Displaying 1 - 10 of 575 entries.

Why Must There Be Two?

  • Posted on December 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I’m not sure if I’ve revealed the specifics yet, but I know I’ve reported my intention to start a nonprofit organization. In fact, I intend to start two from the very start. So, why, you might ask, must there be two?

The goal of both nonprofit organizations is to seriously improve the quality of life available to and experienced by people with neurological disabilities and/or differences, regardless of the severity of those disabilities and differences.

In order to do this, you have to proactively address two different spheres of influence: advocacy and service delivery.

On the one hand, you must work at the (inter)national level. You must raise understanding, awareness, and acceptance. You must advocate change. You must influence society. You must influence legislation. And you must cooperate with other disability organizations to accomplish all of this. This is the advocacy sphere.

On the other hand, you must work at the local level. You must provide opportunities for enrichment (building daily living skills, building social skills, building work skills, building household management skills, building business management skills, etc.) that meet the specific needs and goals of each individual. You must provide opportunities for employment (career planning, job hunting, business start-up, seed money, and job or business maintenance) that meet the specific needs and goals of each individual. You must also provide opportunities for empowerment (self-advocacy skills, issue advocacy skills, opportunities to advocate in the community, opportunities to advocate at home or with family, opportunities to advocate in the workplace, opportunities to advocate at the regional, national, or international levels) that meet the specific needs and goals of each individual. And you absolutely must have a way to navigate the various programs, services, and opportunities that are available in the local community so that the needs of each individual can be met and their goals can be achieved in a cost effective manner so the maximum number of people can be served with the resources available while still meeting quality standards. This is the service delivery sphere.

If you put these two spheres of activity together under the same organization, you’ll get an ineffective, inefficient organization. If, on the other hand, you have both spheres linked but separate, you can produce a powerful, driven set of organizations that meet the complex needs of people with neurological disabilities/differences in both areas that matter most. The (inter)national organization will actively advocate at the topmost levels of society; the local organization(s) will actively deliver the individualized services that are most desperately needed by people with neurological disabilities/differences. There will, of course, be overlap by design: the national organization will “seed” the local organizations, develop appropriate policies, and distribute the capital necessary to “plant” the organizations, while also holding functional local organizations to the conduct standards set in the organization’s charter; the local organizations will “feed” issues and problems to the national organization, which the national organization is responsible for addressing as the advocacy organization, and they will also develop the skills and provide the opportunities for volunteers/employees to move from the local to the national level.

I’ve been around enough to know that the way things are done for people in need—in the U.S. at least—has a tendency to function in such a way that creates dependence without really solving problems. A set of services are provided and people who need help can choose among the options that are available. If enough people have unmet needs after those selections are made, then a new service is created to meet those needs. But people aren’t individuals. Decisions are driven by statistics, metrics, and policy goals. The idea isn’t to help people; the idea is to help demographics. The result is that people aren’t really helped in a way that satisfies their needs, facilitates their goals, or solves their problems. This occurs, in part, because these decisions are made far away from the people who are actually in need, by policy makers operating at the national and state levels.

My goal is therefore two-fold. Create a system and processes that work by actually working with individuals with neurological disabilities and differences. The system and processes will be flexible enough to be individualized, but also knowledgeable enough to leverage available resources to provide as help as much as possible, yet independent enough to fill in the gaps as needed. This will transform the quality of life for the people I understand best and am most passionate about; yet, it will also create a model that can be used by other organizations (the national organization would facilitate this) in order to truly meet the needs of populations that my program is not designed to address.

Usually this kind of holistic solution-oriented service delivery is restricted to select localities. A few local areas work together to solve problems. These solutions become case studies that are offered to other communities. The process is replicated, though the same results are not always achieved because the solution-oriented spirit of the process is gutted from the service delivery design. My hope is that by combining the local impact with the national reach, I can change this. So, there has to be two organizations, inextricably linked, but independently functioning. There must be two.

Soldiers & Disabilities

  • Posted on December 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

If you’ll recall, when the wars first got going, there was a significant amount of attention paid in the U.S. media to the needs of soldiers who had children with disabilities. Programs were created. Problems were solved. Families were taken care of while soldiers went off to war.

Now, as our soldiers are returning from those wars, there is a significant amount of attention being paid to the needs of soldiers who have acquired disabilities while in service to our country. Some of these disabilities are physical in nature. Others are psychological or mental-emotional in nature. Some are both. Programs are being created. Problems are being solved. Our soldiers are being taken care of.

