The Race

Dear Strava,

I’d like a quick word about your business model, if I may.

Before we start, don’t worry, this is not a rant about Summit, I have no issues paying a subscription and never have. You have to fund yourselves somehow, that’s a given. My problem, such as it is, revolves around the countless ‘wellness’ companies and fitness equipment providers who you keep encouraging to turn up and ‘challenge’ me for ‘rewards’ which we all know aren’t really rewards at all. What happens is that they get my email address under the mistaken apprehension I’ll buy their stuff, if of course I even bother now to ‘claim my reward’ in the first place.

I think it might be time to evolve past the digital finishers badges to something more tangible.

We all know you’re only competing with yourself, when all is said and done, except those people who do genuinely enjoy racing and being best. I know they’re out there, and also grasp all too well the significance of that as motivation. The psychology is above fault here. What might be nice, as is now the case in Zwift, would be to have some kind of virtual currency earned from events that could translate to… I dunno, being able to customise my homepage, or which you or a wellness organisation might take and match for a charity donation… because the more this becomes about consumerism, the less I want to take part.

Exercise, I will grant you for some, is a quite lucrative career path, but for most of us the fact we’re running or cycling is because we can’t realistically afford all these high-end ‘luxury’ goods that you seem to think we’ll buy if you offer a discount code. Being more ethical is something I’d like a lot of the companies I interact with at least try and look into, and although obviously you make quite a bit of money from selling us as a captive and aspirational audience, there is more to it than that. Take this group I’ve become a part of…

Mental health’s a subject I’ve always been passionate about, and this group is, like it or not, a reason right now to push hard. I get no reward except knowing other people have formed a community where nobody will /flex at me or try and belittle my progress… in fact, it’s quite the opposite. This is a place where I just feel happy to be, and thanks to this I’m beginning to stretch my legs as a runner… and that’s where my second group comes in. I ‘ve given myself three months to run across the UK, where my progress on a street in my town translates to a medal, thanks to @MedalVirtual‘s setup. Yes, I’ve paid for it too, more than happy to do so. It’s a memento, not a transaction, and that’s a vital difference.

The brilliant nature of Strava’s setup means I could easily enter an event across the planet and take part virtually, and the pandemic has highlighted how the importance of exercise is not just about large, group events but simply the business of getting yourself more active for both physical and mental wellbeing. I’m halfway across the country from both the people who have organised these groups but neither mind, this isn’t about having to turn up on the day and just be seen. I can contribute significantly and still remain at home, and that’s what makes this so brilliant.

So, Strava, if you won’t consider virtual currency for sprucing up my homepage, maybe you might consider working with companies to provide me some better rewards… other people are already aware of the benefits.

Yours, six days ahead of her January mileage total,
S
xxx

Stupid Girl

Some arguments are just not worth your time. I know someone shoved that video or think piece into your timeline as a gag, or just to show how other people are thinking but really, truthfully, you need to stop and think. Contributing to these things is, I realise, cathartic for a lot of people too. It gives a much-needed opportunity to rage in a (relatively) safe space. However, in the end, you need to be the better person. No, really you do.

There is, understandably, a phenomenal amount of anger on the Socials right now. It is the inevitable consequence of utterly divisive governance. What happens as a result of this is still to be concluded, and there are those of us waiting patiently for tomorrow to see how that whole impeachment thing goes. Those who stoked the fire will get their time in the furnace, of that I have no doubt, because some people have long memories and the actual political clout to make shit happen. Let’s hope that does indeed come to pass.

For now, if everyone stopped sharing divisive shit online, everybody would be happier, and I could stop feeling the need to share Bernie memes as a palate cleanser. Think I’ll be doing this for a while…

You’re Not Alone

My mate Russ is back on Social media after he went away and did his own thing. When he came back, there was a comment on how easy it was to just reintegrate into the world he’d left behind. The fact this was a surprise to him got me thinking… how you see the world really is just one part of a larger, intractable whole. You can leave things, then come back to them, and it’s perfectly okay. If you’re a basically decent person, that’s how life is supposed to work. Russ is absolutely good people.

