Adjusting My Speed

I eye the pile of papers. It has been over two weeks, now, and I haven’t touched them. There sits opportunity, waiting for my energy and attention. There sits the next step along my writing path. There sits all the feedback from eleven talented, thoughtful writers from my writer’s group.

Now, to be fair, I’ve been busy. It was a little over two weeks ago that I had my work reviewed. It took me three days to recover. Not because they jumped me and beat me up – they were very positive and supportive. Rather, simply the exhaustion of attending, participating, and lunching afterwards, combined with the deep currents of fear and excitement I felt for days prior to and at the actual meeting.

Emotions take energy.

By Friday of that week, I was feeling better. Then, it was time to prepare for our Maine vacation. Exciting, yes, but also requiring energy and focus. The vacation was fabulous, but there wasn’t mental space for me to review the feedback there. Then, three days to recover from vacation. Recovering gets so tedious, sometimes. Then there was writing group again. And then there was this blog post to write.

And I still haven’t touched the damn papers.

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Papers waiting for my attention.

Experience tells me, if I don’t do something different, I’ll never get to that feedback. There isn’t the extra – extra energy, extra mental clarity – for me to just happen upon being able to read and integrate the new ideas and perspectives offered in that pile of papers. Before this gets too far out of hand, before too much time has passed, I have to acknowledge the truth – I don’t have it in me. There just isn’t enough of me to make it happen, doing all that I’m doing now.

This blog post marks my twenty sixth weekly blog post in a row. It has been half a year of writing weekly, and the successful implementation of my dream and plan since I started writing in 2014. In truth, writing weekly has been a serious challenge. Basically, each and every week revolves around me writing a blog post. I have had the will for it and, mostly, the energy for it, too.

What I didn’t realize is creativity is a limited resource. Did you know that? Because I didn’t. I imagine creativity now as a deep well that recharges at a set rate. Perhaps my creativity well is shallower than others, or simply is shallow because of my limited energy, but… well… writing something new every single week strains that resource. At times, I have been taking out more than naturally recharges; I have been depleting myself… and that is exactly what I don’t want to do.

Through many epic fails, I have learned that depleting myself is simply something I cannot afford. Perhaps I will never be able to afford it, again. My life is about creating space for all my resources – particularly my energy, and now also my creativity – to recharge. I want to refill every corner of my soul with energy, energy I depleted so recklessly trying to keep my job post mTBI.

I want to thrive.

New plan. I will write a new blog post every other week. That will still give me 26 blog posts a year. That’s quite a few, really. Enough to feel good about myself, and enough to keep sharing my journey. Alternate weeks, I will work on moving the next phase of my writing forward.

So do you know what I’m going to be doing next week? I won’t be writing a blog post. You won’t be hearing from me. Instead, I’m going to sit down and focus on integrating the feedback I received several weeks ago. After that, I’m going to revise some of my existing blogs and submit them for publication in the real world. Perhaps they’ll be accepted. Perhaps they won’t. Regardless, I will be taking that next step along my writing path, another step closer to writing and publishing a book about my experience.

And if I find that doing both is a drain on my creativity… well, I’ll adjust again. What is most important is staying in my sweet spot, that place where I am functional while also nurturing myself to greater health. That is vital. That is what my life is now. Pushing myself, “trying” is counterproductive. It will take me more than a week or a month to reach my goals; it is going to take years. I choose for those years to be full of healing, not full of depletion. Slow and steady will make sure this tortoise wins her race.

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Vacationland

I pull away from home at 9:40 am, I am impressed. Everything is packed, the house and cats are ready for a long absence, and we are only 10 minutes late. Our summer vacation is starting with a big success!

Another significant success happens as we drive. It takes us a solid six hours to make a four hour drive. Yah, baby. Keep the fun rolling!

Why is that a success? Well, traveling long distances is hard on both of us. Me, because I now get nauseous, overstimulated and fatigued by long car trips after my first mTBI. Mary, because she has chronic back pain and can’t sit for very long without making it worse. A trip to Maine is the perfect opportunity for both of us to implement appropriate and necessary accommodations to allow us to arrive at our destination functional and ready to have fun.

The plan? Stop every hour. Every single hour. Yes, I said every hour. And walk around. Not just stand and stretch, as I would be inclined to do. Rather, Mary needs to walk a minimum of ten minutes to get her hips and back to relax.

