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Fight the Power

When I grow up, I’d like to be a Professional Troll-Slayer.

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No, not THAT kind (though I do have the beard for this) but the type that has enough brains, clout and sheer bravado to take the Internet Troll to task: news feeds are now littered with examples of how J.K Rowling slays all who deserve it. Often Trolls don’t care about anything but the attention: their actions aren’t motivated in order to provoke a response, it’s being able to spew hate without caring over consequence. Except now, with increasing regularity, trolls are being held to task in spaces outside of social media.

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Jack Monroe’s a local lass, friends with at least one person my husband knows, and extremely capable of not taking shit from anybody. The fact she’s now suing one of the most notorious spewers of arrogant and selfish rhetoric on the Internet, Katie Hopkins, fills me with a great deal of both satisfaction and comfort. This is the same Ms Hopkins whose employers at the Daily Mail were forced to cough up a six figure sum over another libellous claim only a few months ago: sadly however, it looks unlikely that this woman will ever change or discover the importance of considering consequence before speaking. However, one assumes that if you get libel proceedings posted against you enough times then eventually people will stop employing you… but we all know that’s not true either.

However, what this case (and others like it) will hopefully highlight is that you can’t just say whatever the fuck you want on the Internet any more without there being some kind of consequence. On the other side Twitter themselves are finally beginning to respond to many complaints that there’s simply not enough ways to deal with the speech at source. There’s been a number of new features that were introduced by the Company at the beginning of February, and indicators that certain behaviour may be being blocked completely. However there’s no independently verified confirmation of this, just the muttering of various websites with quite obvious and extreme right wing political bias. So, perhaps it is best simply to concentrate on the stuff we know is truth, from the source:

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I’ve used the Abusive Tweet service on several occasions since November and it is certainly a better and more thoughtful means of targeting what should be genuine abuse or attempts to spread disinformation. However, what this doesn’t provide for is twofold: the previously normal person who ‘goes rogue’ or the professional person such as Ms Hopkins whose presence on Twitter is as important as advertising for the platform, right up until the point it becomes detrimental. As we discovered with a certain young British chap who made his name via social media, you can get away with pretty everything until sex comes up, and then it’s Game Over. Twitter may have banned him last year but by then the damage was done. If the wrong person gets upset or angry, and goes on a rampage, even deleting those Tweets won’t be enough: as we have discussed with George Takei in recent days, people have surprisingly good memories, and everything can be screen-shotted.

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However, by far and away the best tool to prevent people from taking you to court is a brain. You simply don’t post, or step away to begin with. If you do go in with your axe held high, be prepared to fight clean and clever. Rowling’s undoubted brilliance is, unsurprisingly, as a writer, and her barbs aren’t hurled at the person but at their comment. Libel, strictly defined, is a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; effectively a written defamation. None of those sick burns are ever about the person themselves, simply the words used, and as long as you understand how thin that line is? You can tread it safely, secure in the fact that this is the way to approach Trolling with Style. The moment you start threatening a person physically or calling their personality into question is when the alarm bells should ring for everybody.

In essence, social media demands people to consider their anger in a literary context when it comes to people or events they find discomforting. If you can take the time to use your words well, they are better weapons than any you might find lying about to poke others with. In fact the damage these words can and will do should never be underestimated: it isn’t the sensitive or exposed at threat here either. On any given day, the President of the United States can be made angry and annoyed by what he hears on a TV screen or on Social media. Journalists can be offended. Prime Ministers can agree or disagree. I’ve seen this all in the last week, and all of this has happened with the power of letters, connected into sentences. Your words can destroy, or liberate, and yet so many people never consider their significance until it is too late.

Time to think more, friends, and hate less.

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If You Love Somebody Set Them Free

The truth is a difficult topic for discussion around these parts.

Many people have, over the years, attempted to divert the course of history by presenting their version of the truth. The movie above is a fictionalised version of someone’s attempt to stop a previous US President in his tracks. Depending on who I believe, there’s plenty of other stuff in progress to derail the current incumbent too:

The truth can be created on all manner of computers, both ancient and modern.