One could easily argue that we, as a nation, don’t do enough for our soldiers. I agree, but that’s not my point.

Both times, people with disabilities and people who had children with disabilities, people in the general population, were hopeful that the experiences of these soldiers would translate to more awareness, more support, and more help for people with disabilities who are citizens but not soldiers. Both times, people have been woefully disappointed. Before now, I never got why these incidents of increased awareness were never generalized.

The public administration perspective, I’m learning, is a rather peculiar worldview. The way working with government agencies shapes ones outlook on the world and its programs is somewhat surprising. After a while, though, it makes sense. As I have interacted with my instructors and my fellow students, I’ve noticed that most of them, with very few exceptions, are far more invested in the PA worldview than I am. I’m not just an outsider looking in; I’m an outsider that is privy to a very intimate look at the worldview itself and how it is shaped.

Despite the natural efforts to pull me into the group, I am most definitely an outsider. My purposes for being in this program are different than the common purposes shared by most of my peers. I have never worked for a government organization and I don’t really intend to do so. That’s not why I’m in the program. I’m not getting this degree to further my career. I am here to learn how to (and how not to) design and build nonprofit organizations that work. This program does serve that purpose—I’m learning, especially with the addition of my independent studies, what I need to learn, even when I didn’t realize I needed to learn it. My unique perspective is also valued—I’m not being forced to conform (not that that works well with me anyway), nor am I being excluded. But I’m still an outsider. I don’t share their worldview, but I’m starting to understand it and even appreciate it.

From a PA perspective, meeting the needs of soldiers during the war helps us succeed in our war efforts. It may be a relatively small contribution, but these small contributions can add up to make a big difference. After the war, meeting the needs of soldiers is both a matter of duty and an investment in our ability to attract new soldiers for the next war or the next deployment. This forward-thinking focus is something I can appreciate; it shows that they recognize the impact their positive and negative actions have, which is very important. Unfortunately, that focus has side effects; the reason this attention to our soldiers’ needs is not generalized to the non-military public is because the attention isn’t really on the needs, but on the soldiers.

For example, there is an effort in our government to help soldiers (with disabilities or not, but especially those with disabilities) obtain government jobs. They’re given a priority in hiring and it’s not only legal, but the requirement to do so is written into our laws. It is considered very important to give qualified veterans an especially good opportunity to work for the federal government and to benefit from support services and training to qualify for a position and to benefit from advancement opportunities once a position is obtained. There is also an effort in our government to help people with disabilities in a similar fashion. They also enjoy certain privileges in hiring that aren’t available to the general public, and may even benefit from non-competitive hiring. BUT while the goals are similar and the methods are similar, the programs aren’t linked. I can find little or no evidence in the consciousness of this worldview that there is a clear and discernible interconnected relationship between these two programs. We have soldiers (with or without disabilities) and we have people with disabilities. There is no recognized overlap.

As an outsider, this is mindboggling. But as an outsider with an intimate view into how this worldview is formed and how it operates, it makes a “common sense.” I’m not saying that it makes sense; just that it makes the kind of sense “they” hold in common.

Our government recognizes that we do not treat our soldiers as we should, and they’re trying to do something to fix that. Our government recognizes that we do not treat people with disabilities as we should, and they’re trying to do something to fix that. But they see both groups as distinct, separate demographics. They treat them as distinct, separate demographics. They address their needs as distinct, separate demographics. And, in doing so, they miss the point. It seems to me that they’re so worried about missing the forest for the trees that they’ve failed to understand that the trees aren’t the forest. They don’t realize that they can “save” the forest without really helping the trees.

If you’ve ever wondered why…

  • Posted on December 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

If you’ve ever wondered why I’m not satisfied with my local disability services…

If you’ve ever wondered why I’m motivated to create a nonprofit organization that is committed to enrichment, employment, and empowerment…

If you’ve ever wondered why I’m convinced change is necessary to provide my kids and other people just like them with what they need to participate fully in our society…

If you’ve ever wondered why a little is just not enough…

I got a letter in the mail addressed to Alex. It concerns the county program that is supposed to help him transition from high school to adult life. It is the program that is, literally, intended to integrate him into the community of our county. Alex was “placed on the waiting list according to the date of your referral.” He is the 244th person on this list. This means in approximately 10 years he will begin to receive services.