It seems simple enough. I mean, anyone can in fact stop their car on an hourly basis and take a break. But actually finding the will to do it, the desire to do it… actually doing it is the hard thing. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with long car trips that went from point A to point B with maybe one quick stop along their entire length. A break every hour!? How do you ever get to your destination!?

The answer is, slowly. And that’s all right, because we planned for it. We knew it was going to take a while. We have no deadline, nowhere to be at any particular time, so we can just putt along at the speed that is appropriate for us.

And we do. It’s hard at first, especially since Mary insisted she was “feeling fine”. And I’m sure she is feeling fine. But as all of us in the mTBI world know, the time to start implementing your accommodation strategies is when you’re feeling fine. Take that break from socializing every 30 minutes, even though you don’t feel like it. In the long run, you’ll be able to do more because you allowed yourself that rest. The same thing here, take that break every hour. It’s a long drive, a long trip, and we both need to be functional at the end.

Eventually, though, time passes and we do arrive. And the best thing is – we’re functional. Mary’s tired of driving (she insisted on doing most of it, because the driver’s seat is more comfortable). I’ve shifted into cranky-ville, because I’ve only had snacks and no lunch. But both of us, physically and mentally, are okay. And that is the best outcome we could have hoped.

A big win for our physical and mental health. And a good way to start our vacation.

The rest of our vacation? It has been fun. I’d say it has been our best vacation yet. The right place, the right distance from home, and the right length of time away. Not to big, not too small. Not too short, not too long. Not too far, not too close. Plus, we have shared our lives for enough years that we know how to manage each other, when things aren’t ideal. We have had to learn, to get through my mTBI and Mary’s job stresses.

It’s been wonderful to seeing new things. Every day. Every single day. That just doesn’t happen for me anymore. I walk a bit further every morning, and see a few new bits of land, a few more houses. Mary and I check out a new place or two together every day. Yesterday, it was Centennial Beach, where I had the honor of seeing hermit crabs for the first time (Love!) in their native environment.

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Hermit crab in Maine

The day before that, we visited the best low-tide swimming place. The day before that, we had the excellent luck of finding a beautiful, sandy, and unpopulated high-tide swimming site. I’d tell you where, but… well, I like that no one is there.

In my real life, new is threatening. How much energy will an activity or location consume? How do I get there? What is expected of me, and can I be that person? What unforeseen issues will pop up and can I handle them? What will this new thing take from me, and can I afford it? But in this case, during vacation, new is nice. I can do as much or as little as I want. This semi-populated island off the coast of Maine, whose loudest noises are a distant warning buoy dinging and ships honking, is very non-threatening. It’s relaxing. It’s peaceful. Exactly what I wanted from a vacation.

I forget how worn into patterns my life is. Part of that is self-defense, a way to conserve my energy for things that really mean something to me. Part of that is brain injury, my brain doesn’t shift gears gracefully, and I rarely have a new idea. Part of that is circumstance – I don’t work, I live 30 minutes outside of town with only one other adult – I need my routines to give shape to my day.

But vacation is an excellent time to let routines go. Most of them. I am still posting this Thursday, today. It probably doesn’t matter to other people, but it matters to me. I set myself a goal, and I plan to keep to it. Every Thursday, publishing a blog post. Until it’s time for something new.

And just for fun, here’s a video of two hermit crabs I took yesterday /:-D

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It Might Help

That will help me recover from my mTBI? Great – I’ll try it!

Says me, over and over again. And when I say I’ll try it, I mean I’ll do it. Forever. Once I start something, it is just easier to keep doing it than to dredge up the mental resources to analyze it’s usefulness and stop.

In fact, analyzing whether something is helping is one of my biggest challenges. Is it helping? I don’t know! To know that, I would need to remember how I did yesterday, versus today. I would need to be able to perceive, accurately, how I am functioning now. And, when one (such as myself) does not have the sense, the internal information of yesterday or last week to judge against today, it is hard to reach a decision. Almost impossible, actually.

So I keep taking my pills. Maybe they’re helping.

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Morning and night pills. At least they’re colorful!