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The overriding problem with ‘truth’ when it comes to politics is knowing who to believe, and what ‘version’ of the truth is the one most important to ‘expose.’ When you consider the last President to decline an invitation to the Correspondent’s Dinner was one R. Nixon Esq., there’s a reason for thinking that maybe the truth that involves Russians and hacking might hold some traction. All the noise That Man is making about it would certainly suggest that he’d rather people stopped digging, but will this eventually be the truth that destroys his aspirations of power? More importantly, what is it about actors and the truth (albeit in a sanitised form) that helps us as mere bystanders better grasp the real changes going on around us?

Hollywood needs to reflect a truth that politicians try to supress, and although it may annoy many people to hear that in a speech where you’re more interested who designed the actors clothes than the message they give, this stuff matters. A blue ACLU ribbon on a red dress, a Planned Parenthood button on shimmering gold… these are not overt signs of affinity, but a new form of quiet revolution. These are people who know very well what the truth is and the significance of upholding it. Last night’s Oscars may be remembered by some as a mix up when an actor just read what was on the card before thinking through the consequences. For me however, it was about a major part of American institutionalisation finally holding up a hand and admitting that it wouldn’t fuck up like it has in the last few years ever again, because it now grasps the worldwide consequences if it does.

The truth can set you free, but only if you allow yourself to fully embrace it.

The future is about challenging the perceived truths that surround us. If you pick a visual representation of your ideal mate, and then are presented with 8 ‘versions’ of that truth, how do you look past the superficial and find someone you can truly connect with? Maybe the reality you need has nothing to do with facts but can only be assuaged by going to pick up rubbish in your Community, or volunteering for unpaid work with people crying out for assistance. Perhaps you will stand tall with others in a demonstration, or teach your children that to question the world and be ‘different’ is neither bad nor wrong, but should be positively encouraged. This however is not the time to stop caring and leave it to someone else. Here we stand, with the need to understand not only individual truths, but the larger issues that bind our realities to each other.

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These truths are not real or fair. This is not what I want the future to look like, and yet this is what my government and others believe is the only truth that matters: if you were not born here, you do not belong. This is not a truth I ascribe to and yet the reality of our existence now is this chaos of one hand pulling and the other pushing, when both should encircle and care. Why has truth deserted us? That’s simple: people are afraid. My elderly parents, both unhappy that their future means uncertainty remaining in a community that’s provided peace for decades, somehow felt that we’d be better off living as isolationist, poorer in both minds and pockets. I’m sorry the other 52% of people who caused our chaos couldn’t see beyond their own selfish needs, but their truth has always been a lifetime away from those who don’t just see their own desires as paramount.

The truth, ultimately, will never be enough to change a selfish reality.

I’m getting tired of being told the truth will come out. I’m sad that my future is decided by people who don’t care about anybody but themselves. I want a better world, and am beginning to realise that the only way this happens is if I do it myself, and so I will. All I can hope is that if enough of us stop being bystanders, afraid of what might happens if someone else doesn’t act, that perhaps together we can turn things around. There has to be hope, and right now that matters more than the truth.

I hope I can find a way to make things better for the children I am leaving this Planet to.

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Ballad of the Mighty I

Sunday is my day for personal reflection, and it is particularly satisfying this week to look back on seven days that have not simply moved my life forward, but allowed me to relax into the process.

#365photochallenge #blogger #photographer It was a VERY good night 🍸🍸🍸

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Last night I was drunk: it took four homemade Margaritas (yup, I’m a cheap date) and the stresses and strains of the week simply got lost in the fuzzy haze of a loving husband who not only suggested I could do with the night off but arranged the Mexican dinner to accompany it. I don’t remember the last time I just allowed myself to relax enough to laugh, sing and smile like this. It has been a journey thus far of lots of work but perilously few rewards and I now grasp that maybe there could be more of that and less running myself to the limit. Having accepted that I can only do so much in certain areas of my life if I wish to excel in others? Now comes the process of rearranging the parts of my life to truly reflect the changes I am now going to make.