He just turned 15, so he won’t receive integration services until he is 25. I’ve been told educational services expire when he turns 22. Now, it may be that I’m just bad at math, but those numbers don’t really work for me.

The worst part of all is, unless there are positive changes, the program isn’t really designed to meet Alex’s needs. It’s not designed to meet anyone’s needs. It offers a menu of choices. It provides services. Keep reading the new posts this week to gain a better understanding of the difference.

The Dreamer and the Rock

  • Posted on December 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

When my husband and I first got married, I was the dreamer. I intended to stay home with our children and write. He was the rock. He knew, more or less, how the world operated. He knew how to work for a living. He knew how to provide for a family.

Our roles were very traditional. A throw-back, really, to a different time and place. The man as the breadwinner is a quaint notion. In contemporary times, you either need a breadwinner who is exceptionally good at providing or you need two breadwinners to provide for a family. And that’s just to attain a middle class living.

My husband was never that man. As a provider, he could eke us just over the edge of poverty. As a family, we’ve never been homeless. As a family, we’ve never been anywhere near starvation. But we have had our electricity shut off. We’ve had our phone shut off. We’ve had more cupboards that were bare than were full. We’ve had problems that money could solve that we couldn’t solve because we didn’t have the money. We’ve been on food stamps and we’ve been on heat assistance and we’ve accepted a lot of help from our families.

Over seven years ago, we made a choice. We knew that, working the jobs he could get in the place we wanted to live, Mark wasn’t ever going to be able to lift us as far above poverty as we wanted to be. We were urged to become a two-income household “like everybody else,” but instead we switched.

Mark became the stay at home Dad. I went to college. I graduated. I started a business. I went to grad school. I started my first book (sort of, but that’s a long story). I graduated. I revved up my business. I started another grad school program. I finished my first book.

There’s times when I feel like a failure because I’m still a far cry from getting us to where I want us to be, but Mark is the first to remind me how much progress we’ve made. The last several months—perhaps a year—I’ve managed to keep our cupboards stocked, our lights on, our phone working. We haven’t been on food stamps for years now. We don’t qualify for heat assistance this year either. We still get medical assistance and SSI, but those have a much higher margin (for good reason). The boys receive reduced lunches, but are no longer eligible for free lunches. I was able to pay for the boys’ school supplies this year and even get them much-needed new clothes and shoes.

Now, I’m the rock. I support my family. My earnings make the difference between making ends and being out of everything before the end of the month. The dreamer isn’t dead. I still envision bigger and better things in the months and years to come. But I am the rock even now.

These last few months have taught me how precarious my position is. Everything relies on me. When I’m unwell, when I’m unproductive, there’s too little cushion. I’m the rock, but it’s like I’m one of those bizarre rocks on the precipice with what seems to be pebbles and gravel holding me in place. You know that story earlier this year (I think) of the guy who knocked one of these monumental rocks down because he considered it a hazard and got in trouble for it—I’m one of those rocks. And it’s not nearly as cool as it sounds.

Self-Isolation

  • Posted on December 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Socializing is work. It takes effort. Even when the people I am socializing with are people who mean the world to me, the people I love, and even the people I love who I also live with, it takes work to socialize. When I’m overwrought, overwhelmed, overextended, overcommitted, and overtired, it takes a great deal of effort just to function. In those times, it’s easier to pull in on myself than it is to socialize.

I’ve been there a lot in the last few months. I’ll horde a small bit of energy for minimum-necessary-interactions, but I just can’t “be there” whenever I’m wanted, or even whenever I’m needed. According to a great deal of literature touching on a broad range of topics, this is not a “best practice” for human relations. The emphasis is almost universally on “being there,” wherever you are, whoever you’re with. If you’re at work, then be there. If you’re at home, then be there. If your home is your work, then set boundaries so you can be there with whatever set of tasks/people you’re with at the moment.

My conscience knows this is right and true. But, in these times of high demand and low self, it feels like a matter of survival to hold back.

When it comes to minimum-necessary-interactions, I force myself to be there, as best I can, no matter what. When I get the boys up and off to school, when I tuck them into bed, and the little moments that happen every day in between. I know my children need me to be there during these moments. But even then, even when I try my best, I tend to be so tightly strung that it’s far too easy for me to snap.

