I got the critical things done ahead of time, and then I spent all day yesterday with a buddy, going to see an exhibition of Japanese art and culture. It was pretty amazing – especially seeing things that real people made with their hands, instead of something that they made on a computer. The handiwork of some of the furniture was amazing.
I wish I had more energy to take it all in, but yesterday was a pure adrenaline day. I had to help my spouse the night before with a business activity (their back is out, so they need assistance), and not only was I pushed really hard to do a lot of things, but I was up past midnight on Saturday – and I rarely sleep in – so I did not get enough sleep for Sunday.
Yesterday was good. We checked out the art, the craftsmanship, the joinery, the materials… and then we got some lunch – late. My routine was completely blown away. We were near a neighborhood where I used to eat, and sure enough, the old taqueria was there, where I used to always get massive burritos for a very low price. The store burned down, during the years after I moved away, but I thought for sure they would rebuild, because they were so popular – and sure enough. Line was out the door. And the food was still amazing.
We ended up hanging out the entire day, and we had dinner at my home with my spouse, who is actually much better friends with this individual than I am. We’re all on good terms, so it was a good time.
I just had no time for myself, which is a problem on the weekends. I really need my downtime – space when I am only doing things that are in my head and my intentions. Or I pay the price.
I’m feeling it today. I started to get a migraine yesterday, but I got an hour-long nap, and that helped. Work, work, and more work. Not so great for my system, which needs balance.
This week I will balance. I don’t have a lot of appointments. Just two, compared to the past. I think I’m going to back off on my acupuncture and chiropractor, because I am really tired of not getting home till 8:00 p.m. and then having to make dinner, and not eating until 8:30 or 9:00. It’s too late for me. And I’ve been pushing myself for too long, trying to fit everything in.
I just want my routine back. I just want my regular schedule. I have to have it, or I am toast. And if others cannot accommodate me, too bad.
It’s actually good that I am getting to this point. I have been pushing myself very, very hard, for a long time, and it’s about time that I really focused on just taking care of myself in ways that are less rigorous — and are closer to home.
… and before you know it, it’s taken over your life. That seems to be where I end up a lot. Maybe it’s my impulse control issues cropping up again.Maybe it’s my tendency to get consumed by what I’m working on.Maybe it’s that the “simple” favors end up being quite complex because A) I have to work harder at them to get them done, and B) I find all sorts of things that need to be fixed along the way, and being the perfectionist I am — actually, no, I just want to get it done right — it’s got to get taken care of.
This doesn’t just happen with favors. It also happens with my own projects. I start out with a simple idea,and before you know it, I’ve complicated things beyond recognition, and I build out a whole life-altering drama around a simple project I started because “it seems like fun”. Again, I find additional things to focus on (all of which seem quite important) and everything balloons into something incredibly huge and complex.
In both cases, I tired myself out,and then I make sloppy mistakes and have to double back and try again, thus spending about twice the mount of time I originally intended to spend on it.
The irritating thing is,I don’t realize it until much farther down the line, when I have used up a lot of time and energy. As they say in Peanuts… Arrrrrrggggghhhhhh! It’s so frustrating. Especially when I get tired and I mess up other people’s stuff. Fatigue is such a Pain In The Ass. It turns me into an idiot — and I don’t realize it until much farther down the line.
In the end, though, I do these things, and they help other people. And it’s good practice for me. It’s no good, hiding away and not doing anything, because of fatigue. I just have to work through it, and learn from each time.
So, I’m trying to wrap up a project I’m working on for a friend. And I’m trying to wrap up TBI S.O.S., which actually does need to be “built out” a lot more than it is. I’ve got a lot of it written, which is great. But there’s a bunch of stuff that’s hidden inside that I need to sort out. and I have a feeling that when I start digging into it again (after a 2 month hiatus), it’s going to stir up a bunch of “stuff” with me.
Which is probably why I have taken a break from it for this long. Yes, I have some other projects I’m working on which have pulled me away for very good reason. But I’ve also been really struggling with some of the things I talk about, and it’s not always easy for me to function well, when I’m emotionally upset. And that’s even more emotionally upsetting for me, which turns the whole thing into a downward spiral that’s both mentally taxing and physically exhausting. When I get upset, I tend to get UPSET, complete with an internal storm (which may not be immediately visible from the outside) that throws me off for days.
When I’m “emotionally hungover” as some of my friends call it, I feel marginal for days. I have a hard time thinking and handling basic things, and I feel like I’m in a haze. It’s no good, when you have to really function at a very high level on a regular basis. Having a history of solid achievement in my professional life is a double-edged sword, which makes life … interesting, shall we say.
On the one hand, it puts me in an enviable position at work, where people look to me and rely on me for support and strength and reasonableness. In the midst of the madness, I project a demeanor of calm, cool, collected level-headedness, and people confide in me, at all levels. I’m discreet, so they know they can talk to me without it getting out to everyone.
On the other, it makes it all but impossible for me to be able to “slack off” (or even adjust my pace) in my life, to catch up with myself. Sometimes I just need to adjust — so I don’t wipe myself out and plunge into abject misery — but I really can’t back off my level of effort and my facade at work (and at home and in the world at large), because people are depending on me, and they need me to be something I can only be under ideal conditions.
