay the bills, and I’ve gotta do that. So, I spent the lion’s share of my time working jobs that will get me money, so I can keep up this work… keep it going. And do more.
The other thing that’s kind of throwing me off, is that I’ve gotten into a pretty good space with my life. Sure, I still have issues that make my days “interesting”, but they’re manageable. I’ve figured out how to either ameliorate them or work around them or just plain ignore them and move along with my life. All the energy and time and focus I spent on identifying my issues, addressing them, coming up with new strategies and techniques, etc., etc. …. well, it’s all paid off. And I’m in a really competent space right now (when I’m not mouthing off to police officers and managers at work, anyway).
And now where do I go?
I mean, seriously. I’ve felt like I was barely breaking even, for most of my 50 years. I’ve always had the sense that I was playing catch-up… and I wasn’t catching up very fast.
Now that I have the sense that I AM caught up, what do I do with myself?
If all you’re doing for your entire life, is trying to break even, and your whole life is geared towards laying low and minimizing risk, how can you transition to stepping out and above and beyond, when you no longer have to be chasing an ever-elusive goal?
If all your life you’re geared towards keeping things from blowing up, what do you do with yourself when you don’t have to be on constant guard? What do you do with all the energy that’s been spent on moment-by-moment damage control for so many years, when you’ve managed to achieve that level of control at a higher level?
And how do you keep yourself from imploding or going supernova from all the energy that comes up, when you’re not in constant fight-flight mode?
That there’s the question I’m wrangling with, this weekend. I have a lot of things I want to do, and that’s great. And in addition, I need to get used to the idea of moving forward into the unknown — and NOT having it all blow up in my face.
I had a pretty very good weekend. Had a headache yesterday, but it seems to have gone away and is not bothering me right now.
That’s fine. If it were still here, it would be fine, too. Just a distraction, but one I can keep out of my main focus, by using my noggin properly. Zeroing in on what I want to think about, not the constant intrusions from all around me.
The best thing about this past weekend, is that I made a lot of progress, but now I’m not terribly pained about it being over. I’m still making progress with my projects and interests and studies. My days are all pretty much blending together, as I develop a good routine each day to make progress on the things that matter most to me.
I spent a lot of time, actually, getting clear about what I do NOT want to spend a lot of time on. I’ve made lists of my projects over the past several weekends, and I have sorted and prioritized what I want to work on. And I see that I have been distracting myself by getting sidetracked on things that don’t actually help me finish what I’ve started.
So, I have taken a bunch of things off my list of “must do” pastimes, and I’ve turned them into rewards for finishing the things I’ve started. There are a couple of projects I am very eager to start, but they are keeping me from completing what I have already started. So I am treating them like rewards for finishing what I’m doing now. It’s doing wonders for my motivation. Really wanting to move on to the other things is getting my butt in gear to finish what I’ve already started.
I’ve also found some really good books to read. And listen to. I signed up for Scribd, which now has audiobooks included in the subscription. It costs $49/year, which is about $4/month. I can afford that. And what I get out of it is worth far more than $4/month. I’m listening to Sir Richard Branson’s memoirs — he talks about the mistakes he made as a kid, and also not doing well in school, thanks to dyslexia and what would probably be considered ADD. It really is inspiring, and he offers some great tips on what makes a person great — and effective.
Things like being generous. And taking copious notes (by hand). Asking a lot of questions. Being engaged.
Sounds good to me.
Anyway, it’s Monday, and I have an early meeting at the office. Hello and good morning to all.
Okay, this is promising. Since my week+ off, I have been seriously thinking about how I organize my time and do the things that I want to do. I’ve been taking a close look at how I do things… how I hope… how I dream. And I have had some really useful insights.
In the past couple of years, I started a new company. I had an idea for an invention, and I went through the whole process of documenting it and filing provisional patent papers, building a website, selling a few working prototypes, and trying to get it off the ground. It was a good idea, I thought. I still do think so. But this past year, I have let it slide. I couldn’t figure out why that was. It was/is a good idea. Why not make it work?
The thing is, I have realized that I actually don’t want to be in the manufacturing business. That’s what it boils down to – manufacturing. And as much as I want to see my country be able to revitalize the manufacturing sector and give good jobs to Americans, I don’t want to be one of the people doing it. In fact, I really dislike manufacturing, as well as creating all kinds of new stuff for people to buy and sell. I’m much more of an ideas person.
Of course, I’ve always been involved in production of some kind or another, over the course of my life. I’ve worked in greenhouses and factories, and I’ve been involved in website production for decades. It’s been my bread and butter… the thing that kept me afloat over the years, making so much possible.
So, of course I think of how to do more production — this time under my own chosen circumstances — when I think of creating a new business. But when I get down to it, and I really start to do that handiwork, it occurs to me that my time is much better spent thinking and creating ideas, rather than physical things. And my abilities and knowledge are put to much better use, when I focus on putting them out there, rather than doing them in the background, while I trade my time and energy for money.
