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.

Hotel California

It’s 6.30 am, and I’m awake with cramp in my left leg and insane urge to pee. Having drunk and emptied my bladder, I sneak back into bed, only to be met with the following:

“You’ll never guess what happened last night,” says my husband, and I’m already imagining what new horror 2021 has presented. Was there an explosion somewhere, or some huge disaster that has taken more lives?

“They finally took his Twitter account away.”

I find myself wondering how the World ended up in the mess it has, and then remember that most people consider success as being rich and powerful. The reality of this stupidity is pretty much impossible to ignore, whatever future you decide to pursue: for instance, as a writer it is drummed into you from childhood that to become successful, there had to be a book deal. Publication matters above everything else. Last year, I self-published my first chapbook, and the thrall of other people’s success was summarily exploded.

Twenty copies currently have been sold, and I know every single person who bought one. My joy, every time someone else hands over money to read it will never, ever diminish. If this were all there was, if tomorrow I ceased to exist, this would be the happiest I’ve ever been. It will never be a bestseller. Graham Norton will never interview me on a chat show. That’s not the reason this journey’s being undertaken. I’ve seen famous writers, and what they do with their fame. I’m frankly embarrassed and depressed at what other writers consider a good use of their power. That is never happening in my world.

Validation is yours to dictate and nobody else’s to own.

It’s incredibly liberating, only having myself to compete with. For decades, all those moments when impressing others probably destroyed my own chances of personal development… there’s no point hand-wringing any more. The future is what matters, ensuring less stress to hamstring creativity, resulting in constantly improving output. Doing exercise every day has been a massive boost too, being physically tired used to completely wreck any ability to move forward. Now, rest comes in different ways. Lots of stuff has been redefined for the better.

If you read back though this blog, that evolution has been a long time coming. Some people would delete that ‘expired’ content and somehow mystically pretend that things were always this great. I will never, EVER be most people. All that I am, good and bad, is here for the world to see, progression from There to Here, with all points in-between, testament to a now fundamental belief that life is only worth living if you are true to yourself. That means admitting the mistakes, embracing the shortcomings and in my case, on a semi-regular basis, setting everything on fire before planting new ideas within my own ashes.

Never again will there be a pretence of living life under someone else’s auspice.

Things will be submitted this weekend, because the only way confidence is ever built is by being rejected. However, this year it’s not about being upset or frustrated when I fail. Instead, the lessons will be learnt. All this good work will be used, in one way or another, and nothing will ever go to waste. As body becomes leaner, mind is sharpened. I take with me the story of a woman who found my blog by accident whilst waiting with her mother for cancer treatment. She read every post I’d written, then sent an email as thanks for such an honest, uncompromising read.

Every piece of criticism is read and digested. Every compliment, filed away and remembered. You don’t get better by ignoring others.

You only improve with quiet, continuous effort.

Sabotage

That was 36 hours that will live long in the memory, and it’s not over yet. Of course, it’s not even close to being done but what happens next isn’t a test of the man who’s still in charge, it’s a check and balance of everything else. Now we see who works out what. Now we see who is punished. Time to watch how modern democracy evolves.

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but it’s not time yet, because too much is happening too fast, and I learnt that lesson last time something like this took place. It is not about deciding to be that person when that’s everybody else’s job right now. There’s work that needs doing and opportunities going to waste and frankly, with me in the best writing shape I’ve been for some time… using the energy for good is what matters most right now.

Therefore, I’ll be back.

Don’t Believe the Hype

Despite what people might try and tell you, there is no one thing that will change your life. If you happen to find a book, or a video or a lifestyle choice that helps you make better sense of reality, or improves your progress, that happens not just because of that revelation, but as a result of EVERYTHING that came before. We do not live our lives in bubbles, though looking at social media some days, you’d be hard-pressed to believe that was true.

The Government, amazingly, is not to blame for this. Forget for a moment that they’re a shower of incompetent dick-splashes who hate everything unless it’s a) white and b) makes them money and focus on the realisation that the Government did not stand over these people, forcing them to vote for Brexit. Many people were perfectly capable of understanding that they were being lied to. 48% of the country grasped the reality of the situation, and voted to remain where they were not because they hate the idea of UK sovereignty, but knew that the consequence of losing EU clout would be this horrible, which it is.

