Silence

At about thirty five minutes into this morning’s run, I began to cry. It wasn’t pain or upset, but relief. For a very long time I’ve been afraid of what might happen if I pushed too hard: I could hurt myself, or run out of breath in my lungs. I could fall off the treadmill:  a 101 potentially disastrous situations run through my head, and my anxiety flares like a fire fed with sudden burst of oxygen. This morning, I locked it all away. The reasons why this shouldn’t happen have now been superseded by a need to prove it is possible. There cannot be any more excuses.

If you want this enough, why won’t you do it?

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There are so many fears that rise and fall within me: am I being a good mother, a decent partner, do I do enough for others… but ultimately, I always end up ignoring what it is I want most of all. I’m beginning to realise that the whole Patreon thing might yet be a blessing in disguise because, for the last six months, I ended up doing stuff I began to hate. Writing was becoming a chore when I felt that people needed to see a definitive return for their investment. I made it a job when it should be so much more and now there is a chance to sit back and look long and hard at what it is I really want to do. For now, exercise allows means to build mental strength required for the next stage of this journey.

There are a ton of things I’d like to happen, but know I have to be careful not to be distracted from what matters. That means getting my novel finished, and then edited, and then trying to find someone interested in publishing it. After that I want to keep writing other stuff: short stories, poetry and blogging remain really important, but not at the expense of making myself unhappy. It needs to be on my terms, and that’s more important than anything else. How I make that happen is now in flux, until there’s a chance to decide on a solid, comfortable path. I also know that certain things will hurt and be tough on both body and mind. If it’s doable on a piece of exercise equipment, it will be achievable on screen.

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The unexpected still has the power to derail me, as was the case yesterday, but this morning that setback was the inspiration to move forward. Instead of seeing bad things as irredeemable or obstacles, it is time to push through, over and then to look back and solve the problem. If I’m stopped then there’s the chance of not ever moving again, and this is a reality that will no longer be entertained. I don’t need inspirational speeches any more, the time for playing to the Gallery is over. This is for me now, and nobody else, and it is my soul at stake.

To be happy, I have to deal with what holds me back, and right now that is myself.

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Not nearly enough of my life has been lived on principle. Expediency is no longer something I feel comfortable entertaining. Occasionally, reality holds up signs that you cannot easily choose to ignore and, in my case, the last 72 hours have been filled with offline portents. Forget the disaster that’s been my online life for the moment: waking up to snow this morning and the realisation that I’ve managed to complete some significant real-world milestones, but that others are a long way from even being doable. Life is about choices and making the best of what you have.

That means that certain things need to change.

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The more sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are now a number of donation buttons on this site. These are here as stop-gaps as I readdress what it is I want to do with writing, as I wait to see what Patreon has to say as a result of the last 72 hours. There is a desire to provide people who want to offer support all possible options, and that’s why (even as a committed tea drinker) you can now buy me a coffee via Ko-fe. However, at the back of my mind, I am now reasonably settled in principle as to what will happen going forward. If you want to understand those thought processes, you need the Writing Blog.

This place will remain as fitness, ranting, geeking and an increasing interest in getting back to reading and crafting. All this will be the balance of what remains very much a career in writing, however I choose to make that happen. There are other desires hidden too, things that will eventually get to see the light of day once there’s enough time and space to allow the ideas to grow. For now, I’ll be sticking to what I’m good at.

If I keep doing that, it will all work out in the end.

Road to Hell

I knew something was up with Patreon (I think) on Thursday, when someone who I support via the crowdfunding platform started making noise over fee changes. What I wasn’t expecting was the subsequent universal meltdown when it became apparent that my initial understanding of what was going on turned out not only to be the truth, but an intended part of the company’s business plan. I’ve spent a bit of time reading corporate forecasts over the years and know that you don’t lie to your investors if you want to remain a viable concern. This, to my eyes, is a company prepping itself to either a) get bought out by a larger concern or b) make more money than they already are. They are, in essence, a beautiful metaphor for what is considered ‘successful’ online.

Patreon have made their name by enabling individuals the company do not consider as successful. That’s a pretty significant smack in the face to someone like me for whom their platform has literally become a life-changing experience. Without this ability to sell myself to people halfway across the World, my life would not be as good as it is now. Life changing sums do not have to be in the four figure or upward range. Knowing that more than 20 people would fund me was a revelation. As a number of people withdrew their support from the platform on Friday, each one contacted me privately, pledging they would continue to support me elsewhere.

On reflection, this is how I know Patreon is not needed to move forward.

I’m still very angry, but am not going to start attacking the CEO by name or hounding people via Social media. I can be as indignant as I like: it is very clear to me, looking at the evidence now available, that this is not a decision driven by conscience. It is, purely and simply, the means by which the business encourages those who are not making enough money to leave, or those people unable to organise themselves outside the platform to remain beholden. I saw a company rep suggesting in a message on Friday that Patreon users actively encourage their users to up their pledges in order to cover the fees. I’m not about to start strong-arming people who I know are supplying me cash often simply as the equivalent of moral support to give more.

What happens next however is a lot to do with my conscience and far less to do with the platform itself, which is a change from the situation last week.

