A fresh new day

Get out there and make the most of it!

I’m feeling pretty good, this morning. I have the whole weekend ahead of me, and I feel much more focused than I have in a long time. I think the move to the new location at work is going to really help me. I will be close enough to home, that I can come home over lunchtime and take a quick nap. I think that’s going to make all the difference in the world. That, and not having to deal with long drives down the freeway in bad weather. This past week has been very tough, because the weather has been bad, and the traffic going to and from work has been pretty challenging.

In less than a week, that’s all going away, and I can live my life again. For the first time, really. I’ve never worked this close to home before, and it’s about damn’ time.

Also, in another couple of weeks, I can quit working from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m. (with intermittent breaks in between to do things like, oh, take a shower, drive to work, and grab a quick bite to eat). I’ve been working double-duty, fixing stuff that got broken, during my last couple of projects, making sure that people know what to do — and are doing it. Managing projects where cannot manage their own time and workload is no friggin’ fun, and that’s how it’s turned out to be.

Here, I thought that I could rely on others to do their jobs and finish up in good order. Untrue. They apparently only do what they’re hounded to do, and while I can do the “hound thing” (arf, arf, arf), it’s not my idea of a fun time.

Plus, the farther I get from the old world, where I was so totally stressed out about everything in my life, and the more I relax and come to my senses, the more I realize that I’m really not all that keen on working in technology or working for companies that produce stuff that people want, but do not need. There’s something about working for a company that provides a needed service (rather than luxury/consumer products and services) which really gets me going in the morning.

I used to have a job like that — I used to work in an industry like that. It was an indispensable line of work, and what we did was desperately needed — essential — for people’s lives.

Not so, nowadays. I’m managing projects that are all about stuff that people find cool and interesting, but isn’t critical to everyday life. And it feels like a bit of a waste, to be expending so much time and energy on frantically selling stuff that people could really live without.

At the same time, I’ve got to count my blessings. This job — once I get the hang of it — will be ultra-cushy, to be sure. It’s not rocket science, and since we’re not exactly dashing into danger and saving anyone from a fiery building, there’s less of the intense pressure I was under at my past employers. In my past “professional incarnation”, I worked for companies that actually kept people alive and made it possible for them to live longer, more productive lives. And there was no margin for error. Now, there’s plenty of margin for error.

People kind of wonder why I get so tweaked about things not going perfectly. It’s probably because of my past experience, where everything mattered so intensely. I just got used to working that way.

Nowadays, I can take the pressure off and relax a bit.

Although… that comes with its hazards. Now that I’m not all stressed out, I have the bandwidth to notice how I’m really doing. I’m not running from tyrannosaurus rexes anymore, so I have some time and energy to check in and notice how I’m doing. And in all honesty, it was easier in some ways, when I was stressed.

See, the thing is, all the stress and pressure and discomfort kept me “ON” — engaged, focused, and it kept my mind off the general sense of my life, which was not always that stellar. I didn’t have the time or energy to focus on how I really felt in my own skin, or how my overall system was operating. I had to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and keeping a fine balance to everything, because I never knew if I was coming or going, there was so much chaos going on inside my head and body all the time, and I couldn’t afford to lose focus… or else.

All that chaos was a bit of a blessing, because it kept my mind off all the confusion, the frustration, the pain, the discomfort… all of it.

Now that things are calming down, I’m noticing the things I didn’t have time to think about before. Like the fact that I’m approaching 50, with a spouse who is basically disabled and is a number of years older than me, and we have no retirement fund. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. We need to make some significant house repairs, and we are just now getting close to being able to pay someone to do the work. I’m working, yes, but I have no disability insurance, and without a safety net, we’re living kind of close to the bone.

We’re getting by, and we do have a pretty sweet life, all in all, and we have a lot to be grateful for, yet there are significant ways we’re at risk, and it’s no fun thinking about “what might happen”.

I’ve been so busy, just keeping it together, that I haven’t dwelled on that very much. I’ve been too busy just keeping myself upright and functional.  I haven’t focused on the pain I’m in, I haven’t had time to deal with headaches, other than getting acupuncture and stretching and not eating a lot of crap. I haven’t had time to focus on the weird sensations in my face, the twitching and jumping. It’s all nerves, most likely, so I just keep going. If it weren’t nerves – if it were something else – I’m not sure I’d have the time and energy and resources to really explore all my options.

Now, though, things feel like they’re closing in on me, because I have time to think about them – and I’m not liking what I’m seeing. Or feeling. It’s depressing.

So, screw all that, I’m going to get myself busy again. On things that I want to be busy on — writing books, getting out in the day to have my walks and explorations, taking care of chores and odd jobs (like getting my cars inspected — I overlooked the fact that they were both due for their stickers, two months ago — just got busy, I guess). And just live my life. Get into my life, see what’s there, and use this fine new day for what it’s worth.