The rest of the time, I’m faking it. Which is great for others, but really a pain in the ass for me… and ultimately for others, when I get tired and start to make stupid mistakes.
And then comes the scramble to adjust for those stupid mistakes and do damage control
Which, again, is tiring. And takes more of the energy from me that I need.
And all the world gets dim and grey and a lot more taxing than it should/could be.
And the inside of my head and world nudges a little closer to the edge of that abyss I spend so much time trying to avoid.
But nobody really knows or believes the extent of my efforts. So, it must all be easy for me, and I must be perfectly fine and have all this extra energy and surplus.
God, just thinking about how wrong that is, makes me tired. So I’m going to turn my attention — and the energy from all my frustrations — to writing some more. Doing something productive. Doing something meaningful for myself and for others. My hope is that I can get this book finished in the next couple of months, and then I can publish it and send it out to providers who think they know about how to address TBI, but aren’t factoring in the Sense-Of-Self issues. In all my reading and video watching and talking to my own neuropsychologist, I have not heard much reality-based talk about the effect that personal experiences with TBI has on prognosis of recovery and outcomes.
It’s not that people are idiots (well, some are, of course). It’s that they’re looking in the wrong place. And because folks with TBI are notoriously challenged at A) self-awareness, and B) articulation, what our experience is actually like, and how it affects the trajectory of our recovery, falls between the cracks and is lost — never to be found. Of course, you can’t look for something that you don’t know is there.
But I’m here to say that personal experience (or phenomenological influences, if you will) CAN and DOES have an enormous impact on recovery from TBI. And when you have providers who have not experienced it themselves, well then, my friends, we have a problem.
Okay, I’ve been at my job just a few days shy of two weeks, and I’m getting settled in my new role and routine.
I’ve actually been able to get about 8 hours of sleep each night, most of the nights since I started my new job. Some nights I only get 5 or 6 hours (like last night — I woke up a little before 4 a.m., which gave me about 5-1/2 hours), but it doesn’t kill me like it used to.
So, this is good. And I’m settling into this new routine quite well.
This is an amazing opportunity I’ve been waiting for, for quite some time. It’s a chance to get myself stabilized with my rest and activity, to focus on my health, to get myself re-oriented towards what matters most to me — and spend the time working towards those things. I feel so fortunate, really. After so many years of struggling and battling and being pretty miserable, I’m finally at a place where I have some peace. And I can catch up with myself.
The biggest hurdle right now is distraction — losing sight of what matters most to me, and getting pulled off in a bunch of different directions that have no purpose, other than to distract and entertain me.
I gave up my smartphone when I quit my last job, so Facebook and social media have consumed a lot less of my life, in the past few weeks. That’s as it should be. I really don’t need to waste a bunch of time on the prattle that goes on there. Seriously, it is almost worse than useless. It’s actually a real problem, because what I get back is nowhere near what I expend on it.
It’s good to be done with that.
This new turn of things is a huge opportunity for me in so many ways. It’s also a chance for me to better manage my time. I’ve noticed that when I have tried to get places on time, the harder I try, the later I get. It’s very frustrating. It’s almost like the more I try to hit the gas, the harder I pump the brakes. So, I need to take a different approach.
So many different pieces of the puzzle of my life are coming together — largely because I now have the time to relax and step back and clear my head. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, and I’ve made some errors of judgment that have stressed me out a lot and tweaked my anger. I’ve had some blow-ups, and I’ve had some stresses from thinking about things wrong, so I need to do something about that.
But this will sort itself out, I am quite sure. I just need the time and space to get settled.
That’s happening. It has a chance to happen now.
And I’m taking advantage of that chance — like my life depends on it.
Today I fast again. It’s been about a month, and I’m feeling like I need to focus my energy more, instead of building my day around breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have a lot that I want to get done, and the whole hunger-tyranny thing is getting in my way.
I spend way too much time during the day, thinking about where my next meal is coming from. I have no shortage of nutritious food around me. All I need to do is buy it and/or prepare it. I don’t eat a lot of junk food, and my diet is fairly limited, because that’s what’s healthy for me.
But I find myself spending an awful lot of time thinking about food, planning my meals, and thinking about what I’m going to eat in a few hours. I spend too much time thinking about whether or not I’m hungry, what I should eat, how much I should eat, and
It just takes up too much of my time. And I have way too much to do, to spend a lot of time frittering away my hours thinking about… food.
Plus, I have a fairly easy day today — no long commute, because I’m working remotely, and I don’t have a ton of critical meetings today. I have a fairly balanced schedule, and I should also be able to get a nap in there, somewhere. Just a short one. On the new bed I’m getting delivered today.
I’ve been sleeping on the same mattress and box spring since 1989. I know. It’s crazy. 25 years is way too long to be sleeping on the same bed. It also dates back to my first marriage, which was pretty much of a disaster, so it will be good to get it out of the house.