One of the things that’s always held me back, is the fact that I don’t have a college degree. I went for 4 years, but I couldn’t finish on time — for a number of reasons. And then I got busy, my life got exciting, I got hurt a bunch of times, and being as tired and as hurt as I was, finishing my degree just didn’t seem like it was within reach. I also got sick and tired of all the academic crap, and I just wanted to make money and live my life.
Nowadays, having a degree is almost a requirement. I can slip by, given my life and work experience, but it’s getting harder to do that, as more people with college degrees are getting more and more experience to compete with mine. So, I have to make my own way — and that means having my own business that I can develop.
And it means I need to realize what kind of business I don’t want to run. That includes stopping momentum on another business I’ve been seriously considering starting. I made some minor progress on the project about six months ago, but I suspended it for some reason I can’t recall. For the past several weeks, I’ve been doing the analysis to see if it makes sense, and – lo and behold – it does not. There could be good money there, but it’s more manufacturing. It’s on a much smaller scale than my other idea, but it’s still making stuff to send out to people. It will put me on a time clock, pretty much, getting stuff to people when they want it. It’s going to lock me into being responsive and customer-service-oriented.
And that’s not what I want to do.
I know that now.
So, this is a good sign. I have been spending the morning doing an inventory of all the projects I have started over the years, and it’s looking pretty comprehensive. And I know what I want to do next with a lot of them. This blog is up at the top of the list. I’m going to continue on here, and keep going with my other projects. Stay focused and realistic, and take my time at them — but not too much time, because then I get bored and start to distract myself for no good reason.
I’m being smart about it — laying the groundwork and using my noggin. 2015 is off to a good start.
I’ve been reading a book that I’m really enjoying — Profiles of Power and Success by Gene N. Landrum, Ph.D. There are all sorts of tasty tidbits in there, when he talks about the fourteen men and women he chose to examine as transformational leaders in their respective fields. He also talks about what miserable failures so many of them were.
Napoleon graduated near the very bottom of his class in military school. Edith Piaf never learned to read music. Isadora Duncan, who pioneered modern dance, only had one hour of ballet training and no other formal dance training. Landrum says, “great achievement has little to do with scores on a test, but more to do with performance on the stage of life. Jules Henri Poincare scored at the imbecile level on Alfred Binet’s IQ test at a time when Poincare was universally acknolwedged as the world’s foremost mathematician.”
So, yes, I do feel better. Not that I want to delight in others’ misfortunes, but hearing about how many people who changed the world for the better had either no formal training in what they did, or performed so poorly in their training, gives me hope. Because it says there’s something else at work when it comes to making your life worth living — and that something else is us.
Spurred by my enthusiasm with this book, I have been giving a lot of really serious thought to where I am going to spend my energy in the next year. I have a number of projects I would like to start (some of them I have already started), but I don’t want to spread myself too thinly, and I don’t want to sink a lot of time and effort into things that won’t pan out. I started a big project last year that took up a ton of time and seemed to show great promise, but in the end, I was looking at a likely prospect of losing money, it would have taken up far too much of my time, and I needed to back off and not pursue it further. I may pick up again later, since I have all the infrastructure in place, but I need to really think it through for it to make sense.
It took up so much of my time… only to fizzle out.
This coming year, I need to be smarter about things. A lot smarter. A lot more strategic. Less flailing around and busy-work. Less running around from place to place, and more sitting and looking at what I’ve got, prioritizing everything, and deciding how I want to handle it.
I’m already off to a good start. I’ve lasered in on two Big Ideas I have which show some real promise for supporting me and themselves.
I’ve also identified a handful of secondary ones that I want to do, just because I want to do them. Those are my “passion projects” which are all about doing things that will benefit others, rather than supporting me. This blog is a passion project for me, as is my book on TBI SOS – Restoring A Sense of Self After Brain Injury. Some things should be sold at a fitting price to people who value them and are willing to commit themselves to valuing them. Other things should be done with no expectation of return. TBI SOS is the latter. I need a balance of both, in my life. Yes, I do need to support myself and my work. But there are an awful lot of people suffering who need the help, and if I can provide it, then so much the better.
Anyway, I’ve been zero-ing in on my projects, culling the ones that take way too much time without giving much in return, and building up the ones that have a real chance of taking off. And in the past few days, I’ve made tremendous progress in the couple of projects I am focusing on. I have been planning and finding resources and getting clear on how I want to proceed. No more of the crazy running around from one thing after another. I’ve been doing that too long, and I’m tired of having nothing to show for all my work.
