I’ve been stalled for months, even years. Even longer than that, actually. No matter how I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to break free of the rut I feel like I’m in. It’s just felt like one problem after another that I’ve handled… that is to say, other people’s problems. And in the process, I solve my own.
I get paid to solve other people’s problems. I get paid pretty well, too, so that solves a lot of problems in my life. I need money to survive. I need a certain amount of status and security to stay healthy and not die. I know people who treat money like an optional thing. They don’t want to get entangled in it. They have more important things to worry about.
And I’m happy for them. I really am. If they can make it — or survive the stresses of not having enough — that’s a quality I admire. But I can’t do it. The stress throws me off too much. It disrupts my sleep, and when that happens, I can’t function. Even worse, my behavior takes a nose-dive and I lash out. Yelling. Slamming things around. It’s not good, for me or the other people around me. I’m stronger than people realize, and I can do some damage, if I let it all loose.
So, I need to keep things well managed, in a steady state of balance. That means getting enough sleep. And that means not getting so stressed out that it starts to wreck my life.
I keep myself in a pretty regular routine. And it works for me. I manage to get enough sleep, most of the time. I eat regularly, exercise regularly, take care of my responsibilities, hold down a job.
But I’m in a rut.
So, I need to get myself out of it. I need to take action on my own behalf, to at least create the impression that I’m taking care of myself. I’m so busy taking care of everyone else, I get lost in the shuffle of my own life. And that needs to change.
So, I’ll do one positive thing a day for myself. Something that brings me happiness, not just maintains my steady state. And I need to prioritize it over everything else. Yes, I may need to do other things, first thing in the morning, to get myself going — exercise, eat breakfast, take care of my spouse — but then I need to just take a little time on something that contributes to me. And my future.
There’s a lot of stuff I can do for myself. I have a bunch of books I’d love to read. I’ve been wanting to read them for a while, and I will surely get around to them. And there are other undertakings — writing, designing, artwork — that I want to get back into. My legendary (in my own mind, anyway) projects take on a life of their own, and they bring me a lot of happiness. But I’m stalled between a number of choices. Each of them has benefits. Each of them has downsides. I might be able to do any of them and be happy about it. But I have to pick one. And move on. Get going with just one, so I can get out of my rut… make some progress.
So, that being said, I’m picking one project and doing something positive about it, each day in June. I may not blog about it, every single day, but I will have that focus. I’ve made the commitment to myself, and now I’ll carry through.
The main thing is to have a deliberate focus in my life. My job is… fine. But it’s not how I want to spend all my free time. My marriage is on good footing, although it seems to be getting more challenging each week. My health is pretty good (though I could stand to lose 15 pounds). Overall, my life is… fine. But I need a specific focus on something that is mine and mine only, so I don’t feel like I’m just evaporating into the mist of everyone else’s dreams and ambitions.
Then, by Friday night, I realized that the recent re-org is potentially a really great thing. For me, anyway.
See, for the past three years, my boss has been pressuring me to do a job I don’t want to do, and I have no interest in doing. They’ve been urging me to be more socially pro-active and get out and drum up political support for the program I run. Go network. Hob-nob. Make my presence felt in the world.
I, on the other hand, really just want to get things done. Because no matter how much I politic and get people “in my corner”, if people aren’t doing the job right, none of it is going to pan out.
And, in fact, a bunch of things didn’t pan out over the past three years — partly because I was so divided in my attention that I missed things. Some things I missed so terribly, I was sure I was going to get fired. I didn’t, but the whole experience was pretty terrible.
Anyway, on Friday I was talking to a co-worker about the re-org, and it looks like that whole hob-nobbing, uber-politicking aspect of my position is going to get offloaded to other people. And that’s fine with me. I hate doing that. With a burning passion. And now it looks like I won’t have to do it, anymore.
So, lesson learned (yet again) : Don’t jump to conclusions about what stuff means or what’s “destined” to happen. Because it might not. And I don’t want to waste my energy, getting all freaked out about things that will never happen.
I need to save my energy.