Then, this morning, I woke up to see someone in my Socials that I’d not clocked for a while. Their name had changed, just enough for me to remember who they used to be, which was someone who did some pretty horrendous stuff when previously active. The block came without a thought, and then it occurred to me to go look at who was following them. Just because I used to be in a fandom does not mean I’ll refollow everyone who decided to come back after absence. Some were distanced for a reason.

These are the perils of being digitally omnipotent.

There’s a lot of reasons why this .GIF is simultaneously brilliant and depressing, quite apart from the fact the guy who made this film has turned out to be a bit of a dick in old age. If I tell you not to touch something, most will ignore me, because I told you not to. You won’t assume it’s for your own good, that some things never stop being dangerous, to know for yourself is the only education that will stick… and that’s why I refuse to point out the bad people any more, and only support the good. I’m not living your life, that’s your job.

Most of this commentary falls on deaf ears, I realise, because only a few people are experiencing this version of Reality [TM]. When someone asked this week how I was managing to be so dedicated to my exercise goals, the reply was a reflex: the consequences if I don’t are unacceptable. You can complain you don’t want to, or there’s no desire as much as you like but really if it matters enough, you will find a way. If it transpires there is a mental health issue stopping that from taking place? Support exists.

Everything else comes down to your idea of what matters more.

From time to time people will reappear in my life and profess surprise that ‘ooh, you’re still here’ when she never left. I’ve owned this domain since the 1990’s, people. If you’d been paying even the most basic of attention it is not hard to seek me out, but most of you have forgotten how this works, because if you can’t locate me in a Facebook search, or I’m not on Instagram, I’m obviously dead. Honestly, if that’s the mindset we’re working with, its probably for the best you don’t have a clue.

I’m not here to pointlessly recollect on the point in your life where you were happiest either. That should be here, right now, every moment in the present. If that stuff’s not happening, then you really should be looking at the reasons why. Memory serves a vital function, and it is not to restrict your options. Going back to the time when things were great because right now they suck? Well, you can see the consequences of that all over the shop. We’re supposed to feel sorry for those people too because they made mistakes and are now trying to atone?

Some things you cannot ever forgive, and that’s that.

What you perceive is not the Truth, like Opinions are not Facts… all these things are being measured from a subjective standpoint that will never, EVER encompass everybody’s version of Reality. Once you grasp this, everything gets a fuck of a lot easier to cope with. Of course, some people will never do this: their Reality is the only one: give them enough power and everybody’s screwed. It’s why Government, increasingly, is not your enemy. Gaming companies are not your friends. That person vanished off the Socials last time for a reason.

Think more, whilst you still have the opportunity to do so objectively.

It’s a Sin

Sometimes, you wish you weren’t built the way you are.

Loneliness isn’t because there’s nobody to talk to, it’s because there’s no-one around who really understands. You wish, more often that you would ever care to admit in public, that it would be great sometimes not to have all this stuff going on in your head. Trying to explain what you see normally goes one of two ways, too: people get it, or they think you’re the sad one, because you won’t let other people be themselves. That’s not what this is about, I didn’t come here to piss on the fireworks. It’s just how I work.

Being alone is soul-destroying, and in the days before you could just go sit somewhere or do something when it was bad. You’d just sit, and watch the other people who were lucky enough to not be burdened with this and pretend everything was fine. You’d start conversations with strangers just because it was great to have someone to talk to. No, of course these people weren’t your friends, but it didn’t matter. You just wanted to talk to someone, anyone. It just made you feel as if being here was important.

If you don’t understand why this is a Thing, I doubt you ever will. You’re lucky enough to not need that connection, that you don’t ache when someone else doesn’t ‘get it’… this has taken a very long time for me to get my head around. Other people mistake it for things too, think that perhaps this isn’t just about a dialogue and that you want something more. No, it really isn’t. This is finding empathy, and trying to encourage better dialogue, and if it were an exact science I’d not need to sit here, aching to work out how I stop feeling so fucking empty.

Sometimes, you wish there was a simple answer to your problem.

Too Much Pressure

I’ve not been looking forward to today, if truth be told. My weekly race looked a bit hard. I wasn’t wrong.

