Living on the Ceiling

Today is hard on the mental strength.

I’m not sure how much other people think about themselves on any given day. I mean, that’s not summat you can throw into normal conversation, for starters. Mostly, that time is about what is enjoyed, or what irks you. Sometimes it is for big speeches and damning revelations. But introspection is not what you do when you’re with someone: that’s just a waste of a good talking partner. That means that this morning, alone in the house for a few hours whilst the family are elsewhere, I end up considering what I hide behind the curtain. Most days I do a passable fist of looking organised and together, but I am well aware of how much frantic activity happens behind that facade. Many things don’t come easily to me. It may surprise you, but interacting with other people is quite high on that list.

That makes what I’m trying to do with my life an exercise in reassessment.

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I get twitchy when people tell me how inspiring I make them feel, that my enthusiasm is infectious, and it’s not just because I’ve never been adept at grasping compliments. I look at what I do and, on most days, it is just an emotional response to stimulus. The stuff I’m personally most proud of, undoubtedly, is the stuff that never gets the plaudits. It is as if I’ve become my own personal torturer: no, you will not gain pleasure from these things, only those which are summarily ignored by everyone else. My mind, as if it knows what will make me more twitchy and uncertain, often ends up undermining my own ability to rationalise to boot. All of this isn’t helped currently by a hormonal state which is placing a lot of the baseline decision making in a low hanging grey fog of ‘hang on, what did you say/mean/do?’ and it becomes really rather easy to lose faith in yourself. So, I look for anchor points: places to redefine myself from, and then move forward. Right now, that involves a daily post like this. They’re sticks sunk into the muddy ground: I can’t hang on too long or else they’ll dislodge, there needs to be a constant forward motion from one to the next. Once I’m stopped at the next ‘post’? Work out the spot I can move to without too much drama and away I go.

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Then I get a boost like Friday, which becomes the additional fuel to propel me forward, memories like those two weeks in the US last year that are markers of safe spots, places I can return to without fear. Thanks to Julia on Friday I learnt things about myself I didn’t know before, slivers of the real me that I’ve kept hidden from sight for decades. I looked at shoes and clothes and jewellery in a completely new light, I allowed self and the stimulus not simply to be recorded. I actually processed consequences and beliefs. It has been a very long time since I felt comfortable enough to do that and the results of this are only beginning to register. This weekend has been hugely significant for me on a deeply personal level, and I can already feel the woman behind the curtain adapting her routines to accommodate it.

When your life is all too painfully finite, and the need for understanding is more significant than the desire to be understood, trying to attain balance is as significant as most eastern religions tell you it is. It is no wonder I lean towards the Zen, and have always done, because when you can grasp both light and dark inside yourself with relative ease, the consequence will always be to try and maintain the two in synch. Some choose to ignore their turmoil, others simply drown it out with noise. I’m beginning to rather enjoy pitting one side of my life against the other to see what happens. There’ll be no fights to the death but the skirmishes that occur are an interesting demonstration of what is possible if you make an effort to understand not just what the fuck you’re doing, but why it happened to begin with.

Writing really is therapy, when all is said and done. Brilliant, frustrating and ultimately liberating. By finding the right words to describe what I am becoming, the journey to my destination is increasingly better signposted, digested and embraced. There is no way that will ever be anything other than a good thing.

Here With Me

Yesterday’s trip into London was as glorious as I hoped it would be, and then some.

The benefit of not getting out much, undoubtedly, is the sheer joy of being somewhere you’ve been imagining for a while and it being far, far better than you’d hoped for. In my case, that was the V&A, which I’m pretty certain I’ve not visited in my lifetime. To be honest, the place has always been intimidating: all these centuries of history, pillaged from the countries that Britain went and made ours, and then stuck in glass cages as some kind of bizarre commemoration of someone else’s notion of beauty. Except yesterday I came to understand just how fertile a place a museum can be for discussion, discourse and ultimately freedom. It helped that I had probably the best person possible accompanying me for half the day: a friend who understands the concept of curation is, at least for someone like me, an incalculable godsend.

That’s where I ended my day, but we should talk about where I started.

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I make no secret about my constant and continued love affair with London, especially the East bit. Maybe that’s why Central and West have to work on me so hard, because they’re full of the kind of people I have absolutely no association with whatsoever. Yesterday I also did the National Portrait Gallery, thought not the Gallery itself, so I didn’t get to properly tick off a Skyfall location from the Obsessive Bond fan To Do List. Still, what this proved was that were I looking for a place to sneakily drop off a Walther, I’d do a lot worse on a Friday afternoon. I ate lunch south of the River too, because I like looking at places that I’ve used as writing inspiration. The Savoy remains a place I keep gravitating back to for location, simply because there’s nowhere quite like it in London. However, I’d be lying if I said that the V&A hasn’t become one of my new favourite places overnight. If I could live there I probably would, moving a bed from gallery to exhibition so I could sit and be inspired by new stuff every day.