Blaming the government because you still think this is 1953, that we’re a Post War country that prioritises our own indigenous desires over absolutely everyone else in the World, that ‘being British’ is somehow more important than being either respectful, human or a citizen of Planet Earth is not the Government’s fault. They perpetuate the stereotype to farm stupid white people for their money and fealty, and nothing has changed since Churchill. If you’re dumb enough to believe this shtick? More fool you.

The lies Government tell will never change until EVERYONE accepts they’re at fault.

I watch people complain that ‘things don’t look good enough’ about 215 times a day at present, as if the quality of your virtual reality will somehow improve the state of the Real World. The number of fanboys creaming themselves over video game landscapes as an antidote to looking at a television or reading a news article has reached new heights. Hopefully now that the US has been saved by the people who really cared enough to get out and do so, that might change, but don’t hold your breath.

Your gaming experience is not unlike reality, except it won’t feed your kids or save the actual planet you love to imagine as a high-definition dystopian wasteland. That needs you to start putting the pieces together for yourself. It’s not hard, but clearly feels that way when your job’s been furloughed and there’s no employment to be had except to do the jobs you hate to begin with. I watched a high-profile commentator this morning make his washing up into a discussion topic. That’s where we are now. Maybe the answer does lie with you and not in turning all your settings up to Ultra and pretending reality isn’t happening behind you.

You wanna know the one thing that transformed my life for the better? Let me share that one simple trick for completely changing the way life works: do stuff when it needs doing. Looking at something that isn’t in the right place, don’t ignore it, go take it to where it needs to be. I attack one hard job a week, make my brain shut the fuck up and stop complaining or thinking that one day of indulgence doesn’t matter. It does, and that never changes. If you want to move forwards, stop looking backwards and don’t stand still. Really, it is that simple.

I know how hard life is. However, if you a) have a place to live and b) have food on the table plus c) the same tomorrow and an internet connection on which to complain? NO LIFE ISN’T HARD. Life is the one go you get at being relevant under your own terms, and not someone else’s. Make that happen, sooner rather than later because the very real fact remains that tomorrow might be an eternal certainty for the Universe but absolutely isn’t the case for you.

Maybe, this time around, don’t keep complaining and maybe start making a difference.

My Very Best

Four days in, and I’ll stop counting them at some point. Probably that will happen somewhere into the twenties, because then stuff will have become habit, and we’ll be past the novelty. Today however those furrows are still being ploughed. I need to fit two hours of exercise into the day, which will happen after this, and then the rest of Monday is given over to planning and setting in stone the rest of the month. I hope, by the end of business, to have created a large wodge of ‘content’ thus freeing me up to do more stuff that will make me money going forward.

That’s really what needs to happen a lot more in general.

Once upon a time, numbers on social media were a ‘thing’ for me. Ironically, all the engagement metrics that really matter have always stayed green. People are the problem, which isn’t really a surprise at all, considering the current climate. I could have just muted all the ones who hated trans people and ignored all those who were literally in it for themselves but really, truthfully, nope. The last straw undoubtedly was the person who accused me of a better than average vocabulary and that I wasn’t being supportive enough. There’s only so much a girl can do, and if doing as you asked isn’t enough… well, we’re probably done.

This week, therefore, we will mostly be keeping our head down and doing the miles. This lifestyle renaissance isn’t going to happen without some work, after all…

Down Down

It’s been an interesting day, and having embraced daily exercise until something breaks, this is a decent mindset to exist in too. I have Patreon ready to roll, and hope to spend this week creating a LOT of content. Gonna go out for an early power walk tomorrow and see how far I can get, because doing this before the evening really is the way forward. There’s more chance of failure if I leave things until late, and if there is going to be survival during a) dark days and b) continued lockdown, there has to be a plan.

I have already lost muscle mass on the top half of my body, which was largely unavoidable, but starting tomorrow there will also be a concerted effort to get it back. All I can do is my best, and sweating over it is a waste of time. Therefore, as with everything going forward, its realistic timescales and not too much stress. Do what can be done, and then work out a way to make it better. Tonight that means press-ups in 12’s and not 10’s until that’s academic, and then we go to 14’s… and so on. Three lots of upper body a week. Keep the momentum up, and be realistic.

such as it is, remains this. I’ll cope, and manage, and we’ll make it work. This year, I am in control.

