Heartbeats

Don’t tell anyone, but there’s been a fair bit of celebratory chocolate this week to see off the Difficult Poetry Collection.ย Guilt about this yesterday forced me out for an afternoon taking pictures: I need to be walking more, but weather is not helping. However, with all things considered, if there could be more yesterdays, I reckon a lot of issues would summarily vanish:

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It was fabulous being out, too.

Part of me was worried that Spring was a bit earlier than usual, but looking at pictures from last year, I’d say it’s a bit later. Those pictures also confirmed I was walking to the Gym an awful lot more than is currently the case, so March will be a Walking Month.ย I am not going to be able to fundraise again and at the same time badger people to support my writing journey, so we are going to skip the Walk All Over Cancer thing. I will donate to them, however, because… guilt is expensive :P

This is not a relaxing mental space to be inhabiting right now. I can’t put my finger on exactly what’s wrong, but if there were to be a guess I’d say it’s a lot to do with committing myself to a path that previously I was not totally comfortable with. Now, however, there’s a far better idea of what is (and is not) doable and really, I just need to get on with it.

It doesn’t help that hot sweats have returned with a vengeance, that I’m getting so cold afterwards that this is being typed with gloves on. Bodies are strange things. It just requires a bit of planning when going out, and the understanding that hot’s easy to deal with, cold not so much. It’s another level of organisation: like remembering not to do the School Run the normal way, coz for three months there is a fucking huge hole in the road causing a lot of traffic chaos.

When it happens enough times, you remember to get prepared.

Talking of prepared, As Velo Essex is closed roads, and has two flavours (50 and 100km) I’ve nabbed a 50km place. Husband will be doing full whack, around an area which was used for the Tour de France when it came to us. The website’s crashed this morning for registration, but we both got in early being members of British Cycling. It is already looking like a bit of a grin.

Better start looking at a training plan, I suppose…

Titanium

Yesterday was really hard, but at the same time extremely helpful. The one poem that had not been sitting right in my collection submission got re-written at the hairdressers. It’s now at least 500% better than it was, and the whole thing, as discussed, is now done and dusted. It doesn’t get fiddled with again, either, that’s it.ย For the first time in my adult life here’s something that needs to remain untouched.

The next time anything happens is publication.

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What happens now? That’s an extremely good question.ย There’ll be some yoga this morning, plus the arrangement of my PT schedule and exercise classes for March (gotta love some planning.) I need to work on channeling anger into more productive avenues. There needs to be an apology on the writing site about overreaching before I was really ready (looking at you, video content.) There’s stuff to do.

I need to relax a bit as well. The stress of holding onto something for three months, after a pretty emotional re-editing period, needs to be let go. It’s why last night’s exercise session was less than optimal, because honestly what is needed right now is not more of the same stuff. It might be the moment to re-organise things completely. My PT is on holiday at the end of next month and here’s a good place to switch things about.

Taking March ‘off’ looks like a very good idea.

Back to White

It also gives me time to play with poetry and photography and templates, which is the side hustle that appears to be working out really well right now. Graphic design skills are becoming the ability I didn’t realise was needed but which really is sticking me front and centre. However, I’ve managed only two follows this month. Nobody said this would be either instant or easy. Time to reassess the hashtags and reboot.

Everything is in a continuous state of flux…

And So It Goes

This is a funny game I’ve played, for a couple of years. Willingly, money I can’t really afford to give is handed over to people in the vain hope someone will like my work enough to publish it. Only by being published does one have any hope of being noticed, and it is virtually impossible to self-publish without cash, which I’d have more of if I wasn’t entering all these contests.

Then, the ultimate irony comes along. A poem I wrote for myself, part of a selection that was meant to help me improve as a writer, gets picked to be published in an anthology. No cash needs to change hands, they even pay me.ย Who is the more foolish, I wonder to myself this morning as months of hard work finally vanish into the ether, the writer or the writer not writing for themself?

Except this work breaks the mould, for so many reasons.

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This one IS mine, and when it fails (as it undoubtedly will) I will publish it myself. Then I will sell it myself, and nobody else will make money apart from me, because there is only so much artistic stupidity I am prepared to accept in the name of progress. So what if other people consider the pinnacle of success is to be published by this or that company… I’m not here to fulfill someone else’s notion of achievement.

I’m here to be happy.

Perpetual Motion

Sorry this is late, I’ve been editing poetry.ย It’s done now. Once husband’s completed the obligatory grammar pass, off it goes to undoubtedly be rejected.ย No matter, it gets published this year, with or without anybody’s official sanction. I know how good it is. I am aware how important it will be as a line in the sand for my long-term literary progression. This is no longer about other people’s validation.