They’re gonna totally let me do that, right?

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Often the past can intimidate us into silence. My dad, for instance, has been scanning years worth of pictures of me and my brother/family which my brother is now almost joyously scattering all over Facebook as some badge of honour. There’s nothing I can do about this, of course, and that’s just one of those things. I choose not to remember a lot of my life for good, sound and really quite sensible reasons. An obsession with the past often isn’t the way you move forward, but I understand now that for some being able to embrace that is the means by which they can let go. I’ve already moved on. I don’t need to understand where I came from to be motivated into what I am, that’s where I exist. Your experience of the past may vary. That’s the thing about history, if you want to be remembered you don’t use other people’s to boost you, it is time to produce your own, and that’s what I’m doing.

What matters to one person will undoubtedly be of little significance to another.

Big Time

I have decided enough is enough. My body and I are now going to stop being rubbish and make A FUCKING CONCERTED EFFORT to stop being tired, irritable and generally carrying far too much fluid. Also, last night was one of those crossroads moments when you sit, realise you haven’t met a goal and are ready to stop caring. I could have happily taken my Fitbit off and trashed it, and when you hit such a situations, the choices are stark. You get up and move forward, or you don’t. I’ve had enough of this shit, my husband has lost half a stone since the start of the month and my scales just laugh at me. I DON’T CARE. This will not beat me, and I will NOT be beaten.

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JUST STOP NOW.

So, this is what we do. Unless it is tipping with rain it will be a walk to the Gym and back whenever I go. I’m going to start working on posts in the evening so I have mornings free. THERE WILL BE NO SLACKING. I realise I’m fighting hormones as well as cravings so the choice is simple: no more fudging calorie counts. No sneaky midweek cake unless my calories allow it. If I wanna eat, I’m gonna have to work for it, every single damn calorie. Then, and only then, will I move forward. Plus, needs more sweating really, I’m getting complacent with lots of things. I was supposed to have a day off tomorrow but I think I’ll just walk all over London and build up a bazillion calories for dinner with pictures to match.

For now, this is motivation, and my body on notice. Not big or clever, and now we’re going to shift the final weight I want to lose AND IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN OKAY?

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GOOD. Carry on.

No Surprises

Criticism is difficult to grasp as a skill. I had to learn to do it with writing, a while ago, and it helped being in a room full of strangers when I did, because it is somehow easier when you have a tangible gauge of how easily people can be offended. I realise now that if I’d have learned to do this earlier in my life, a lot of the conflict I encountered could have been far more comfortably dealt with. The undoubted issue when being critical of text-based mediums is being unable to grasp the reaction of the person you’re speaking to. So, inevitably, you will err on the side of caution. That can mean your intent has the potential to be diluted, and then you’re looking at a page of comments that don’t actually help the person you’re attempting to support.

Basically, it’s a right arse pain to help people be better.

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Are you looking at me funny? ^^

Everybody, even the most adept of people, could use a critical eye from time to time. I did a criticism ‘swap’ yesterday with a friend who’s looking to expand into You Tube as an avenue for their creativity. I watched 30 minutes of him (and his mate) effectively pissing about in a game, and then was as helpful and critical as I could manage, without going into pages of in-depth consideration. He, in turn listened to 30 minutes of my interview for the second gaming podcast (points left at the links) and his feedback was… well, a revelation. Considering the way I do these things, and that it is a ‘standard’ template for both questions and direction? He was staggeringly complimentary. It is always a bonus, in these situations, to discover you are hitting the right targets. When you do, it’s a good idea to not then automatically assume you’re good enough and that’s it. Asking for feedback can be quite daunting, yes, but it’s ultimately so worthwhile. Because nobody’s perfect, and everyone needs a hand.

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Perfection does not happen immediately

Mr Alt is possibly the best person I know to be critical of my work, and I’m sitting here looking at the hatchet job he’s done on the first pages of my novel, and it is glorious. What it does is give me a starting point, a new direction, and allows my mind to take the path I’ve not travelled but know exists. He’ll tell me if things are ugly, if there’s work needed on words or phrasing to make them feel correct. Most crucially for me, he doesn’t often comment in plot, as that is my job. He’s here just to audit the words, and that’s exactly what I need.

Needless to say, today is already looking pretty fabulous.

Building the Perfect Beast

It is three weeks into my concerted health kick, and actually, finally, I can see progress. My body shape is changing, back and legs beginning to look more as I remember them in the brief and glorious period during my mid 30’s where I had all this under control the last time. When Neo and Morpheus talk about ‘residual self image’ in The Matrix that is always the place I come back to: a green card from Imperial College, London, when I was weighed and measured for the Office of National Statistics Health Survey in 1995. Back then, I weighed in at 10 stone 6 pounds, which was my ideal weight for the height I was. Of course a lot has changed in 20 years, not least the notion of how we consider ‘healthy’ to begin with. That person however is where I exist when I want to be a body shape that makes me happy. That’s my destination. This isn’t about someone else’s idea of what works, the input is 100% all mine.

