Broken key – common theme

This may be me, later today.

So, the space bar on my keyboard is acting up. I will be typing along, and it will decide that it doesn’t want to work. And I’ll have to hammer on it a few times, to get it to work. How frustrating. I have to keep stopping to get it to work.

I will be typing along, and see that a space didn’t go between a number of words, so I stop and back up and put in the spaces. And then I’ve lost my train of thought, and I can’t remember exactly what I was going to write. 😐 How frustrating.It’s not like my brain does well keeping things in “RAM” memory in my head, anyway. But all these constant interruptions keep slowing me down even more, so by the time I’m done writing even a paragraph, I’m a bit frazzled and fried.

I was thinking that maybe it was because of my bum left right thumb (see? the interruptions have me so turned around, I’m getting my left and right confused, and that normally never happens). I have been having a lot of tremors and twitching in my left hand,especially my thumb. Maybe I have less strength and/or coordination in it, so it’s not hitting the space bar as hard as it should. It seems like it happens more when I am hitting the space bar with my right thumb. But it also happens with my left,so I think it may just be the space bar, period.

So, I have a number of choice:

  1. I can put on my static-grounding wrist strap and try to take my laptop apart and clean under the keyboard and see if the key is getting jammed on something.
  2. I can change how I type, slowing down and taking time to really hammer on the space bar each time I use it.
  3. I can just keep typing along and ignore the missing spaces between words, then come around a second time after I’mdone and put in the spaces after the fact.
  4. OR I can buy a new laptop.

Choice #1 is a little tricky. There are a lot of screws in the bottom of this thing, and I’m not sure I’m up for the ‘adventure’ of taking this thing apart and putting it back together.

Choice #2 is a no-go. I’ve tried it over the past few days, and it is terribly frustrating

Choice #3 is what I’m doing now, and it’s irritating. But it also gives me a chance to go back and revisit what I’ve written up, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Choice #4 will probably be what I do — after I put in some extra hours next week to stash some cash. I need a new laptop, actually. And a new desktop. All the machines I have are is Windows XP, which is about 3 versions of Windows behind, and a lot of the programs that are available today just don’t work very well on XP. They crash or they take forever. I need a Windows 7 laptop and a Windows7 desktop. I’m not doing Windows 8, because I’ve seen it and I don’t like it. Windows 7 still works just fine, thank you.

This all seems like a common theme for me. Things go wrong — not huge things, but disruptive things that block me and keep my head in the wrong place. And I have to stop, slow down, re-do my work, etc. I forget things at work. I screw up and have to scramble. I am chugging along just fine… then I run into a roadblock and have to double back and rethink/redo my work. Argh! It’s so frustrating. It’s like nothing really flows. I have to keep pausing to adjust. And I can’t build up momentum.

I was reading a self-improvement book a few weeks ago, where the author was talking about how important momentum is — you need to get into a regular pace with things and get in a groove.And then you get carried along by the flow.  Maybe they do. As for me, I *think* I’m going along in the flow, making good progress, and then WHAM! I hit a speed bump or a pothole, and I have to stop and check myself, and make sure I didn’t screw things up permanently, before I can continue.

Like typing along — chug-chug-chug — and the space bar is not putting in spaces, so I keep stopping to fix the broken places as I go, and that completely screws everything up.

Frustrating, to say the least.

But I don’t need to solve that problem just now. I have a bunch of things to do that don’t involve a computer that I need to finish up today, and I’m feeling really good about them. I’m helping out some friends, and I’m doing some of my own things. And I’m going to take a walk before the day gets too crazy. I have a good feeling about just about everything I’ve got going today.Plus, my spouse is away on a business trip later today, so I will have 8 hours of uninterrupted focus time.

I love my spouse with all my heart, but alone-time in the house is a luxury I seldom get to enjoy. And it is heaven, to not have to make myself understood to anyone, not have to navigate other people’s emotional “stuff”, and just go about my business at my own pace.

Except… there’s the Super Bowl tonight.