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Next week’s gonna be a bit odd: I have two days enforced rest because I give blood on Monday night and I learnt the hard way last time there is NO WAY I’m doing anything major until Thursday at the earliest. That means arranging everything around a Thursday/Saturday Gym routine and then on Sunday, the youngest is 12 and I have a day up in the trees doing climbing and other adult activities. This I’m not 100% looking forward to, I will admit, but as my upper body strength is now better than it was the last time I did one of these and I survived then? I should be okay.

I just hope the weather is better than it was last week.

#365photochallenge #blogger #photographer What's the Fuss, Doris?

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I’m beginning to enjoy planning a daily photograph too for Instagram, now I’ve been doing this for a couple of months it has become habit forming and I’m really pleased with the quality of picture being produced. I am still to do any major work with my camera however, and as it is March next week, it is time to fix that. I’ll be looking for a chance to go to some local spots as the weather gets better and make a point of take pictures.

Lots is planned, now all I have to do is make it a reality.

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The Same Old Song

I made my first visit to the USA in 1994. It was arranged, I will happily admit now, using the X Files USENET group. This involved a round trip from a town near Boston to New York, via State College to Washington DC. What happened in 10 days is a story I will save for another day because it involved trusting people that, looking back on the journey, I’d have never in a million years been involved with were I planning to do this today. They were undoubtedly simpler times back then and I was naive enough in my 20’s to believe people might just want to meet me as a friend. The truth, on reflection, was anything but.

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The last seven days, for those of us who have lived online since USENET in the 1990’s, has been pretty much par for the course, all told. However, there is a whole new group of people who are discovering that if they thought modern politics was a swamp worth draining, then the Internet right now’s a nightmare they may not really be prepared to even adequately grasp.

Watching ‘normal people’ grasp 4chan, Reddit or even the depths that Twitter can sink to has only come about because the President of the United States speaks more to his elected populous here than anywhere else. Twitter has effectively become the ‘free speech’ platform used by Government (and not just the US version) in an attempt to lie, discredit and derail anyone who decides that its not doing the right thing. As a tool for good however, it is undoubtedly a massive boost to anyone who needs their message heard. This jungle may be a step up from the swamp, but remains fraught with potential pitfalls. As the adage goes, ‘what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet,’ often for decades after the fact. That means, if I so desired, I could go pull up my lame-assed attempts at early fiction, affiliation to a number of other fandoms, failed relationships with several people I hope never to see ever again… and so on.

When you live your life ‘online’ there are consequences. I’ve done a lot whilst existing here since those early days and so, I suppose, I accept that if you live a certain way, there’s just things you don’t do. Last week a friend (you’ll see his tweet a bit later) pointed out that George Takei (you know, that bloke from Star Trek) broke one of these cardinal rules last weekend and swiftly paid the price. If you ask a question and you don’t get the answer you wanted, the last thing to do is try and pretend it never happened. In fact a sane person will grasp that perhaps their view of the World isn’t as black and white as it at first appeared. In this case however, someone famous online made a mistake and instead of standing up and admitting that, they simply chose to pretend it never happened, and that’s just asking for trouble in a social network that never sleeps.

It was a tiny storm in a massive teacup, but made me stop and think. Almost 69,000 votes and in the sphere of Twitter that Takei functions within (I imagine social media as tons of overlapping circles, like a mahoosive Venn diagram with multiple points of overlap) the split was 49/51. If he wanted a landslide to confirm his opinion it wasn’t going to happen, because there’s an awful lot of very disenfranchised people online right now. Clearly expecting a different result, the poll was deleted, and that’s NEVER what you do online. Even I know that rule, but I didn’t realise there are others that not only exist, but are being handed out quite early on that you’re never going to find in any number of guides to the Internet given out by schools or even parents.