Why didn’t I do this before? Simple. Money. Beds are expensive, and frankly I like the old style mattresses better than the new ones. There’s been a sort of comfort in the familiarity, to tell the truth. And it’s been years since I had any association between the mattress and my first (failed) marriage.
So yeah… time. Fasting to save the time of planning meals, eating, and then digesting. Fasting to get my head back on straight. Fasting to get free of the impulses that drive me by instinct and reflex… getting out of the reactivity, and into deciding for myself what I will feel and think and do.
I applied for a job today with one of my old employers. I was with them for over 10 years, total, and they’re the place I worked when I fell in 2004 and had that TBI that really screwed me up. I wasn’t able to hang in there with them for more than a year after my brain injury, and that’s where things really melted down for me. I went back and worked for them, a few years ago – just prior to my current position. I was still on the mend — it was five years ago, that I was back with them again for about a year.
I had a mixed experience with them, the last time I was there, and I was happy to leave. But the past four years have been unbelievably trying for me, in this new position, and even though I have really made great strides in my recovery, I wouldn’t mind going back to a company that has a clue. The company I’ve been with for the past four years has a long way to go before they’re worth working for. It started out okay, then the restructurings started to happen, and now they’ve tipped even closer to useless.
Of course, in a world where people just move on ever few years, who the hell cares about whether things will work properly in the long run?
That’s the mindset I’ve adopted, lately. It’s a little sad, that I’ve just let go of the idea of staying there. I do enjoy the people I work with — somewhat. Mostly, the appeal of my teammates is that they are familiar to me. I don’t absolutely hate every single one of my coworkers, which is a plus. A handful of them, I enjoy talking to. But I don’t seek them out for company while I’m at work. Ironically, I have a better rapport with people I don’t work directly with — who I know from socializing in line at the cafeteria or getting coffee or water in the employee lounge.
And to be honest, if I never saw most of these people again in all my life, I wouldn’t care. I just wouldn’t. I don’t miss the ones who have moved on, and I can’t imagine I’m going to miss many of them when I move on. I’m not even sure why I bother with most of them on Facebook.
Anyway, I’ll get what I can out of the experience I’m having, and quit worrying about the change that comes along with finding a new position in a new place.
I just figured something out that can free me up to move sooner than I’ve been expecting to, and that really takes a load off my mind. Getting more flexible with my thinking… that’s a good thing, for sure.
That’s one of the things that fasting does for me — it gets me thinking along different lines. It gets me out of my comfortable routine — if only for a day. And it frees up the energy and time I’d usually spend spinning my wheels about meals, to think about other more important things – like my next steps. It clears my head — all the junk gets sorted into separate piles, and I’m not on autopilot like I usually am. And that’s good.
What a beautiful night it was, last night. The moon was full and casting bring shadows across a quiet earth… beneath a starry sky. On nights like last night, I’m glad I live in the country – I have lived in cities about half my life, and while there is much beauty to be seen there, too, there’s nothing like a full moon night in the silent wintertime.
And it isn’t even officially winter, yet.
I didn’t get to bed as early as I was hoping to. I had a late night at work, and I only finished up a little after 10, so small wonder it took me a few hours to wind down. I actually did well, under the circumstances, and I got in bed a little before midnight. I was up a little after 6 a.m., so I got about six hours of sleep, which could be better. But I’m working from home today, so I can take a quick nap later on.
I’m still feeling the burn from the weekend’s work, and I’m taking it easy with the early-morning exercise. I just need to keep moving today, to keep from getting locked up. I actually have a good mix of things I need to do, including a few out-of-the-house errands.
So, things are good today. Not perfect, but still working out.
I’ve got a nice block of free time coming up this coming weekend. My spouse is going to be away working pretty much all weekend, so I have uninterrupted time to focus on some projects I’ve had going. I’ve needed to do a number of things, but it’s been slower going than I expected. Everything seems to take sooooo loooooonnnnnggggg with me, at times — much longer than I plan and anticipate. So, that kind of takes a bite out of my self-confidence. And I feel like an idiot – even more than usual.
I know I bulk up on a lot of things to do — I do that on purpose to put the pressure on, because I work better under pressure. But it also sets me up for failure, just about every day. So it’s a balance. I guess the thing I need to do is really take the time to savor the times when I get things done, and get them done right. I tend to bounce from one activity to the next, just taking my successes and little victories in stride, rather than really stopping to enjoy them.
It will be good to have the time to myself, this weekend. It will give me time to think. Or not think. I’ve been dogged by a sense that I’m not nearly as sharp as I wish I were, and I have to struggle with a lot more things than I would like to. Nobody likes to struggle with things, I’m sure, but it seems like some things should be a lot simpler than they are. It’s so convoluted. I think I have things figured out, then I find out I don’t. And I have to start from scratch again.
It can be exhausting. The daily discovery that I didn’t get it right… again. Or that I was completely wrong in my thinking… and I have to try again. Can’t I just get it right the first time… just once?
Well, anyway. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who feel this way. I just get depressed when I think about it. So, my solution is to not think about it — just keep going. And try to get plenty of rest in the meantime, so I don’t wear myself out with all my mental concern.
