Musclebound

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Highlight of my week. Cheers @all_fired_up_pizza 🤩🤩

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Yesterday I ate light so I could accommodate this for dinner. I also did no ‘work’, which includes bike or weights. Therefore today I’ll do an hour’s badminton with the youngest, then a Gym session and finally my biking in one hit because yesterday everything in my brain and bones said ‘look, we know you have a plan, and rest is scheduled, but this is a day you just don’t, okay?’ So, instead I did laundry, cleared up the house and played old Sid Meier games, because sometimes DOS based GodSims are the only answer.

You see, I made a significant association yesterday that’s worth recording.

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At the start of this year I had the idea of learning to draw. It lasted until about March, when it became apparent there was neither time or desire to pursue this on top of everything else. Except, in the last week, a greater truth has revealed itself. I didn’t have the mental ability earlier this year to break down my issue: what that journey revealed was the means to obtain it. Surmounting Blaze in the last month proves the practical skills are now possessed.

Maybe it is time to give drawing another shot, but under less scrutiny.

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I’ve had some great ideas in the last year, many of which have not been given the time and attention they deserve. There can continue to be an evolution of self and life, but some important lessons have been learnt; it would be remiss to not start to go back and pick out the best moments from the last twelve months from which to further work on. I don’t start my new regimes in January, because life is to short to put stuff off until the New Year. Next week, we’ll decide what changes and alters going forward, and that can start in December.

This really has been an amazing year.

Let’s Get Physical

I did think this week would end up as significant. There’s been something in the air for a while. Maybe it is because of the inevitability of hard work, that eventually if you allow willing minds the opportunity to grasp progress on their own terms… or perhaps it was simply the right time for all this shit to come together. Who knows. Sitting here I feel different, from top of head to soles of feet. Feet particularly are in a good place right now, which means that all that running must actually be having a positive effect.

In fact, I’m putting serious thought to going and doing some more after this.

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The desire to run seems to be quite complex. I’m not off, Forrest Gump stylee, instead it’s the foundations of making the sessions count. Also, it has an almost instant effect on my waistline, which is no bad thing. That’s not just about the exercise either. Looking at my food logging over the last week, there’s been a comprehension leap. Plus *cough* I rather enjoy it *cough* so maybe that is what should matter the most.

What that does mean is that this weekend, a long overdue review of running playlists will be undertaken, and some new music inserted into the ears. If mentally this about moving forward, that should embrace some new tunes along the way…

Eat to the Beat

Yesterday’s post on consumerism began a chain of events in my brain that may be worth examining with a larger audience.

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As I have gotten older, the desire to own ‘things’ has rapidly diminished. With the exception of having working communication devices, nothing else really jumps out at me as being needed. That includes clothing, accessories, jewellery, domestic appliances, luxury goods… and the list goes on. This makes me a right pig to buy for and is undoubtedly the reason that this year, nobody at home had a birthday gift for me when the day arrived. My husband bought this replacement computer when my old one died a couple of weeks back, and that was then declared a gift.

Similarly, food and drink are no longer massive draws. Sure, I love a good, well-made meal or a decent trip out, but mindfulness has helped the simple things I have become so much more enjoyable. Before, when there’s be a snack and a cuppa, both would be consumed without thinking. Now, appreciation of each mouthful as important has fairly significantly transformed how everything is ingested, as visual prompts becomes less important. The process of introducing thought to what was previously just action has delivered significant gains.

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In fact, this morning’s cuppa and protein bar have become the metaphor for why even the basic processes of existence are changing into something far more fulfilling. Simplicity is the goal of so many people, but can seem totally impossible to achieve. On the days when other people’s lives are more important than my own, that is very true. However, in the moments between the stresses and strains imposed by the World, my family, and the company I keep… this is pretty much perfect.

There, I said it. There is now a clear distinction between the ‘interaction’ period of life and the ‘alone’ bits. Once upon a time, the latter were the things that destroyed the will to live, not my relationship with others. I didn’t hate the world, simply myself, and the inability to exist successfully anywhere destroyed any form of significant progress. Now, when alone, it’s fulfilling, calm and even happiness evolves via simplicity. Food tastes better. Exercise is tough, but manageable. Interacting with others becomes progressively less fraught.