Speaking of which, today’s a bonus day — cold and rainy and grey and quiet. A lot of people are out of town for the Memorial Day weekend. And I can move at my own pace. Tomorrow, too. Long weekend. Good thing. I’ve been needing this.
Yeah, it’s all good. It usually is, I just don’t always realize it.
It’s been a wild couple of days. I had to work overtime twice in two days, which meant I was up from 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning till 3 a.m. yesterday, and I was working intensely for most of that time. We had a big project we had to get done, and we were missing two people on the team, since they had previously scheduled vacation and the big project’s schedule got changed to the worst possible dates.
Oh, well. We just had to deal with it.
And deal with it, I did.
I got 90 minutes of sleep between the two marathon testing sessions, and that was it. Half the time, I felt like I was dead on my feet, and my brain was mush. I was doubled over in pain, part of the time, because of eating the wrong stuff to keep my energy up, which led to digestive problems.
I have to be honest – it was pretty rough. But I got through it. And I ended up lasting longer than just about everybody else, which is typical. One of the upsides of dealing with fatigue and confusion and pain all the time, is that when things get really rough, all across the board, I can — and usually will — persevere. I can stick it out and still perform. Because I’ve had plenty of practice. I know how to do it, because I do it, every single day, pretty much.
I’m usually tired, usually brain-fogged, usually struggling a bit at something or another. That’s pretty much the cards in the hand I’ve been dealt, because even if I weren’t dealing with TBI issues, I’d still be pushing myself — always harder, always farther, always faster. That’s just how I am. I’m not all that competitive against others. I’m mainly competitive against myself, and I always want to see how much better I can be, how much I can improve.
That’s just how I’m built.
So, of course, I’m going to experience these kinds of stresses and strains, these challenges, these difficulties. And when I’m called upon to kick in and contribute, I’ll do that to the max. To the utmost. I’m not going to hold back. It can be a problem, of course, because I can push myself too hard and overextend myself, but I’m aware of that risk, so I do something about it.
Bottom line, all the difficulties I’ve been up against, over the course of my life have strengthened and sharpened and honed me to this point. And even if I’m not as sharp and strong and honed as I’d ideally like to be, I’m still able to persevere, to hang in there. To stick it out and really do my best, no matter what.
That’s a huge up-side, for me and everyone around me.
Today there is not one minute of my day that is not scheduled for a meeting. Non-stop. Eight hours. No fun.
But that’s the deal, today, so that’s that.
Fortunately, I’ll be working from home today, so I can walk around the house while I talk on the phone. I can’t do that at the office… at least, not on the scale I can do it here. I can’t walk around the halls, talking on the phone. I can reserve a conference room and then walk around it, while I’m listening. I could even project the meeting proceedings on the big screen, so I can watch what’s happening as I pace. But it’s not the same as being able to walk around my house.
So, at least there’s that.
And man, do I need that today. Yesterday I was stuck in an all-day workshop where we just sat… and sat… and sat. It started early, so I didn’t have time to exercise in the morning before I went. But it ended earlier than my normal days typically do, so I was able to get to the pool and go for a swim. That was productive. And much needed. So, it’s all good.
I noticed that I was getting really tired towards the end of the day, and I was starting to get cranky and a little confrontational. But I managed to pull up and not blurt whatever came to mind. There was this module we were working through that just seemed like such B.S., and I wanted to say so. But I held my tongue and said nothing. Mission accomplished. I got out of it without wrecking my reputation, which is what I often do at those kinds of things, towards the end of the day when I’m tired. I blurt out crap that makes me look belligerent and confrontational, when I’m just tired.
And then all the work I put into cultivating rapport with others goes out the window. Fly away, little reputation. Fly away.
But yesterday, I held my tongue, and that was good. It was very, very good.
And today… Well, I’m looking at another day of non-stop paying attention to important stuff, and potentially being virtually motionless the whole time. I can’t let that happen. Not two days in a row. I just have to get creative and think outside the box. Find ways to keep myself moving. Heck, maybe I’ll even ride my exercise bike while I’m on a call — except that I get out of breath, and speaking up when I sound like I’m in the middle of an exercise routine is not the most professional thing to do.