Anyway, I’ve got the whole day ahead of me, and it’s good. It’s really, really good.

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Focusing on our strengths

Pick your direction

TBI is a funny thing. It can take so much away from us. And it can also add more things that we never had before.

I’m not sure if it’s me or my brain or just the normal parts of ageing, but I seem to remember less and less of my past, as time goes on. I can’t really remember what I have talked about with my neuropsych, in the past. I don’t know what I’ve mentioned to them, what issues I’ve worked through… it’s kind of fading away in a fog.

And I’m not sure I care. Because at the same time I’m losing connections with that not-so-happy past, it sorta kinda frees me up to enjoy a much happier present. And it’s the things in front of me — the blue sky overhead, the warm temps today, the taste of my tea saturated with butter and honey (it’s completely awesome – you should try it sometime), and the feel of just having time OFF from the grind for a week and a half.

All the aches and pains of my day-to-day haven’t disappeared. In fact, they’re coming on pretty strong, now that I’ve started stretching and exercising more. It’s been tough getting to sleep with all the pain in my lower back going on. And I’ve been dizzy and off balance and have had these headaches… but what-ever. That’s not the only thing I have to pay attention to.

So, I don’t. I look elsewhere. And I can find so much more else to focus on. How amazing is that.

And I think about how incredible it is, that I was raised in a time when the main goal of educators and people who were sent to help others, was to get everybody in a central zone of ability — to bring the weaknesses up to snuff, and not focus so much on the strengths — just fix what was wrong, and leave the rest alone.

But now I’m living a life that’s focused on the strengths I have — making them better, and not letting the weaknesses dominate my life. We all have strengths and ways we can contribute in the world… we just get caught up in trying to fix the things that are wrong, and we end up having our lives revolve around them.

The thing about focusing only on all that’s WRONG in the world (and our individual lives), is that we can always find something that’s wrong. No doubt about it. But while we’re concentrating on what’s WRONG, we so often miss what’s RIGHT. And then we miss out on the chance to strengthen the good, while we’re chasing down the bad that never ever seems to end.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate, actually. Looking around, I can see a lot of my peers who have been held back by that old mindset we were raised with. So many of them are still caught up in negativity and trouble-shooting states of mind, while the good they have right in front of them is rarely seen and fully appreciated. A lot of people my age still think of themselves as deficient… chasing after accomplishments and trophies to smooth over their lingering sense of inadequacy and prove to themselves that they’re okay after all.

And I totally understand how and why they feel that way. I’ve been there, too. Especially me, who has so many things I can quickly and easily point at and say, “Ah ha! That’s messed up!”

I guess I just count myself as incredibly lucky that I don’t always feel that way anymore. Some days I do, but on the whole… it makes more sense to me to focus on the things I can change for the better and move ahead… instead of just running around filling up the divots on the proverbial golf course of my life.

Well, it’s all a process and a journey, and I may feel completely different tomorrow. For today, though… right now… I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m not going to wreck it by hunting down what might be wrong that needs fixing.

Onward.

I think something is amiss

It’s not usually this bad

A couple of months ago, I had several episodes that really threw me for a loop. I had a couple of meltdowns and it felt like something in my head “popped”, and then I was numb and dumb for a number of days after that. I thought maybe I was having a stroke, but it didn’t seem like I was having all the symptoms, so I thought maybe it was a migraine. It’s hard to tell with me — I have so many sensory issues in the course of every day, it’s hard for me to sort out the exceptions from the rules.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve had some “jumpiness” in my left cheek, and for several days, a spot on the left side of my upper lip was twitching like a Mexican jumping bean. It was driving me crazy, but it came and went, so I didn’t want to make a deal out of it. Then, last night, I realized that my left hand is more numb than my right – I can feel things and I can move it, and I don’t seem to have any loss of muscle strength, but it feels a little numb, and I don’t have the same level of sensation that I do in my right.