Maybe that’s the key for me, to stay happy and healthy and productive — not think so much about things, and use the energy I have to keep trying, keep refining, keep growing. I can’t just sit and noodle about things all day — that in itself is depressing. I have to use my energy — the anxiety, the sadness, the frustration, the anger — as a source of fuel for my life. Keep going, keep growing, keep moving. And not stop to think about what it means in the grand scheme of things, or let it take on qualities that make it seem like it’s depression.
Now that I think about it, this seems to be the key for me — it’s what works best for me, and it’s what has made it possible for me to function at my best for so long: using the energy I have for positive, productive activities, rather than for negative ones. I mean, seriously — I have so much frustration and anxiety and anger and nervousness, if I don’t do something productive with it, it all just eats me alive. And that’s no good.
Last night, before I stopped in to get food for dinner, I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and started to cry. All the frustrations of the day, the energy, the conflict, the upheaval that’s going on now (with yet another re-org on the horizon) was getting to me. Big time. And I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started to feel really sorry for myself, becoming angry at my spouse, my family, my employer, my co-workers, my neuropsych, my bank, and myself… and feeling like the whole world was against me, and there was no way I was going to dig myself out of the abyss of money troubles and job troubles and pain that have dogged me for over 45 years.
It has never, ever been easy for me, and nobody seems to really appreciate just what I have to go through each day. Nobody can see my issues, most people don’t seem to believe I actually have them. And if I told anyone about what’s really going on with me, they’d probably be shocked and dismayed.
And last night, it all just welled up and got the best of me. I couldn’t see past my immediate troubles — even though things are really turning around for me — and all I knew was trouble, struggle, and pain.
This morning, I can’t say that that’s changed. People are still clueless about my situation — but that’s how I want it to be. I don’t want people to pity me, to feel sorry for me, or give me special consideration because of what I’m experiencing. I need to be fully functional, regardless, and I need to just get on with my life. Even if it hurts. Even if I’m foggy and out of it. Even if I feel like I’m going to fall over, or the lights are too bright or the noises are too loud. I need to keep moving, even if I’m tired. I can’t live any other way. There’s just no point. I need to do constructive things with my life. I need to be active, even if I am in pain and hurts like hell just to stand up and walk across the room.
I’m not sure my life is worth living, if I can’t do the kinds of things I feel compelled to do. That’s what makes me who I am, and if I’m not myself, then who the hell am I? And what the hell is the point?
Well, anyway, enough navel-gazing. It’s time to get on with my day and use some of this energy for something productive.
Thank heavens – I actually got eight hours of sleep last night. They weren’t all consecutive – I fell asleep while watching a movie at 9:30, slept till 11:30, then went to bed at midnight and slept till 6:00 a.m. So, 2+6=8, and I’m focusing on that.
I am definitely doing better. I started to obsess about my boss having it out for me, then I started asking Whoever-Or-Whatever to care for and support them, so they can get the answers and the help they need in life. I started to get bent out of shape last night, then I managed to get myself back on track in a good way — and I was able to get to sleep. One of the things I tend to do is “use” agitation and anger to get me going in life — but it backfires on me because I then get all riled and worked up, and then I can’t relax.
But last night I managed to relax. I managed to let it go. And that tells me I’m dong better.
Another thing that tells me I’m doing better, is that I am returning a bunch of library books I checked out last week, intending to brush up on my skills to change jobs. I realized this morning, being rested and refreshed, that I was taking on way too much and casting too wide with my skill-building. I need to stay focused and specialize in the area that I have my greatest strengths, right now — NOT go out and try to acquire new skills where I’m starting from scratch.
I need to be smart about this, and I was not doing that, last week.
So, the library books are going back.
Thank heavens for good sleep. Even one night of increased rest makes such a difference.
So, this weekend I have to laser in on the things I need to do for my job, for my impending change. I have realized that I’ve been frittering away a lot of time doing extraneous things, and I have not done a good job of managing my time or my energy. I have been taking valuable hours out of my weekends to go do things that I could be doing during the week, on my way to or from work. I like to work out at this park that’s a half hour drive from home, but when I do it on the weekends, it takes 2-3 hours out of my mornings to go do it. It’s a least an hour of driving, round trip, plus the hour it takes me to work out, plus any extra time I spend chilling out in the process. I do want to be able to enjoy my life and I do need to work out, but I need to find a better way to use my time, than driving to and from a place that’s actually on my way to work.
Ideally, I will use the time I have on my weekends to do things I can only do at home, and I will do the things that are on the way to work, while I’m on my way to work. I just need to get up a little earlier — or get up at the same time — and focus on incorporating those workouts into my day. They have locker rooms at work, so I can shower and change when I get there. It will work out much better, and I’ll get some really good exercise during the week.
I don’t want to get too obsessive-compulsive about this and “optimize my life” down to every spare second, but some things I’m doing are really sucking up valuable time, and I need to change them.
… Things like getting books out of the library that don’t really serve my primary purpose. I have other books that are specifically about what I need to be studying, not what I suspect I may need to learn.