There is so much screwed up in my life right now, so much that feels weird and strange and trying… It’s been that way for a long time, but I’ve been so stressed out, I haven’t had the bandwidth to really address any of it. Now I’ve got the time. Maybe I’ll be able to address some of it. Maybe I’ll just end up keeping busy instead, because trying to hang onto the horns of the bucking bull that is my life, is a losing proposition.

We all have our challenges, we all have sh*t we need to deal with. I’m no exception.

Now I need to learn to handle the good times as well as I’ve learned to handle the bad.

And with that, it’s time for a walk. It’s turning out to be a beautiful day.

 

 

 

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Not giving in

Ha – just try me 😉

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my processing speed. I’ve been feeling dull and stupid — probably because of my new job that has me sitting on the sidelines and training, before I dive in — and I’m not putting 2 and 2 together quite as well as I’d like.

At least, not yet.

I know I’ve only been on the job three weeks, but I feel like I should be more coherent. I’m having a lot of trouble expressing myself, and I have to really think about what I’m going to say before I say it. I’ve been looking around online to find sites that can teach me how to organize my thoughts. This is getting on my nerves, and I’m starting to get a complex about it. I want to be in the flow, getting live experience… but they have me sidelined, just watching, as though that’s going to help anything.

I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling this. The other two folks who joined when I did are also feeling sidelined and underutilized. We all want to get going and make things happen, and we don’t have that opportunity just yet. We have to learn by doing, but everyone is so afraid of making a mistake, we can’t move forward.

Argh!

My processing speed, as I mentioned, is really troubling me. I know I have a lot of new information I need to integrate and learn to use. So, I need to cut myself a break, relax and recuperate, and give myself time to breathe and settle in. I’m doing that this weekend, occupying my attention with things other than work, relaxing, taking it easy, getting some exercise (which really helps), and checking in with myself about what matters most to me in my life.

I just need to trust the whole process and know that in time I will learn, things will make sense to me, and I’ll have sufficient experience to draw on to make the right decisions about the right things. I need to keep my spirits up, not let on how dejected I get, and keep positive, no matter what. The people around me at work are typical Americans — they need me to be positive and up-beat and can-do, use all the catch-phrases and industry jargon. There’s no room for realism and acknowledging human limits as just part of everyday life. That’s just depressing! And it’s not how Americans are supposed to believe and behave!  At least, not the overachieving top performers that they all aspire to be.

One of the things that makes this job more challenging than need be, is that everyone there is convinced that their company is special and unique and totally unlike anything else on the planet. Silly. They remind me of plenty of other companies I’ve worked for — and they start to squirm when I say so.

I suppose having that sense that they’re unlike any other company helps with fostering a sense of community and “tribe”. Us against them. All that. The thing is, they’re not really that essentially different from other companies. They have their way of doing things, which is just a learned thing. And they have their specific “pain points” that they need to deal with. They design and produce technology. They’re very successful at it, but really, they’re in the same business as countless other technology companies, and they can simply get over themselves, as far as I’m concerned.

Well, fortunately I’ve got two more days before I go back to work AND I only have to work 8 hours a day, this coming week, instead of 10-11. So there. I’m expecting to work longer hours a couple more times in the next month, but then again, maybe I don’t need to work ALL those extra hours. Doing the 10-hr thing gets old. I did it before – for years – and it’s a relief to not have to do it.

Plus, what a huge deal, to get to have an hour or two in the morning to work on my own projects, before going into the office. And getting home at a decent hour… Truly awesome.

So, maybe I put in an extra hour or two, when I have to take time off. Maybe I don’t. Either way, I need to just do what I need to do, to keep my system balanced out. Just relax. And not give in to the anxiety and neurosis. Just let myself be. And be done with it.

I was getting a little peeved at a coworker who’s supposed to be training me. Rather than training me, they’re avoiding me, and they have not been inclusive at all. It’s a little annoying. They think they’re just supposed to be my “buddy” and answer questions when I have them. But our boss says I’m supposed to shadow them. I’m not keen on making a nuisance of myself, but I do need to get trained, and I do need to shadow them. They’re not inviting me to the meetings they should be. They’re actually cutting me out. So, I need our boss to clarify and make sure everyone is clear about what needs to happen.

It’s almost like they just want me to go away, which doesn’t make any sense, because they’re overworked and they need the help. I’m not going to be any use, if they don’t make the effort to train me.

But I can’t give in to paranoia. They don’t even know me yet, and a lot of people don’t think much of me when they meet me the first time. They just don’t realize what I can do, what I’m capable of achieving — and how it benefits them. I’ve got to give it time. Most people I work closely with develop issues with me until they get to know me, so I’ll just need to keep steady and let them sort out their own personal problems.

They’re not my problems.