With my scientific background, I know what I should be doing. I should only change one variable at a time. That way, I can accurately determine if the change is having an effect. Then, periodically, I should experiment with removing said supplement, and seeing if I experience any decline – to confirm it is still helping. Makes perfect sense. But, in truth, for all that I am a scientist at heart… I just want to be functional. And it takes a high level of cognitive ability and life consistency to figure out whether something is helping. In truth, I’d rather spend that energy on just living my life, every day.

So I keep on, keeping on. If something helps – even just a little bit, even just maybe, even just at first – I keep taking it. Actually, you would have to drag it out of my cold dead hands to get me to stop. What, I should just stop it for a few weeks to see if it has any effect? Yah, you’re probably right. But would you really give up your ability to think and function for a few weeks, just to see if a pill you spend about $50 a YEAR on makes a difference? I tell you what – two weeks of my functionality – hell, one day of my functionality, is worth the damn 13.7 cents per day.

So there.

And now you know why I’m using a bunch of supplements, and have been for a long time. Most brain-healing supplements, it takes a while to see a difference. And, when you do see a difference, the improvement is subtle. Very subtle. Look, I’m stuttering less. But to notice that, I have to remember how often I usually stutter. Oh, look, I have more energy. Really? Or is it just I’m excited about this thing, or it’s where I am in my menstrual cycle, or maybe it’s one of those random increases or decreases in my ability that never has any explanation?

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Francis isn’t sure about my crowded box of pills

Can’t know. Don’t know. And so I keep taking them all.

Phosphatidyl choline – I heard about this supplement from the book Brain Jolt. It helped the author improve her cognitive functioning. I started taking it, and felt a change within a few weeks. My cognitive quality didn’t improve, but my cognitive quantity did. My brain went from being a little cart pony to hauling loads like a work horse. That was November 2014, and I’ve been taking it ever since.

Fish Oil – I was taking this even before my injury. After my injury, I just doubled my dose. It’s suppose to be good for the brain somehow, right? Feed it, or help it? Never particularly noticed a change, but fish oil was one thing that every doctor and nutritionist I have ever talked to recommended, so I take it every day. Would I notice a difference if I stopped? Probably not, or probably not for months. But I keep taking it anyway. Why not? It might help.

My newest supplements are short-term – because of the cost ($55/month). They are Standard Process brand and from my chiropractor who also does muscle testing for nutritional needs. One is turmeric bonded with a protein (Turmeric Forte). Turmeric to reduce inflammation; the bonding to a protein keeps in it my body longer and improves blood/brain barrier permeability. The other is somehow suppose to help my brain function or regulate; I’m not really sure exactly what it does (Neurotrophin PMG). But I’m taking them both, and you know what? I’m actually sure this time that they’re helping.

How do I know they’re helping? Memories. When I lay on the couch and stare out the window to rest, instead of blankness all the time, sometimes I find myself remembering bits and pieces from my childhood and young adulthood. I’ve never had a lot of memories from my youth, and since my brain injury there has been zero energy available for recalling anything non-essential. So it’s interesting to have my brain suddenly volunteering this old information. The social awkwardness of successfully pantsing a friend at a slumber party (a continuing competition between us). An out-stubborning with my mom when deeply shy me refused to take the gas payment into the office and she refused to do it or drive away. Confirming rumors for a friend of years that I was a lesbian as we walked home to my place. Stuff that I’m sure has been in there, but I certainly haven’t had the energy to access since my mTBI. And now it’s just floating up to the surface. I have to believe that’s doing something good to heal my brain.

So I keep taking them, all of them. Day in, day out, hoping they are making a difference. Hoping they will make a difference. And who knows? Maybe they are.

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It Gets Easier

The queen must die. Her loyal subjects will be given to a rival kingdom where they will work themselves to death. That is the best path, the right path, this time.

No, this isn’t the outline of a new fantasy novel. I’m talking about my bees.

One colony is much smaller than the others. My mentor came by a few weeks ago and confirmed – they won’t make it through the winter. They don’t have enough workers, they don’t have enough drawn comb, they don’t have any honey stored away. So. One must be sacrificed for the good of the many. Kill the queen, put her workers with one of my other bee colonies, spread the comb between the remaining two hives so the bees can fill them up with honey. Done.

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And then there were two. Without the queen, the Gold Stars (purple) are easy to join with the Italians (green).