And it’s good. It takes the pressure off, and it also makes me a lot more productive. I’ve gotten so much done, just in the past few days, it feels like I have almost a whole week behind me. And it’s only Tuesday morning. I’ve been able to go out for long walks in the woods. I’ve been able to run errands. I’ve been able to lie down and take naps. I’ve been able to finish a big piece of a project I’ve been working on. I’ve come up with a bunch of ideas about how to streamline and automate my activities, using technology as my friend.
One example is with my blogging. I have a regular ritual each morning to sit down and write something pretty much every day. The intention is to publish something each day. But I don’t always have the inspiration or the time to do this every single morning. So, when I am feeling really inspired, I will write up a handful of posts, and then schedule them to be published at regular intervals, so I’m freed up on other days to do other things that inspire me.
And then I come back later to the writing, when I get my inspiration back. It usually doesn’t take long.
It really takes the pressure off. Committing to doing something every single day, can be hard for someone like me. Some days, it just doesn’t work out. But with different tools, I can overcome those blocks, and work around the limitations.
That’s what the folks in Profiles of Power and Success did. And if they did, so can I.
So, things have been going really well at work. My new job is shaping up. It’s been rough, in spots, but mostly because my head gets all turned around, and I feel incredibly deficient, some days.
Of course I do. I’ve been exhausted at the end of each day, and that’s a good thing. It means I’m earning a living, and I’m putting everything I have into what I’m doing.
I’ve had a bunch of times where I could not figure out how to put two words together coherently. And I’ve felt like everyone in the room was sitting there staring at me, wondering… WTF dude? But I pulled it together and just kept going.
And just the other day, I noticed that someone else who has been training me also got incredibly tongue-tied, and they could not put two coherent words together, either.
So, it isn’t just me.
We’re all under a lot of pressure. There are four BIG deadlines looming — each 2 weeks after the prior one. It will all be over and done with by mid-October, and then the office is moving to another location that is just down the road from where I live.
That means that if I get exhausted and need to rest, I can go home for lunch and get a quick nap, and no one will be the wiser. It also means I can invite friends from work home for lunch, and we can hang out if we like. Heck, we can work at my place, if we can’t find any conference rooms available.
That would be a hoot. Or maybe not. It all depends on the context, I suppose.
Long story short, in a few months, the hell that has been my life will be behind me, and I’ll have a life that I can really be happy with. I mean, seriously. It’s so awesome, and I have been hankerin’ for this kind of a change for so very long. I really like the group I’m working with, my boss said they “love” me and my work today — in a totally professional way, of course. And I’m not far from home. Plus, in the season when the weather turns bad, I’ll be 12 minutes from my house, which is never a bad thing.
I’ve dreamed of this chance for so many years, and I’ve taken a shot at it many, many times. Now it’s happening, and it’s for real, and it is very, very good.
Of course, there’s political crap that goes on. What else is new? But the bottom line is, I have the time and the strength to deal with it all, I’m figuring out how to keep myself safe and healthy, and I actually have time for hobbies.
And now, for the crowning glory of my day, I’m going to eat my big old burrito for dinner, follow it with some ice cream, and call it an early night.
I woke up this morning having the keen sense that over the course of my life, I’ve come through a huge number of obstacles. Emotional swamps, mental jungles, physical minefields, and logistical nightmares.
I’ve been on the wrong side of the law, and I’ve been on the receiving end of foolishness at that hands of those who have been far outside their rights.
I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve traveled my own path, and now I find myself actually doing better for myself… happier, healthier, more content, more optimistic… than most of my peers. I also have a much more engaged and involved relationship with my life and everything in it, than 90% of the people I know.
Despite the pain and suffering — some of which may never actually go away at all — I am here, and I’m in a very good space.
What’s the secret?
Keep your spirits up. Do whatever you need to do, to keep your mind and spirit alive and involved. Keep your body in good condition and don’t abuse it with bad food, drugs, too much drink… too much anything. But most of all, keep your spirits up.
Someone once told me that my journal writing over the years was a “Proustian” waste of time — a lot of navel-gazing that provided no apparent benefit. Likewise, I have launched many, many projects which ultimately came to naught. For years, I felt like I was a failure because I could not “make it happen” for myself, and I struggled constantly with so much. I thought for sure that if I did things the right way, I would eventually be rid of the pain, the suffering, the hardship, the challenges.
And my life would get better.
Now I realize that even though all the pain, suffering, hardships, and challenges are still around, the thing that has really changed is me. I have acquired the skills I need to meet the hardships that come from TBI … and to figure things out as I go. I am still learning — and each day offers me one more way to make right the things that are wrong in my life. I didn’t get here by accident. I got here by keeping my spirits up, by staying interested in life, by always having some activity going on that keeps me intrigued and engaged.
Even if I don’t “make it” with my projects and end up rich and famous, the simple fact of the matter is that it keeps my mind fully occupied, and it keeps me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I come up with some crazy concepts, too — many of them far beyond the scope of my actual interests and abilities. But I dream big, and I chase after those dreams as if they truly will come true.