Ben, my baby, my willful young man, tends to trigger my breaking points. He’s not cooperative. He resists going to sleep. He resists waking up. Even with routines in place, there are transitions that he just doesn’t like. Oh, sure, eventually he will fall asleep, and eventually he will wake up, and if these transitions occurred according to his natural rhythms, he’d be just fine. But, like me, his rhythms are out of sync with the general public and the general public determines when school starts. To be honest, I don’t like it any better than he does. There are times when homeschooling seems all too attractive, if only because we could keep our own wacky schedules. Then, I remember that there would still be doctors’ appointments and a myriad of other engagements that have to be on someone else’s schedule. So, while I sympathize with Ben, I don’t give in. Except, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to do it right and my being there just makes things worse. His stubborn streak sets in and our volumes rise and Alex gets upset and the reassuring morning routine turns to chaos.

I’m a kids-first kind of person. It’s wired into my worldview. As the parent, it is my job to satisfy my children’s emotional/social needs as best I can. I feel a great deal less responsibility for the emotional/social needs of other adults. This is especially hard on my husband. We’ve been married for nearly seventeen years. We’ve been through the proverbial fire together. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether we are interdependent or co-dependent or both, but we function best when we are in sync. But, when I pull back, I can’t provide him with the emotional support he needs. I do save up some time/energy for him, too; but, it’s not enough. He keeps trying to engage me when I have nothing left to give. And then there’s my mother, who needs me too, and I have even less to spare for her. The guilt just adds to the stress.

I live in a society that admires those who can “stand alone.” Self-sufficiency is encouraged. But there’s another side of that. There are people who stand alone because they have to and there are people who stand alone because they can’t/won’t stand with others. Those of us who isolate ourselves may do it out of a need to survive—a feeling that we have to pull in on ourselves, rely on ourselves, suffice ourselves in order to survive—but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

I can already hear the surge of criticism: I’m defining “healthy” as “normal” and all that. But that’s not it. We isolate ourselves to survive, because we feel endangered by others. Sometimes this danger is real—it is a learned response, after all—but the response becomes ingrained, it becomes triggered not out of any true danger, but out of habit. Human beings, even those of us who function differently, are not wired to be alone, even when we tell ourselves quite convincingly that we are. We’re not.

Socialization may be work, but it’s also a need. I know this, I understand this, yet the defense mechanisms remain. I know they can be changed. I know that I can change them, yet I feel as if I cannot. I feel as if I’m trapped in the isolation of my own making. My husband reaches out, my mother reaches out, but I am as intangible as mist. I slip through their grasp. I go it alone through the dark, even as I scramble for the light. But there’s no switch to flip. A lifetime of learning cannot be undone in a single moment. The darkness I see is behind my own eyes. It’s inside me. It’s a choice made too many times. But I can choose differently.

Wrapping It Up

  • Posted on December 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Yesterday I was absorbed in a necessary, cathartic task. I took my finals for this semester. The first one took longer than I expected. When I came upstairs, I told Mark, “My statistics final tried to annihilate me, but I reign victorious!” My statistics instructor “cheated.” She presented the questions of the final as real life scenarios. She gave us a few hints, but we basically had to figure out for ourselves how to get the answers to her questions with the data given. I don’t know how well I did. At this point, I’m just glad I’m done. My HR final was essay questions, so that went much more quickly.

As far as I know, I’m all set to restart in the spring. I’m registered, funded, confirmed, and everything. The only thing I have hanging over my head, school wise, is one final paper that was, surprisingly enough, due after the final. I have my first draft finished. Since writing is kind of my thing, my first drafts are better than many of the papers that are turned in as polished copies, or so I’ve been told. The one time I ran out of time and had to turn in a first draft I got an A, so I guess it’s true. It kind of takes the pressure off, especially since I do have time to polish it up.

Anyway, school is almost wrapped up for the nice winter break. (I don’t start up again until January 20th.) I’m also almost completely caught up with my work. Pretty soon I’ll be able to sit back and relax, at least for a few moments. For now, though, I’m still plugging away.

Stupid and Useless

  • Posted on December 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Those are loaded words when you’re part of a community of people with disabilities. Far too many people have been derided as stupid and useless for far too long. Yet those words struck a chord with me.

“Stupid useless pain is much harder to bare than pain with purpose.” –Dr. David Schnarch

I read these words in a book about marital relations. Of course, the book in question addresses far more serious situations than I am concerned with, but I’m finding the basic tools are applicable. More to the point, the pain I thought of when I read these words did not involve (at least, not directly) my husband Mark.