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Of the people that I support who use the platform for their own work, all are very much in too deep to easily extricate themselves without serious financial hardship. I am about to hit $1000 made since I started the Internet of Words project. This is a not inconsiderable sum, but it is not huge. What the fuss around these changes is doing is making my low level funders (of which there are many) stop having an interest in the platform. Many will legitimately cite this as a reason for stopping their payments, but for others it will be a convenient excuse to move on. For that reason alone, I think it might be the moment to reconsider what I’m doing and rethink the plan.

I’m fairly settled in what is going to happen next for the Internet of Words. I’ll make a formal announcement tomorrow on the writing blog, knowing that the people that care and wish to support me will continue to do so regardless. That’s the key here: I’m not going to be beholden to someone else in order to secure my success. I want to do this on my own, and am well aware that is possible with the right backing. I won’t judge those people either who choose not to agree with my decisions. That’s not how business works: if I make the wrong decisions, that is my choice to stand and fall beside. In effect, that’s all that’s happened here.

Sometimes, you don’t need to make money to be successful.

Won’t get Fooled Again

I’ve dropped the youngest off at school, and have popped into the closest supermarket for some milk and apples. I’ve picked up a couple of rolls of wrapping paper for gifts, and am in the queue to pay. Behind me, a guy empties his basket onto the conveyor belt: three bottles of expensive looking Prosecco and a copy of the Daily Mail. I look at him and almost instantly he replies: ‘I know what this looks like, but there’s a good reason for both.’

It’s 8.50am, and already the day is interesting.

He goes on to explain he only buys the paper for the crossword, that his kids abuse him but it’s a habit. Someone then told him the night before at a Christmas event just how good the wine was and that it always sold out and so he’d come to get a bottle for Christmas Day, one for a gift and one ‘to try’ to check the person who told him wasn’t lying.  I then realise, as the guy shows me his Guardian app on the latest Android phone as some kind of justification for his own embarrassment that I’ve encountered a beautiful metaphor for affluent modern life.

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I know many people who insist they still buy reprehensible right wing scumbag newspapers from force of habit. They’ve gotten used to this being their daily purchase, for whatever reason: maybe their parents bought it, or they are addicted to a part of the paper that is nothing to do with news output. The fact remains, these habits keep papers like the Sun and the Mail in business. If people stopped assuaging their need to feel safe in familiarity, a lot of these ‘institutions’ could vanish overnight. Except that’s too hard.

Then there’s the wine recommendation, another way to soften the blow of bad news and coping with life. The fact he took this on spec and bought three bottles before breakfast says a lot of the persuasive selling abilities of the woman the night before. One assumes if he hates it they’ll gift two bottles instead of one, but this kind of impulse consumerism is what got the oceans in the fucking state they are now. The fact remains, social networks like this (and I’ll include Twitter and Facebook in the condemnation) are the means by which too many people define their lives, based on what other people say and think and not on their own choice.

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Yesterday I encountered this attitude in spades, and the even more galling belief by many that you shouldn’t complain when companies make money off their own success, regardless of whether it hurts anyone in the process. I’m not going on about the Patreon bombsite any more: it is apparent from the publicly available news regarding their efforts to raise venture capital that nobody cares about little people any more. All that matters is those users prepared to make money that in turn makes the company look successful. With no consultation over change and Patrons being told they need to push people to pay them more money to cover the charges… I get it.

What this means for me is that it is time to give people alternate means by which they can fund me. It is the opportunity I required to ensure stuff doesn’t become habit, and that I am thinking independently, based on what matters most to me. I know I shouldn’t start my day making snap judgements of random strangers, but when that stranger feels the need to apologise to someone that they don’t know over the suspect nature of their life choices? Who’s the one with the issue here, exactly.

Changing long term destructive habits is not hard. Have the balls to start today.

Work It :: The Beginning

Right then. Time to stop fucking about.

I spent an hour yesterday with my Trainer, and she made me a plan. It is, without doubt, quite a conservative affair, but has the potential to break me. Except, as I hung on the Roman Chair yesterday after 30 minutes of really very hard treadmill exertion, sweat literally dripping off me and onto the floor, there was a realisation. I don’t hang any more. Now I hold on and in my arms is the distinct realisation that, if I wanted, I could pull up. Sure, I wouldn’t get very far, but there will be a point not far from now where, when that happens, I will do pull ups. I will go up and down, and that will be another thing ticked off my list.

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I made this happen. Sure, my Trainer encourages, and lots of people support but, deep down I have become my own evolutionary process. I’m the one putting in the hours and working everything else around it. I know the limits of body and that’s why this new plan will be hard because there’s so much new stuff to learn. I’m gonna find a way to save every new cardio workout in my Phone, and then make reminders of all the other stuff in the same way. I’m gonna spend time at the weekend making new iTunes compilations. Then I’m gonna turn up on Tuesday after my PT on Monday and fucking smash the next five weeks into the ground.

