Fixing my #backpain – When slouch = ouch

wooden figure slumped over with back painI finally figured this out. My back and shoulders have been killing me for over a week, now, and I haven’t been able to get much relief. My spouse has been putting analgesic cream on it, which has helped, and I found some stretches that help. But still, not as much progress as I was needing.

Then I took a step back and thought about how my shoulders and back and legs are all connected, and it occurred to me that tightness in one area is pulling my back out of alignment. I started stretching my legs and lower back, as well as keeping my posture straight.

Lo and behold, that gave me relief. I’ve been slouching too much while working, for the past couple of weeks. And I’ve been driving a lot. So, my posture is out of whack. And that’s pulling my whole back out of alignment and causing the pain. I haven’t been able to lift weights, and I haven’t been able to sleep well, and that’s never good.

So, I’ve been keeping my posture straight, not slouching, keeping my lower back arched the way it should be. I do it while sitting, while driving, while standing, while exercising. And it gives me huge relief.

Now I need to strengthen my body overall to hold that posture. Tone myself up and make sure I have the structural support I need.

This is doable. Very much so. I’m just glad I figured this out before I did permanent damage to myself.

Onward.

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Saturdays and Sundays should be reversed

lawnmower

I have a general complaint for the Western World – Saturdays and Sundays should be reversed. For those of us who “run hot” all week, Saturday is the last day of the week that we actually have resources to do everything as well as we would like to. Municipalities should have the town dump open on Sunday afternoons. Banks should be open then, too. Business should have hours on Sunday afternoons.

And they should all be closed on Saturdays.

Think about it… people only have so much energy, and if you push people to keep going top-speed through Saturday — to take the kids to their sports / dance competitions or various clubs… to run errands, do the week’s food shopping, go to the bank, get your hair cut (oh yeah, I did that yesterday, too), and generally tool around at near-top-speed… you’re going to encounter herds of people who are all in a pretty bad way, all forced to interact with each other.

And that’s no good.

It’s very bad, actually.

Of course, this structure all presumes that everyone can KEEP GOING on caffeine, adrenaline, fear, joy, and necessity.

But not everybody has energy left over in reserves.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t about to change for me, so I have to do my own adaptations. The biggest one I’ve come up with, is a Friday afternoon nap. I usually work from home on Fridays, so I get up and do my work, my thinking, my concentrating. Then I have some lunch, maybe go for a walk down the road and back, and then I lie down for a nap. I don’t set an alarm (unless I have that cruel, cruel bi-weekly Friday 2 p.m. conference call). I let myself just sleep.

Sometimes I sleep for half an hour. Sometimes I sleep for three hours. I’m exhausted, and there’s no way I can request a reduction in hours without compromising my position, especially now that the company is changing hands. Word has it that the new company is much more amenable to working from home as much as humanly possible, so I might even be able to do it more… but who knows?

Anyway, for now, I have that approach.

Another option I have is to take the trash to the dump earlier in the week, like Wednesday, when they’re open till 7. Or during the day on Friday, when I’m working from home, anyway. I could do that. But I’m usually pretty fried by the end of each day, and on Fridays, I’m also pretty wiped out, so it’s actually easier for me to do it on Saturday morning.

But yesterday was a real task … just so laborious and zombie-like… And now that I think about it, it might be worthwhile to shoot for Wednesday, before I’m completely wiped out. Or push myself on Friday, before I take my nap. The idea of having a Saturday free of having to deal with that chore, is quite pleasant. I’ll have to re-jigger my schedule and see what comes of it.

The other stuff I have to do, like get my hair cut (about once a month), I generally have to do on Saturdays, because that’s when I have the free time. The barber is in the opposite direction of my work, so it’s no longer on the way there, anymore. So, unless I go on Friday (which would take a chunk of several productive hours out of my good “thinking” workday), there’s no really smooth way to segue that into my week.

I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet with the haircuts, and stick with that. Or start shaving my head. Or get a buzz cut that will last me for months. Or let my hair just grow, and run around with a pony tail or a bun or some-such. Then again, I hate it when my hair gets long. It’s even more distracting, with the ends getting in my eyes and hanging on my neck. And then I have to comb it. My hair does what it should, when it’s short, so I keep it that way. And that works.

