Mercy Street

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My sleep pattern is so badly shot that Fitbit has three distinct blocks of it recorded for yesterday into today. However, this is better than yesterday, and definitely an improvement on Saturday. Today is great, for lots of reasons. First up?

I can clean and press with weight on a bar for four sets of eight repetitions.

I doubt my arms will be up to much tomorrow but right now they’re still celebrating. I’ve flirted with doing this before, but never a full set of anything. This is a MASSIVE improvement. Secondly, I have successfully meditated more than once. I grasped at the tail end of last week that it was that plus the essay I wrote on Friday that made me remember stuff from earlier in my life I’d wanted to forget, which had combined with a hormonal overdose at the weekend to just send brain and body into freefall. Whilst a lot of it is still not really under control, I have a handle on everything else.

There is enough here to work with.

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After today I promise to keep the navel contemplation to a minimum. I have some REALLY good news on the weight front to talk about, and some discussions to have on the back of the Weinstein furore. Instead of making it about me we’ll focus on other things, and I’ll now go and try and work out what got missed from last week.

We’re all going to head forward now, okay?

Under the Sea

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Last night was the bottom of the hole. Now, it is a case of how long before body and brain decide to co-operate and mount an escape attempt. Brian, it must be said, is at least understanding the brief. However, I forgot how to do change at the Supermarket today and heard the woman next to me muttering under their breath ‘seriously could you be MORE stupid in holding up this queue?’ and so I did what any sensible person would do and burst into tears. As the eyes of the entire Supermarket checkouts were upon me I wiped a snotty nose on my sleeve, turned to the shitty person and told her that the next time someone’s struggling in her orbit, maybe she could stop being angry and find some sympathy.

Small victories, people. One idiot at a time.

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I’m also beginning to suspect that hormones are fucking about with my body. I’ve gone from sweating buckets to freezing cold today, and there are no flu symptoms at play. It would make a lot of sense as to how mind is working too. Either way, a public display of embarrassment did the trick: I still have fight in me.

This is better than it was.

On a Rope

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This, my friends, is depression.

This is crying in the Gym changing room after exercise that should make me feel stronger yet there are no endorphins spare today. This is hugging knees so tightly to my chest I think they’ll snap. This is knowing that happiness is for other people and not for me not because it is not deserved, but because it simply cannot be found. This is being objective enough to know I’m in trouble but subjective to the point of wanting to scream at everything to JUST GO AWAY. This is playing a game that used to be a means to help me feel something and instead there being nothing there at all.

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The rational part of my brain knows how much worse this could be, and is a lifejacket keeping me afloat. I think of friends who are in pain, fighting through cancer treatment, brain tumours, unemployment and personal trauma and I have absolutely nothing bad or wrong in life. Depression does not care about how good things are. All it wants is your soul, dragged down out of reach, so it can destroy weeks of confidence and progress. It is a measure of how good I’ve become that forcing brain into expressing the problem has made writing about it possible and explaining it to my husband far less of a horror story than on previous occasions. This is progress.

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I’ve been here since Monday. Work has suffered. I’ve managed to put the brakes on losing momentum, but am going to have to shelve the plans I had for today’s Haiku picture because there is simply not enough confidence to use myself as a model. Instead, I’ll show you what depression looks like when you’re lying to yourself. It’s a deception that is required to get out of the bottom of the hole so that the way back up doesn’t kill you.

This is why I don’t want to talk about stuff, but forced myself to do so to two total strangers yesterday. That’s distinct progress. I’m sorry if I’ve missed your stuff, but there are mutes on right now for very good reason. Sometimes, you can’t cope with other people in the same hole with you. I’m really sorry.

I’m trying to get out.

New Life

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I’m sitting here having breakfast, after seeing Mr Alt off on the inaugural Velo Birmingham. This is just another race to my husband, but for me it has become a powerful metaphor, and only this morning have I fully grasped the significance.

When Dave was diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes, it was a wake up call for him, instant incentive to get fitter and work harder to deal with a problem that was, to an extent, of his own creation. His father was diabetic, so historically the deck was already stacked, but I think we both know had he had made an effort to be healthier before, this diagnosis may not have happened at all. Now it has, it isn’t somebody else’s problem to deal with, it is ours. That doesn’t just mean him either: I have a duty of care as his wife. That’s why I’m here today, as support, and why I’m doing more to help as time goes on.