Also, I almost cut the tip of my left index finger off, last week, when I was fixing supper. For some reason (and I never do this), my finger was extended, and I almost didn’t stop myself, as I was bearing down. I cut most of the way through the nail – fortunately at an angle, so it didn’t go into the flesh under the nail. And it freaked me out, because A) I can’t afford to cut off the tip of my left index finger — I need it for working on the computer, which is my bread and butter, and B) it’s very unlike me to not keep my fingers away from the knife while I’m cutting. It’s been years since I had anything like this happen to me.

Then, this morning when I was putting on my socks, I could not raise my left leg up as high as my right one. I just didn’t have the strength. I know I have had different levels of strength in my left and right, and I haven’t been able to lift one knee higher than the other for some time, but I can’t remember if it’s been the right one or the left I have trouble with. And it’s weird how I keep misspelling things.

So, I think I may need to get checked out. The only problem is, I don’t trust the hospitals that are closest to me, and the one my PCP is affiliated with has really sh*tty neurologists. I have dealt with them in the past, and the one in particular treated me like I was hostile, they kept asking about my history of drug abuse, and they basically just went through the motions till they got me out of their office. I’m sure they’re not a total asshole, but that day, they did a great impression of one.

The other problem is that I have gone through whole batteries of tests over basically nothing — just stress. I get diminished when I am tired, and I have been extremely tired, lately. I’m just going-going-going all day, every day, and it’s caught up with me big-time. So, I don’t want to go crying “stroke!” when it’s really just stress and will get fixed with a lighter schedule, more sleep, and taking it easier than I have been.

Fortunately, tomorrow afternoon I’ve got an appointment with a counselor whose office is closer to a nearby city that has excellent hospitals, including the one where I had my MRI and got checked out for possible seizure activity, several years ago. They’ve got an MRI on record with me, as well as an EEG, so they’ll have a baseline and I won’t have to request records from other hospitals. I have my appointment with my counselor at 5, then I’ll discuss the situation with them, and if it really seems like I need to get checked out, I’ll drive the extra 45 minutes to get to the hospital in the city.

I’ll need to prepare for this — make sure I have everything with me that I need — including my work laptop and stuff from home. I’m packing a bag, just in case. And I’m also packing up my cubicle tomorrow, because we’re moving to the new office building on Tuesday evening, so I need to have it all ready to go, in case I’m not in the office on Tuesday.

I just need to prepare. And make sure that my spouse is all set, in case I need to stay overnight, or things run late. Maybe I’ll go get some extra food today, to have us covered.

I’ve got a headache, but that could be anything. I usually have a headache. No surprises there. And concentrating on the thought that something might be WRONG, is not helping me.

I’ll check with my counselor tomorrow. And I’ll see if I can get hold of my neuropsych, too. It’s really hard for me to tell what to do, and how best to do it. I have a lot of responsibilities, and I need to keep up with them, because people are counting on me. It’s almost impossible to tell what’s a product of anxiety and worry and being all stressed out with concern, and what’s the real deal, so while part of me wants to go to the ER and get checked out, I’ve been there a bunch of times over things, wasting precious hours amongst sick people. And when all was said and done, I was told, “Oh, it’s nothing. You can go home now.” I get sick and tired of being treated like I’m malingering or am overreacting. I literally don’t know if what I’m experiencing is a legitimate problem, or not. I have had a lot of neck problems over the past year, which affected sensations on the left side of my body, so maybe it’s just that. It’s hard to know. There’s a lot of competing information coming up in front of me all the time, so how do I sort it out?

Anyway, I think I have a plan. I’m still walking and talking reasonably okay (that slurred speech and sensation of a drooping cheek isn’t much fun, but it comes and goes). I’ll put everything in place for what needs to happen, should I need to go into the hospital. I’ll get myself coverage, and I’ll make sure things are lined up, so I can just take care of business.

Like paying my mortgage. For some reason, I had direct deposit set up for one bank account, but not for my house mortgage account. I discovered that yesterday, when I was checking my bank balances online. So, I’m late on my mortgage this month. Fortunately I’m not terribly late, to the point of getting “love notes” from the bank. I set up the monthly deposit to go into my account regularly, so that problem’s solved.