… Things like driving around and losing time on the road that I could be using in studying and working on my skills, and generally enjoying my life at home while I am able to be at home. If I need to work out, I can do it at home with my weights and exercise bike (which I did this morning).
The poor use of time has got to stop. Poor use of time translates to poor use of energy. So, I’m stopping it.
I can still do all the things I need/want to do. I can still find places for them. I just need to be smarter about how I do it, and I need to understand why.
Yesterday, I sat down and made a list of all the things I need to learn and become familiar with, in order to be a viable job candidate for the positions (and the money) that I want. There is a lot that has happened in my field, since I made this detour into positions that were related to it, but not exactly IT. And I have some catching up to do. It’s pretty exciting, because a lot of this is stuff I had hoped to be able to do in the past, but the technologies weren’t all mature enough to support these kinds of things. Now the technologies are mature, and we’re able to do more and more — which means I need to learn more and more.
And that’s fine. Because I can.
This is a relatively new thing for me — I mean, it’s a relatively re-newed thing for me. When I fell in 2004, one of the things I lost (temporarily) was my ability to learn new things. Hell, I couldn’t even read, let alone keep my attention on the pages of a book long enough to let things sink in. That’s changed dramatically over the past 7 years… I’m better now than I’ve been in a long time, and it just keeps getting better. It’s very encouraging, and each day I learn even more… it builds on itself.
It’s wild, when I think back. In 2005, when I was dealing with all the TBI fallout and I was sliding farther and farther down into that black hole, I couldn’t figure out how to get from A to B to C. Let alone from A to Z. My sequencing was all messed up, and I could not figure out the most basic things, like the orders of instructions and how to use new programs. That’s a problem, when you work with computers. You have to constantly learn how to use new programs. But I was so out of it and so turned around, I was all but useless.
Even up until a year ago, I was still struggling with figuring things out — and it really showed at work. I would get so turned around and confused about how to do things, and then I would sit and struggle with them, thinking that there was something really wrong with me that I couldn’t figure things out. This wasn’t just me thinking it, either — plenty of other people gave me sh*t for not being instantaneously able to decipher new and unique stuff. It’s been very trippy, looking back on the things I did in the past two years, realizing how I just wasn’t clued into how things worked, and I was just pushing through, making the best progress I could under the circumstances, and totally clueless about why people were getting so upset with me. And they were getting really upset with me, because there were a lot of things I was struggling with, for no apparent reason — at least no reason apparent to them.
Now, I really feel like I’m doing much better. I’m more flexible than I was in the past, and I’m more actively engaged in problem-solving situations. I still have my problems dealing with a lot of my co-workers, who have their own issues (their issues are more motivational, than logistical — what I lack in native smoothness, they lack in will and desire). But I’m a lot more clued into what’s going on around me, than I was before.
It’s interesting — talking to my neuropsych, they seem to think that my issues are really based in stressing over things and being hard on myself. They tell me there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s kind of them to say so, yet I can tell a real difference between how I function now and how I functioned before. They are fond of telling me that my perception of my abilities in the past was probably a bit flawed, and I had an inflated sense of my own abilities.
Maybe, but I can still tell a big difference between how clueless I feel now, how much I just kind of muddle through, and the smoothness and fluency of my past abilities. That subjective experience is very important, no matter how much my NP tries to reassure me that there’s really nothing wrong with me. I appreciate their eagerness to reassure me. I think it’s helped me to really overcome a lot that I might have given up on, had I been convinced that I was permanently damaged and was never going to completely “recover”.
However, I have a very different perception and personal experience, and that has told me loud and clear that I have some areas to work on. My NP doesn’t seem to understand that my focus on fixing what is less than perfect is not because I’m down on myself — it’s because I truly believe that I can — and will — improve. But I can’t fix something if I am not aware that there’s an issue. So I have to keep an eye out for issues.
It’s like with Give Back – paying attention to brain injured moments, and focusing on fixing them. That’s my preferred approach, but my NP seems pretty intent on steering me away from focusing on what’s going wrong… and getting me to pay attention to what’s going right. I can see their point — it is so important to focus on what’s right and make the most of that — and replicate the experience. At the same time, though, it’s also important for me to see the areas where I’m coming up short and work through them.
I’ve gotten away from that over the past couple of years, and while it has been helping me to calm down and chill out and take the edge off… as well as improve my sense of who I am and where I fit in the world… it has also kept me from really truly improving in some areas.
And those areas are where I need to focus. Learning. Studying. Doing work properly. Completing my tasks. Delivering my work on time.
So, I still have my work cut out for me. And I need to keep aligned with the direction I’m heading. I have a bunch of stuff I have to do for work, and I have a bunch of stuff I need to do for myself. And I need to keep my strength and resiliency up. I have a plan — to strengthen my skills, find my next job (probably a contract, to start with, so I can get back into that line of work) and start looking for my next career step — another permanent job that is more in line with what I want, instead of this ridiculous treading water, just trying to stay afloat in a raging sea.
Anyway, the day is waiting and I have a lot of exciting stuff to think about. It’s time to get going, time to get on with my day. I’m feeling really good about this, and each time I sit down to work on my skills, I remember yet again why I got into this line of work — I just love it so much.