For chores like shopping, I grocery shop almost every day on my way home from work. I do this to keep my list small and also break up my day. It’s not bad — and it also keeps me from having a massive list that I lose track of. I also try to do other shopping on my way home from work — office supplies, greeting cards, hardware… If I take the long way through the town next to us, I can get a lot of things bought on my way home.

Another thing I usually don’t have to do on Saturdays is mow my lawn. I generally think I’m supposed to mow on Saturday, but it actually works better to do that during the week, after work, when it’s a little cooler. It only takes me half an hour to mow my front lawn, which is the one that matters, so I don’t have to feel obliged to do it on the weekends.

All in all, I think I have a pretty good system in place for many things I do. My system spares me from my weaknesses, and it makes the most of opportunities. And my Saturdays actually aren’t too crazy-busy, to tell the truth. I just don’t have much energy at all, for the things I need to do. And I feel like I’m walking around in a grouchy haze, which isn’t fun for me or anyone else.

I’d really just like to enjoy myself on the days I’m off work. If the rest of the world isn’t going to accommodate me with making Saturday into the day of rest, then I’ll arrange things, myself. One trick at a time, it can happen. One small improvement at a time.

Onward…

Clearing the decks

Time to get all that old stuff out of the way
Time to get all that old stuff out of the way

Okay, I have my plan. This weekend, while I’m flying solo, I’m going to clear out a bunch of spaces that have been cluttered and crammed full of old stuff… for years. I’m starting with my garage, and continuing on to the basement.

I’m also going to clean out my study – just remove everything from all surfaces, wipe everything down, and then judiciously restore what I actually want to keep within view. I should probably pick up some shelving, while I’m at it. I’m comparing my choices on Amazon and the local big-box home improvements store, and it actually looks like I can get a better deal at the local store.

So, I don’t have to wait. I can just stop off on my way home from work tomorrow and pick up a bunch of shelves to use. Sweet.

I’m pretty excited about this. I have three days total to get things in order, and it’s way overdue. I haven’t been able to get my act together — I’ve been too focused on too many different things that had nothing to do with each other… too scattered… and too tired… Meanwhile, everything has piled up around me. It’s not as bad as that Hoarders show, but it’s not as I want it to be.

And I’m sure this will bring up a lot of emotion with me, while I’m uncovering relics from my chaotic past. One of the benefits of my TBI issues, is that I can keep my attention focused intently on what’s in front of me at the moment, so I don’t have a lot of emotions and internal drama playing out from other times and places and contexts. I can be squarely in the moment and have no thought for anything other than what’s in front of me. It’s not that I’m “compartmentalizing” and blocking other things out from self-defense. I simply need to focus fully on one aspect of many, many aspects of my life, so I can take care of it.

And then I can move on to other things.

It’s not that I’m blocking out parts of my life because I’m afraid of them. I just don’t have the bandwidth. But then things get cluttered, because I lose focus on one thing and hyper-focus on something else. And then I end up with a lot of half-finished ideas and priorities that pile up around me and block my proverbial view of the world around me.

So, this weekend, it’s time to clear out a lot of the stuff. Just clear it away and be done with that. I have to find some books I put away. I also need to rearrange my bookshelves so that I have more room. And I need to make some decisions about what I really need in my life. I’ll need to catalog everything I’m putting away, because if it’s not in front of me, I forget it exists. So, I need a directory of sorts to remind me where things are. And I need to put that directory in a place where I can see it and remember to consult it.

Exciting times, to be sure.  T-30 hours till the rearranging kicks off.

Onward.

I am just so tired of all this crap

That’s one approach

Maybe I’m getting old, but all the hullabaloo at work over everything that needs to get done… it’s really getting tiresome.

Lots of work, not enough people to do it. And the people who understand how it’s done are leaving the company, so that leaves it to the rest of us to figure it out. And it leaves it to me to explain.

My mood is low today, because I’m tired. I have a lot going on, this week, and I feel like I’m not keeping up. And the same thing next week. And the week after. And the week after… until July. At every step along the way, there are critical details to keep track of, and to be honest, I’m not keeping up with everything.