I have loved this queen from the beginning, the Gold Star queen. She was the first queen bee I every saw leave the hive for her mating flight. So healthy and well formed, mahogany and brown, she left the hive as workers excitedly ran about the entrance, wishing her well.

But she failed before she began. The break in broodrearing needed to grow a new queen – a month or so – put the hive behind. Regardless of how amazing a queen she could have been, there was no time to catch up in Vermont’s short summer. Large numbers of bees are needed to draw comb, gather pollen, and store enough honey for the colony to make it through 6+ months of winter. And she just didn’t have time to produce enough bees, so she had to die.

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Gold Star queen is beautiful – but much smaller – in death.

The first time killing is always the hardest for me. That stepping over the boundary from where I am someone who does not kill that being, to someone who does. It is difficult, emotional. A lot more emotional than it would have been pre-injury, a lot more difficult. I don’t have that helpful distance from life anymore, both an energetic buffer and the emotional muting that make the unpleasant actions of daily life easier to navigate. When I kill, I feel. Sometimes I feel so much I can’t feel it then, and it is only days later, far from the fated moment, where I can allow myself to let my emotions flow again.

When I first used Round Up (ever) this spring to help control invasive bishops weed in the perennial flower beds, I cried. It felt deeply wrong that I had the power to so casually destroy something living. Death isn’t quick, not like pulling up the plants. Rather, it is a chemical action that causes the leaves to wither and the plant to die, starved from being unable to produce certain amino acids. Not pleasant for a small vegetative being. I cried after the second and third applications, too, although less. By the fourth time, it was just a tool I was using to bring about an important goal. I no longer thought or registered the deeper experience of what I was doing. It was routine, it was normal.

Next time, killing the queen will be easier. With repetition, anything can become easier, feel more natural. That is one of the great things about humans, our deep adaptability.

Even this limited life recovering from two mTBIs can feel normal, be normal. I certainly fought against that truth viciously, tooth and nail, with all my heart, for as long as I could. I wanted it to be different, so dammit it was going to be different! But, unfortunately, some things won’t bend to a strong will, and brain injury is one of those things.

The limitations I live with casually now were once painful, difficult. They were worth tears and anger and yelling and hopelessness. They were worth cursing and shaking my fist at the sky. With enough time, though, enough repetitions, something changed. Or, correction, I changed. Something had to give, and since my body and mind couldn’t possibly do more than it already was, I had to. My expectations, my beliefs, my hopes and dreams. They all had to give way to make room for the new reality of my life.

And so now when I have to cancel an appointment or social plans because I scheduled too much for the week, I just do. I have a twinge of irritation, a twinge of embarrassment, but that’s it. When I stutter and misspell easy words when I write, I just take a deep breath, calm myself, and push on. If I drive somewhere and find my head buzzing from over-stimulation, I just stare into space for 10 minutes until I can focus again. I don’t get angry, I don’t beat myself up for needing that time… I just take it.

It isn’t painful, anymore. It isn’t heart-wrenching. True, these impairments and the accommodations I need aren’t what I want – not by a long shot – by they are what is. I’ve adjusted. I’m use to it. It’s just another day not at the office. In truth, I’d much rather spend all that energy I once use to fight my life, to live it.

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Night Swimming

“Oh! The water is cold tonight!” Mary exclaims as she eases into the lake. The water feels cold to me, too, but no more than usual. Night swimming has it’s advantages – no boats, no other people – and it’s disadvantages, like no sun to heat up a swimmer in cold water. But, often during the week, the evening is the only time Mary and I can swim together because of our respective schedules.

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Beautiful moonlight on the water during an evening swim.

We have different techniques entering the water. Mary eases in until chest level, then dunks. I wade as quickly as possible to waist level, then dive in. I don’t like to be tormented by discomfort. I’d rather get it all taken care of as quickly as possible.

“I am so cold. I’m shivering!” Mary exclaims, like it is an unusual occurrence. She goes on to say “Maybe it’s because I’ve been constantly busy for the past two weeks. And I didn’t sleep well last night, plus today was particularly rough at work. I’m exhausted.”

Once we are both submerged, Mary commences calisthenics. Or, not really calisthenics, but rather exercises, trying to keep herself warm. She shivers uncontrollably and exclaims periodically about the cold. Her body isn’t able to regulate because of fatigue.