I also discovered that I have $8,000 more in the bank than I thought I did. That’s enough to keep me afloat, if something keeps me out of work for a few months. It’s amazing how much money you can save, when you don’t pay your mortgage 😉 Of course, that $8,000 is all the money I have in the world for a safety net. Compared to the $400,000+ I used to have saved for retirement before my TBI in 2004, it’s sad. But it’s a hell of a lot more than I’ve had for a number of years. So, I am grateful for what I do have.

Oh, this is annoying. I can’t seem to spell. My hands keep typing the wrong letters. I need to take a long, hot shower, then lie down and get some rest. Take care of a few errands, then sleep for a few hours… or more. As much as I need. It’s Sunday. I’ve had my walk in the woods and my breakfast, and it’s turning out to be a perfect day for sleeping. Gray. Overcast. Drowsy. With a breeze blowing in the trees. Nice.

After I get some sleep, I’ll make my list. I’ll type up my symptoms from the past few months, and I’ll print out a copy, in case I need it tomorrow. Everything may be perfectly fine — just stress — but it’s not feeling fine, right now.

Whatever. Time for my nap.

More rest today

This dog’s already done for the day.

I’m going to do something today I have not done in a long time – I’m taking a sick day. I feel achey and weak and shaky, and my head hurts. This is one of those days when adrenaline alone won’t take me through the day. I just need to step away from the expected and do the unexpected — rest.

I have one phone call in an hour that I need to take, then I’m checking out and I’m doing what I need to do, to take care of myself. At some point, too, I am going back to bed. To just lie there. Read. Sleep. But rest. I may watch a movie later on, but for all intents and purposes, I am out of commission, work-wise, for the day.

It’s a difficult nearly impossible thing for me to do, to sideline myself for even a day. There is so much I want to do, so much I want to read and learn and experience and write about. There is so much that the world offers, just waiting for us to discover it. Granted, it’s not always wine and roses, but even the hard lessons are good lessons, and they all add up to good things.

Those hard lessons, like today, can include the brutal facts that there is only so much I can push myself without adequate rest. Try as I might, I have not been successful at getting more than 6-1/2 to 7 hours of sleep a night… for months, if not years. I recall getting a full 8 hours of sleep some time back, but that was weeks (if not months) ago, and to be honest, I’ve all but given up trying to set that right. I will have to do something about this, and today is a good day to do so.

Not only today… but each day. Getting proper rest, especially in times of transition and change (which for many of us, these days, is all the time), requires a bit of a re-think about lifestyle and schedule. I’m happy to say that for the past two days, I ate dinner before 7 p.m., which needs to be a priority. Eating after 8 p.m. — sometimes as late as 9:30 or 10:00 — and then going to sleep shortly after that, is no way to sustain health and well-being. Over the past year, with the job change and the longer commute, my eating and exercising have gone way off the rails, and I need to turn it around. I need to turn a lot of things around, which is hard work.

And hard work requires rest. Additional stress requires adequate recovery time, and I have not been providing myself with the latter. It’s all out of whack, and I feel so very different now, than I did 18 months ago. Little by little, I feel as though I’ve been drained by both my environment and the choices I’ve made in response to environment challenges. And I know I’ve got to turn things around, or I’m going to have some serious health consequences. No job is worth that, quite frankly. I’ve watched loved ones die early deaths because they pushed themselves too hard and didn’t take care of their health. I have no interest in following in their footsteps — although my behavior over the past years says something quite different 😉

Anyway, I find it really interesting how we can get into certain situations and fall into routines with the people around us, that really undermine our health and happiness. At work, everyone shares in this overwork ethos, pushing each other to do more, work harder, party more, work longer, and stay caught up in this whirlpool of activity. It’s like a collective addiction that everyone gets swept into, spinning us around and getting us to the point where we’re just happy to keep our heads above water. This is not a high-performance model, from where I’m sitting. When your criterion for success is not-failing, well, that’s no criterion for success. That’s just a formula for maintenance and survival.

