Goals For 2014

I have intended to write one last post this year but I have struggled to gather my thoughts or focus for long enough to record those thoughts. Instead, I have decided to record here my goals for the new year that is upon us.

I have experienced, learned, and accomplished so much this past year, I am excited for all that 2014 will bring! I am extremely grateful for the amazing people who have been a part of my journey and most of all for the person that I am becoming. I am feeling more and more like “me” these days. ūüôā

So, without further ado, my goals for 2014:

1. Read more. Specifically, I would like to finish the 2 books on my bedside table, the one I rec’d for Christmas, and the LOTR trilogy with prequels. Beyond that, I have a list of other books I would like to get through from last year. LOL

2. Compete at least once in an Olympic Weightlifting competition.

3. Perform publicly on guitar (recital) and to improve my clarinet playing (join a second, more advanced band).

4. Improve my fitness level, body composition.

I look forward to documenting my journey toward accomplishing these goals more regularly. As a fifth and final goal, I will attempt to blog weekly on Sundays.

Today’s Rant: Some people think it’s laziness‚Ķ.

It’s 5pm and I’m about ready to fall asleep. ¬†Yesterday was the same, as was the day before. ¬†I think you get the idea.

Some people think it’s laziness‚ĶI mean, we all get tired after a gruelling day at work, right? ¬†So how am I so much more tired than anyone else? Some go to the extent of talking slowly as if to a child, or in a condescending tone with obvious references so as to insinuate a misunderstanding. ¬†No, I’m not lazy. ¬†No, I’m not simple. ¬†I have a brain injury. ¬†I become tired more easily because I have to consciously “turn on my brain” to hold focus on anything for more than two seconds. ¬†And then anytime I have to change focus or move from one activity to the next, that change alone takes another conscious effort and consequently another bout of energy (as does the planning of said activities, deciding which to do when – heaven forbid that plan not work out, which it rarely does). ¬†It’s called executive functioning.

“Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain’s frontal lobe. Executive functions work together to help a person achieve goals.

Executive function includes the ability to:

  • manage time and attention
  • switch focus
  • plan and organize
  • remember details
  • curb inappropriate speech or behavior
  • integrate past experience with present action

When executive function breaks down, behavior becomes poorly controlled. This can affect a person’s ability to:

  • work or go to school
  • function independently
  • maintain appropriate social relationships

Types of Executive Function

Executive function can be divided into two categories:

  • organization
  • regulation

Organization involves gathering information and structuring it for evaluation. Regulation involves taking stock of the environment and changing behavior in response to it.”

http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/executive-function

So we (with my type of injury) are taught to create as much routine as possible in life so as to minimize the effort required, given that the brain power involved in just remembering to brush my teeth in the morning is overwhelming. LOL. I laugh because I get how ridiculous it sounds.  And I laugh so as not to cry at the thought of how pathetic my life seems sometimes.

Every time I leave the house I consciously go through my list (did I lock the doors? did I turn off the flat iron? did I remember to brush my teeth?) And sometimes, because I can’t remember and to make sure I’ve done it, I go back and do it again. (Obsessive compulsive much?) Talk about exhausting!!

But a friend reminded me the other day‚Ķyou are not pathetic! You own your own house! You lift weights at the gym three times a week! You volunteer with dogs, support others with brain injuries, you play the clarinet in a band every Saturday morning and you’re learning to play guitar! How is that pathetic?!

And yes‚ĶI have to actually remind myself of these things on a daily basis. ¬†Because if I don’t, I will be eaten up by the cloud of negativity that swarms. ¬†I liked this saying I saw on Facebook once: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by assholes.” ūüôā I’ve learned to eliminate these people from my life as much as possible, and to stand up to the ones I don’t want to fully eliminate. ¬†But, again‚Ķit takes effort. It takes effort to control my emotions, to objectify the situation, and to be the mature one who speaks about the situation intellectually rather than getting caught up in the fact that the other person is treating me like garbage. ¬†If I don’t, I will get sucked into the vortex of intense emotion. ¬†I will try to soothe that intense emotion with unrealistic coping mechanisms, and I will hate myself because of it. ¬†And, yes, that too is exhausting. ¬†But the benefit far outweighs the costs involved.