This really is the happiest I have ever been.

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What can be attributed for this change? Hard work, persistence, and undoubtedly the fact that (yet again) this week I’ll go and do an exercise class that will reduce me to tears… or maybe this week it won’t. There were parts of last week’s Blaze I genuinely enjoyed. I’m planning to run on the treadmill this evening for as long as I’m capable. Every time a new class is completed, it is at a better rate of participation than the one before. There exists a clear and well defined notion of progression. Is the difference that ability to define a journey, or is it something else?

The theatrical elements are largely ignored, need to touch gloves or create a team dynamic not why I signed up. This is not about making friends or comparing difficulty. This is about being able to exist in a world where for a lot of my adult life I felt there was no alternative but to lie, then hide. Now, all that matters is the Thing that must be Beaten. Each week as I do, the significance of this announced to the World. Who chooses to listen and react is of no importance. Why this matters is, on reflection, irrelevant. Being happy beats everything else.

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What makes us happy is vastly different from person to person. The need to continually distract from that using ‘things’ is all well and good, but to a point. Similarly, you can hide from grief or anger using other people, or all manner of displacement activity. For me, having stripped all the padding and packing away, what is now most important undoubtedly is just honestly and simplicity. This is what keeps me alive and vital. Creating my own worlds with pictures and words, observing reality as I perceive it, is no better or worse than anybody else’s outlook.

My key is contentment, general relaxation. It is the difference between amazing and average: today, after a long, couple of  weeks of this new journey, the former’s brilliance begins to really shine through. Nobody else changed my life, they all just offered suggestions along the way. This is my work. This is brain and body, finally existing together and in harmony. I am very proud of what is being forged, and nobody else can claim credit.

The satisfaction is mine alone to own.

Lies

With the virtual world awash with fake news and unconfirmed rumour, navigating the Internet’s never been more fraught. How can we tell what’s real and what isn’t? In most cases, I use more than one ‘impartial’ news sources for a confirmation on big stories: Reuters, the Associated Press and the BBC News sites may not be everybody’s providers of choice, but if all three are simultaneously flagging up breaking news, that’s normally a good indicator of actual validity… if it happens in a country that is not mine (as was the case with the US pipe bomber story) then national news in that country is the way to follow things as they develop.

However, accepting that nothing read online as fact is becoming the far more sensible default state. Yes, you’ll encounter experts in your travels, and I’m not belittling anything such people say, but honestly you should start fact checking. Wikipedia isn’t bulletproof, but there are third part sites that can help separate wheat from chaff. There has been a story circulating on Facebook (for instance) suggesting a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park is ready to erupt (a la the movie 2012) for… well, a long time. It’s all complete bollocks, part of a slew of urban myths and legends buried ‘in the cloud.’

However, there are more insidious lies being told of late that I find increasingly disturbing.

Twitter thinks it can fool me, but I know better. It doesn’t help that I run three separate accounts through my phone, and that on one there’s a lot more followers than the other two. This means that the phone thinks when I’ve read something the night before, I might want to follow that person the next day via the other accounts… that’s not how this works, and you know it isn’t. It’s like telling me 126 people I am friends with retweeted this picture and therefore why don’t I want to do the same? This is not organic engagement, algorithm. I see through your ploy. GO AWAY.

I knew that inbuilt paranoia would finally have some use.

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There’s a bigger issue here, of course: laziness. You wanna look like you’re up with news and current events, so you like all that stuff, and retweet those things… and after a while it is easier to let the AI think for you. Except, we all know how that ends up working out. Writers create dystopia for a reason, and a lot of it is wrapped up in those for whom fake news is easier to swallow, whose opinions don’t seem to mesh with the majority. For every individual shocked at the depths of depravity others can sink to, there’ll be someone seeing how much worse they can manage and still get away with it.