So, scrap that. No riding the bike while I’m on a conference call.
I’ll just pace in my living room, walk around the downstairs. Do some movement… knee bends… stretching… anything to keep my body awake. ‘Cause if my body isn’t awake, neither is my brain.
And not-so-great things happen when my brain is foggy and asleep.
This is pretty much how my morning looks – me with a cup of strong, black coffee and a notepad with a pen to write down what I’m supposed to be doing, this morning.
Under normal conditions, I’m usually out and about by this time (it’s nearly noon). But today is different. I’m more tired than normal, and I have a lot of catching up with myself to do from this past week.
Reading… blogging… organizing…
Getting myself together for the rest of the day, which will be all about getting my spouse together to go to the even they’re hosting tonight. It’s a lot of work. There’s a lot to remember. I don’t feel up to it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be done.
I need some motivation. Something to perk me up.
Then again, I think just resting tonight, spending time in my own home in solitude and peace is probably motivation enough. It’s been months, since I had any time to myself. I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like.
Almost, but not quite.
I think tonight, I’ll spend some time organizing my study. I have a whole room with books and workspace(s) for myself, but I’ve taken to using it just as a storage area, where I put things I don’t want to think about anymore. That’s gotta change. For sure.
So, I’ll do that tonight. It’ll be a really good use of time.
And now, out I go into the world today. It’s cold and windy and clear, and I have trash that needs to go to the dump. Recycling, too. And I’ve got to run to the store to get some supplies for tonight. It’ll all get done. I just need to rouse myself and get my act in gear.
I love my routines. They’ve saved my s$$ over the past 12 years. They helped me retrain my body and brain to be a heck of a lot more functional than they were in 2006. And when it comes to TBI recover, routine and repetition are my friends.
Seriously, they’re like the secret weapon against the disruptions of TBI. Just figuring out how to do things exactly the same way, over and over, till that way become ingrained and you don’t have to think about it anymore… it’s magic. And it does so much to rebuild and solidify the new connections that replace the ones that got frayed and pulled to pieces in the brain injury itself.
Every now and then, it’s good to change things up, though.
That’s where I am, now. I’ve done a lot of hard thinking, over the past weeks and months, and I realize I need to have a different focus in my daily life. I need to spend a lot less time focusing on my career and professional prospects, and spend a lot more time focusing on my health and quality of life.
I’m not gonna lie — I really had to double down on my work situations, over the past years. I was in a downward spiral of sorts, in one overly challenging job after another, working in very hostile conditions that eroded my physical and mental health. And the past 3-1/2 years have also been a real challenge, in some ways. The thing that’s made it the most challenging is that I got caught up in ideas about advancing, getting promoted, moving up in the world. And that sucked me into a vortex of caring about what other people thought of me, what other people said about me, what other people did to me at work.
And that wasn’t a good use of time. Because here I am, years later, no further along on my professional path (even set back, compared to where I was before), and just looking back at a whole lot of frustration and dead-ends.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m highly ambitious. I’m driven. That’s for sure. But at some point, being ambitious according to someone else’s rules is just a bad idea for me. I need to be ambitious according to my own rules. I need to drive towards things that matter to me — having decent relationships with people, doing my best work, learning and growing as I go — rather than getting caught up in other people’s power games.
Somehow, those games never work out in my favor. I just get played.
So, I’m pretty much over that. Time to focus on other priorities. Time to funnel my energy into things that are going to build me up, not tear me down, and pay off in the short- and long-term, when it comes to just doing a decent job.
Heck, I’m not even sure I want to get promoted, anyway, considering the kinds of people who are climbing to the top, these days. It seems like a much better use of my time to focus on my mental and physical health… learning interesting things and applying them to my life… sharing what I know…. and just having the best life possible. So long as I make enough money to support myself and I have the time and opportunity to do something truly useful with my life, that’s what matters.
And that’s where my head is at today.