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Some might argue that as I get older, I ought to be taking it easier, but I think that’s bollocks. Yes, I need to look after myself more, that I’ll grant you, but really there is nothing stopping me exercising regularly and eating sensibly regardless of where I exist in any given age bracket. Nothing at all. In fact, I really ought to be working out how I lose the weight I’ve gathered and making up for nearly a decade of sedentary activity. Playing games is all well and good, but its hardly healthy, and although I know those who have used treadmill desks to play and lose weight, its not for me. Then, there is the flip side of this, that never existed a decade ago. Sport is now using gaming as a way to expand its remit. I’m not talking about eSports tournaments either.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the phenomena that is Zwift:

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Probably the best way to tell you what Zwift is comes from their own press release:

Built on a long-standing passion for the sport of cycling, Zwift is a company of dedicated cyclists that also happen to be experienced software and video game developers. Combining that passion and deep understanding of the cycling world, Zwift is the first company to use massive multiplayer gaming technology to bring the outdoor cycling experience indoors. Athletes from around the globe can ride with each other in rich 3D generated worlds simply by connecting their existing devices (e.g. trainers, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc) wirelessly via open industry standard ANT+. From friendly competition to casual group rides, Zwift is building a community of like minded athletes united in the pursuit of a better indoor training experience.

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Mr Alt is a convert to this new way of working and ‘playing.’ It is far easier than going out on cold, wet days or at night, it still allows him to get fit, and it has everything he needs in an MMO: achievements, outfits and people to compete against. It also shows that actually, gaming is no longer about dark rooms and jokes about nerds. It’s now Lycra, PB’s and people who look really attractive in my mind, because they’re combining two things I have a considerable interest in. More importantly, this so utterly has the potential to be an eSport. It’s the perfect combination of computers and fitness, requiring physical skill as well as mental toughness to complete. Honestly, if ESPN’s eSports people aren’t looking at this as an exploitable niche I will be utterly gobsmacked.

Because if you can combine both the electronic and and the physical to create a spectacle, this is the absolute best of both worlds.

For Tomorrow

The great thing about knowing how the Internet works is being able to plan ahead.

For instance, yesterday I knew that today I’d be unable to write. My throat issues have now spread to right ear and face, and as a result when you read this either one of two things will be happening. I’ll be a) at the Doctor picking up drugs, or b) at the Gym for the morning making up for the fact I took today off to try and beat off the throat/ear thing, which I ended up doing. Either way I knew this was gonna happen, and so I planned ahead. I’m not sure why people find organisation so scary, and it’s certainly not boring to be able to give yourself time if you have a grasp of all the elements involved.

I think maybe because it counters the notion that the Internet’s somehow instant and immediate, when in reality it is, in many places, very much none of those things.

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When I first joined Twitter, a lot of Parody Accounts would try to follow me. These composed mostly of a daily post, regularly at the same time, which once you’d read them for a month would repeat. And repeat. Often you didn’t even have to wait 28 days for that to happen either, and the links inbetween would be to sites that inevitably my Virus Checker would flag as suspect. Selling yourself on fresh content only works if, at some point in the equation, you are prepared to put in the hours. You can cheat, but if you’re not honest or clever, that’s the end of your relationship with your reader. The trick is to remember that if you write four posts in a day, you don’t need to publish them all at once. This fact appears to get lost on a few who then go on to lament they have nothing to write about after that first flush of activity. For some people, that day’s work could easily equate to a MONTH’S worth of content if they scheduled it correctly and filled in the gaps with other things. Being prolific is not necessarily all about application. Often, it’s more to do with organisation than anything else.

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Learning to say NO to yourself is quite hard when you’re writing good things, because instantly you want to share or the immediacy you feel from the process is lost. The truth is, it doesn’t matter, if all you really want is someone reading to begin with. As it’s taken approximately 15 years for my current novel to finally arrive at its current state, where I can actually feel it’s good enough to be consumed by anybody except me and the few people who may have seen drafts? Time’s never your enemy. Quality is what matters more, at least for me. However, as your experience will vary, I’ll say only this. If it matters to you that you keep people interested? You need something that appears on a regular basis. I sell my Warcraft blog on a daily post. This blog is now three weeks of uninterrupted entries and although I know it hasn’t been read by many people that entire time,  that is beginning to change. Yes, it does make a difference, and I’d say that’s worth the effort alone.

Mostly, in this case, this is me showing myself that with a regular, structured working environment, I’m capable of far greater things than if I just let the whole thing slide and happen when I feel like it. For my sanity alone, the organisation’s already paid for itself ten times over.