Well, it happened again. Or rather, I set myself up again. I was supposed to have the afternoon off work yesterday and take some time to just enjoy myself. But I had been putting in long hours all week, under very stressful conditions, and by the time noon on Friday came around, I was fried. I had also not planned properly, and my timing was off, the plans didn’t turn out like I had hoped, and the net result was that instead of spending a relaxing afternoon, I spent the afternoon rushing around (in vain) and then I spent the evening stuck in a meltdown cycle that really tore the sh*t out of a lot of work I’ve done to patch things up with my spouse.
No wonder they don’t like spending time with me alone.
It was pretty bad, and it all carried through into this morning, when there was more fireworks (not the good kind) and more meltdowns.
Now I’m on my own for the afternoon, so I’m going to bed – to sleep. I’m on my own all evening, and I’m going to take it easy. Relax. Throw a steak on the grill and cook up some kabobs. I just need a break, some time away, without needing to DO anything, without needing to rush. I’m fried. I need to sleep. I haven’t been sleeping, and it shows. For all those times when I’ve felt like I was doing great and was living large over the past week or so, I hit a wall and I’m the one with the cracks.
I had an interesting revelation this morning when I woke up. I got to bed late last night, getting caught up in watching Friday night t.v. instead of going to bed like I should have. I felt like I needed a break, but I got caught in that boob-tube vortex that eventually had me watching UFC fighters discussing the challenges of their lives and telling the camera about how they were just going to power through the pain of their torn ligaments like true warriors and never give in to defeat.
I’m tempted to riff on the hazards of ignoring your injuries and “powering through” (I know a lot about that nonsense), but what I really want to talk about is what occurred to me this morning.
See, it’s been a very tough week. I started having trouble around Tuesday, when my normally scheduled neuropsych appointment didn’t happen. My neuropsych is out of town for a few weeks, and I won’t see them until the 2nd week in April. I’ve gone this long without a consult in the past, but I had a really hard time with it, and I went back to weekly appointments as soon as I could.
During this past week, my emotional lability has been pretty intense – up and down precipitously…. all over the map. And pretty intensely, too. I truly felt like quitting my job for most of the week. I’m usually slow to anger, but this week has been extraordinarily bothersome. Normally under typical work conditions, I am pretty solid and able to focus in on my work and I can get a lot done. This past week, however, there’s been the combination of my neuropsych being away and a pretty massive project being dumped on me that is about ready to drive me nuts. I’ll spare you my snarky bitching (for now) — the bottom line is, I got caught off-guard by a lot of details that didn’t even occur to me beforehand (but I am pretty sure I should have thought of). Basically, I am learning as I go with this project, and it’s extremely high profile and can’t be done wrong, so I’m on the hook.
At the same time that my neuropsych is out of town. And my spouse is working weird hours, so we see each other about every other day or so.
Talk about feeling left out on a limb. It really feels like I’m being fed to the lions, here. Just hung out to dry with no backup or support. At least that’s how it feels.
Anyway, I’ve been behaving really badlyat work — not exactly a paragon of professional competence. Oh, sure, I’m capable, and I can totally do this thing. But I’ve been very vocal about how f’ed up this whole situation is, and I’ve been so pissed off by what seems like unbelievable incompetence and sloppiness by others who have been dicking around on this project for the past 8 months — la-la-la-la-la I think I’ll fly to Germany for a few days… hmmm… I think I’ll fly to France… la-la-la-la-la fiddle-dee-dee — that it’s seriously clouded my judgment. And I am really irritating everyone around me. Seriously. They all want me to suck it up, because everybody has to deal with this stupid shit and they manage to keep it together, but my point is that we’re all a whole lot better than this, and lack of leadership and foresight and basic intelligence and discipline by the people “in charge” has created this stupid situation that is pretty amateur and needlessly stressful and is just so indicative of how out of touch management is with what it takes to actually get work done. Geez, it’s like they’re off in la-la land. Permanent vacation. Yeah, our leaders…
It’s just stupid, and I’m not handling it well.
So, all that aside, I have been wondering why the hell I haven’t been handling this well at all. I’ve been in similar situations a number of times over the past two years, and it’s never affected me as much as this project has. The timeline is obscenely tight, yes. The people I’m working with are behaving like buffoons who are more interested in covering their asses than actually getting anything done. But that’s a given. So, what’s different this time?
Well, a number of things, actually. First, my neuropsych is out of town, and that’s throwing me off. Also, I have been getting up really early and going in hours ahead of when I normally do. I’ve also been staying late. And I haven’t been exercising as regularly as I used to. I’m off my cadence, and it’s throwing me off, big-time.
Many of the most important things I do to take care of myself and keep myself balanced are not in place. And I’m not doing well with it. When I was thinking about it this morning, I was thinking that it’s because I depend on those things to keep me balanced and sane — that the exercise and sleep and schedule I usually have are essential to my well-being. And that my visits with my neuropsych are required for me to get along in the world.
