The Fix

I already have redundancies in place to ensure this week’s efforts do not go to waste, because finally, after months of planning, everything is coming good at once. It will mean however, you’ll simply get scheduled work this week.

Everything gets back to normal once we hit September.

Thank you for your understanding.

The Winner Takes it All

On the To Do list is to make some headers using imagery from the Italy trip, but that involves me getting around to uploading the pictures to Flickr. It’ll happen, probably some time next week when I plan everything a bit more precisely.

I have been very surprised since returning from holiday at how my perception of the world appears to have subtly altered. I’ve read a couple of really difficult articles in the last few days too: how the menopause destroyed a woman’s whole existence plus stories of the people who died in the Genoa bridge disaster (the same bridge we marvelled at just over two weeks ago when crossing it.) All of this has distilled together, and Ruth’s tweet this morning sparked a train of thought that now demands some attention: why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

It’s a classic tale: you’re healthy, can feed yourself and don’t have to worry about how normal life pans out, and yet everybody’s aspiring to be somewhere else. There’s no desperate rush to get anywhere and yet we all tear headlong into each new thing without thought for consequences. The diet that we thought was great for us at the time then turns out to be less than stellar, or the game we play is boring because we consumed all the content far too fast in the first place. Then, rather that look to ourselves as the reason for all this, it is simply easier to blame someone else.

None of this is news, or any surprise when viewed in the History of Human Behaviour. There is a fixation in us all of our point of current existence: the stuff at either side of this, or at points in future (or past) is very easy to forget. Focusing on now however has multiple consequences: for our kids, for instance, who have their whole lives ahead to live and are unlikely to remember a lot of what happened as kids, unless it is traumatic. The individual perceptions of benefit and pain are also so subjective that what some people might think of as the depths of depression are quite normal operating parameters for someone else.

Then, when asked on top of all of this to present answers to questions like ‘what do I aspire to’ it would be very easy to just say what everybody else does to feel part of the whole, or aspire to be in a position where you could simply buy your way out of trouble. That whole thing about money not affording happiness is a lie too, when you stand back from the truth. I read somewhere that GoFundMe in the US is paying more people’s medical bills in the US than some insurance companies. When that’s the only option for many when disaster strikes, aspiring to wealth makes perfect sense.

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My kids often berate me for being too worthy, that persisting in my attempts to make them recycle, turn off lights and consider the environment don’t need to be repeated ad nauseum. My husband gets annoyed when I pull the Political Correctness card… and there is the sense that worthiness is all well and good to a point. We all want to be lazy, and not worry about the stuff that is someone else’s problem. Except, as time goes on, these issues are everybody’s to solve, and inertia piles up as does rubbish around us. Sometimes, happiness isn’t enough: as this is the happiest I’ve been in 51 and a bit years, by some way, and just enjoying it has become an issue.

The lesson I finally learnt is a simple one: yes, you can arrive at your aspirations, and live a perfect existence, but what happens then? As there’s been so much effort exerted to get this far, I can’t just sit around in my perfect life and be happy, because there has to continue to be forward movement. Once I achieve something, there’s no point in just stopping and saying I’m done. My happiness depends on a continual, gradual process of self-improvement for as long as I still draw breath, and that needs to happen every day, without fail. To maintain the happiness, it has to be worked at.

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This .GIF remains a constant warning of my Past Self to Future Self: just because you did something good, doesn’t mean you can relax. This is not about points on a board or favours piled up. Life should be a constant case of reassessment and consideration: is this working, should I try something else, would that be sensible? Right now that means girding my loins and looking at swimming lessons, so I can finally do laps of a pool without fear. It is what pushes me to complete two contest deadlines with absolutely no guarantee of success, but the understanding that the more stuff is entered, the better my writing skills become.

Happiness isn’t enough to be satisfied, at least not for me.

Duet

Here begins a gradual, composed return to full blogging. There’s nothing massively important to write about either: I’ve got some ideas to try when we go back to ‘normal’ hours at the start of September but for now, what matters most is my two poetry contest deadlines for the end of the month. I will admit yesterday there was a full-on ‘why are we bothering there’s no chance of winning either of these’ moment. It isn’t like the Ride London 46 where there’s no victor and simply taking part becomes the achievement… and then I realised this is no different.

The last couple of days has come with a lot of thoughts of failure. It is inevitable, over time, that you dwell on negatives. The trick, of course, is not to allow the blackness a chance to take hold of your soul. It’s an incredibly easy sentence to type and an impossible leap to make when you’re in the dark: watching other people struggle with these demons, as I do via social media, is always heartbreaking. I can try and tell people they’ll find a way, but it’s a lie. The journey’s theirs to make, and only they can find means to escape.

If you decide you can’t be saved, nobody will ever reach you.

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That understanding comes from being in the same place, and having escaped. Trying to reach out to people who I might have a connection with only to be ignored or deflected is a depressing task too. Then there are those who keep talking to me but clearly aren’t listening, and they are the creepiest of all. Just because I had a conversation with you once does not mean we’re a friendship. Some days, there’s just too much else going on to try and reason with some people, and that’s when it becomes apparent that reality is the far better pursuit.

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This week, anyone who’s not posted for the last six months or longer’s been removed from my follower count. It is clear that Twitter is looking to make metrics more representative of actual numbers using the platform… and then I hear a bunch of people in the US are planning to deactivate their accounts as some kind of protest. Having left Facebook behind at the start of the year, I wish all these people happiness in their social media free existences, and remind them their kids are all on WhatsApp and Snapchat and Instagram not really giving a fuck. If you wanna change the way people use these platforms?