So, that being said, I’ve had enough of thinking about that person and the situation. The weather is clearing, and I’m going to the beach later today. I’ve got some excellent reading and writing slated for this morning — I’ve gotten some great ideas from a book I’m reading… and I’m writing something to go along with it, to help me understand my own viewpoint on the subject.

It’s all in the spirit of kick-starting my brain and getting myself back into the groove of critical thinking and organizing my thoughts more clearly. Much of what I’m writing these days — aside from this blog — is personal and private and I’m not sharing much of it with anyone. I do share some of it with my spouse, and if they understand it then I know I’m on the right track, because they don’t get caught up in all the mental gymnastics that go along with intellectualizing and what-not.

So, it’s all good. I’m getting good rest and taking care of myself and easing off on the anxiety about my performance at work. For the first time in probably ever, I feel like I’m really at the right place in my life at this time — and I’m right where I always dreamed I would be, at this point in my life.

I just realized that the other day — I’m actually right where I wanted to find myself, on down the line. I’m at a place that I envisioned for myself, when I was a kid mixing up home-grown chemistry experiments in my basement, and recording the results in a composition book (note to self: I really need to find that old chemistry experiment notebook – it’s in storage somewhere). I’ve got a study of my own, with books I love and can turn to. I have a desk with a great view of my back yard, and I have the time in the day and week to really dig in and tease out the things that fascinate me. I have room to move and explore, and I’m not tied down by any licensing body or regulatory commission that’s going to stop me from pushing the limits of my understanding.

It’s all good. I was lost for a long time, dealing with life and all the challenges that came with health issues, money issues, family issues, relationship dramas, and so forth. I’ve been through a ton of sh*t that a lot of people never encounter till later. And while I might not have it all figured out, I have sufficient experience to know how to begin approaching the Big Problems of my life.

It’s all good. It truly is.

Now, onward….

Steady, steady, steady…

Keep ‘er level…

The past two days have seen a lot of upheaval and emotion — giving notice at my job on Monday, talking to folks yesterday about my decision to go… and all the while trying to keep things going. It’s never easy making a transition, and certainly not for me, who likes things to stay even-keeled and chilled out…

All the emotion is so… distracting.

I want to be able to just get on with my work, get on with my day, and go about my business. But that’s not going to happen for another couple of weeks, at least, when I’m finally situated in my new position.

The main thing for me right now, is to keep positive and steady and level-headed and not get pulled into other people’s drama. It is harder for them — the ones who are left who have to do the work — and it is hard for me to leave them, because so much of my work has been about keeping them safe and sound and shielding them from the difficulties that come from substandard technologies and poor management decisions. I’ve been a protector, for the past four years, and now I cannot protect them anymore.

In a very real way, I feel as though I’m leaving my “tribe” exposed… and it doesn’t feel good.

At the same time, though, I have been taking it on the chin for them for a long time, and it’s high time I took care of myself.

That being said, this interim period is an excellent time to work on my focus and my further develop skill at staying steady and calm in the midst of the storm. Letting go. Seeing where I can help, as much as humanly possible, and leaving them a legacy of useful resources.

All the bookmarks I use to keep the joint running. All the login information for the different sites. All the instructions I follow to do things that other people will have to do now.

There is a lot of knowledge and experience I am carrying around with me — without it, they will be hurting. So, I’ll do what I can to help them, while I can.

Part of me would love to just ditch the whole scene and move on, but that would not be a fitting end to what has been a really phenomenal “run”. Despite all the upheavals and the problems and shortcomings, I’ve done a phenomenal job of holding down my part of things, and I can see that now. I think I’ve seen it for a long time, but it had much less meaning for me — and them — than it does now, so it’s just that much more noticeable.

Now I need to focus in, keep steady, not let myself get pulled off-track by everything going on around me. People will be upset. They will be emotional. They will be questioning whether they want to stay or go. And I need to keep up with the “agreements” I have with myself about what I will do between now and next Friday.

What I need to do:

  1. Make a list of all the regular tasks I perform that nobody else does.
  2. Document the steps I follow to do those things, so others can pick up where I leave off.
  3. Make a list of all the projects I am working on, which still have steps to be completed.
  4. Document the steps which are still outstanding.
  5. Go over the documentation with my supervisors and explain it all to them.
  6. Write up a list of talking points for both the uber-boss and HR, to explain things that contributed to my decision, and things that could be done differently to help those I’m leaving behind.
  7. Finish up the pieces I still need to do before the 23rd, and follow up with folks about the status.

All this is a pretty big undertaking for me, but if I break it down, and I see it as part of my personal mission to be a solid team member and support the people I work with, it all makes sense. It will be a great way for me to also evaluate my past performance and see all the things I have done right over the past four years. I have been very focused on what I have done wrong, or have not done as well as I wanted to, and now I can look at what I have done right — and really kick it… make some real progress.