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When I do pull ups properly, you can absolutely bet your fucking arse there will be video. Then it’s onto the next thing I couldn’t do, and the next one, until I run out of shit that scares me in terms of exercise. I’m too far into this now to turn around on January 1st and say fuck it, stopping now. This is not about proving a point or letting my progress slide. This is making absolutely sure that I am strong enough both internally and externally to do all the stuff I want to, for as long as is need, on my terms.

Fight me, fitness regime.

Games People Play

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Occasionally, there are days (like yesterday) when you have to accept loss. Like it or not, everybody screws up. Sitting crying in the Gym car park helps nobody: sure, it makes you feel better, but a logical mind can grasp that if you’re the one at least in part who started the fight, then you have a responsibility for the argument. As long as the days going backwards don’t exceed your forward momentum, everything is golden. That’s why I’m here to remind myself this morning, ahead of all the other stuff that has to happen, that how I conduct relationships is really important. This week, therefore, has been significant in terms of how that takes place online.

Everything I ever needed to know about life I learnt from James Bond.

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Okay, hang on a minute there Bald Eagle, how does the sexist, misogynist 007 start handing me life lessons, exactly? Well, quite apart from ensuring I don’t end up living my life in the manner of a Bond movie (with the inevitable big red reset button at the end) I find myself thinking about what James is good at, and how (amazingly) that provides lessons for me. He’s the best poker player in the British Secret Service, for starters, and that’s because he never plays his own hand, but always that of the person opposite. He’s also taught me how to deal with being poisoned and betrayed, but that’s not important right now. Let’s apply the Poker metaphor in a slightly different fashion, shall we?

When you move into new online relationships, the temptation is often to go overboard in explaining yourself: motivation, ideas, goals… all this in the first flush of ‘getting to know each other.’ I realised this week that this is not the most sensible approach, because it can often isolate people who are not easily comfortable with coming forward or opening up to strangers. It can make you look pushy and domineering. What I ought to be doing is letting the other person come forward first. In effect, I have to become them. Instead of playing my own ‘hand’, if I play the person’s I’m speaking to and effectively imagine what it must be like to be them, there’s a chance of better understanding and empathy from the word go.

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This has worked at least once in practice since the revelation hit, and going forward seems like a really logical means of finding a middle ground with relative strangers. When someone asks you how you are, don’t spend 15 minutes explaining the details. Summarise quickly, effectively and then ask about them. This is probably common sense to large proportions of the rest of the world, I realise, but I’m coming to the world of interpersonal relationships with strangers quite late in the game. If nobody bothers to take the time to explain this shit to you and you have to work it out on your own… well, here’s how it pans out.

Start new relationships by looking at other people first and not yourself.

It is a fine line we all tread in the modern World when it comes to interactions, especially when kids are being taught social niceties via YouTube. I realise now that it is all well and good to believe you have all the tools required to be a decent human being, but that is never always the truth. Every part of your personality needs constant reassessment and balance: you don’t have to do it daily, not even weekly, but every so often sitting down and asking yourself ‘am I doing enough?’ should be a prerequisite for every human being. My son might laugh at my attempts to reduce food waste in the house and increase recycling, because he can see no discernable change in the issues via a wider stage. However, if everybody does these things, the World can and will change. Believing you have no direct influence on the environment around you is a lie.

If you desire change enough, you can and will make it happen.

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My daughter will tell me that she hates my inspirational speeches, but I won’t stop giving them, because if even a scintilla of that belief gets through to her, it is progress. Nobody bothered with me, arrogance assuming that I’d just work it out for myself. Well, I didn’t, and after decades of nobody pointing this out finally, blissfully, people did. Only when other people cared enough to break the shell of my own ignorance, unwillingness and despair was I able to move forward. I entirely understand how horrendous and soul destroying depression remains, but in my case at least, it is my task to deal with and nobody else’s problem but mine. Learning to ask for help was the hardest thing of all, and it still is. However, now I get the formula that works. There’s understanding of what needs to be done. I stopped playing my own hand, and looked outside myself to move forward.

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Plus, any excuse for a bunch of Bond .GIFs is never a bad thing. Next time you start a conversation with a stranger? Ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen.

Learn about yourself by listening to others.

Bad Day

Two cars today, involved in an accident about six miles away, have effectively swallowed my morning. As we live very close to the main road between here and London, anything that happens on that inevitably grinds all traffic to a halt. Coming back from dropping off the youngest I abandoned the car in a side road so I could avoid the traffic, pop home for a wee and my handbag, before making my way to the Opticians round a less travelled path. I even had the foresight to phone ahead and tell them I’d be late, which I was. I now have a vital second pair of glasses on order. My eyesight hasn’t deteriorated, I just need the help a bit more now it is darker earlier and I’m driving more.

Yes, it’s another security blanket, and that’s just fine.

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Once I’ve organised everything that needs to be done and have ensured my scheduling’s  all complete… I can finally start on getting Christmas gifts finished and packed, ready to be sent. Somewhat optimistically I have given myself five days to do all of this (including the family’s gifts) so I can concentrate on writing projects running up to Christmas. I still think it’s doable: I might be a bit knackered by the end of it but that’s going to remain the objective right until it appears I’m ‘aving a laff.

For now I’ll be on hold with an operator ^^