And then it is. Five minutes, ten minutes maybe, and she’s fine. Her body’s energy re-balances, her core systems compensate for the cold, and she can just relax and enjoy the rest of the swim. She switches to floating on her back, looking at the dark sky. I feel her energy calm as she enjoys the peace of the night.

Then, there is me. It’s different for me. While Mary’s body is able to compensate for the cold water in five or ten minutes even when she is exhausted, my body can’t handle it. At least, some of the time. Sometimes, it’s fine. Sometimes, like at the end of the day, or when I’m tired, it’s not.

Since my first mTBI, my body doesn’t seem able to regulate, to handle things like it once did. I have become sensitive to the heat, getting overheated and dull-headed quickly. I am more sensitive to the cold, breaking into uncontrollable shivering and misery after just a short time.

Every time we night swim, I run. I mean, I run underwater. Pumping my legs at a steady pace, swinging my arms forward and back in time with the leg motion. Constantly, continuously, I try to generate heat. I try to sustain, to draw out, my body’s ability to handle the cool water. These days, my energy is high enough that I start with the cold of the lake on just the surface of my skin. The cold dances along the edges of my body. If I’m lucky, it stays there as long as I want to be in the water. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

Repeatedly this summer, our joint swims have ended abruptly because I could no longer tolerate the cold. It goes something like this.

“I’m getting cold, I have to go in.” I say. Of course, I’m running in place as I usually do. Constant motion in a bid to stave off the cold. But I’m feeling my boundary, my skin, breaching. I feel the cold starting to curl into my body, instead of dancing along my surfaces. I want to stop before things go too far.

“Come on, just a little longer.” Splash Splash.

“Okay.” A few minutes pass. Those same tendrils reach deeper, twine into my core, threatening to send me into bone deep body chills.

“I’m cold, I have to go.” This time there is no negotiation. I must leave, immediately. And so I do.

Once I reach the shore, leave the water, and start to dry off, I’m fine. The danger has passed. The bone cold didn’t have a chance to hook into the core of my life energy, so all will be well. Swim time just has to end sooner than we wanted.

It took me a long time to realize this temperature sensitivity issue. I pushed it too far on so many occasions. I repeatedly have ended up either shivering uncontrollably and unable to get warm (if cold stimulus) or miserably dull-minded, confused, and unable to do anything as I lay supine on the couch (if heat/humidity stimulus). So, for those post-mTBI folks who haven’t considered this might be an issue – do. Process whether you are now  particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion or becoming chilled. It’ll save you some grief later on.. it would have for me, anyway.

Here’s my theory on why it happens. The body has only so much energy to spend, and that amount varies by day and health. After mTBI, the brain uses more than it’s fair share of energy, and overall body energy is decreased, too. Temperature change challenges the body’s ability to regulate, and sometime it just can’t cope. Cue chills or heat exhaustion.

So I wilt like an unwatered flower in the humidity and heat. And I freeze at a small drop in temperature. Even in the shower, if I turn the water too cool, I become dizzy and the edges of my vision grey. I’m in luck (?), though. Times change. Unpleasant heat and humidity only lasts for about two or three months in Vermont. I definitely don’t want to rush summer along, but I am looking forward to warm, sunny, moderate temperatures down the road.

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The No-Try Exercise Program

Roller derby made exercise a regular part of my life. I spent my childhood and young adulthood continually playing sports, but somewhere between high school and a full time job, I lost that normalcy of daily physical activity. College and graduate school both called for hours of sitting still, hours of reading and writing. There wasn’t time to join a sport. Plus, physical activity was culturally segregated in those places, and therefore unwelcoming. After graduate school, I started full time work in an office, working on a computer, like so many other people. Again, no push nor appreciation of sports, of regular physical exercise. My partner didn’t exercise regularly, and neither did I.

Then, when I was 33, roller derby made it’s way into my life. Two hours of exercise three times a week doing something fun and exciting quickly changed my focus, changed my priorities. Using my body aggressively, pushing my limits, made me again appreciate all this healthy animal could do. My tree trunk body structure and my generous booty became assets, instead of just being true. Once my body adjusted to the physical demands of derby, I added additional physical activity in the hopes of becoming more competitive. Weight lifting, running. Roller derby is the only thing that could have motivated me to run two miles – during my free time – without a bear or knife-wielding murder chasing me. Truly, the only thing.