When they don’t… and they often don’t… well, that’s not the point. The point is that I have been engaged on a very high level, and my energy has been good, and it has kept me from being my own worst enemy. Maybe someday some of my grand plans will pan out. But the main thing is the working towards them, and keeping my spirits high in the meantime.
Most of the things I dream of, I don’t tell anyone about, because they’re really just for me, to keep me going — and when others get involved, they tend to dilute the process and hold my mind and heart back.
To each and every one of you reading this right now, I encourage you to pick something big and crazy to dream, and keep that dream alive in your mind. Pick something that would give you so much pride to accomplish, and then secretly set about making that dream come true. Don’t tell anyone else about it — just figure it out for yourself, dream it big in your heart, and let that carry you through your days.
Any kind of recovery — whether it’s TBI or not — requires a huge amount of energy and stamina. I can take a monumental effort each day, just to keep going. So, find something to spark your spirit, then dwell on that, feed on it, let it bring you joy and happiness and encouragement, and stick with it like your life depends on it.
So, it’s Friday. Finally. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is a huge relief to be done with the week. On the other hand, I have so much to do and so many deadlines, that taking a few days off just makes me dread next week.
I’ve been doing a lot of dreading, lately. I am behind on a number of of my projects – there are just too many of them, and they are all TOP PRIORITYin the eyes of others. I’m keeping things running that need to keep going, and I’m also working on building new pieces of the puzzle that is my occupation. And the new pieces are getting intense push-back from people who want things to stay as they were.
Which all seems pretty unfair to me – it wasn’t my idea to make all these changes. My job is just to make them happen. But I get the brunt of people’s objections and opposition, while management sits back and lets the underlings duke it out. Which is incredibly uncomfortable and bothersome for me.
Really, what I want for my life is some peace. I have had a hell of a decade, and I value peace and common sense a whole lot more than I did when I was in my 30’s. I’m nearing the end of my 40’s, now, and I feel it very strongly. I have changed. My injuries have changed me. The upheavals of my life have changed me. All the drama I have gone through in the past ten years since my TBI in 2004 has changed me. It’s almost like life was on the lookout for my 40th birthday, and as soon as it was in sight, all hell broke loose. It didn’t even wait for my 40th birthday, because everything started to come unraveled a few years before… which contributed to my fall down those stairs in ’04.
Interesting… I’m seeing a lot of 0’s and 4’s in the last paragraph. Not that I’m superstitious or anything…
Anyway, enough bitching about how hard life has been. Everybody has it hard, in one way or another, and it’s really up to me to decide what to do with it. Rather than fighting things and resisting them and wishing they were different, I could be facing up to what’s ahead of me and just going for it, treating it like a learning experience, rather than proof that I’m a screw-up and will never get anything right.
When I approach everything like a big ole learning experience, so much the better. Teach this old dog some new tricks, and see how far it can go.
It really does take the pressure off.
And that makes all the difference in the world. It changes the tone of my whole experience, which is exactly what I need. The longer I’m alive, the more I realize just how elusive true happiness can be, and I value inner peace and equanimity all the more. I understand more than ever just how destructive unchecked anger can be, I know from experience just how much time is wasted by indulging fleeting emotions and giving them the ability to mushroom into Major Events. I have watched the last 10 years of my life be undermined and shredded and dragged down by rage and anxiety and poor self-management, and I have seen years of quality experience prior to that go wasted, because I was too busy being angry or hurt or confused or frustrated or worked up about something, to make the most of my past.
And today, as I look ahead to a day I’m not looking forward to, when I’m going to be working with people who are NOT on the same wavelength and revel in all sorts of discord and disruption and downright treachery, the painful truth about what my TBI cost me, is very clear to me – front and center.
Days like today are one of the big reasons I am so intent on my TBI recovery — regaining my equilibrium… mastering my emotions… taking care of my physical health… fine-tuning my behavior and how I think about myself and others. I don’t much care for the situation I’m in, and I need to build up the resources and the ability to extract myself from this situation.
The first step is extracting my mind from a situation of dread and avoidance. I hate dealing with some of the folks I have to deal with… come to think of it, I hate dealing with just about everybodyI have to deal with. But the thing that makes it harder, is avoiding and refusing to engage with them. When I just step up and do what needs to be done, the wheels start turning, and the anxiety and frustration really decrease. Even though I’m not happy, and I really dislike dealing with these folks, still, I’m doing what needs to be done … to get the hell out. I have to deliver a project before I leave, and there is a big-ass deadline on it. And I need to have so much done before that date. Crazy. But as long as I hold back and don’t do what I need to do, it’s even crazier.
So, enough procrastinating, enough avoiding. It’s time to get on with the day, go deal with these … people, and take yet more steps towards getting the hell OUT. Time to make this day what Iwant it to be.