So, having said all of that, I get to the crux of my discussion. ¬†In reference to the title: Do people honestly think I have it easy? ¬†That I’m being lazy with my lifestyle (because I’m not working at the moment)? or that with all my positive social networking posts, my life must be hunky dory? ¬†It sometimes comes across that way.

First of all, hopefully from the above introduction, people realize that there is nothing “easy” about my life. ¬†Everything from feeding my cat to brushing my teeth, planning my meals, grocery shopping, cooking my meals, planning my route, driving my car, getting to the gym class on time, lifting the weights properly‚Ķeverything takes effortful energy to turn on my brain to that particular activity, remain focussed throughout, and change attention to the next thing. ¬†How does that seem easy to anyone?

Secondly, I¬†am not working right now only because I overextended myself in both of my last jobs over the past three years and I essentially went crazy – couldn’t be in public without breaking down crying at the drop of a hat, was experiencing extreme OCD and wasn’t looking after myself AT ALL (slept all day, no shower for a week, etc). And due to my now very limited income I have had to make some very serious budget cuts (including food intake some days) to be able to still pay my bills and meet financial obligations. ¬†Do people actually think I WANT to have no money?! ¬†Sure, not working allows me a few extra hours in the day, but I still have a house to look after, volunteer commitments to keep and self-betterment to think about. ¬†Oh yes‚Ķ.and that talk we had earlier about energy and exhaustion? Having limited finances takes a LOT of planning.

Thirdly, most of what I post on my social networking sites are quotes and affirmations that I need to see to be reminded that I am going to make it through this day, that my life matters, and that I too can find success in life. I have a lot of days when I am grateful for my circumstances, for special people in my life, and for the “little” and not-so-little ways in which I am blessed. ¬†I also have many days when the negativity overcomes me and I feel like an unaccomplished so-and-so with a pathetic existence. ¬†But I know that’s not true. ¬†I know that because I’ve had many experiences and known many people that have affirmed my existential value.

So whether I feel it on any given day or not, the reality is: I have a pretty great life.  I am blessed and accomplished with strengths and talents that make me happy and bring joy to those around me.  I am not lazy, I am not simple.  I have a brain injury that makes me more tired than most people, and it sometimes makes me more emotional and/or reflective.  That is all.

…end rant.

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…this is my life…and I really do love it.

The Validation Trap

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I love the message on this photo. ¬†This topic is something that I’ve struggled with for my entire life post-injury. I think it’s something that many people work through in their lives – some never really dealing with it, but getting stuck in this incessant need for reassurance and outside affirmation that their efforts are meaningful. ¬†It’s a difficult struggle for sure. I think sometimes it has more to do with personality development than anything else. ¬†But no matter the source of the issue, the bottom line is that this way of thinking or reasoning‚Ķthis incessant need for validation and external motivation is not very helpful in life.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that no one understands, no one appreciates the effort something takes, or the struggles that some of us deal with on a daily basis just to get through the day (especially when we feel we have justified reasoning for feeling/thinking that way). ¬†However, simply wishing that more people understood really isn’t going to solve the problem. ¬†And truly, even finding people who do understand doesn’t solve the problem itself. ¬†The only thing that will bring closure to these extreme feelings (of loneliness, rejection, isolation, or pain of any kind) is the acceptance of them and the refusal to judge oneself according to our own personal perception of the state of things.

Truthfully, we are our own worst enemies. ¬†I think everyone knows that. ¬†(Some of us more than others). ¬†We spend so much time aspiring to a certain goal or a certain level of achievement/performance that it becomes the main focus in our lives. ¬†We fail to acknowledge the growth process happening, or the beauty in the small successes along the way. Bottom line, like this poster says, this life – in all of its struggle and agony – is a journey. ¬†And because no one has come from where you have come from, through what you have been through, with the resources (or lack thereof) which you were given, no one on this planet is really going to understand. AND THAT’S OKAY.