And not let things distract me — my emotions… people lashing out because of their own emotions… my concern about emotions. Probably the biggest source of distraction is my anticipation of what can happen. Last weekend, I lost two very good days because of that anticipation, and I need to not succumb to the same drama for the next week and a half.

If I look at the next 8 days as a way to sharpen specific skills where I have trouble… which will then translate to other parts of my life where I want to make better progress… then it’s a lot less daunting for me, because I know the purpose is larger than the individual tasks alone. And it also makes coming up short — as I so often do — less of a tragedy, because it’s all part of an overall program of progress. It’s not just about the next eight days (well, seven, because I’m taking Friday off). It’s about my overall life.

And that makes all the difference.

It takes the pressure off. And that’s really what I need right now — to take the pressure off. Let myself just be, and let myself succeed at what I’m doing for this next week and a half. This is not going to be easy for folks, but a lot of this is self-created, so it’s not about me at all.

The stuff that’s about me… well, that’s where I need to pay attention.

Onward.

What TBI recovery really means

Did these people stop driving because their car got flattened by a tree? I doubt it. They probably went out and got another car… and put this one up for sale.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of TBI recovery. Some folks claim that there is no recovery from TBI, mild or otherwise, because the brain is unalterably changed and you can’t just go back to the way things were before.

The brain is not unlike a piece of metal, in that respect. Once you bend a piece of metal, you can never get it back to exactly the way it was before it was bent — you can get it back to the same shape, but there will always be a little wrinkle or dent or crook in it that shows you where it was damaged before. The object may be totally serviceable (like the door of my car that got side-swiped by someone who was texting while driving), but no matter how you try to pull out the dent, you’re always going to have some sort of tell-tale sign that something happened before. In my case, the car door is fine, it opens and shuts, but I’ll always have that reminder of the night that someone wasn’t paying attention as they were driving towards me.

Same thing holds true with the brain – once you’re “dinged” you’re dinged. The connections that were once in place aren’t ever going to go back to exactly like they were before. Tough nuts. What’s done is done. Your faculties may be 99% intact, but there will always be that little 1% (at least) that’s a regular reminder that things aren’t working as they once were, and you have to do things a little differently than before.

However — and this is where I differ from the experts who are riding the “no recovery after TBI” hayride to hell — just because certain connections no longer work, doesn’t mean you can’t create whole new connections that do the same thing, only a little differently. Sometimes whole areas of old abilities and ways of being are blown out, and they aren’t coming back to the state they once were. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create new connections in different ways that serve the same purpose, albeit not identical to the way things once were.

Think of TBI as a tornado that smashes the roof of your car and wrecks the roads going out of town. Combine that with a flash flood that washes out parts of the roads, too. Your car is toast. Totaled. An irretrievable loss. Everybody knows that sometimes you can’t repair a road to be exactly like it once was. So what? You take the check the insurance company sends you and you buy another car. You build a new road, you create something different. And sometimes the new road is even better than the old one. Sometimes it’s not, but it still does the trick. The new car might handle differently from your old one. The new road might take you down a longer route and it might be a little bumpier in places, but it will still get you where you’re going.

And you might get to see some different scenery, as well.

I have a theory that many (if not most) people go through some kind of major shift in the course of their lives, which causes them to rethink the routes they’ve been taking from the Point A’s and Point B’s in their lives. Whether it’s a mid-life crisis or a health crisis or an injury or a job loss or a failed marriage or a natural disaster, we all go through something like this at some point in our lives. Some of us have it happen more than once — which is not a sign that we’re total screw-ups, rather that we have even more opportunities to learn and grow and change. Even when the transitions are totally unexpected or seem to come at the “wrong” time of life — a concussion during a high school soccer game, or a car accident on the way to your vacation — they still present us with the chance to change and grow and find out what else we’re capable of doing/achieving.

Recovery from TBI, in my opinion, is no different in nature than recovering from the above “disasters”. And telling ourselves that just because we can’t get back to exactly how we were before, it means we cannot/will not recover…. that’s pretty counterproductive. And when an expert tells you that, well, it’s just ignorant and cruel and seems more like them covering their expert ass, than giving you something to work with.

Ultimately, expert advice aside, we all need to figure out how to live our own lives to the best of our abilities. If we put our whole trust in experts, who are human, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. What matters most is what we believe about ourselves and what we believe is possible for our lives. Whether we move ourselves on through science or religion or psychology or exercise or will-power or tons of hard, hard work… or all of the above, the bottom line is, there are many ways to progress, to create positive change, and to become more and better than we were before.

It’s a process. It’s all a process. Never let anyone take hope from you, and never let anyone else define you with their own limitations. It’s bad enough that they want to do it, but you don’t have to let them.  So get up and get moving and see what you can do today. (Just make sure you eat right and get plenty of rest in the process.)