Justified and Ancient

Yesterday, with minimal fanfare, The KLF released their most famous songs onto streaming services and YouTube. No longer will I have to keep Apple Music well away from my MP3’s and, finally there are versions of classics on an OFFICIAL KLF YouTube Channel…

Of course, there’s a shedtonne of fan-based stuff all over everywhere for these boys and their output, which was the definition of Proper Bonkers back in the day. I’m not going to spoil any of it for you but seriously, go read a biography or two of their lifespan and what they’ve achieved as performance artists, because legitimately being able to burn a million quid without compunction is worth the admission price alone.

Yesterday I also started an exercise plan that will see me record something for the entire 365 days of the year. Most of this is likely to be on a static bike, but until Gyms are open in my area again (which at this rate, let’s face it, could be May) there does need to be an upper body component that’s self-generated. 30 push-ups a day is now academic in groups of 10, now I need to be able to do them without a break. That’s the next task on the list, after which we’ll add some. Right now however, I am genuinely feeling the upper body workout from yesterday, which says to me that Good Work [TM] was done overall.

Also, I have streaks going in various places. It’s time to try and be on the giant wrecking ball with a single finger aloft, as opposed to being hit by it.

We have totally got this.

The Race

When my husband caught Covid in December, the last thing I could think of was exercise, and yet, at the close of 2020, I’d managed an achievement that would have been unthinkable before. There’s still a part of my brain that isn’t sure how it happened either, just that it did. Without Dave, I’d have never cycled at all: a lot of my fitness inspiration has come from his deeds on a bike. He’s completed every Ride London since inception, after all. This year, despite that event’s cancellation, he managed a ridiculous number of miles before being laid up sick. There was then an understandable determination to finish the year with the Rapha #Festive500, a suitable single-finger to both sickness and the pandemic generally.

So, I decided to support him. Had there not been the option to participate virtually in an official capacity, I would have done the work regardless, on reflection. Looking at the opposition to this decision on the Official Strava page, an important realization was made. Lots of people believe that the only way you ‘win’ properly is their way, any deviation from a certain world view, a precise method of completing certain tasks is met with anger, disappointment and ultimately entitlement. It transpires that 2020 really was the year when lots of people grasped that their version of reality isn’t actually the whole truth, it’s just a facsimile. My decision to read more about philosophy in 2021 was a sound decision as a result.

However, we had to get there first.

The furthest I’ve ever cycled anywhere, regardless of static or normal bike, was the London to Southend route, which is 52 miles, so it was decided that at least one day would include 100 km (62.14 miles) to beat that. I’ve used Zwift since forever as my static training bike programme of choice, and so started there on Christmas Eve with a gentle 68 km. It’s odd how your self-image slowly begins to alter when every day starts with a challenge: for me, it has never just been the physical that’s held back progress. Having raised nearly £2000 for mental health charities over the last four years through various fundraisers, the understanding that mental toughness is as important as leg strength is not lost on me.

My mental health journey has been particularly tough this year: anxiety I thought was under control was crippling during March and April, and for the first time in probably a decade, depression returned with a vengeance. Exercise literally kept me capable of functioning as an adult, and without it, I shudder to think what kind of person I might have become. Static cycling, as a result, has become a vital part of my coping mechanism, and to those who think that 100 km on a bike in a garden shed is somehow less worthy or significant than being out on a road? You clearly aren’t living where I do, and you’re clearly far stronger than I am. Your validation, however, is not required to keep me moving forward.

Taking a grip on your newly-precieved goals is incredibly empowering. Understanding that your strength and power have improved, that doing this kind of exercise daily is possible and needs to become a constant, that the rest of your life can easily accommodate the changes… all of this has undoubtedly improved my personal outlook. Add to that the exhaustion of a week so full on during a period of traditional excess and… well, the Universe, my personal miniscule portion thereof has undoubtedly become a little brighter and more vital. Most significantly of all, the time to think without having to worry about traffic or weather or other people… some people don’t like to be left alone with their thoughts.

May I never, ever, become some people.

Building mental toughness as an athlete is a hard ask. Other people’s mantras become your own, digging deeper past fatigue and discomfort plus the general feeling of I just want to stay in bed brings benefits that… well, writing this for starters would have been impossible. I am not a fan of people’s lives being used as lifestyle choices, for starters. Over the years I have flirted with the idea of becoming that kind of person. Except, in the end, it is always apparent that there is no one, hard and fast answer. All the video and targetted social media content in the world didn’t change me. None of that inspirational stuff mattered at all.

It was the love for my husband and the need to help him feel better that did all this, and nothing more.

