Mr. Crankypants

To say that I’ve been busy the last few weeks is a massive understatement. There are certain things that I do daily and weekly that help me cope and process the outside world that I have not been able to do for various reasons. Work has been crazyballs. Home has been crazyballs. It’s hard to sequester yourself when there is so much to do every day. I get those looks that say without words “You’re really going downstairs?” that convey a disgust in the fact that I have things I need to do so that I can handle being around people on a daily basis. When I don’t get that time, I then am just irritable towards everyone and then get the recursive “Why are you acting like this?” looks. It gets to the point where no matter what I do it’s perceived as being selfish.

Well, yeah, it’s selfish of me to take the time I need to process, reset and recharge my ability to be around people when my preference is to be alone. My wife gets it, I think, so does my daughter as she’s showing a similar drive to want to be alone as well. I will always choose to be alone rather than be around people, especially if I don’t know most of the people around me. My energy is drained like an iPhone running Snapchat where my wife in the same situation is recharged quickly.

What doesn’t help is that my wife has no idea what I do despite explaining to her multiple times what I do. Due to the fact that I can’t be alone in a work environment, my Monday to Friday is a struggle week in and week out. The act of just driving home is often a minor respite for me so that I don’t walk in the front door with the stress from the day, but when it’s really busy like now, it’s near impossible. Knowing that I can’t be alone every night, I will be in the common area watching television most nights. Even that has started to become less effective because the house can’t stop making noise or doing things on the main floor because I’m watching television. What should be relaxing and brain clearing instead turns into one distraction after another to the point where everything becomes something I get angry over.

The only thing that has marginally worked is getting up early in the morning and going for a walk. Regardless of the day, I have been getting up early. One major negative to this is that if I don’t head to bed early the night before, I feel worse the next quicker if I’m getting up so early. My balance is completely messed up right now and I’m not sure how much longer I can go with it being like this. I know where this will end up if I’m unsuccessful finding a solution to this problem of being so busy. I’m out of ideas and open to suggestions.

This is your brain on stress

I need some downtime.  For the last few weeks, I’ve had something to do pretty much every day from the time I’ve woken up to the time I’ve gone to sleep.  It seems like months, but in reality it’s only been maybe three weeks.  The stress of going from one thing to the next has my limits being tested especially when plans don’t go exactly as expected.  I can count the number of hours of downtime I’ve had on one hand making finding a long stretch of time where I can unbind my brain that much more imperative.

The free time that I have had was used to run through the finances, complete the family taxes and creatively find funds to pay for tax shortfalls that we didn’t anticipate.  We aren’t by any means in dire straits, but don’t have too much of a cushion or emergency funds to tap into as we’ve already used them a few months back for healthcare bills.  That brings me to something that’s been on the top of my mind, healthcare.  It seems so much harder this year than in previous years as the providers are getting harder to deal with in terms of payments.  It seems being a patient for years, with not an issue with payments, has no bearing on the them forcing a $1k repayment for testing over three months is unfair.  My usual offer to pay back $100/month fell on deaf ears, to which I said I’m sending them $100/month and if they don’t like it, they can send me to collections.

The wife is going to her sisters house for a few days to help her recover from major surgery and is leaving home base in my hands.  I took two days off next week so have a 4 day weekend coming up; something to look forward to.  The daughter is quite self-sufficient at 10 now and finds things to occupy her time.  I have a few activities planned that the both of us can do of course, but they’re maybe a few hours on 1-2 days.  She also has school on Monday and Tuesday giving me several hours to myself that will be a welcome relief.  Those two days will be singing to me like violins out of the sky and I can take my time doing the few things I know need to be done.  One of them being a real overhaul of the household budget that I can really concentrate on with nothing interrupting me.

I need to have another conversation with the wife reconfirming my need for a few hours each week where I can unbind and peel off stress.  The fellow introverts out there know exactly what I’m talking about and understand.  My wife is concerned that the daughter is showing signs of wanting to be by herself more than be with friends on most days; something I said wasn’t a problem.  I was forced into social situations and was made to go outside when I was younger and I resented my parents for a long time because of that.  I told the wife its normal, to let it be, and if she starts becoming too isolated I would take the lead in helping her find a balance.  In my experience, it’s the balance that is more important than forcing one behavior or another; balance makes it good.  My wife, the extrovert, tries to understand but doesn’t have the context to truly understand.

Hope to see you again on Thursday, the wife made another painting that is now hanging in my office.  I’m going to need a bigger office if she keeps up the painting, or I’ll just have to start getting them framed and hang them up in the house.  She’s really getting good at them.  I also had a lake in my backyard for a few hours during a ridiculous rain storm that confirmed that the sump pump does in fact work as advertised.