My favorite type of exercise was interval training. It is a simple concept – do intense, maximum level activity for a short period of time, recover a short time, then do it again. Biologically, it makes big changes with short-term effort. Fifteen minutes was enough to make a difference. It might be unpleasant, but at least it was unpleasant for only a short period of time.

Then, life changed. My concussion in January 2014 significantly impaired my activity level. The PT I worked with shortly after my injury used my heart rate and blood pressure to set limits on my physical activity. Don’t do anything that raises your heart rate above 100 bpm (do you know how hard that is?). Then I graduated to 120 bpm. Eventually, I stopped seeing her, but my drive to exercise had not disappeared. I tried lifting weights, and gave myself horrible headaches as a result. I tried pushing myself with some interval training, causing a spike in symptoms that lasted for days. Hell, I even tried jogging again, but that made things worse too.

What I learned – slowly – from that negative feedback, and my time recovering from an mTBI, is that trying is exactly what I need not to do. Trying means pain. Trying means exhaustion. Trying means taking time and energy away from the rest of my life. It means recovery time. It means too much. It means all sorts of things I can’t afford to deal with, considering my limited energy budget.

So I don’t. Instead, I’ve changed how I look at exercise. I have changed my basic philosophy, my basic idea of what I do.

I was always taught that to improve, you had to push your limits. You have to lift more. You have to run more. You have to go faster, harder, longer, and that was the only real way to get better.

But, I can’t. I can’t do anything hard, fast, long. Hah. That is intrinsically exactly what I cannot do, living with chronic fatigue from an mTBI. My energy budget is 7 spoons, I can’t or, more specifically – I won’t – spend my whole day’s energy budget for 20 minutes of vigorous activity. At least not usually…

So what do I do instead? I developed the No-Try philosophy of exercising. If I am trying – the moment I try – I am doing too much. Instead, I do what exercise I can, without trying, and work up from there. Slowly. Carefully. Without trying.

Really.

I envision it as improving my physical ability by moving up my lowest performance level, instead of pushing my highest.

How does it work? It’s pretty easy, really. Choose your exercise. For me, that is walking because I can do it right out my front door and I don’t have to drive anyplace. For you, it might be swimming or biking or whatever. Choose your exercise. Something you’d like to do every day. And then do it.

But not too much of it. Do whatever you can do until you find that first moment when you try. That first internal push, that first tightening of the will to make it a bit farther. As soon as you notice yourself doing that, stop. Turn around, and mosey home. Slowly. Without trying.

There, you’ve done it. Congratulations, you’ve started your No-Try Exercise Program!

The next day, do it again. Again, notice when you start to try. If you start to try before you reach yesterday’s limit. Stop, turn around, and mosey home. Slowly. Without trying. That is your new limit.

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My daily baseline – an old sugar maple that had the misfortune of growing too near the power line.

You want to find that line, that place, that EVERY DAY, you can reach without trying. That is your starting place. And then you can slowly, slowly, improve from there.

Don’t listen to yourself about what you think you can do. Don’t let a good day make you go farther. This is about improving your abilities on your worst day – which in turn will improve your abilities on your every day.

So, go to your baseline limit for a week. Get the feel for that. Make sure you aren’t doing too much. Then, if it truly is always within your reach, take another 10 steps. Really. Just 10 steps. Or an extra pedal or two on the bicycle, or a very small bit more of whatever exercise you are doing. Then stop, turn around, and mosey home.

Make yourself stay at that new limit for another week. Really, it’s going to be harder than you think. Fight with yourself, you overachiever, and don’t go beyond that new limit. If it is too much one day, move back to your baseline. If it is too much twice, stay with your baseline again for 7 days before adding 10 steps.

This is not training for a marathon. This is not an efficient way to bulk your muscles. This won’t cause you to lose weight. However, this is a way to become more able, more physically able, in your life. This is a way to improve what you can do on your worst day. This is a way to keep exercise a part of your life, and to make yourself a bit healthier, regardless of how “good” or “bad” a day it is. In fact, on a bad day, being able to still do my daily exercise makes me feel fucking great. There is at least one thing I can do today!

So, back to our program. If, after a week, you handle that new line, add another 10 steps. Then do it again. When you are set back – cuz it always happens – from a bad night sleep, doing to much, whatever – then start at your baseline. And expand again.

