gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It has been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I mostly agree with that, it's another variant of "know yourself" and other such truisms making it clear that you need to be in touch with yourself before you can make it anywhere.

I would like to point out that I did pretty well as a blissfully ignorant soldier and truck driver, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here. For the last few weeks, starting literally the day after we returned from Burning Man, I have been having my brain stretched by my neuropsychologist.

These evaluations and tests run the board from the kind of surveys that ask you about your feelings to tests of my ability to retain information to my critical thinking abilities and perception. The results, just from where I'm sitting, have been interesting.

Also exhausting. I leave these sessions feeling wrung out. Some of these tests are extremely hard, forcing me to really push my brain to manage them. Thinking can be hard work, especially when you are forcing yourself into areas that don't work so well due to some traumatic incident. Like a stroke.

So what have I learned just from my observations? My ability to retain and recall information is crap. I forget things really fast or lose them entirely in moments. This is even more pronounced when it comes to numbers. I simply cannot hold numbers in my head. This helps me understand why I am so bad with handling money these days. I can't keep the idea that we only have X to spend when I'm looking at an item that costs Y. Trying to keep those two figures is too much for me, so all I see is Y, and forget that X even exists.

This is why I ask Kirsten for permission to spend any money that isn't cash-in-hand. Even a five-dollar download for Civilization VI has to be cleared through her. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since I think it's good to have one person being the final word on a family's finances, but it can be annoying. I'm a 52-year-old guy who needs permission to buy a book. But we deal with it.

While my ability to retrieve information is shot, I am much more likely to recall information if I'm prompted. We've done several exercises where there were lists of words in pairs. Trying to just remember the words was almost impossible. But when prompted with the first word, I was usually able to give the correct response. Same goes for the long lists of single words. Trying to remember them was a wash, but when asked for them by a category, like "vehicles" or "furniture", I was suddenly able to remember far more of the words than when just asked for the list.

I've also done many tests designed to examine my reasoning. Mostly puzzles and following directions. I'm happy to say those features seem to be working well. But again, when numbers come in I start to flounder. I suspect that my life-long troubles with math have only been made worse by the stroke. Thank Halford for calculators.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. I'm waiting for Dr. Dahl to score my last few assessments to see if we need to do a few more to nail down my exact diagnosis or if we are ready to move ahead with a treatment plan for my depression and hair-trigger emotional swings. I'm good with either path. To me, the important thing is moving forward.

But oddly, the most telling thing about my psyche that I've learned about in these past weeks didn't come in a nice office, but at Burning Man. I've volunteered with the Porta Potty Project a few times. It's a team that does education about how to keep the 1,400 blue rooms on the Playa in good shape, goes around to make sure that each john has toilet paper, and locks off the ones that have been vandalized or, um, desecrated beyond usability. This year, I learned that we might become an official part of the team that runs Black Rock City, and I might be able to drive my truck as an official vehicle to do the necessary work at the banks that lie in the deep Playa.

The way the concept of being able to drive in an official capacity again hit me is hard to describe. I spent nearly twenty years in the transportation industry, most of that as a truck driver. Even if it is just driving a couple of guys and boxes of toilet paper around, it will mean being a driver again. It will mean being part of a team. It will mean I have that part of me back if only for one week a year.

Here's hoping it happens.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's my birthday in a couple of days, and I'm going to ask you all to please ignore it. I have a lot of reasons for not particularly like my birthday, which I'll go into in a moment, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I should be able to ask my friends to be cool about it. But that never works.

We'll go backward. Isn't it grand how every social media site trumpets that it is your birthday to hundreds of people you might not know that well? Well, I hate it. I've removed my date of birth from both Facebook and Twitter, but I have little faith in them remembering that setting. As a result, I have in the past received hundreds of birthday wishes from people I've never met and have little clue about. That reduces a birthday wish to a rote machine action. *Ping* Fred has a birthday. Send cake? y/n.

Screw it, let's go all over the place. I was born on Independence Day. Seems cool, right? All those fireworks and parades for you? Except that when I was growing up it meant my friends - the few I had - usually had plans with family around the 4th. Then I got a little sister for my 5th birthday. Yup, we share the day, five years apart.

So now I was not only sharing the day with the country but with a sibling. As you can imagine, this quickly meant having to alternate who got the big day. I'd celebrate my birthday on the 3rd, or the 5th, every other year. And still, trying to get parties together sucked.

To be honest, the only thing I liked about my birthday was a massive taco feast and my favorite cake. Even presents lost their luster as I grew older. I became extremely cynical about the entire 4th of July thing by the time I was 16.

Then I joined the Army. You think the US Army takes Independence Day off? Ha! I spent my 19th birthday marching in a parade in dress greens then manning a table where I explained the M-16A1 to a parade of goobers. Did I mention that this parade was in Columbus, Ga? It was near 100 degrees and the humidity had to be in the low 90s. And I was there in a freaking suit.

Needless to say, I didn't celebrate that much that year, or any year after that. I just endured my birthday. It's just another day, really. I don't see why such a fuss is made over the simple reality of surviving 365 days.

Because when I think of survival, I look at what I've been through. I've come close to dying several times since 1995, and it deeply affected how I look at like. This was where I started actively hating my birthday. I'll freely admit it was based on a rather nihilistic outlook. I'm doomed to die, why are you reminding me that I'm one day closer to that! It sounds silly, but as someone who is keenly aware of personal mortality, I prefer to look ahead and strive for the new, rather than celebrate the meaningless passage of time.

So on Tuesday, I turn 51. I'll be the same person I was the day before and the day after. Since we got the Omaha Steaks order, we'll celebrate with a nice steak dinner, and the next night we go to see Iron Maiden at Oracle Arena with Ghost opening. The weekend brings the new Spider-Man movie. This would be a great week if it were in June or August.

So this is my request to you all. If you know me personally. If we've spoken face to face or worked on a project together, if you are someone I KNOW, feel free to mention the landmark. You don't have to, but if there is some cultural touchstone that compels you to do so, go for it. If the only reason you know my birthday is July 4th is a notification, and you don't really know me, please refrain.

Look, I know this sounds really anti-social. But it's how my brain works. Last year I nearly smashed my computer over this. It's one of the myriad issues I hope to get into when I get a referral for a therapist. Who knows, this time next year I might be demanding a trip to Reno. After All, I'll be 52 and finally be playing with a full deck!

One birthday present I would like, the California Lottery's MegaMillions game is up to $167 million. The draw is Tuesday.

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