I’m not the only one, either. Everybody is being asked to “do more with less”, which gets really old, after a while.

Anyway, things will change in time. Either I’ll get used to them, or they will get better. That’s how it goes with me. Time solves a lot of problems, just by being Time.

And I have to keep in mind that in another six months, this is going to be a past blip on my radar. All the pain and suffering I’m experiencing right now will be behind me. Maybe new pain and suffering will take its place… Yeah, I’m not thinking about that, right now. I’d rather think about my next steps — get my head out of the particular details of my situation and work on my resume, for the next thing to come, a year from now.

Someone asked me yesterday if I would ever sign on with this company full-time. Not for the money they pay and 2 paltry weeks of vacation they offer. I could go back to my old employer and have four weeks, right off the bat. Or I can continue to contract, make1/3 more money than I make as salaried employee, and be free to come and go as I please. That would be preferable.

The money needs to be there. And the time off. I’m not settling for less. There are too many other options out there, and now that my insurance situation has changed (my spouse is on separate insurance which gives them more comprehensive coverage at a fraction of what we were paying before), I don’t have to take — and keep — crappy jobs because of the insurance.

But the day is waiting. Time to wade back into the thick of it.

And think about my future. Because I don’t have to stay stuck in this crap forever.

Onward.

Making the most of… everything

Focusing on the good… trying, anyway

Well, my time off is winding down. It’s Friday, and it’s my last day off work for quite some time. It’s been a good week, although being off my usual schedule has proven to be both a blessing and a real challenge.

It’s been so great to get things done that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. It’s also been great, getting some time in, just thinking things through, focusing in on what I want to do with myself this coming year, and getting clear on what I do NOT want to do.

The challenge has been spending a lot of time with my spouse. I’ve mentioned their anxiety a lot of times, so I don’t want to belabor the point. Suffice it to say, it’s not easy living in close quarters with someone who is afraid of their own shadow and has anxiety about every little thing, and spends countless hours stewing about their anxieties to justify them — and amplify them.

It’s pretty taxing for me to deal with their constant anxiety. It’s a total drain, and I end up fatigued — and incredibly cranky. It’s not much fun for either of us. I just need to remember that they’re not 100% like they used to be. They’re declining, and they need some extra help and assistance and patience. I just wish I didn’t get so exhausted by the whole thing.

Whew! In that respect, it’s going to be good to get back to work. I’ve caught up on my sleep, somewhat, and I’ve gotten a lot of ducks in a row, so now I can move forward with steady steps and progress. The main thing is, I’ve had time to think… and walk around in the woods while I’m thinking. That’s gotten my head on straight and kept me from veering off in a bazillion different directions. And that, in itself, is a very positive step for 2015.

I’m a little irked that I have to go back to work on Monday. But I’m also glad. I’ve missed the company of my “work tribe” and also the daily routine. If I had my own business and a regular routine around my own endeavors, it would be one thing, but this past week has been a bit of a mad dash to get in as much “extra-curricular” stuff as I can, while I can. Having a regular schedule, with a regular sleeping pattern is also very important, and I’ve had a few late nights, this past week, which have thrown me off. Including New Year’s.

That’s one of the reasons I really hate New Year’s. My spouse wants me to stay up, but I just want to go to bed at 10:00. One year, I got to do that, and it was heaven. But with my spouse… different story.

Anyway, in a few more days I can go back to my regular schedule, and it’s not all that bad. I’ve gotten my head screwed on straight about my priorities, and I’ve broken down a bunch of larger undertakings into smaller bite-size pieces, so I’m not so overwhelmed with all the details. I have places to start, and I’m starting. Heck, I’ve more than started. I’m well on my way. And I’ve made a good beginning already. I’ve been geared up for 2015 for a couple of months, now.

So, onward! I’m doing a road trip with my spouse today. We’ll see how that goes. The two of us are pretty tired of each other, right about now, but this is our last day to spend the whole day together. So, we might as well make the most of it, put our differences aside, and just enjoy each other’s company when we have it.