Thanks to @IrishBites, I now have a better understanding of how the Internet is altering to accommodate differing groups of people. I’m also aware that a subset of this group (who are referred to in the original article above as ‘The Deplorables’) were responsible for mobilising social media and, at least in part, can be considered a significant force behind allowing That Man to be elected as President. It occurs to me that a different subset was probably instrumental in Brexit, and when you grasp the influence Social media now has on daily lives and big decisions, it is time to sit up and take notice of the power it wields. For those wishing to cause trouble, rules should not be of significance, but amazingly they are. In fact, once you grasp how this game is played it becomes incredibly simple to grasp how those who don’t think before they act can not only be tripped up but ensnared by their own good intentions:

Remember that press conference after the Presidential Inauguration where Mr S. Spicer used pictures to prove that there were more people attending than the ‘popular’ press suggested was true? That incident could almost have been an Anonymous ‘shitpost’ following every single guideline listed here. The suggestion that arguing with trolls is pointless to begin with is the ultimate win state, of course, because you were the one stupid enough not to think of that before you posted. The true Troll knows when to pick up on weakness and to avoid the fight they will never win. That’s why you’ll see people try to attack certain figures but soon give up, because if you know your own failings and won’t allow others to exploit them, they have no power over you and never will. Ultimately, trolls win when you give them the ammo.

‘Roasting’ has become the new social benchmark for who wields real power, the ‘Thread!’ cry a means by which any idea can find an instant audience without the need to own either domain or website, and Twitter itself has somehow evolved away from what it would clearly like to be in the eyes of the business people who created it, namely Facebook only more profitable. However, I’m betting Zuckerberg would happily sell the remaining portion of his soul to have That Man using his social media platform as a means to practice Government, seemingly unrestricted on a world stage. It is no wonder that 1984’s getting a showing in US cinemas when you have a man effectively dictating what will happen in a country, via a platform with a worldwide audience.

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Except, true reality is not just online, or the ‘version’ of events you choose to consume. Reality is hard work, takes a lot of thought, and understanding that most individuals simply don’t possess. It’s not an insult, but might be if you’re easily offended by truths. The real story behind your 140 characters is a little of the shitpost, a dash of personal need, the slightest sprinkling of conspiracy theory. To understand what really goes on requires concentration and consideration, not confirmation bias. You are not right every time, and your beliefs might matter to you but not for others. In all of this, there is a space to find for each person that allows reality to present what are intractable truths, and it is those that should shape any movement forward. The Clown in the White House is like the Bad Magician in Downing Street: all smoke and mirrors, simply distraction from inescapable facts. This planet cannot sustain us at our current selfish rates of consumption. EVERYONE is equal: not under anybody’s God, but at a basic level of DNA. Race, sex and birth are irrelevant. 

Greed in all forms condemns everyone’s existence to ruin unless change happens NOW.

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I tell you what you do, Jen. Think before you post. Realise that ‘truth’ means more than a set of points on a graph. Be nicer to people, and stop assuming it is all about you, me, or anybody else. Accept fate, and let go of anger. Let nothing surprise you, and be willing to accept everything as ‘normal’ for at least somebody. In effect, that shitty set of internet rules are, like it or not, a decent way to conduct your existence, and having everyone follow a basic set that doesn’t mean that one group can profit off anybody else is, like it or not, a pretty sound way forward. Yeah, we need to make money to survive, but how about if you have more you give it to those who don’t once in a while, just to see how that goes. This is not difficult or complicated, yet it has become the hardest thing to do. Stop having an ego, and allowing it to be bruised, and just live your life as if each day were your last because you know what? At the current rate of stupidity we’re all experiencing, that might yet turn out to be the case.

I can’t change the world, but I can change myself. If we all did even a bit of that, what might that be able to achieve long term?

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Go

I have a couple of heavyweight posts coming up this weekend, that have taken me a while to write ‘properly.’ Because I’m trying to be a grown up about non-fiction, there’s a level of technical competence I simply don’t grasp without approaching process in a particular way. That means a series of drafts and rewrites until I get to a stage where I’m not only happy with words, but comfortable with the ‘story’ I’m trying to convey. Over the years I’ve become quite good at ‘spoofing’ my way through daily blogs, but when a reasonably serious subject matter is involved, there does need to be research, or I sound like an utter twat. Effectively, I’m now constructing blog posts in the same mindset I approach fiction, and that might take some getting used to.