But then I thought about it some more, and it occurred to me that it’s actually the disruption of my habits that have sent me over the edge. It’s not the lack of input from my neuropsych that’s throwing me off; it’s the lack of that regular appointment in my week that’s throwing off my cadence. I’ve gotten attached to — and dependent on — a certain cadence to my days and weeks, and when that’s disrupted, I go over the edge.
Which is a bit lame, if I say so myself. Just because things are different for me for a few weeks, I can’t keep my sh*t together? That’s a little sad.
On the other hand, when I step back from the situation and don’t make up some judgmental definition of what a loser I am, I can see another side to this — the power of habits, and the need for me to create better habits for myself that will help me live my life better, instead of convenient habits that are like mind-numbing drugs — where, if they’re taken away, I start to piss and moan like a cranky teenager.
See, here’s the thing — habit is a hugely powerful force. Our habits train our brains and our lives to do certain things in certain ways — when we do things often enough and long enough, we can reach a point of “unconscious competence” where we don’t even have to think about what we’re doing. We just know how to do it, like brushing our teeth or starting our car. When we start out, it can take us some time to figure out how to do what we need to do — remember when you were a kid, learning to brush your teeth, and you couldn’t seem to master that movement of up-and-down with the toothbrush? And how many times, when you were learning to drive, did you crank the motor too long, so that the starter screeched — or you stepped on the gas so long that you flooded the engine?
It happens, those things at first, and getting past them is all part of learning. But eventually if we do these things long enough and often enough, and if they are important enough to us in our lives, we do reach a place where we don’t have to constantly think about them when we do them. They become part our lives, our overall competencies. They become habitual. And the neural connections in our brains that enable us to do them without having to consciously think about them… well, those become a regular part of our lives, sometimes as though they were never NOT there.
That’s the power of habit — important things in our lives become so much a part of who and what we are, that we can’t imagine them not being part of us. And since my habits — like my Tuesday neuropsych appointments and my regular daily schedule — tend to become so central to my life that when they’re interrupted or changed, I start to seriously freak out, I can see now that I need to start creating some new habits. I need some larger, even more powerful habits that will help me carry on, even when things around me are not optimally scheduled or managed.
Seriously. I need more resilience. I’m way too brittle to be 100% healthy. That much is clear to me, after this past week. I’ve got to come up with better ways to handle my stress and strains, than relying on a set schedule for getting by.
So, what to do?
Well, first off, I need to evolve my morning habits. Because of my work, there is no guarantee that every morning I’ll have the time to do a full cycle of weight-lifting. Sometimes I have to shower, grab a cup of coffee and a quick bowl of cereal, and bolt. On other days, I can exercise – I have the time. So, what I can do is actually slightly increase the weights I’m lifting on my “on” days, so that the days when I’m not exercising first thing, my body is recovering and I’m not feeling like I’m missing an important part of my day by not lifting.
Another thing I need to do is stop checking Facebook, first thing in the morning. That’s a losing proposition, because so many of my “friends” use FB as a soapbox or a bitch session — it’s where they air their grievances or “share” some slice of ridiculousness. One of my friends has a bug up their ass about politics, and practically everything they write is a crusade of some kind or another. I agree with much of what they say, but they’re so rammy about everything, it’s pretty wearing, even for me. That is no way to start my day. So, that bad habit has got to stop.
Another thing I need to do is actually feed myself — do some uplifting reading while I’m riding the exercise bike. Feed my spirit, feed my head with good things, useful things. Get myself in a positive and pro-active frame of mind, first thing in the morning. I need to do things that will strengthen my hope and resolve and attitude, not drag it down.
There are so many really positive sources of information and ideas out there, I really can’t see why I should waste a lot of time listening to people haggle of stupid crap that’s going to change eventually anyway. All the complaining about things that cannot be changed… How about changing the things that can be changed?
So, that’s what I need to do with myself. Create new habits, each day. Start small — just little things, like reading something uplifting first thing while I’m exercising, instead of scanning the bitchfest that Facebook has become. Strengthening my mind, as well as my body, first thing. Making that a priority.
And making it a habit. Making a deliberate habit of doing something good. Making a deliberate habit of taking care of myself and my dreams and my goals, first thing in the morning, before I do anything else.
Now, I have been an intermittent reader and a big fan of the site www.zenhabits.com (which has since become succcess.org), and maybe that’s where I picked up the focus on habits. Actually, I think I’ve always been serious about habits — it’s just been such a part of my life and my outlook that it’s taken up residence in the back of my mind and become one of those “unconscious competencies” that I don’t quite notice — and value — so much, on my own, unless someone else is drawing my attention to it. When someone else talks about it, I remember it in a new light, and that brings it to life. The thing is, with sites like succcess.org, I have something to read while I’m riding my exercise bike, first thing in the morning. There are plenty of other folks online, too, who are running blogs or podcasts about personal improvement and successful habits, so there’s really no reason why I shouldn’t start out my days like this.
Of course, when I’m tired or out of sorts, it can make keeping that focus a bit more difficult. But I often find that so long as I just start… keep it simple and just do it… I do get the energy I need to move forward.
That’s the force of habit — doing something so frequently and regularly, that NOT doing it becomes more uncomfortable than doing it — creating those neuropathways, those synaptic connections, that thrive on and feed the regular cadence of good that I bring to my day.