I’m not prone to hyperbole, so believe me when I say the last two months have been hell for me. I’ve had meds messing with my mind. I’ve had so many troubles and complications that I’ve given up hope, gotten it back, given it up, and gotten it back more times than I can count. I’ve been sick for over a month and got so used to feeling weak and dulled that I didn’t realize how far I’d slipped until I started to climb back up to my strength. I’ve been angry at God. I’ve coughed until my lungs hurt and then coughed some more. And, no matter how much I try to get back on track, I keep slipping back into a cycle of decline-and-recovery. I’m still not even with myself.

Most of this time, I’ve felt like everything I’ve been going through was stupid and useless. It’s been painful—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually painful—and it was useless and stupid and ENOUGH IS ENOUGH ALREADY!!!

Like most human beings, I seek relief when I’m in pain; yet, I’ve gone through some incredibly painful experiences and I’ve bore them much better because I’ve understood their purpose. I’ve born these last two months quite poorly. I’ve done things I despise, like yelling at my child for being uncooperative because I just couldn’t handle one more thing. I haven’t done things that I should, like finishing all the work I promised to my clients months ago.

As an adult, when Mark moved to a new place, he’d walk around until he got thoroughly lost in order to learn more about the place he chose to live. On the other hand, we took a trip as a family and I ended up missing an important turn. Instead of going down I-35, we were going down I-90. We got so lost and mixed up trying to cut across between the two that Mark literally used the sky to navigate for me. I hate being lost. Mark takes it in stride and he finds the way forward.

These last two months I’ve been lost and I hated every moment of being lost. I hated being weak. I hated being tired. I hated being in pain. I hated my complete inability to turn things around. I was fighting so hard against the things I hated and I wasn’t getting anywhere. It was stupid useless pain and it was eating me alive.

Then, I stopped fighting. This time it wasn’t a matter of giving up; it was more a matter of looking around and looking up. Two things occurred to me. First, I knew that I had finally completed my memoir and that, whatever happens, it will be published. Second, I saw that in trying to start from scratch I’d begun writing again.

Granted, my business is a writing business. I’m always writing something. But everything I’d been writing since I obtained my graduate degree in writing was written with a specific purpose in mind. Whether it’s for a client or for myself, it’s all been driven by a purpose, by an objective, by a goal. Everything I’ve written has been practical.

I am not, naturally, a practical person. I’m a dreamer. In living my dreams, I’ve pursued practical purposes that, together, are supposed to realize my dreams. But practicality doesn’t come naturally to me. Dreaming does. So, when it came time to replenish my creative well, I started writing the passionate ideas that came to me—without a predefined purpose. And it was liberating.

Now, practically speaking, I’d stopped writing in order to better use my time in my writing business. I suspect that there was no other way to get me writing again than to knock me so thoroughly down that I had to go back to my roots as a writer just to stand myself back up. You see, decades ago when I started writing, it wasn’t with purpose—just passion. I loved to write. Writing excited me. It thrilled me. Cultivating my talent and turning it into a business was something I was proud of, something I loved.

Then, once I’d actually got my business up and running, there came the pressure and the consequences of that pressure and the consequences of those consequences. I became driven. I was still inspired and I was still passionate, but I wasn’t using that passion or that inspiration, not to its fullest. I was working towards a purpose. Everything else fell to the wayside, including the love I had for what I was doing.

So, while I’m still recovering, I’m recovering with a purpose. I’m recovering my faith. I’m recovering my inspiration. I’m recovering my work ethic. And, yes, I’m recovering my health, too. My life is imbalanced, but I’m getting better now that I have a purpose I can really live with, despite the pain. And I’m about one-fourth of the way through the first draft of a novel that I’ve been trying not to write for at least six months. Now, that was stupid and useless, wasted effort. And I realized it by realizing, once again, that pain is necessary for growth and renewal.

The Long Weekend

  • Posted on November 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Now that the holiday is out the way, the boys are eager to enjoy their long weekend. There was a time not so very long ago that the disruption such a change represents would be traumatic. I remember times when each boy (though never all at once) would begin any long weekend by getting ready for school, as best as he could, all by himself as a sign of defiance, if you will, against the change in schedule.

Sometimes that simply meant putting on his backpack. Other times it meant getting dressed, including snow pants, boots and a winter coat, all by himself. I would coax, explain, and coax some more. Finally, I’d leave him be until he gave up on school and decided to play. One time Alex went around in coat, shoes, and backpack until well into the afternoon. Every time the front door opened, he’d go see if his bus had finally come. Eventually, though, they always gave up.