You aren’t heading anywhere. You aren’t trying to accomplish anything. There is no finish line. What you are doing, the exercise you are doing, is good for your body. It also does not require effort, which means it does not take away from your basic ability to function each day.

Yes, I’d like to be more physically fit, but I am not willing to give up other parts of my life to make that happen. What!?! Isn’t physical fitness ultra important? Yes, it is. And. I don’t want exercise to take away energy from the rest of my life. Period. There just isn’t anything to spare. Part of me judges myself for that, but this mTBI has taught me I have to follow my truth, my own real priorities, rather than what I think I should want or do. Hell, I just don’t have the energy for that, either. Do you know what I do have the energy for? Walking every day. Using my No-Try Exercise Program.

Blessed be.

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Keeping It Easy

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Heck, it still is a good idea. Sign up to have my work reviewed by my writing group. Put my stuff out there, and start getting some feedback. That is how I came to submit my name for the August 21st meeting. Now, I just need to get together 20 pages of writing.

But wait, August 21st isn’t my real deadline. All writing must be submitted at least a week before the meeting, to give members the opportunity to properly read and review it. So my true deadline is August 14th… less than 3 weeks away.

I still don’t know what I’m going to submit. I have spent the last few weeks struggling to figure it out, but the answer has eluded me. I fear that I am getting close to my point of failure, that point where – once passed – success is no longer possible. I reach it much sooner than I use to when deadlines are involved. Pre-injury, an important deadline could be looming and there was a good chance I’d pull something brilliant out of my ass at the last minute and finish it on time. Not anymore. Progress in my world now is made small step by small step, an achingly slow crawl to the finish line. There is no last minute dash of inspiration combined with boundless energy and mental acuity that will make it all work. I mean, it could happen. I could win the lottery, too. But, I’m not going to relying on either of those things happening to make my life functional.

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Picture of a Black-Eyed Susan Mary and I grew from seed this year. Just cuz. Baby crab spider an unexpected bonus.

So, this deadline. And me, not making progress. My plan for joining the writing group has been to get help transforming my writing into finished products, articles I can submit to magazines or newsletters. I imagine a new way to share my message and insight with the world, an attainable step between blog posts and book. Given that goal, it seems only logical to me that when I submit, I will submit some of my stories already transformed, reworked, and recreated into new pieces of work.

But, how to do that? I know how to write a blog post with no boundaries, asking no questions except what is true for me, what is in my heart and mind. That is how I write, and that freedom and simplicity is how I’ve succeeded. My narrow focus, with no responsibility or consideration of anyone else, has made a safe space for me to create. It has also fit writing into my energy budget and my cognitive ability.

It is a big assumption, to assume I can switch gears and write in a different way. One that asks question, that considers others and sculpts what I have created to their needs. Who is the audience? What is the message? What makes my writing special? What is the tone of the piece? What is my style? On and on and on and on.

And so I continue to spin, wondering, thinking, trying to figure out what to do, looking for a hook that will ground me in my reality now. I know, eventually, I’ll get to the point where I can write in that way, thinking of others. That will be me growing as a writer, and I accept that challenge.

Yet small steps, small bits. That slow and steady crawl to something new. I feel overwhelmed. That means I am asking too much of myself. I am trying to accomplish something too big, too quickly, without enough supports or foundation. So. What is the next right step?

My friend Brie actually figured it out for me. She had a simple answer, and I’m going to follow her advice. Start small. Make the goal attainable. We spent some time looking through my blog stats.

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Amazing how useful stats can be…

We checked out which blog posts where the most popular, and which received the most comments. I’m going to choose five or six of those – whatever will equal 20 pages or less – and submit that writing for my group to review.

Why? They are an audience I haven’t reached yet, full of professors and published writers and others with a literary bent. I will share what I have done, what I have created, and find out how it is received. What engages? What conveyed something you wanted to know? What is interesting? How successful was I in sharing my experience? How should I expand on these articles? What is needed to make them whole and complete?

Once I listen to that discussion, and get that feedback, I will have much more concrete information about what I need to do. What my next steps are. Guidance along my path. And, when I submit again – in two or three months – I expect I will be ready to create those drafts I desire. With this first step, with this added time, it will, then, be possible.

 

 

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