So, enough bitching about my job. I’ve got to get my act together and just buckle down to get this project done. Quit wasting time being hard on myself. Quit wasting time worrying about all those things I cannot control, and invest the time in myself, my attitude, my hope and promise. That’s a far better use of my time — an investment, rather than an expense.
Speaking of better uses of time, I’ve got to get ready to go have coffee with an old friend I haven’t seen in quite some time. It will be interesting to compare notes…
But I got a lot done yesterday that was hanging over my head, and again this morning I got things done that were — again — hanging over my head.
I have effectively cleared out a handful of things that were taking up space and time in my head, and now I am free to do my main work today. I cleared out a noontime “optional” meeting, so I have a little time to step away and take a breather around mid-day, too.
This is working out well. I’m tired, but that’s nothing new. And I have freed up a ton of new energy to be able to focus on a big project I have in front of me.
See, that’s the thing — when I put things off, they back up and take up a lot of extra attention, with me trying to shuffle and juggle them with the other things I have going on. It’s just so counter-productive. At the time, it feels like I’m energizing myself, but over the long haul, it takes an increasingly demanding toll on my total resources — when I don’t have extra to spare.
The great thing about clearing things off my plate is that I have all this energy free up, and as it sinks in that I don’t have to do such-and-such, I feel increasingly relaxed and more in command of my life. Like I’ve got more mastery. And I’m the one running my life… rather than running from my life… which is what happens when I have all sorts of to-do things on my ever-expanding list.
Right here, right now, I’ve overcome two HUGE roadblocks that had me stymied for months — literally months. I’m freed up from them, and I have my day ahead of me to do some great work. I feel so much more relaxed, now that I won’t have to deal with this boss from hell and their mind games. That energy drain has also been lifted off me, and I can get on with my day — and my life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I go about doing things in my daily life. From my work habits to my rest habits, I’ve been examining the patterns and looking for explanations… or ways I can improve.
One of the habits I have, that I’ve had my reservations about, is procrastination. I tend to wait on doing things like tasks and obligations and things I HAVE to do, often until the very last minute. Sometimes it introduces stress to my life, and it sometimes makes me a little ill. I also sometimes get in trouble, almost missing flights and being late on deliveries. And at tax time, it’s always interesting as I realize preparing my taxes is a lot more involved than I anticipated.
I’ve tried to change this for years. It’s caused me trouble that I think I can avoid. And I have felt like there was something wrong with me, for procrastinating.
But you know what? I don’t really feel that way, anymore. I’ve realized that procrastination actually serves a purpose with me — it gives me a certain control over my time, a certain latitude, that I don’t have, when I’m working on other people’s timeframes. Sure, I could start early on things and get them done. But then someone would give me something else to do, and I’d never get any rest. Especially at work. I’m not in a position where I can just tell people “No, I’m not going to do that,” without consequence. If I finish one thing, people are going to give me more crap to do, and then when will I rest and recuperate?
The way I do things — tending to the things I want to do first, and then taking care of other people’s stuff — actually works for me. And if I don’t get too wigged out over the pressure, I can actually do well. The pressure focuses me and it gets me involved, so long as I don’t let it get to me. If I tell myself I’ve messed up by waiting till the last minute, I make things harder for myself, because then I spend all this time feeling badly about myself and using up valuable time and energy being hard on myself.
And that’s no good.
If I just let myself be, however, and I just go with what I’ve got, things work out much better for me — and everyone. Obviously, other people aren’t all that pleased that I’m moving at my own pace, but I can’t be driven like a mule, just to make them happy.
This is a bit of a breakthrough for me. I can’t tell you how much time and energy I’ve spent trying to “turn this around” and keep myself from procrastinating. I’ve gotten so down on myself over this habit, telling myself that it threatens my success and well-being. I’ve convinced myself it’s unprofessional and slacker-like. But that’s not true. I just do things on my own schedule and in my own time. I do get things done — just not in this neat, tidy little package that makes everyone else comfortable and happy.
See, here’s the thing — I’ve also been thinking about this — people get anxious. They get scared. They get nervous, and they want assurances. It’s nice to be able to allay people’s fears, but it’s not my job to make sure everyone around me is feeling good and fine all the time. If people are nervous, they’re nervous. If they’re afraid, that’s really on them. It doesn’t reflect on me or my value or abilities as a person. If my boss(es) are anxious and frustrated, it may not have anything to do with me, so there’s only so much I can do to allay those fears and reservations. The main thing is to keep lines of communication open with people, so they can know what’s going on. But bending over backwards to make sure everyone else has peace of mind… while my own peace of mind suffers… not good.
So, I’m changing my mind about procrastination. It serves a purpose, letting me spend time on what I want to do, before I start serving the needs of others. It also provides valuable focus and impetus, when I’m “late” with my projects. So long as I don’t let the pressure get to me, I can make really good progress and do it in short order… and be reasonably rested and mentally prepared when I start a project.
My time needs to be my own. My time IS my own. When I lay claim to it, defend it, and manage it the way I want to manage it.