Welcome to human nature, which is only as restricted as the information that gets crammed into the average brain. With the Internet as our playground and AI the arbiters of space, time and knowledge…

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This is also where those of us who have mental shortcomings need to get quite tough, and the more sensitive or vulnerable to suggestion end up as prime vehicles for exploitation. It should not be a surprise that it is AI driving negative rhetoric either, it is a perfect vehicle for such dissemination. If you cannot distinguish noise from imitation, blocking out everything is just easier and less stressful, yet along the way a vital level of rationalisation simply withers up and dies. The truth can (and will) set you free but only if you are capable of distinguishing it from everything else that’s masquerading as the exact same thing.

When trustworthy companies intentionally blur the lines of truth to improve their third quarter figures and throw shade at their competition, we should be up in arms, but time and again, it never happens. There is a reckoning coming, like it or not, and it will end up with large groups of people happily sending themselves into wilful oblivion, probably based on a Facebook Poll which secretly took their assent by making them click on pictures of cute animals. As we stand in the smoking, dystopian remains of the planet, yet again, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Stop letting the Internet lie to you, because it is.

Hot Stuff

I need a weights-themed header. I’ll get on that.

The last time, up until this time last week, that I’d done an organised exercise class was shortly after the birth of the eldest. That was eighteen years ago. My local health emporium has recently trashed the two squash courts adjacent to their Gym facilities and built a room in which, I now discover, a peculiar form of torture takes place. Blaze, as the lovely promotional video indicates, is a particularly viscous combination of running, weights and hitting stuff. All this is done with an element of theatre and some quite loud dance music accompaniment.

To support my current PT (whose job going forward will be to run a weekly class) there was a promise to at least try a session. It was, without a doubt, one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done. After thirty three minutes came the first total sensory overload experienced since the ASD diagnosis in June, and I almost ran out of the room. Only then did I realise that you’re locked in, presumably as a means of protecting the rather expensive range of equipment enclosed within.

So, why am I now booked in for my second class tomorrow, you may ask?

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Part of that decision was to do with the support I was given by the secondary trainer who’ll be taking tomorrow’s class (as my PT’s on annual leave) after my unscheduled exit from the room. Not only was she receptive to my issues when told, she suggested breaking the sequences down into stages. Each ’round’ in a full class of 24 includes a section running, lifting and punching (with a TRX Suspension kit presumably used in tandem.) Learning the sequence of exercises is tough when you have so little time, especially for the woman with deficiency in learning abilities who struggles when presented with an excess of sensory input.

My PT has also reinforced this commitment to making the process work by helping introduce me to basic skills required in future weeks, especially in the field of mixed martial arts. Without both of these ladies’ care and commitment, I’d not be going back. To make sure they get the correct amount of thanks at the right level, after this blog is done (and it’s taken almost a week to pull thoughts together) I’ll be e-mailing the Club to extend my gratitude personally. I’ve bought my own gloves, pulled out my ANT-compatible Heart Rate monitor, and tomorrow we aim to complete one round of the process well.

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It is very easy to place obstacles in your path when trying to change long-term habits. For some time now finding the means to push mind out of comfort zones has been a challenge: Blaze presents me with two unique problems to overcome. Firstly, there is the physical intensity of a class that demands a great deal in terms of effort to ensure long-term benefit. More importantly, there is the mental challenges of taking instructions, acting on them, and doing what needs to be done well. Only by being able to combine both of these successfully will there be any meaningful progress.

It was also quite amusing, the morning after my first class, to be sent an e-mail by the club congratulating me on ‘smashing’ the session. I appreciate the elements of theatre and self-congratulation that marketing clearly thinks will make me feel better about myself, but it’s completely pointless. You don’t know how awful I felt not finishing. You don’t understand how hard this is to rationalise. A generic e-mail is not the way to make me feel good about my progress. That revelation came from real people. Perhaps there could be more focus on the people training and less bells and whistles going forward.

I don’t need exercise as distraction: to embrace it as a lifestyle choice there will always need to be a personal connection.