What I want is something entirely different. And that difference is what I’m going to focus on today. Just taking myself out of that crazy spin-cycle is a start. And really focusing on the type of work experience I do want to have, is a next step. Ultimately, I believe that in addition to workplace culture and internal and external criteria for success, the quality of experience you have at work everyday, is a big determiner of how satisfied and fulfilled you are at work. I disagree with the business thinkers who proclaim that every worker is responsible for his or her own happiness in the workplace, and that each and every one of us is capable of making a purse out of a sow’s ear.

Look, sometimes a shitty workplace environment is just that — and no matter how ruggedly individualistic a person may be, there’s no avoiding the fact that some workplace configurations simply do not work (no matter what the furniture salespeople told you). My workplace configuration is sheer hell for anyone who needs to sustain concentration more than 10 minutes at a time. And it’s sheer hell for anyone who doesn’t need to know the details of their co-workers’ lives and work in blow-by-blow detail. It’s hell for anyone who places productivity at the top of their list.

What I hear happening in many corners of the business thinker world, is the focus on the empowerment of the individual — to manage themselves (and their boss) as well as their workload, workspace, and work/play time. That’s all very well and good, but too often it seems to devolve into an abdication by senior leadership from their positions of leadership — by stepping away from “micro-management” roles, they seem to step away from leadership, as well. What’s worse, a lot of them seem unwilling to accept responsibility for the decisions they make which so dreadfully affect those who report to them, as though failure by their minions to adapt to their capricious and theoretical approaches were a sign that we had done something wrong. It’s all backwards, like the out-sourcing fad of ten years ago. It’s based on a sheet of numbers and a concept that sounds great to MBA folks. But in practice, it simply does not work. And we’ve seen that, up close and personal, over the past decade.

Now yet more ridiculousness is being pandered about “empowerment and engagement” — probably originating in some MBA think-tank filled with academicians who are so specialized, they metaphorically see no connection between eating habits and constipation — being either nutrition experts or upper GI experts of colon experts or sphincter experts, and never the gaggle of experts shall meet (except at some annual conference when everybody sits in rooms listening to motivational speakers, until they go out and get drunk together each evening). Supposedly, each employee is responsible for their own survival, and they need to build a system of “supports” at work that benefit first their boss, then them, in the eternal quest for efficiency and productivity. Each individual is responsible for their own engagement level, and if you’re not fully on board with everything that’s decreed and devised by upper management, then it’s your own damn’ fault for not properly managing your energy and/or your time. And if you should find yourself overwhelmed by an unstemmed workflow, and completely exhausted by the deluge of interruptions and changes in direction by executive management who are in love with the latest MBA-related fad, then you’re not “fully embracing change” and resisting the “creative chaos” of the modern dynamic workplace and rapidly evolving job market.

It’s just so lame. I’m not seeing any self-criticism, any introspection, any brutal honesty about the ways that management overwhelms and undermines and generally sabotages the workforce with a basic unfamiliarity with what it takes to get the job done. Everybody is so busy being important, that coherence, integrity and basic workability go right out the window. But at least people are quoting the Harvard Business Review, and that’s what really matters, right?

But wait, I’m supposed to be resting right now. Not venting. Have to say, though, venting is taking some of the pressure off my head, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. I’m still exhausted, still weak, still shaky and in pain, but lo and behold, my headache is a little less brutal than it was 45 minutes ago.

So, I have one more thing I need to do for work, then after that I am done for the day, work-wise. I’ll probably go back to bed to read and rest and take it easy, which I haven’t let myself do in a number of months — and certainly not on a weekday. I can’t remember the last time It’s been over a year and a half (December, 2010, when I was deathly ill) since I last interrupted my weekly routine to just take care of myself and not push through feeling like sh*t. I usually just push through… Put my discomfort out of my mind and just muscle on through.

Time to change that.  For today, anyway.

overwhelms and