Holiday season relief for an introvert

It’s no secret, yup, I’m an introvert. I prefer long stretches of time where it appears to an uninformed person that I may in fact be catatonic and unresponsive to external stimuli. I’ve never drooled on myself and why should I, I’m actually rather quite busy inside my own head. I’m a calm lake, windless night, snowfall silence on the outside. I’m Grand Central Station at rush hour, a mosh pit at an Avenged Sevenfold concert, an erupting volcano on the inside. For someone who isn’t an introvert, it is hard to understand just how busy it is inside our heads and how a common affliction like Misophonia can rattle our thought process like a California earthquake (noise cancelling headphones for the win!). This will be my 40th holiday season on this great planet, 22 of which have been spent as a bonified “adult” in the eyes of the law. I can’t say with honesty that all 22 years I would have described myself as an adult, but I digress. I’m going to share some of my tried and tested methods of relief, ranked in order of effectiveness (at least for me).

Solitude

This is often hard to find during the holiday season as its typically a time when you see family that you normally would never want to see under normal circumstances. I love my family, but taken in all at once, in the same house, with kids added into the mix; its pure torture and a Hoover Dam spill way in terms of an energy drain. Anyway, solitude is the most effective, yet most time-consuming method for me to get back to a comatose exterior and a New York interior. While its first on my list, during the month of December it’s shocking to everyone that you’d rather spend time alone over spending time with that Aunt that makes that one dish you mentioned as “good” 10 years ago and she continues to make because she thinks it your favorite….. A man can only have so many Spinach Parmesan squares before it’s “No sir, I don’t like it.”

Passenger Staring

This is by far the easiest thing to find especially when family is 1-2 hours away from your home. My wife already knows that either I drive TO our destination or FROM our destination, but not both, so she decides upon leaving which it will be. As a passenger, I can slip into a self-imposed hypnotic trance where it feels like I’m looking outside windows that really are my own eyes. The trance doesn’t need to last long to be highly effective, but can be troubling to someone witnessing it as it sometimes appears I don’t blink (but I do.) I’ll get the tap on the leg paired with “Are you okay?” even though I’ve been like this for many years. Making sure I’m alive and dashing the hopes of an insurance payout, LOL. Depending on the time of day, this can be a highly effective recharge.

Toilet Time

I struggled with a title for this section, cut me some slack. Finding a bathroom, whether you have a requirement or not, is always a good way to get in a quick reset. In a house with only one bathroom, this is obviously harder as it almost certainly means you will be interrupted. However, in a house with more than one bathroom, the chances you can get 10-15 minutes of decompression is much more likely. While this isn’t ideal, and similar to plugging in your phone for 30 minutes, it can give you an hour or two more of energy to deal with the holiday party or family get together. The success or failure of this method will be determined by how practiced you are at micro-meditation.

Alcohol

My least favorite and often least effective, it does have an almost guaranteed benefit of making time go faster when it really hasn’t. A mildly intoxicated brain isn’t as sharp or aware of its fatigue (energy drain) and of course it’s called “liquid courage” for a reason. I’m not a drinker, so when I do partake in some bourbon or beer, I make sure to carefully monitor my intake in relation to absorbing foods to ensure that I don’t go too far down the road to drunk. This might not work for others, but for me, it does help when there are a lot of people and things going on around me that demand my observation and sometimes, my interactions. I had a few at my parents house over Thanksgiving before dinner, I’ll most likely have a few at my parents house for Christmas Eve dinner, and I’ll definitely have a few at the family get together planned for after New Years. Other than these few times in the year, I rarely have more than one drink per month, if any.

Last Resort

Throw an angry tantrum and demand that it’s time to go. While this works in 100% of the cases, the residual effects can linger for hours and even days afterward. This method is to be used as a last resort, hence the title, so use at your own risk. There is always the tried and true “I’m not going” demand that, if accepted, could potentially leave you at home with an empty house for several hours, see Solitude.

What works for you to help keep your sanity during the holiday season?

A year later and I’m a happy introvert

I’m working from home today and I’m already on my fourth cup of coffee.  My Keurig isn’t the newest and the coffee has recently not been as hot as it should be, so I tend to drink it down rather fast.  I have my personal laptop playing Spotify in the background.  It’s playing the new Flaw album that came out only a few weeks or so ago and I’m amazed that they’ve kept the sound they had from 2001, yet making the new music relevant and fresh.  I’m in my basement office despite the house being entirely empty; daughter is at school and wife is at work.  Only the dog and cat are here to keep me company, but neither of them like the basement if I’m honest.  Like they know it’s a hole in the ground with a heavy two-story house sitting on top of it.

A basement is where you put the things that you don’t want normal visitors to see in your home.  The place where things are taken to be forgotten or stored for the next time it is appropriate for them to be taken back out.  The place where you can hide from the normal stresses and problems of the world if only for a little while until it is time to ascend up the steps.  I often see the basement as a pretty damn good metaphor for how my life is lived and conducted.  The basement is the place I go to remove myself from normal life and descend into a world of my own making, where my decisions are my own and thusly, I own the decisions I make.  Normal problems of life don’t follow me down here and in most circumstances, they don’t return until I’m ready to face them again.  In the past, I’ve spent hours and days in a figurative basement I created in my own mind shutting out everything except the most critical of things.

Fifth coffee down.