I spent most of yesterday as a result putting down the foundations of a NEW EMPIRE. It is, in essence, a lot like the Old Empire was except a bit better organised. What you get is what is possible, with constraints of time and other responsibilities. There’ll be a lot of questions asked in the next few weeks, and I hope you’ll be good enough to provide some feedback. It really does matter an awful lot.

This is part of the process of moving forward, over time.

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I am ready to do things differently. Lying awake last night, planning the path forward, was absolutely the right thing to do. I’m going to write a letter to a lot of people over the next few weeks in the hope to persuade them to come on board with funding. If that’s possible, then many things will happen as a result. It is going to be a lot of gentle yet determined persistence to get this started, after which? More of the same.

It is obvious money is tight for so many people, and asking for support will be a tough ask. However, if what is made is good enough, there has to be the hope that someone would bung a tenner a month my way. The result of that will be doing my best to foster a helpful and accepting writing community, to support those people who in turn do the same for me, and then just hope that momentum can do the rest.

All there is, I can but hope, moves forward with everyone’s support.

Ride on Time

I could have stuck my dream from last night up here, but chose Social media for a reason: the reach is better. However much writing this way continues to benefit, the figures are damning. There’s 12 of you here, and me.ย I refuse, point blank, to go the aggressive blogger route, it’s just not happening. This, of all the places that exist, remains the haven for whatever pops into my head at any given moment.

However, I am a realist. In principle, one of two things will happen, eventually, with this space. It will either become popular, or it will remain in glorious obscurity. Ultimately, I am aiming for the former. Let’s not beat about the bush here. In all these years, various facets of interest and popularity, there’s never been the cult following that will be required to propel nobody to someone.

Knowing what you need to move forward is an important realisation.

waffles

However, that whole ‘sell thyself by whatever means’ thing is still not happening. I can’t reconcile capitalism with my own journey. It’s just not right, or ethical, and so going forward it is time to look for better means and values. They’re out there, of course: however, there will need to be a measure of compromise along the way. Comprehension is my first step towards true enlightenment.

Waffles are also incredibly important. No, really, they are. These tiny morsels of wonder were the reason I gained so much weight over two pregnancies, which it has taken nearly two decades to shed. Only now that I understand the true relationship between eating and weight management, have they reappeared in my life, under the strict understanding that it takes X minutes to burn the calories they contain.

They’ve become a symbol for the ability to control my own destiny.

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This bit here (/points at ground)ย isn’t a metaphorical crossroads, it’s the real thing.ย What I know is that the way forward is very clearly marked, for the first time in probably a year. We’re going this way, and the next time we stop to regroup or have a snack, an awful lot will have been left behind. It’s no bad thing either: with the writing not just metaphorically on the wall, this was always going to be the next step.

This weekend, undoubtedly, has been a game changer.

Long Distance

There are two parts to this post. One came after the other, a Friday night surprise. The second bit won’t be spoken about again until there’s a confirmation email. Needless to say, the past has an odd way of coming back to haunt you. That’s why you should always try and do your best work, and live an optimal experience. People have an unexpected way of dragging things back from where you left them for another turn in the light.

Can’t be more specific than that right now, sorry.

How is that possible however when there’s no time to ever do anything else? I have watched a couple of people this week lament how their lives are all work and no enjoyment. That balance is a tough one to strike, speaking as someone who is still attempting to find the sweet spot herself. Your future, always, should be possibilities, not a set of intractables.

Amazingly, you can still make time to chase those dreams.

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The key is to identify when you have time, and surprisingly that can come from lots of mundane places. Getting up 30 minutes earlier. Ditching social media on your mobile device. Keeping a diary for a week and being REALLY ANAL about exactly how long everything takes in your day. That crap about ‘these 5 simple things’ you see in dodgy Facebook ads can, amazingly, have a benefit.

The key here is small changes first. If you try and create massive upheavals, the alteration will be too much for your brain to easily accommodate. My classic, much-used primary change was taking an extra 15 minutes walking back from school, dropping off my daughter, to burn a few extra calories first thing in the morning. I could have walked straight home, but instead detours became a part of the routine.

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When I was walking for an hour in the morning and nothing was being upset by that action, it was time to accept I could do more if I spent that hour in the Gym, and so a habit was formed. There’s wisdom that suggests that it will take you 21 days to form a habit. Then, if you can do it for another 90 days? Part of your lifestyle. I’m one of those people for whom about half that time’s more than enough.

It doesn’t have to be exercise. It could be one day a week to go see mates, or get your house properly clean, or maybe start that great novel that’s been demanding to be written. Letting the World stop you from what you desire can be as much an excuse as anything else: if you really don’t want to change those habits, it won’t happen. There’s a door in your brain that needs to open, and stay that way, to allow real alteration.

Deep down, you have to accept that not everything is possible.