Walking away might not be the answer.

The First Time

We arrived home on Thursday morning, after travelling overnight from Lake Como. Ever since then I’ve been tidying and reorganising my life for a focused reboot and redefinition of what matters most.

I’ll do the backstory on the Holiday next week, and normal service will resume on Monday. Tomorrow therefore is a day of concerted planning, and recovery from a fairly intensive exercise session this morning. It is lovely to be back, and I’ve only put on half a kilo (according to the biometric machine at the Gym.) Now, I wanna get back to work. The first rejection email has come and gone. There will be others, but it is part of the process.

For now, this is about giving the changes that have begun a chance to stick.

Somebody that I Used to Know

There has been very little time to sit and consider the achievement of last week until now. I will be applying for the Ballot for the 46 when it is open, with no desire at all to complete the 100. Knowing what’s involved, having had to deal with the virtual versions of both hills, that’s not what will ever be considered enjoyable. I’m not sure a lot of the 46 was that much fun in the rain, but it would be a lie to say the overall experience wasn’t satisfying. Next time however I’m determined to complete the thing on more than three hours sleep.

Sitting here in a foreign country, this is the first opportunity there’s been for a while to think generally away from what counts as normal life since before I started race training. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that on my return there will be much more of the same, with a probable increase in frequency: not because there needs to be improvement, but because there’s more enjoyment whilst doing that than was previously realised. Exercise has stopped simply being for a purpose, and has evolved into a genuine form of relaxation, which may sound odd, but is 100% accurate.

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There are other changes already being formulated too: my working space is going to alter (and reduce) plus there are thoughts forming that might relocate me completely. The benefit of going away, ultimately, is to allow readjustment of everything that surrounds, and it would be a foolish person (in my mind) that did not attempt some form of reinvention at least on a yearly basis. So, on our return (after a break with its fair share of drama) it feels only right and proper to start as I mean to go on.

The other key to this shift will not be to go out and buy new stuff to fill this space, but recycle what already exists in the house. There is plenty of desk space available to move and shift, and I’m not looking for anything sparkly or ‘new’ to work with. It will be a challenge of an ability to creatively recycle, and that’s something that appeals to a brain which is beginning to grasp that the future isn’t about a relentless process of continual consumption. There are some issues left to address at home too, it would be lovely to try and fix as many as possible in the months that follow, and those within my grasp will be summarily addressed.

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This is a much needed holiday. When I get back, the hard work will begin again, but with renewed enthusiasm.

The Vatican Museum

I’ve never been religious, neither are my parents… in fact, I’m pretty certain that God has never featured in anything other than marriages and deaths. Therefore it was with a sense of some discomfort myself and Mr Alt decided to visit the Vatican Museums on one of their Friday night ‘open late’ events, as it would certainly have been uncomfortable to do so during daylight hours. As it transpires, the humidity was an issue, but after a while this was forgotten as debate sparked, and then raged.

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This museum is a celebration of two things: history and religion. If my understanding of the history is correct, it wasn’t just a good life and pious deeds that got you into the Eternal Kingdom, but your service to the Church. Some of that was manual, but an awful lot ended up as material contribution. The entire building is the exhibition of that accumulated ‘wealth’: probably billions of hours of work, care and appreciation from all over the Globe. In the most crass terms, this is a storage warehouse full to bursting with God’s gifts from those who worship his wonder. To see it all, you pay a not inconsiderable amount of money for the privilege.

The irony part of my brain last night was having a field day.

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There are areas in this Museum where you cannot go, because it is still a church, and you are expected to dress appropriately… except last night many people didn’t and were still allowed in. Presumably after a while it doesn’t matter and you just take the money regardless. The Sistene Chapel, it must be said, remains an impressive example of religious devotion, but you cannot take pictures. I’m sure the low light levels will preserve Michelangelo’s legacy but still, half a mind flits back to making people buy prints from the Gift shop. Most ironically of all there’s a Priest stop outside which (presumably) is meant for Catholics who wish to discuss the significance of this work in relation to God. Last night, it was disappointingly empty.

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Love of family and others are obviously familiar sensations: doing the same to a non-corporeal being has always been difficult to grasp. However, with respect to those for whom this is both important as well as a significant part of their lives, there’s an awful lot of jaw-dropping devotion to task on show. The amount of time and effort placed into gifts puts modern day efforts to shame. However, and this for me was crucial, all of this remains very much a product of the ages in which it was created. I can wonder at the artistry at work, but am fairly confident that those making the items were very much not a representation of their era’s reality. All of this has to be considered in judgement: art is beautiful and awe inspiring, but unless it truly mirrors the society it is created within, it is not the whole story.

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It was, all told, a very interesting experience. There was only one complaint, and that is that the Ladies toilets are some of the most shockingly awful I’ve had to deal with on any foreign holiday. If there was going to be a metaphor for how I fit into the Catholic Church’s grand plan, this might be it. Making your church more welcoming should really be the order of the day, and if you could start by improving the little things, the larger stuff will end up being far less stressful…

Day Four :: Rome

As I’m writing this, my son and husband are out exploring Rome after dark. My daughter is still recovering from her dodgy ankle, with me here largely in the background, but tomorrow she should be well enough to go out too.

Today therefore has been writing whilst my husband sorted out patching up the van, and our first group meal in the Villa (apart from breakfast.)

Expect some pictures in the morning