The harder part of today however has been writing 12 poems from scratch, and I’ve only managed 10 before calling it a day. Mentally, it was a lot to ask, but tomorrow should be easier, as I won’t have to climb a fucking mountain first. This is the first instance where physical exhaustion’s cause a mental consequence for a while. There’s a good chance however those last two will be done before bedtime. For now, I’d just like to do anything else…

Open Up

Today, as I though might be the case, is the fastest I’ve done 5 km for almost a year. This time last year I was in the midst of RED January but yesterday, I had a day off. It wasn’t because I was that tired either, it just felt like a good idea, having covered 10 km for the first time the day before. Tomorrow, I have quite a challenging virtual climb to deal with, and we are into the realms of new and unexplored in terms of exercise.

This is an interesting time in terms of knowing what’s possible and what should be avoided. For the record, yesterday’s rest day was the first one taken since December 23rd. That’s not meant as a flex either, it’s just a statement of how much more adjusted I am to working hard and recovering differently. It’s also got a lot to do with the fact I’m not lifting anything hugely heavy and that endorphin burst, as a result, needs to come from somewhere else.

The biggest step forward, undoubtedly, is pulling this level of effort in the real world and not hidden in the shed. A lot of that has to do with a growing confidence from elsewhere: I submitted the NaNo to a contest yesterday, which would NEVER have happened this time last year. There’s a choice, simple and inescapable: either move yourself forward or never know how good you could be. Balancing the options can happen for the rest of my life but nothing ever changes.

It’s time for some positive, assertive action.

Fear

Have decided to do what I said I wasn’t going to do and publish myself on video to YouTube. It’s another tiny step outside the comfort zone [TM] and as I already know the worst that could happen, there’s very little left to lose. I’ve not had a new Patreon sign-up for months, so stuff needs to change. If I get one new person as a sub, it was worth it. That’s the tiny benchmark that needs to be attained. One new Patreon Sub.

It worries me that those surrounding me have little interest in what I do. It makes me wonder why they follow in the first place. When you ask, the answers are always wrapped around how interesting I am or thought-provoking, yet that is not enough to make them take part. There is the very real understanding, of course, that I have chased true fans away in the past, because that level of devotion I found worrying, and in some cases actually frightening. Finding a balance is a tough ask.

This is as much about me as it is them.

Comfort zones are hard things to break free of. If life’s good enough, especially in the current climate, why on earth would you want to in the first place? There’s enough fear and loathing in place without intentionally manufacturing any more… but to grow, this is the task. It’s why today 10km outside needs to happen for no other reason than sometimes, the only way things improve is when they hurt. I know this will be painful and difficult and that would once have been enough to prevent any forward motion. Now, it just has to be done.

Also, there could really be better trainers at some point, so yeah, being rich and famous won’t happen without showing my face in this world that is utterly obsessed with looks over stats. Sometimes I wish I was better at things that get you better noticed too. Being as susceptible to jealousy and social avarice as the next human being… all of this is part of the exam syllabus. How you cope, and how you react. Getting five people to follow the YouTube Channel yesterday was the most excitement I’ve had virtually for days.

Fear must be overcome for us to proceed.

Hey Ya

Yesterday, I made three videos in one day. Once upon a time, it took me a week to do that just once. Of course, it helps that it’s just me that needs to be edited, and there’s no extra elements at play. However, we’ve entered a new realm after the chaos of Christmas, and there’s a desire to keep the momentum going for as long as is conceivably possible. In the middle of all this, it undoubtedly helps that there is nothing else to do that focus on working: no School Run, nor any real stress from my family.

I also made it outside to exercise. There was shopping done, though the reality in my supermarket of choice is that Brexit is having more of an effect on supplies than anyone is really letting on. After writing this, I’ll pull a yoga mat out and see if I can’t do an hour or so, because there’s undoubtedly some benefit in having a decent stretch once a week. Then, it’s just more of the same for as long as I can, because there is this feeling that if I do stop, everything will just summarily disintegrate around me. A niggle with my left inner ear is a case in point… it’s better now I’m awake and upright. Let’s see how changes in balance affect it, shall we?