Ha… we’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow… or next week… 😉
The title of this post is probably a misnomer of sorts. Because I actually never really got outof the thick of it, this weekend… er… the past month. Day after day, it’s been one thing or another, to the point where I’m not even sure what day it is, anymore.
Except for my calendar, which shows me what I’m supposed to be doing, and when.
I feel like I’m continuously building on all my past experiences, which is as it should be, I suppose. The bad experiences, along with the good — but that’s how life should be, right?
I just wish I didn’t get so tired…
Fatigue and brain injury are not a good combination. And more than anything else in my life, fatigue has really torn me down. It’s made my moods unpredictable, even extreme, it’s made my behavior volatile, it’s impacted friendships and work relationships, it cost me jobs, and it nearly ruined my marriage.
So, what to do?
First, have a decent sleep routine. I’m not perfect, by any stretch, but I do keep track of how I’m doing, and I make an effort to get good sleep whenever I can.
Second, work on my endurance. Do my daily exercises. Pace myself. Build up my strength and my ability to go for longer periods of time doing what needs to be done.
Third, stop doing things that tear me down. Quit watching t.v. shows that stress me out. Stop eating food that isn’t good for me and spikes my blood sugar, then wipes me out. Quit hanging around with people who drain me. And stop all the negative chatter inside my head.
There are things I can do to get myself headed in the right direction, and that’s what my life has to be about. I can’t control what’s going on around me, so I need to strengthen myself to handle whatever comes.
And yes… watch other people do amazing things and perform well.
Like the Olympics. It’s been really good for me to watch the games, this month. Lots of great lessons there.
I just finished my 2nd (of 3) extended work session.
I look outside — oh, it snowed… and then it rained. I hadn’t even noticed. I was buried so deep in my work that I didn’t even notice the snow falling.
Well, in all fairness, it was dark outside for most of the time.
Yesterday was pretty intense. I worked from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., went to bed for a little bit, then got up at 2:30 to work from 3:00 till just a little bit ago. I got a break, this last time, because it was only 5 hours, instead of the 9 hours like yesterday.
Be thankful for small favors.
Another small favor is that it’s cold and damp outside, so there’s no great rush to go anywhere. I do have to run an errand later, before I get on my last work session later this afternoon. But for now, it’s time to kick back, have another bowl of cereal, drink some water, and read a book until I go back to bed to rest some more.
So, today’s the day we start our 36 hour project. I’ve got 20 minutes to prepare, then everything kicks off.
I’ll be working for the next 8 hours, then I get a few hours off to sleep, then I work another 6 hours overnight. I get to sleep in the a.m., then I may have to work in the afternoon.
My sleeping schedule is going to be completely screwed up, and that’s a problem. I don’t know why this job involves so much sleep disruption. Either it’s cross-country travel, or it’s off-hours work. Either way, it’s not healthy, and it doesn’t let me do my best work.
I haven’t done my best work in years.
I’m not sure I even care, anymore. The company gives me a paycheck, yes, but I no longer have any emotional investment in them — or my work for them. They’ve made it clear what they think of their workforce. They’ve shorted us on our performance bonus, time and time again, and they lay people off whenever they like. I show up, I do the bare minimum — for the sake of self-preservation — and I collect my paycheck.
They still get more than they pay for, even when I’m not over-the-top productive and 1000% invested. I’m still a top performer, even when I’m not bothering to indulge in any loyalty to them.
It’s a shame, really. I used to be so invested and invigorated by my work. But that’s changed over the past years. And I have to say I’m actually happier now than I was, when I was anguished and fretting over everything I did, how I did it, and whether or not it turned out exactly the way I planned.
I’ve let a lot of stuff go, and it’s helped me.
But still, I do feel a bit of a void, where my personal investment used to be.
Oh, well. There are other things that brighten my day. Like my own interests and projects. Like my hobbies. Like my books.
There’s plenty of other things to fill that void.
Like taking the best care of myself, that I possibly can. No matter what everybody else does.
I just miss caring deeply about my work, sometimes…