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I’ve changed beyond recognition in the last three years, thanks in part to the people who have offered advice and training along the way. However, in the end, I know it is my effort and hard work which keeps the goals shifting. When asked yesterday what kind of weight I’d dream of lifting going forward, I was honest with my PT. I just want to keep lifting. I want to keep pushing boundaries and overcoming fears and move forwards. This isn’t about maintenance and complacency. Every day should be a school day. Each session should give a sense of progress.

Fitness has to become a part of individual evolution.

Look Up

Sleep is not for the Weak, but for Winners.

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Once upon a time, there was a scepticism about knowing too much about my body. After all, the more details possessed, the easier it becomes to obsess (see: weighing myself daily) and that’s never going to end well. However, there are undoubted benefits to understanding what is normal and what isn’t. I’m also beginning to reconnect with the whole of myself: this began after the Mindfulness course, and has now extended to bodily control itself. Believe it or not, this is something that is struggled with, especially when tired.

My sleep patterns have undoubtedly suffered in the last twelve months from a combination of menopause, mental stress and physical exertion: that situation is slowly improving. The immediate and obvious consequence is an increase not in productivity, but physical co-ordination, and to capitalise on this I’ve been doing rehab therapy on my left hand side which (at various points this year) has suffered as a result of that clumsiness. The benefits are considerable, and add that to my physical training for the Ride London 46, and there’s an awful lot to be happy about.

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However, it isn’t weights or biking that’s affected the physical change, but the Bosu. I will be asking for one of these for Christmas, because the benefit of relaxing on one has become the most surprising part of my entire journey into fitness thus far. Yes, that’s relaxing, because standing on one now is the perfect means by which mind and body connect and stay focused. ‘Getting in the zone’ isn’t just about physical attainment either, it has mental benefits that are only now becoming apparent.

The importance of Mindfulness in reconnecting body and mind is more important than anything else that has happened for some time. The benefits are far-reaching and hugely significant, and only now is that becoming apparent. Every day, I am becoming physically stronger. With that basis, more is possible, and is happening.

The future becomes mine to shape with confidence.

Everything Connected

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The List is written and I’m off, knowing EXACTLY what has to be finished by midnight tonight. Deadlines used to scare me (or piss me off when there was no ability to write) but the ex-paid gig is to thank for instilling the sense of ‘look, this has to happen or you don’t get to do nice stuff.’ Today, therefore, is a reminder that getting pissed off that other people seem to be having a far better time of it than you are is the Number 1 Road to ruin. So, let me tell you a story about that.

For a long time, I blamed a particular person for my lack of success. The reasons for this were fairly simple, but the rationale was ultimately flawed. Ironically, it appears that my opinion of this person was pretty much their opinion of me in return, so it transpires that both of us were dumb as rocks. When it became apparent that it didn’t matter about my writing, and it was personality that had stopped progression in a particular direction, suddenly none of it was really that important. Yet, here I am, still being affected by the same malaise.

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Jealousy is a real productivity killer, a great means of triggering Imposter Syndrome, and normally those who instil it in others have little or no idea that’s happening. That’s the  key, I now grasp, to beating this issue: those whom champion their success in such a way as to prompt such responses aren’t talking to me anyway. Yes, I am listening, but those messages are not directed AT me. It’s the whole Social media disconnect thing, where ‘friends’ only matter to a point.

There are means to verify whether this is true or not. Watching other people’s conversations might be a bit voyeuristic, but Twitter seems to think I’d like to know what two people in my timeline are saying to each other when not even involved. That’s how I’ve begun to realise that for some, it isn’t about anything except being happy for themselves, and then there being a need to show everybody else how happy they are. It’s not malicious, anything but.

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When that freedom makes you jealous, then it is time for reassessment.

Right now, mutes are useful to stop brain being derailed by its own shortcomings, plus mindfulness techniques to prevent those feelings becoming overwhelming. Occasionally it’s also sensible to stop preaching, because even if you’re not intending that, it is what ends up happening. Mostly, I’d love less knee-jerk and anger, but that’s unlikely under current circumstances. Today therefore this reminder is more for me.

Make your own history, and stop letting others dictate your own.