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The last five days have been a revelation for me. In a way, I feel somewhat vindicated for the decision to shift away from gaming as a primary focus. What the move has done, which came as something of a surprise, is release pressure to perform I’d not previously grasped had existed. Now I am more concerned with subject matters that demands a more complex form of technical difficulty, there’s a challenge I’d forgotten is enjoyable. It also helps that in the last 10 days the Warcraft community’s undergone a bit of an epiphany for itself, which makes writing an ‘idiot’s guide’ (where I’m the idiot) somehow more significant as therapy and less as a means to keep people interested.

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Progress is real and significant on the personal front too: more weight has been lost, and the focus heading forwards for me will be less cardio-focused and more around building upper body strength. My shoulders particularly are beginning to suffer as the weak point in a chain where arms and back are both increasing in density and ability. If I can continue shifting weight at this current level (which means aiming for a kilo a week) I will be sub 70kg at the end of March and at that stage I may well decide to stay there: right now, physically, I feel in an extremely comfortable and sustainable position. I’ll do a separate post on running next week, but I have found my happy place now, and I can get there without too much effort. Now I’m back to Monday PT I’ll run across the weekend and we’ll see how things stand afterwards.

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Once upon a time I would have been obsessed with the scales, but now I’m far more aware than I ever was of how I need the mass in good ways, especially when it comes to stamina and endurance. It isn’t just my brain’s that changed this week, body is not far behind, and now it is time to reflect what I need to alter in long-term planning going forward.

However first, it’s time for a cuppa.

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I Love It (I Don’t Care)

Quite early in my Warcraft blogging career, I wrote a post in total ignorance about the stupidity of Devs naming in-game armour and trinkets after seemingly ridiculous and nonsensical items. What I didn’t know at that point was the name I’d innocently abused belonged to a real life Warcraft player, who was ‘influential’ in the part of the Community I’d pitched up in at the time. Once this was pointed out to me I was mortified, and immediately apologised, but it didn’t matter. The damage was done, and subsequently a load of people I really liked and considered as friends dropped me and my blog like it was lined with asbestos. Yesterday this moment resurfaced when someone linked me a Tweet from an account that has me blocked, I’m fairly confident as an upshot from this same incident. It appears that there are still those that consider me a toxic influence, despite years of trying to demonstrate that I am anything but. 

Even when you strive to change and improve, others will not care, and that’s fine.

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The assumption of some people when being on the Internet is simple: you’re out to attack me, aren’t you? Then there are the others who’ll lament that nobody cares what I say or write… and the list goes on, countless ways of having your online ego matter far more than anyone else, in a place where it isn’t about being correct or shouting loudest, but being allowed a right to a voice, whatever it has to say. These people continually fail to grasp how selfish ego pushes the promotion of self above all else. It is not about being the centre of all if you’re here to vocalise opinion without prejudice. I’ll freely admit, it took me a while to learn that lesson, and there are still days when I wish that my needs could be instantly assuaged by declarations of brilliance. Then I remember the harsh and horrible lessons learned by living online for several decades, that genuine compliments are never asked for and rarely earned, and how when you’re inescapably under attack every word that’s meant to be praise ends up as poison.

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This ‘place’ we all inhabit is not won or lost by the number of followers you possess or the hits on your Blog, and yet there is this constant complaint and background noise that somehow this remains the only way to be considered ‘successful.’ In fact, those who consider success as something another person gives you are the ones really not understanding the bigger picture. I’m watching various arguments happen right now about places that pull in more cash than I’ll make in my lifetime being failures and how this isn’t fair when put beside the obvious hard work that’s been placed into them. Well, I hate to break this to you, but that’s how life works. Stuff becomes popular, then it doesn’t. If you’re smart you’ll reinvent yourself and move on… but if you remain unmoving, there will be consequences. The other point that needs to be made here is very simple: this isn’t about people. If you make company ‘drama’ over specific individuals and their own desires, it will never, ever be a situation that successfully resolves, with one key exception. If your website fails, and it’s just you writing, then the blame is in your lap. If you’re run by a massive corporation and it all goes tits up? The buck could stop anywhere, roll your D20 to decide.

