Monday, January 27, 2014

This, to me, is incredible

For any of my friends going through huge life changes or experiencing grief or loss, this is an honestly amazing article.  Outside of talk therapy, I finally felt understood for the first time in what feels forever.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How lucky are we?

My minor at university was linguistics [major = romance languages.] This guy makes me want to apply to Columbia and with linguistics as my major. I had a professor from Barcelona for my Spanish Lit class, who, when we would struggle with teasing out the meaning of stories and poems, would remind us that "language is liquid." The point being that most of us had been studying Spanish for at least of six years, learning rules and exceptions to which we were clinging, and effectively, missing the nuance that added meaning to what were reading and meant to digest.

The irony of me sometimes lamenting that it seems as though things move too quickly these days [you kids get offa my lawn!!] is that we are actually watching the development of a non specialized dialect, perhaps a language, in a single generation. Despite my nails on chalkboard response sometime to the bleedthrough of textspeak into non text writing, this is actually amazing.

Textspeak will never be elegant, but neurolinguistically and culturally, it's actually pretty damn cool.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hard work, motivation, and success

Questionable graphics, but excellent observations.

Ben told me earlier this week that I was inspiring.  It was odd to hear because I feel anything but an inspiration.  One of my mantras for the last several months has been, "Fall down 7 times, get up 8."  The experience of constant rejection or even outright failure [I choked horribly on an Excel problem that should have been a breeze - though I think that other factors were at play and I subconsciously self selected my way out of the position] have been discouraging and sometimes agonizing. I'm not particularly accustomed to not exceeding expectations.

There have been days when I have wanted to stay buried beneath my covers and wish the world away.  I'm proud to say that they only times I've truly succumbed to this urge is when I've been flat out sick. Instead, I early on adopted a coping mechanism of music and comedy, not only listening to it to motivate and produce the laughter / endorphin response, but it, thanks, especially to Youtube's suggestion sidebar, has enabled me to find interviews with some of my most favorite artists about their process of success. What I found most interesting is that they all admitted to it being an ongoing process, even having achieved "success", it involved a great deal of work.

Of the artists I most appreciate and respect, they have all experienced imposing situations of disadvantage, adversity, rejection, and failure.  I also discussed this with a star college soccer player that I met on my flight back to San Francisco after Thanksgiving and she wholeheartedly agreed: it seems too often that we only see the success and don't realize the sheer effort and dedication, the wall of willpower that it requires to achieve and maintain success. 

Of success stories, I hesitate to call them inspirational, but more educational.  They teach us that "failure" is really not that at all.  Think about it: when a child is learning their language or how to walk or spatial recognition, but says "refrigabator", falls down, or initially tries to put the square in the triangle opening, we don't say that they've "failed", we encourage them to learn and master.   The fact is that "failure" is an iterative process that includes a learning curve.  A learning curve must include the determination to get up, again and again, until you find that sweet spot or you nail it or encounter that avenue of compatible personalities and goals for a successful ongoing series of results.

Additionally, even the most successful realize that they have to do this on a continual basis. The myth of "having it made" is a dangerous one.  My favorite interviews are from my favorite comedians, musicians and actors, "A Listers", who are phenomenally successful and openly admit that at the end of a tour or a movie or a show that they are often back in a position to have to pitch an idea, go to audition after audition, do small sets to work out their material for a full show, or go back to the drawing board and create an entirely new piece of work / album...whatever the circumstance may be.

It's sometimes easy to forget this, to feel the shame in rejection and not gratitude that someone has done you a favor by helping you to steer away from something that was a poor fit or something that you perhaps weren't quite prepared to take on.  The importance is remembering that the challenges will never cease; by definition you will launch and enjoy the thrill of soaring, but even on an existential level, gravity will bring you right back to a starting point and life's a marathon and not a sprint, so take the long view and keep at it.  I personally think that we're hardwired for challenge and creating success, but it truly does require dedication.  Look at us, we survived saber toothed tigers, right?  But not by sitting down and expecting them to saunter off.

Most of all, I think that this attainment of our goals is only sweetened by our vital investment in and commitment to the process of achieving them...and on that note, this.


Friday, January 10, 2014


I've spoken quite a bit about this to close friends and family, in person, as well as a bit on FB, but as I'm trying re-enter the workforce, I'm coming to understand that the articulation of ideas and perspectives is becoming crucial.  To anyone who has heard some of these things already, I apologize, but sometimes finding one's way is only through iteration.

In about a month, it will be the anniversary of the accident. I'm not preoccupied with it, I don't feel particularly emotional or traumatized about it, but I do realize that I've essentially hit the baseline of my TBI.  My healing still has a long way it can progress, but a few weeks ago with some more tests that were, thankfully, part of the initial insurance package, it was established that my brain is unlikely to ever be the same brain it had been for the previous 42 years.  I had been preparing for that, but you know, it's weird to hear it confirmed.

It doesn't mean that I'm less intelligent. The unfortunate thing about TBI
is that most people think it's always a form of brain damage in the sense of a diminished intelligence. I will say that is a form of brain damage, but argue that it doesn't necessary involve diminished brain capacity. It takes some time to get back up to speed and some days, it physically feels as though you can feel synaptic rerouting happening. It's equally frustrating and fascinating.

My brain works completely differently than it ever has in the past.  For example, I used to see entire papers written out in text in my head.  Writing them felt like transcription.  Math or science was seeing the equations or formulas like it was being displayed on a movie screen or white board in my head.

Now.  Now, I think in shapes and colors and movement.  Same ideas, but I have to translate them.  I'm not as quick to the draw as I once was, but the understanding is still there, even if the perspective and access to language is slightly different. As I've explained a number of times, it's like being a toddler with an adult context of how the world operates. A brand new ever-changing brain with new controls. Or maybe it's like learning to drive a different kind of stick shift.