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That might sound a bit counter-intuitive: but why can’t I have everything?ย The response is simple: you don’t need it.ย What is required for happiness is a balance between the stuff that has to be done and those things that don’t, or aren’t as essential. That means that you do not necessarily have to work as hard as you do, all the time, if you’re prepared to cut back on those luxury items. It will, undoubtedly, all pivot on what you consider success.

If that means buying every new thing on release, or constantly being on the bleeding edge with tech? Yeah, it will feel hard. Taking a step back, looking at what you spend, maybe cutting back on eating out and clothes and gadgets might sound like the stuff of nightmares for some, but consumerism is one of the most odious and insidious destroyers of both time and money.

If you can release yourself, just a little from its grasp, the effects can be sizeable.

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I don’t want to sound like a self-help guru here. Everybody’s lives are different. I just know, from experience, how one small change unlocked a puzzle in my head I’d spent decades trying to solve. It is a complex, difficult path to enlightenment, because if it wasn’t we’d all be there by now. No two people are the same, and therefore that whole ‘tell me how to live your life’ thing is pants. You don’t want my life, butย need your own.

Therefore you try everything you can, then see what fits. However, don’t change everything overnight. Start small.

Consider everything as a possibility.

Won’t get Fooled Again

Anyone with a massive platform, potentially reaching millions of people, should by definition have a duty of care towards objectivity. We all know, because it is apparent on a daily basis, that everyone is entitled to an opinion.ย That’s why programmes like BBC’s ‘Question Time’ have existed for many years, to allow people an opportunity to say what they feel in a manner that is not available anywhere else.

Except, as institutions such as the BBC and major newspapers have remained staunchly intractable basions of a particular approach to news and current affairs, the world around them has altered, often beyond recognition. Offering opinionย is now open season for anybody with some brain cells and the ability to manipulate Social media. Facts, more and more, appear to be in short supply.

Reality, of course, sits somewhere between both schools.

If you understand the concept of cognitive ease, then you’ll also grasp why stuff like the Question Time video is potentially very dangerous indeed. I’m seeing shares on the back not of what the woman is saying but on how the guy next to her reacts: yes, that’s a good thing, but the point of the woman’s message isn’t silenced or removed. If you did, it would obviously make no sense as to why the reaction exists.

Fake news works on the concept that if you hear something enough times (the body temperature of a chicken is 41 degrees) then actual validity becomes irrelevant. If that message is broadcast by a television station you trust? Yeah, you’ll end up assuming this is reality. It’s the reason why if you’re not following at least five different news outlets on Social media, you really are laying yourself open to be manipulated.

At some point, like it or not, you will have to start thinking about what you consume.

Just as it is vital to grasp what goes into your body via nutrition, what you read and watch will (like it or not) have the equivalent affect on your brain. If you cannot trust that once-impartial sources (such as TV, newspapers and media personalities) will remain that way, it becomes up to work out when manipulation could take place. In some cases, fortunately for us, that becomes quite easy to grasp.

However, those lines blur when institutions like the BBC pick an obviously sensationalist moment of their own output, with multiple layers of narrative and visual complexity, with which to effectively advertise their own content.ย Remember kids, that’s one of the major reasons these platforms exist, as advertising mediums.ย The BBC’s a business, which the UK public partially fund. We can ignore these moments and then, unsurprisingly, they will vanish.

Except of course you’ll have forgotten about this by next week… or will you?

Carrying more information is not the answer to your issues with modern life, despite what some people might suggest to the contrary. What will matter most, going forward, is an ability to know what should be saved and what can be put away, whilst most importantly what you really don’t need in your brain at all.ย I don’t need xenophobia, hatred, anger or bitterness. None of those things serve any purpose to me.

Worrying obsessively is a character fault that is proving harder to remove, but understanding what I can and can’t influence is a decent start. If I choose NOT to retweet the Question Time video, I am not retweeting hate. I’m not using somebody else’s panic and fear as an example. I am most certainly not contributing to a pile on which wouldn’t be necessary if the broadcaster had chosen just to leave that clip alone.

They picked it for a very particular reason, and everybody fell for it.

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Telling other people they’re idiots will undoubtedly place you on a hiding to nothing, but every time something like this surfaces, the same people will make the point. The same organisations are to blame, time and again. It doesn’t make everybody who works for them either bad or wrong, but it does cast a pretty poor light on those who are clearly not capable of moving with the times.

It’s quite easy to know when you’re being manipulated on Social media: learn the signs, look for the patterns, and remember the most important rule of all: never react to anything before you’re awake.ย These platforms rely on instantaneous, knee-jerk indignation to remain functional. You are much better than that. There are more helpful things to be doing with your time than fuelling someone else’s advertising strategy.

Go look at some GIFs of fluffy animals instead.

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