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Making do

Posted Oct 24 2010 12:00am

Well, my windows laptop is making very strange, loud, alarming sounds a squealing, grinding, belt-slipping sort of howl so rather than take my chances, I’m switching over to my old iBook, which I got back when I had money to purchase more than one laptop. I never used the iBook much, because it’s a Mac, and I’m not that familiar with Macs, and never before had the urge to be. Fortunately, my work laptop is still alive, so I’m not completely dead in the water for completing some windows-based work I need to get done today, but switching over to a Mac after being accustomed to Windows, is a challenge.

I’m up for it, though. Heck, if this works out, I may just make the switch permanently. For my own work, that is. Work-work is another story.

This iBook is probably at least 7 years old, with a version of OSX that won’t support the newer browsers and their display. Oh, well. I need to wean myself off broad-spectrum technology dependency, anyway. What is it that I’m trying to do with my life, anyway? Live for machines? Live through machines? Live because of machines? This is an ongoing conversation I have with myself on a regular basis, for which there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer.

I will say this, though. I’m a lot closer to finding an answer that’s appropriate to my current life, than I was just a month or two ago.

At this point, having come into this new job where it’s clear folks are still sorting things out, and the modus operandi seems to be to point fingers and lay blame, rather than approach the situation(s) from a systemic point of view (thus repeating cycles of poor performance and unsatisfactory results), I’m going into self-preservation mode. Like so many others I work with, I’m focusing more on my own self-betterment and my sanity, instead of getting caught up in the churnings of middle management, which seem primarily designed to disrupt the processes of others and get in the way, so that middle management (which in truth doesn’t fully understand the work we do, and in fact can’t possibly be expected to), doesn’t have to look completely culpable for the screw-ups that occur regularly.

That being said, the strongest focus of my self-preservation lies in improving myself. Improving my performance. Improving my ability to deal with what arises in a helpful and productive way. All too often in the past, I’ve gotten up in my head about things that went wrong, telling myself it was me and my brain that was a mess. I was all too eager to blame myself for the issues around me… all too quick to blame my brain for tripping me up again.

To be fair and accurate, I have had long-standing issues with getting turned around and not realizing it till much later. On the inside of my head, everything looks fine and dandy, while on the outside, things are getting progressively more mucked-up, with possible solutions getting farther and farther from reach. (Not that they can’t be achieved, but they get harder and harder to see clearly.) Still, I need to be wary of my tendency to fault myself for every issue that comes up and I need to be careful that I don’t blow my interpretations out of proportion. I have a tendency to do that, and I know it. I need to go gentle. Go easy.

So, going easy… how to do it? First off, I need to give myself a break from all the busy-ness I’ve concocted over the course of the past six years or so. After my last TBI, I plunged into a flurry of frantic doing-doing-doing, thinking that I was going to revolutionize this, that, and the other thing. A lot of it was based in a deep-seated agitation and constant restlessness that my neuropsych has cautioned me about. Ultimately, all I ended up doing was making myself nuts and digging a lot of holes that led nowhere. They were deep enough for me to lose sight of the world around me, but not deep enough to take me very far in any particular direction.

Now, how do I give myself a break from all of that? This computer switch seems to be a good start. I’m forced to pull all the documents I MUST have off the dying laptop and put them onto this “new” one. I need to change document formats in a lot of cases, turning .doc and .odt (OpenOffice document format) into .rtf’s that my iBook can read. I also need to really scale back on the sorts of online activities I do, since this laptop doesn’t have the same wireless connectivity that my other machines do. This is not actually a great hardship for me. Ironically, although I’ve been online since 1995, I am moving farther and farther away from the online media. I’ll check it for news and interesting blogs posts, and I’ll post to this blog, too, but I don’t spend nearly the amount of time online that I used to. Even my online studies have fallen away, as I’ve realized I actually do better with books, and anyway, the things that I thought I was understanding online weren’t actually sinking in. I just thought I was getting it. What I’ve found, after spending more and more time slowing down and taking time to think things through, breathe intentionally, and focus on my physical health, is that I actually don’t like to spend a lot of time online. I’ll check my email, and I’ll post to this blog, but I don’t actually care for the online environment the way I used to. What’s more, I find that the more time I spend online, the more wired I get, and the less I actually get out of the experience.

It’s not like sitting down to write at my computer. Far from it. It’s more like wading into a crowd of people talking in very loud voices, not many of them saying things I care about, and precious few of them listening to each other.

Indeed, the amount of content that actually interests me online is quite limited. But I know what I like, so I can spend what time I can, reading/browsing/digesting that all at a leisurely pace, not the frantic go-go-go of the mainstream online media.

It’s funny – I’ve been a diehard PC person my entire career. I started out on old IBM PCs, and I’ve stuck with Windows through thick and thin. But the more complex things become, the wearier I get of all the bells and whistles, and the more inclined I am to seek out technology that just works without me having to think about it to figure it out. Maybe I’m getting older… or maybe I just have better things to do with my time than hassle with operating systems and maintenance and configurations and whatnot. This, I now see, is the profound allure of Macs, which has lured in so many of my friends and family, never to return to the “wild west” of windows glitches.

Now I get it. And as I focus more and more on hassling less and less over details… streamlining my life and making choices that will let me focus on the most important aspects of my life (rather than the non-stop avalanche of details)… I find it wonderfully relieving to be getting away from that crazy-ass directory structure glut that was gumming up my life. It wasn’t just the sheer mass of crap on my old laptop that was slowing my down, it was the time spent wading through it all, figuring out what was the most important to me, from moment to moment, day to day.

Moving off that old computer and onto this new one with less disk space, but so what? and making choices about what I will devote my attention (and disk space) to, is a good and worthwhile exercise. It’s something I should have done years ago, but never needed to, till my laptop started making those godawful noises.

Sometimes, that’s what it takes.

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