I grew tired over 2020 of the reality other people presented me. There were so many of them, and so much of the point to their significance was that I was the one in control, that power remained mine to wield and direct as it appeared fit to do so. Deep down, all of this is of course my doing. My strength and ability was never the issue here. I’ve not written all this as some kind of demonstration of how to achieve anything you want without effort, because that’s just rubbish. Doing this is really, really difficult, and it takes a phenomenal amount of emotional and physical energy to complete.

The reason why all of this is written down is twofold: I never properly thank my husband for what he does for me, how his strength and good humour has supported me and kept me sane. This therefore is for him, as proof his love and care has properly altered the person that I was into this new, better person. Most importantly, this is to the people who think anger and narrow-mindedness over what constitutes ‘proper’ exercise is the correct response when things change for the better. Without virtual exercise, and its proper recognition in the wider world of competitive sport, many people like me would have been lost this year, maybe for good.

Sometimes, it is about the journey, but occasionally having considered change at all is the real achievement.

Patience

For the longest time, all I have ever done is move my life around. The same shit, identical groups of things, rearranged from place to place without a goal. Two days ago, all that changed. Some would have waited for a new year in order to triumph this as some glorious, orchestrated start, but I’m tired of that bollocks, so very annoyed and angry at anyone who uses their existence as a lifestyle brand or the means by which people care about their social media. So, I threw things away, in some cases for the first time since my teens.

Nobody expects you to be a living history. In many cases, the weight of that baggage crushes your soul to a point where it is difficult to discern a consistent identity. Only through the process of poetry, over the past three years, has this fact become clear to a brain that was increasingly distracted by other people’s idea of what was good for me. Coming out of my husband and son’s Covid infections, it is clear how we create versions of reality with which to assuage terrors that are often never really confronted. In my case, 2021 will be where a combination of philosophy and dance music sets me free.

It is time to properly put certain timelines to rest.

I am, undoubtedly, in the best shape of my life. The resilience worked for will remain in place. There will be a return to places lost and forgotten, due to fear and disbelief. There needs to be a reinvention that isn’t because it looks good or someone else decided that was a ‘good’ idea. The only books read this year should be those that challenge my mindset… whilst creatively, everything is in flux. Blogging remains a consistently decent means by which the World is rationalised and summarily understood, so we’ll shove our face to the words for a bit and see where everything goes.

Then, when this is done, I’ll get on a static bike and then lift some weights.

There is no need to change that which already grants me strength.

Fragment

Objectivity in crisis is a hard ask. It’s why you have to feel for all those people unable to move forward right now, and there are a fuck of a lot of them. How will you ever shift away from the permanent, almost omniscient panic that accompanies not knowing what might happen if you get sick? These are difficult times, and they require unusual bravery to navigate. What this really means is so subjective as to often defy any ability to quantify.

Right now, forward is about realistic aims, in sensible timeframes. When I sat down to try and plan the next year on Patreon, there was the immediate and inescapable understanding that being creative whilst the world is on fire is great, but other stuff matters more… like keeping healthy, and self-care, and most importantly finding time in chaos to allow it all to settle and make sense. That means that there needs to be more time for me, or else we’ll just repeat the same shit that happened last time and no-one learns anything.

In this case, rest has become preferable to change.

It’s odd how we perceive things differently to other people. It’s almost as if everybody is different, and that our interests often need work to remain aligned. Hugh uses three words here, none of which I’d have picked to describe the content, but all of which are both understandable and relevant in context. The amount of assumptive posturing that has taken place as a result of it is unsurprising too. You can make anything relevant to your cause, given enough intelligence and creativity.

I appreciate that other people also view social media in a vastly differing manner to me. This is a fact, not an opinion. Knowing this should mean that you grasp that sometimes, like it or not, you’re never going to get along. Heading these people off at the metaphorical pass has never been more important as it is now. However, crucially, it means that what you hear and see will remain more sanitised and less realistic a view of the true unmitigated horror of reality, and it is horrible. I’m not talking fascism and populism either.

Your biggest enemy is the one with nothing to lose.

What I am is so complicated and multi-faceted even I really don’t have a total handle on what it means. However, one thing that’s inescapable is the need now to survive, and to minimise damage whilst doing so. That means looking for the right people to help and support, and quietly realigning my priorities. That’s what most people try and do at the start of years. This has been going on since the middle of the last one.

Finally, we are beginning to see some real, actual progress.