Today I don’t have to DO anything. I can just be. We’ll see how that goes 😉

Each year better than the last – I hope

Looking back… looking ahead

Now that Christmas and Hanukkah and Winter Solstice have all passed, it’s time to start looking ahead to the New Year. Kwanzaa is still underway till January 1, and the Seven Principles that mark this time give me good food for thought, even though I don’t actually celebrate it formally. Yuletide is also underway till January 1 (or the 13th, depending what part of the world you live in), allowing everything to just slow down for time to reflect and look ahead to the new year.

I’m celebrating the spirit of Yuletide more than any other holiday this season. It’s been a quiet time, without a lot of travel, and minimal racing around to take care of presents and what-not. If anything, I’ve been pretty neglectful of others, this holiday season. But you know what? They’ve been totally neglectful of me, too, so we’re even. If anything, the past years have been about me and my spouse doing a hell of a lot more for them than they did for us — doing more travel, making more of an effort, going out of our way to keep everyone aligned and on track with coordinating our holiday activities. This year, we haven’t done all that — and guess what… nobody picked up the slack. So there you go — they must not care that much, so… what-ever.

It’s time to us to take care of ourselves for once.

And we’ve done just that. I’ve been in a pretty low-key frame of mind since before Christmas — all the excitement of work notwithstanding — so, it’s been a very “Yule-like” time. Things have slowed down. I’ve allowed them to slow down. I’ve taken time OFF from all the sense of obligation and duty and required activities, to just rest and relax and not race around like a chicken with my head cut off, as I did in prior years. I’ve done energizing things that are good for me, and I’ve been eating lots of new foods that support me and my brain, as well. I’ve cooked up some pretty excellent dishes lately, if I say so myself, and my spouse says I’m becoming quite the chef 🙂

Looking back on the past year, it’s odd — I can remember bits and pieces of it, but I don’t get an overall sense of how the year was. I know it’s been challenging, and I’ve been actively looking for a new job for much of that time — especially in the past three months. At home, things have stabilized somewhat — with less undercurrents of stress and strain, but some extreme meltdowns that have taken a toll on my marriage. I’ve been through a lot of intense challenges with my spouse, including issues with money and infidelity and physically unhealthy choices. All in all, though, I think we’re on the up-swing, and taking time out from all the travel to see family, as well as me getting my own “house” in order, has benefited us a great deal.

I feel stronger and more stable than I have in a long time. Perhaps ever. And yet, there’s a constant sense of confusion and disorientation that is always in the background. I am more functional than I can remember being in a good long while, and the circumstances of my life are leveling out and becoming more “structurally sound”, but at the same time, I’m in a fair amount of general pain much of the time, I have tremors and shakes, and my brain is definitely not firing on all pistons. I feel like I’m maybe at 65% on a regular basis. 85% if I’m lucky.

And that makes me sad.

But I think perhaps I am acclimating to the instability. I’ve decided I’m going to just get on with my life, even though I can’t seem to get rid of the memory problems, the sleep difficulties, the constant sense of fatigue, confusion, distractability, getting things turned around, and getting lost and not knowing where I am for a few minutes at a time… and more.

My solution is to just keep going and not get sidetracked and depressed by what’s going on inside my head. If I can just keep going, keep working at things, and do my best to learn from my lessons and try again, this all doesn’t need to hold me back permanently. It might slow me down, but it’s not going to stop me.

I’m also coming to terms with the idea of not being Alpha in every situation at work — and beyond. At work, I have been long accustomed to being Alpha and being in a leadership position of some kind. But now that things are shifting and changing at work, I’m not sure if this is going to last. There are so many people at work who are a hell of a lot more possessed by the demons of blind ambition and greed, and I just can’t see competing with them around the clock. There’s all sorts of politicking — and if it takes politicking to get ahead, then I’m going to step back and not engage with that, and allow myself to simply be happy in the position where I am.