Yes, it sucks. ¬†Yes, it feels uncomfortable and lonely a lot when it seems as if so many other people have made connections with others who seem to “get” them. ¬†But in all honesty, if you asked any of “those” people (the ones who seem so happily engrossed in their social circles), I’m sure any number of them would agree that they have many instances in life when it feels as if no one really understands. Everyone has had at least a moment in their life when it feels as if no one else “gets it” or appreciates what they are going through. ¬†

So don’t believe that “shitty committee” in your head that is trying to convince you that no one gets it, that no one cares, or that no one appreciates the effort you make to be you – because that just isn’t so. ¬†You are who you are in this moment that you find yourself, having been through an extraordinary set of circumstances (or combination of those) which has given you the unique perspective you need to accomplish what this life is about to bring to you. ¬†This concept is beyond us. ¬†It is beyond human figuring and finite understanding. ¬†There is Something greater at work in us and through us, in the universe and creation abroad. ¬†

I can’t tell you your purpose, why you have been through what you have been through, why you are in the situation you are in, but I know that you will realize it when the time comes. ¬†Let go of that need for outside validation and open your awareness to your existence in this moment. Nothing that anyone else says or does to validate your existence or your efforts will genuinely bring you satisfaction in the end – guaranteed. ¬†Sure, I think we need to express genuine appreciation to those around us, to those who are in our service at multiple moments throughout the day, or to those who give of themselves without question for support and encouragement. ¬†But to go around looking or NEEDING that validation for a sense of happiness or achievement in life is an empty and fruitless effort. When we are stuck in that need for acknowledgement, praise, and validation, we give away our power to create the life that we need (and as an extension, the life that will ultimately satisfy or bring us happiness).

So, today I encourage you (as I am encouraging myself)…to give yourself a pat on the back for making it through this day.  Make a list of all of things you accomplished today (from the time you got out of bed, to menial chores around the house, to caring for a pet, or preparing your own meals). Acknowledge the loved ones in your life (family and friends) who have sent you texts or Facebook messages or communications of any kind over the last week.  Look at all those people who love you!!  And maybe even spend some time in reflection today, providing yourself with some personal validation, making a list of your strengths.  Putting things in writing is a powerful tool.  

And, you know what? I’m here to agree with you that this position you are in, the situation you are dealing with, the feelings you are feeling‚Ķ.it sucks to have to be there. It sucks that we have to be our own pat on the back – sometimes it’s exhausting to feel like if it weren’t for our self-validation there would be no validation at all. Bottom line, that sucks. ¬†I can guarantee you that you are not the only one feeling that way right now. ¬†Do what you need to do to express that frustration and agony. Cry it out, write in your journal, play your guitar, sing along to some melancholy tunes, or vent to a friend.

Cuz you know what else? It’s exactly that… a feeling. ¬†Feelings come and go. ¬†They are a fleeting part of our awareness. But getting stuck in them‚Ķdwelling on them‚Ķyou will get caught in a trap and it’s not going to be of any help to you. ¬†Finding someone to bitch to about your circumstances might help for a moment, especially if you are lucky enough to find someone who validates your concerns and has been there before. ¬†But has that strengthened your own personal resolve to see past the situation? ¬†Have you come to understand the circumstance as something outside of yourself, not a part of your self-worth or personal value?

I hope you do.  I hope you dig in on this journey and really explore these things. Find out where you have sensitivities and discover new ways to be proactive (or even retroactive as the case may be) in healing that inner awareness, strengthening your inner resolve.  It is possible. 

But whatever you do…stay away from the validation trap. Remember that you are more than your feelings. Your performance, your perception of your circumstances, your understanding or opinion of a concept, these do not dictate your worth as a person.  

So be who you are and say what you feel
Because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ūüôā
~Dr. Seuss

‚Ķthis is my life…