It is only now, while I’m sitting in a literal basement, that I finally see the potential for damage that my own descent into introvert holes can create.  There are people in my life that need me to be present in both physical and mental capacities, people who depend on the idea that I’m engaged as much as they are in the circle of life we’ve created together.  This was something that I did not truly understand until I wasn’t a member of the circle we created, where I had to be invited and even ask if it was okay to enter again.  A personal journey into my own life, as I now understand, required that jolt to the system that not being at home last year forced me to take.  At first I was a reluctant passenger, not wanting to admit that I was the cause, not wanting to admit that I had a problem.  In reality, I did have a problem, I was the cause, I was to blame.

After a few weeks, I knew that something had to give.  I had to learn that in order to get what I needed to stay out of the introvert hole, I needed to force myself through situations where I was uncomfortable.  Force is such a strong word.  Perhaps instead of force, I needed to choose to be in situations where I was uncomfortable in order to get into situations where I could retreat into solitude.  The people around me, the closest ones, needed to understand from me why this was a necessity.  That is exactly what I did, finding all sorts of online blogs that I could share with my wife to help her understand my introverted nature from her extroverted point of view.  We were, from the beginning, like oil and water, but I know now that is okay.  It’s okay to not be the same and see the world differently because that is what makes us unique and complimentary to each other.  We’re suited for different situations that, in turn, makes us together prepared for every situation that one or the other shares taking the lead on.

I’m okay with what has amounted to a continuous journey of learning.  Nothing is absolute and nothing is ever a problem that can’t be overcome.  The amazing thing about all of this is that not only had my wife given me another chance last year, but, together we have worked to get to a mutual level of understanding we can both be happy about.  We have started to, through actually talking (go figure), recognize the signs in each other when support is needed vs. solitude; taking charge vs. just observing; talking vs. listening.  We are by far not the perfect couple.  I’m scared of the perfect couple, it’s not natural.  Perfect couples, to me, are like sleeping volcanoes that will at some point blow up and decimate everything and everyone around them.  My sister-in-law is the Queen of bottling things up, creating pressure, and then to explode suddenly over something that essentially is trivial at best.

Sixth coffee down.

After a year of discovering with my wife at my side helping, I’m now in a good place where I feel that problems are recognized and talked about before they end up causing a larger problems.  We both talk a lot more now than we ever have in the past and it took us almost losing our marriage to understand why this is so important.  In a time where people get married and divorced at ever-increasing frequency, I’m happy with the fact that we decided together to work through our differences and adapted to our marriage at 16 years and stopped treating it like we were at 1, 5, or 10 years.  Marriages fail, in my opinion, because one or both participants failed to adapt to the change that marriage demands.  People get older, wiser in some instances, and therefore, it is logical to assume that a marriage needs to change in order to accommodate and stay strong.

I will always be an introvert.  My wife will always be an extrovert.  We understand that somewhat now.  We are cognizant of the fact we’re different people who need different things; sometimes not at the same time.  She gives me the time I need when I need it to regroup, collect, and process my thoughts.  I give her the time she needs when she needs it to connect and feel included to our lives.  We decided together to put the effort into our relationship despite the bumps and road blocks that life inevitably throws our way.  It wasn’t an easy lesson for me to learn personally as I have lived my life for more than 35 years clinging to a mindset that avoided life.  Enlightenment, to me, is understanding how you want things to be around you, but knowing that you’re not in control of anything other than your own actions.  The acceptance of that fact is what makes us choose to do things that aren’t what we want to do, but rather what we need to do in order to live.

Merry New Job Eve…… oh boy

Having the unfortunate luck of having a mild cold on the eve of a new job, I was reflecting last night on my life to this point.  There have been several major milestones in my life that are easily recalled and thought about in vivid detail.  Graduating High School, getting my first real job, getting my first promotion, meeting my future wife and then getting married, buying my first house, having a daughter, etc.  I started thinking about everything as chapters in a book that isn’t finished yet.  I have not had anything earth shattering or life changing compared to anyone else and my book of life would be rather boring honestly.  Anyway, it was interesting none the less.

Thinking about my new job, a deviation from anything in my career thus far, I suddenly started feeling nervous about this new chapter.  I’m prepared, more so than other times, to start this job from day one.  No break in period or kicking the figurative tires.  They need me to start being productive and effective almost immediately.  The thought of trying to figure out my place while at the same time showing I already know my place is a little frightening.  I’ve never had to do that in any previous position I’ve started as I brought experience and knowledge to the table.  That was the reason I got hired.  This job is the first job in my life that I was hired because of my personality and demeanor rather than my technical knowledge or background.  Scary realization time!

What....what the hell?

What….what the hell?

I’m assured by the people soon to be my co-workers that I’m going to be successful at whatever I do.  Do they have to say that?  This is what I’m thinking most of the time when I hear things like that.  I’m my own worst critic and often will beat myself up more than anyone else.  It’s my way of learning from my mistakes, but will unfortunately give a perception to others that is often negative.  I’ve worked on this aspect of my personality for years and have improved, but still tend to head down that rabbit hole.  My biggest fear though is that I won’t be able to keep up the extrovert exterior when I’m at my core an extreme introvert.  Only time will tell in that case I think.

Have my fingers crossed!