No, I’m absolutely sure I won’t crumble, but just in case…

The disturbing thing about this email that I was sent was, undoubtedly, that its title was indeed an old Facebook password. This tells me all I need to know about how safe (or otherwise) the platform was back in 2009 and that I’m really very grateful I have nothing anywhere, any more, that is of any interest at all to Zuckerberg. The next job on my list of Tech Related Gubbins is to delete WhatsApp once and for all off my phone. After that, people will just have to text me. I’m sure we’ll all cope just fine.

The more I go off grid and force people to have to interact on my terms, the happier I become.

Making your Mind Up

I wrote a NaNoWriMo Novel in November, after nine years of false starts. Yesterday, I had a Zoom call with a friend who’s read it, and she’s urged me to enter it for a first novel contest whose deadline is this week. To be honest, there would not previously have been the confidence to do so. However, that call’s galvanised me into action and a week that was already quite busy has now become full-on as a result. Normally, adding onto an already packed diary would bother me, but now? It’s a challenge.

All of this becomes a stress test of ability.

Over the weekend I also finally finished two poetry submissions, and submitted something else that, again, I’d have never possessed the confidence to do previously. Thinking about what has changed between here and last year, very little actually has in terms of capability. However, belief is different, mostly I suspect because if it’s possible to do 500km in eight days, the strength is within to make these things happen when it matters. So, what is there to lose by pushing the extra mile.

I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

Having finally departed Instagram, this time for good, it still feels like the correct decision. After what happened in the US last week, and the undoubted contribution Facebook has made to general disinformation, there needs to be something done as principle. Therefore, I’ll be using Ko-Fi for pictures and art going forward, because it’s under my terms alone. Algorithms can do one: honestly, if it’s good enough in the end, where it happens won’t matter.

This is my future, and that’s all that matters.

It’s Grim up North

Everybody, at some point in their lives, should try and read or learn about both Ethics and Philosophy. The ability to be able to critically assess every idea you’re given is a life skill that a great many people could sorely do with attaining, especially before being given the keys to a social media account. Once you realise that ‘reality’ is only a definition and not necessarily the world around you? So much begins to alter. It’s the foundation of everything else in existence, underpinning enormous swathes of contemporary education, business and crucially entertainment. Let’s ask A Famous Actor to put both together for your mind-altering pleasure…

So, if time is a flat circle, it should not surprise those living through Covid that their lives are, amazingly, incredibly similar to those of their ancestors. But hang on, they didn’t have protest or media stars running their country… ah, but you see, they did. Just because social media has given so many a voice, doesn’t mean that this is the first time ever people have stood up for their rights and worked together. Your experiences may well be unique to you, but that does not necessarily mean those are unique in a wider context, and this is a crucial fact that it’s easy to overlook for expediency, as so many people are already doing.

All that has happened will do so again, unless history is listened to and summarily rejected/embraced, depending on which way you come into all of this. I’ve been at environmental activism since the 80s, and we’re still no further forward in some places than was the case back then. Ironically, the loss of coal as fuel was never the problem, it was how business and government sold it both as industry and a career that was. The echoes with this and finance as the same is not lost on a brain that can already see this forgotten in a decade.

It is easy to see who is learning right now: there are undoubtedly those with absolutely no interest in anything except how their lives remain the most important part of reality. It makes perfect sense, of course it does, as the fear that results when forced to consider anything outside that sanctified bubble is both feeling and action I’m very personally acquainted with. Except, as a human being, fear is part of your growth experience. It is what makes people travel across the planet, urges them to undertake superhuman acts. To overcome your circumstances, to triumph against adversity is a victory against a very human emotion.

With fear under control, literally anything is possible.

I’ve spent a lifetime reading other people’s self-help manuals, looking at how to be happy. The one trick that nobody wants to tell you is that there is no cure-all: they all just hope you’ll make them rich. Once you decouple from the idea that someone else has all the answers, that buying stuff or treating yourself is all just your brain tricking you into a cheap dopamine hit? Honestly, it all gets an awful lot easier. The true reality is balance, and making sure fear never has enough fuel to destroy your life.

If you can manage all that and still feel happy? That’s a pretty decent life, right there.