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That’s why I don’t need to succeed any more being a Warcraft blogger. I’ll grant you, there was an 18 month period a while back where I entertained the possibility, but then I remembered that naming incident and looked at the environment around me and grasped an important truth: if all you are concerned about is your own existence, that’s living life wrong. I’ll grant that there are a percentage of the player base who are decent, thoughtful and considerate, but of the people who I exist alongside on social media, there’s an awful lot who aren’t. That’s why I now run a very strongly and fiercely curated Twitter list, and I’m quite proud of the fact I no longer just roll my eyes at the collective stupid that abounds but attempt to confront it head on. The truly arrogant people, of course, read my thoughts and either assume it’s obviously directed at them and not general advice or attack me for opening my mouth to begin with.

At least I know then they possess the ability to listen, and possibly change.

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Everybody fucks up, just a fact of life, but if your response when someone makes a genuine mistake is to ostracise them? More fool you. On more than one occasion I’ve been this stupid and done just that, and going back to apologise will not show you as either weak or stupid. In fact, it should confirm your status as human along with the rest of us, and will earn you snacks and respect for at least grasping there was fault on all sides. There are still those who’ll only see Twitter as their soapbox, or Twitch as their theatre, and I doubt that will change as long as there’s a fan base to agree and Drama to generate. Oh, and to those who might then argue I’ve turned my back on them for an honest mistake, I’d ask you to take a long, hard look at yourself. Was it just me you had an issue with? Have you overreacted consistently on social media? Can you honestly say you care about the thoughts and feelings of other people? If you feel genuinely aggrieved feel free to come find me and ask for that block to be reconsidered. However, if your sole aim was to get what YOU wanted?

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There are those people who tell me that posts like this aren’t helpful, that stirring muddy waters only results in more drama. Well, I’m past that stage and on the other side of the river. Looking back at yet another bridge burnt, I know full well that the people who won’t be stopped by a loss of access will simply move downstream to find a safer way to cross. Maybe they are brave enough to swim across at the point where river meets the sea, pushing against the tides of expectation. If they don’t care and there’s a boat to protect them, perhaps that will be enough for now, but maybe not in the future. Ultimately, your own soul is the arbiter of truth, and mine tells me this way is my true means forward. Those who accept this truth make their own decisions, following and leaving in often equal measure, and long may this be the way this journey continues to happen.

Sometimes, it isn’t about being the same thing, all the time.

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Round and Round

I had such lofty plans today, and thanks to seven hours sleep and the fact today’s post draft sucked monkeyballs, I’ve thrown everything away. Tomorrow I will try again to be an adult with words, but right now all I’m capable of is small sentences and barely restrained anger. The problem isn’t my planning or the world around me, not today. Body, like it or not, is refusing to what is being asked: hot flashes have returned, temper is as short as a Gnome. My mind, for large portions of yesterday and today, simply refused to do what I asked of it. I will admit to worrying as to the reason behind this but in truth I am well aware that this is the coda of full menopause that I’d been warned about. In two weeks, it will be a full year since I bled ‘properly’ for the last time.

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I could have a decade of this to look forward to. The ‘symptoms’ of fertility shutting down vary wildly from woman to woman. I really don’t want to spend ten years yelling at clouds but that is a possibility I must plan for. That meant today’s primary objective was to exercise as much as possible in the time I was awake to try and exhaust myself to get past waking up at 3am in a hot sweat. This was the best way across last summer to ensure that sleep happened, and certainly helped when I was in New York. Then it is all about eating well and trying to grab kip when I can during the day. I’m considering looking at natural remedies to help, but I certainly don’t want to go back to hormones unless there is no other way. Right now I think this is copable with alone, but six months non-stop might change my mind. We will see what happens.

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If you see me quieter or crankier than normal in the next couple of weeks, this will be the reason. Try and understand, and maybe cut me a break, but it is okay if you don’t.

I understand if you’re not that kind of person.