Before, I kind of liked things loud.  Now, I can hear hummingbirds from a quarter of a mile away [they sort of have a squeaky, chirpy thing that can get super irritating] and conversations on a patio from five blocks away.  I can smell most of my housemates when they walk in three floors down and the restaurants from over a mile away.  Sadly, my vision has NOT improved, though I no longer have a dominant eye, which is both interesting and confusing for everyone involved.

Part of me doesn't really know what I'm trying to say here. We all experience loss or changes or what may be seen as diminishment in capabilities over the course of our lifetime.  There's a delicate balance between fighting against that and finding the beauty of the flow of change.  I've decided to accept the latter, because it seems an interesting new path.  I also want to journal about the steps of that change both for my and others' reference, because there really is one part that wakes up exhausted still, another that says "shhhh, tell no one", and another that's all, "Dude, this shit is super cooooooooool!! Check me out!"

So, yeah, life's pretty weird sometimes.  But it's better than the alternative.

A revelation

The following TED talk is possibly one of the most life changing presentations I've ever heard: Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

I have easily listened to it 6 time in the last 24 hours.  The significance of this talk is that having grown up with very little security and having experienced a great deal of uncertainty and trauma over the last 2 years as well as being prone to anxiety attacks, compounded with the constant message that anxiety can kill you, I have over the last year reached epic levels of anxiety "feedback loops" where anxiety about having anxiety quite literally triggers anxiety attacks.  

I'm not talking about worry, I'm talking full body shaking, tunnel vision, static sound in my ears or the loud thump of my seemingly impossibly rapid heartbeat drowning everything out, and profuse sweating despite being cold.  When they are over, sometimes my shoulders feel bruised from the tension with which I held them through the event.  Understand that these are not absence seizures, these events are the direct result of a series of thoughts that run in such a tight cycle triggering fear and uncertainly that I have a phsyiological response.  I'm completely lucid, but I cannot break the mental pattern of fear. It frequently wakes me out of a dead sleep in the early morning hours and leaves me largely ruined for the rest of the day. 

Obviously, it doesn't help that I'm in the midst of a job search and that few things are harder to face than financial concerns, but these were some hard decisions that I had to make and I stand by them. I regularly engage in CBT and physical therapy to keep on track, but I am also against medicating myself [though I do use vitamin supplements along with passionflower and valerian extracts when needed.]  The problem with anxiety is that it is an acute and exhausting sense of helplessness and being told that it [anxiety] can threaten your health and even cause death, takes the threat level to a near impossible shade of red, especially for someone with an already overactive imagination. 

The beauty of this talk is that A] I found that I'm already doing the right things [learning to communicate, lean on loved ones, ask for help, and be available for support when and where I can], B] beyond life being terminal in and of itself, I'm not as screwed as previous conventional wisdom has led me to believe, C] I can use this to my advantage, or at least not let it be a disadvantage, and D] I can trust myself.  The depth charge of WOW was so powerful that it almost felt like shock at first.  In interviews, I keep saying that part of the time I have taken off was to reframe what I wanted from life, but this has absolutely reframed what I feel as though I can do with my life and my contribution to the lives of others.  For the first time ever, I don't feel like time bomb or a liability to my loved ones.  I feel as though I have been released from a kind of prison.

This afternoon, for the first time since the car accident and since returning from NZ [apart from a few random days here and there that I can count on two hands], I walked down the street, with shoulders relaxed and without the feeling that I was on a tightrope above a sea of glass shards.  What has been the ever impending dread of the fog of fear surrounding me was gone.  It's hard to explain what a revelation that transition is, especially because I knew it could never come from external sources [hence, amongst other things, my resistance to long term medication therapy.]

To those who aren't personally familiar with acute anxiety, I'm certain that this sounds like hyperbole or exaggeration and the only thing I can say is, thank your lucky stars for not knowing the feeling and if you ever feel as though you may be sliding down that slippery slope, please know that there are tools for handling that don't always require ongoing or long term medication.  I would like to note, however, that sometimes, that really is the way to go, and whatever works for you is always the best path; I simply don't respond all that well to them and have chosen to seek behavioral corrections to address my long term strategy.

Finally, this has been on constant repeat for many days.  Mostly because there WILL be bad days, sometimes many in a row, and I think that we can have a tendency to become unforgiving with ourselves when this happens, but self imposed isolation is not a good course of action.  Shane's collaborative animated video is excellent, but I have to say that this version is so incredibly evocative when coupled with the deep compassionate wisdom and support of his poem and beautiful the music bed, that I am absolutely enamored.

Saturday, January 04, 2014


I think that, equally, my curse and salvation will be that one word. [That and "I don't know" in the most real of senses almost got me killed for most of my childhood...because I I didn't know, mostly because I still needed to know why, on so many different levels.]  I realize that is the brain of a child, bursting with passionate curiosity and creativity because not having limitations imposed is the birthplace of possibility.

I eventually reached a place of "because."  Not "because" followed by an explanation, simply "because."  I understand the logic of "because": it's comfortably and deceptively safe.  It's also stagnant and often lacking vitality.  And, to be clear, this isn't an "Eat, Pray, Love" kind of post.  I'm simply trying to explore what makes us want to swim in the wonder of it all.  To get out of bed and "do this thing" because it really would be easier to go all Pink Floyd on life.  But I don't want to.  I get bitchy.  I get pissed off and fed up and I throw mini tantrums.  I'm not always San Francisco hippy dippy, but I just cannot stand the idea of giving up.  And I cannot stop asking "why?', not as an indictment, but as a means to understand.  Maybe it will always only be beautiful chaos, but I crave knowing the mysteries behind people's personal stories, science, math, and every other undiscovered wonder in the universe/s.