Things are very different now. Even though children with autism do not follow the developmental trajectory of their typically developing peers, they do develop—at their own pace, in their own time, and most definitely in their own ways. Now, the boys enjoy the long weekend. They’re perfectly happy to play all day long. So, that’s what they’ll be doing today and for the next two days. Still, they’ll be happy to return to school and their normal routines until the Winter Break comes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Posted on November 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Raising three children with autism can be quite challenging. Celebrating holidays with three children with autism—or even just one!—can be especially challenging. Over the years, our extended family has grown accustomed to the differences my children’s needs bring to the holiday season. Our family has adapted excellently and I know just how lucky we are for their support and accommodations.

Many families are not so lucky. Many families struggle with basic necessities and holidays can be especially trying. On the one hand, the expectation is that they must somehow access the mainstay traditions of the season, such as a turkey for Thanksgiving, whether their budgets allow it or not. I’ve been there and I know how trying and miserable that can be. On the other hand, parents can go through all the work to procure the ingredients and make the feast, only to find that their child(ren) with autism won’t touch the holiday meal. Instead, they want something that’s more familiar and comfortable. I’ve been there, too.

When spending the holidays with extended family, these complications can be further exacerbated. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can do their best to love the children with disabilities in their family, but if they don’t understand the disability the child has and they don’t understand what the child needs to celebrate the holiday, it can spoil the event for everybody. I’ve been there, too; though, once again, I’m lucky to have an extended family that’s very understanding and accommodating, but it has taken work on all our parts to get there. It is important for everybody to understand and keep in mind that it is not the disability, per se, that spoils a family event; it is the lack of understanding and accommodation that makes the event unsuccessful. That seems to happen in families a lot, and the issue isn’t always a matter of disability, but I’ve found that if people are willing to put in the work to love, understand, and accept one another, then any event can be a success, whether you have little or much.

So, I want to express my gratitude that Willy will be joining my mom, my husband, and me for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. And I want to express my gratitude that Alex and Ben will be able to enjoy the special family time of Thanksgiving without having to try any of the traditional foods. I’m thankful we have the choice and flexibility to ensure that our whole family can enjoy this holiday. And I’m especially thankful for the many holidays we have shared with our understanding and accommodating extended family.

Thank you all!

Try, Try Again

  • Posted on November 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I’m on a new prescription to fight the illness that has been lingering far too long. According to the doctor, it’s still just sinusitis and bronchitis. I haven’t developed any tertiary infections (bronchitis is the secondary one), including and especially pneumonia. So, I’ve got that going for me. The doctor also changed the antibiotic and extended the length of time I’m taking it. So, while I’m not better yet, chances are good that I will be by the time this medicine is through. Meanwhile, I am coughing a bit less and getting a bit stronger. So, I am getting back to work.

Working has been a problem for several weeks now. My work is very cerebral in nature, which means I have to reach a minimal level of concentration before I can produce quality work. The length of time I’ve been away from my work, along with other complicating factors, has also made it necessary for me to start from zero.

Basically, along with the concentration (which is improving) and the knowledge (which I’ve retained), my work depends on my confidence (which was depleted) and my skill (which has become rusty). A final ingredient, which is a bit more mysterious, is the creativity factor.

Creative writers—novelists and memoirists, for example—often speak of “the muse,” which is a nod to Greek mythology. Personally, I see creativity as being less dependent on external forces (like a demi-godish being whispering in your ear) and more dependent on internal forces, like a bubbling “pot” of a variety of inputs and a willingness to put different things together until you create something fantastically new. Though, I believe there are internal and external forces that interplay and interlay amongst each other, which is what makes creativity such a mystery.

For me, the biggest factor is that my creativity is most robust when it’s used abundantly. The more I use my creativity the more creativity I can bring to bear on a new project. Concentration tends to work in the reverse: the more I concentrate the less capacity for concentration during a given day. This creates something of an X-factor, where the one is rising, the other is lowering, and the optimal time to perform the hardest work is when they cross each other. Finding my X-factor is a matter of trial and error, because it is dependent on factors that change from day to day. If I spend long periods of time not working, then I get out of practice. My moments of optimal work time become shorter and finding them becomes harder.

As my strength has improved, I’ve devoted time to getting in the practice I need. So far, my X-factor has eluded me; but, the last few days, I’ve gotten pretty close. This is a sign that I’m ready to get back to producing end-product work for clients.

It’s about time!