Now, I don’t for a minute expect that I’ll stay in that subordinate position for long, if I get the attention of the right people who recognize what I’ve got to offer. I do want to get ahead. I need a raise. I need a promotion. I need to really put what I know and have learned into action. But I need to be smart about it and not just charge forward into the gap, without understanding what’s ahead of me. If a promotion means I’m going to have to travel all over the world and not be home more than two weeks out of every month, then I’ll pass. There is that possibility. But who can say? Who can say…

Anyway, I can’t invest too much time and effort in thinking about what may be… inventing all sorts of dramatic stories about what that will mean for me. Who knows what will happen? I need to conserve my energy, because I continue to have some limiting difficulties — the headaches and the joint pain which suck a lot of energy from me… the confusion and disorientation that keep me guessing and demand even more energy from me to keep up and do my part… the vertigo and tinnitus that are just so damned distracting… and the attentional and distraction issues that interrupt what I’m doing with a regular dose of screw-ups.

I need to keep going, and in order to do that, I need to take good care of myself and also practice things that will keep me sharp and make me sharper, while not using up a lot of time.

  • Ride the exercise bike or move and stretch, first thing in the morning to get my blood pumping and clear out some of the sludge that’s built up. (10 minutes a day)
  • Practicing juggling one thing at a time, tossing it into the air, and then catching it.  I do this with my toothbrush each morning, to improve my eye-hand coordination and also my focus and attention. (1-2 minutes a day)
  • Working on my balance and leg mobility with exercises on a daily basis. (5 minutes a day)
  • Doing my measured breathing that regulates my heart rate and keeps me calm. (5-10 minutes a day)
  • Allowing myself to really, truly relax on a regular basis — just letting myself collapse into bed or on the couch, and letting the fatigue just wash over me. (The first few minutes when I go to bed)
  • Increase my dopamine levels by eating more foods with L-Tyrosine and also taking the supplement… and also taking Oil of Oregano, to keep my body from breaking down the dopamine and seratonin in my system. (In the regular course of my day.)
  • Drinking plenty of water to flush out the sludge.
  • Studying anatomy and physiology, to help me better understand the inner workings of my physical life — and how to improve my health.

All these things are really good for me — and I can work them into my daily routine. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to do them as a regular part of my life, without up-ending my routine. That is totally do-able, because I can find time when my breakfast is cooking, and I’d just be sitting around anyway.  I just need to do it. And I need to not just take things for granted, because I’ve been doing them a while and it feels like I don’t need to do them anymore.

That’s probably the biggest threat to my well-being in the new year — getting complacent and just assuming that “I’m good” and I don’t need to keep up my routines and activities. That state of “good” can rapidly decline, as I’ve learned time and time again.

So, as I look forward to the new year, I’m thinking about the basics. Focusing on that, and not making myself crazy with a whole lot of dramatic schemes and Big Plans, like I have in the past. I’m settling in, in a way, and it feels pretty good. I just can’t get complacent. Gotta keep working at it. Each day.

Well, speaking of working at things, I need to get a move on and get my ass in gear. I have some errands I need to run before everything closes for the day.

Onward.

A couple of Advil and a night off

Yes. This.

Tonight I’m “off” — no chores to do, no tasks, no phone calls for work, no stuff to take care of. I’ve had a pretty good day getting a few things done at work, and after the past weekend, I’m wiped. I need a night off.

At least once a week.

Weekends are funny — they’re either hit or miss for me. Either really busy, or just an extended lazing-around session, with me not doing much at all.

This past weekend was a busy one. And I’m tired after not getting any real rest. But I did get some things done that I’d been hoping to — which is great.

Now I’m sore as anything, though. Back and legs and arms and shoulders. I worked like a mad person for hours. Like I was possessed. And maybe I was. Now I’m feeling the effects, and I am more than ready for a good night’s sleep.

I’m also ready for a long time off — Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and the holiday travel is not happening this year. It’s a year to stay close to home with friends, and just kick back and relax, rather than driving 18 hours in each direction and spending four of six days in the car.

So, there it is. I’ve also got a handful of loose ends I need to tie up — paperwork I’ve been meaning to do, that I just haven’t gotten to yet. I need some uninterrupted time to focus in on the details, and it will feel great to have it all done, once and for all.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things that need to be taken care of, but for now… it’s a couple of Advil to stave off the pain, and a night of relaxing to just let myself chill.

Rest.

And then sleep.