When that diagnosis was made, we could both have done nothing. He might have ignored the advice, still be overweight and not tried to be fitter. We could have blanked the problem and carried on as if nothing had changed, which would have been both ignorant and potentially dangerous. Instead, we are proactive and positive, sometimes when that’s hard to do. The key is acceptance: what is both possible and doable, what is worth focusing on. Wasting time on the pointless when it is out of our hands is counter productive, so we learn to both focus on the achievable and let go of shit beyond the remit.

Except sometimes, things are not as out of your hands as first appears.

Someone tweeted this into my timeline this morning, and it struck a chord, because as a piece of writing it can both be read and interpreted in so many different ways, and there is no real method in 140 characters to accurately interpret them all. This tweet was, I suppose, the final straw: after a weekend of self-reflection, and realising that I never want to try and discuss anything complicated on Twitter ever again, this message distilled what is the real problem: US. No, not the United States (though some may consider they started all this) but me, and Mr Alt, and everybody else who thinks that improving the World isn’t their task.

The World is our problem to solve and not to complain about because we can no longer have ‘fun’ any more.

Life, like it or not, has always been difficult and hard and ultimately painful. Thinking that somehow if you just ignore everything else that is going on and hoping/expecting/dictating that someone else will fix it is the Elephant in the room no-one can now afford to ignore. Sure we can all still have fun and enjoy life but not at the expense of other issues. More importantly, believing that your own opinion has merit and has to be justified, internally and externally, with every breath is simply not the case. Yes, it is tough and hard, but if you’re using Social media to pretend you’re part of the conversation, you cannot dictate what is said or expect to be allowed to pronounce without consequence.

Conversation is fluid and malleable: arguments should be passionate but never at the expense of learning a contrary point of view. If your standpoint is so inflexible as to exclude everybody else, expect to meet resistance. If you will not look outwards and grasp the possibility you are wrong, you will make things worse. In many cases, what one person thinks is kindness ultimately ends up as the most vicious of cruelties, and spite is all that results. Then is the moment when you’re convinced you know someone else’s motivations, and ultimately end up with the entirely wrong end of the stick… the problem isn’t the people, however.

Twitter has never been the medium in which to fight these battles.

Part of me hopes that 2017 will be the year that blogging undergoes a renaissance, that the long form of debate will replace petty name calling and mudslinging now favoured by the President of the United States. Needless to say, his ‘actions’ in the week have simply heaped more shame on an office that used to stand for all that was good about America, and has now come to symbolize the worst of individual xenophobia and arrogance. Ultimately, those of us who regularly use Twitter are now going to be tarred by the same brush, like it or not. That means it is time to start a reassessment of what the platform is good for, and what is ultimately detrimental.

After a really bad week of social media drama, I’d already taken the decision to not go to bed with an electronic device any more (starting on Monday) and if I want to read, to start buying books again for that purpose. The idea of taking written social media (Facebook, Twitter) off my phone is certainly attractive, and instead to only use Instagram for ‘reporting’ as that will automatically post to both platforms without the need for me to read. That’s the key here: getting sucked into other people’s arguments, when I should be out either a) enjoying myself right b) doing something constructive. That means social media is only for my ‘job’ or when I am working at my desk.

The other major change to my lifestyle, starting this morning, is what I pick to react to. If I’m going to choose a hill to die on then from now on Twitter is not the place to do it. If that means I lose people’s interest by refusing to take part in debates, then so be it, but if I have learnt anything from the last week it is that people will only hear what they want if they consider you’re attacking them. There is neither space, convenience or ability to have a clear discussion on Twitter. It is a place to profess clear, well thought out opinions or engage in quick, visually-enhanced point scoring. For everything else it is a fucking disaster, and yet people like me forget this, time and again. Well, not any more.

It is time to rediscover the value of silence. If you’d like to have a discussion with me, that’s what the comments section of this blog is for, and I’m looking forward to your responses. As of right now it is time to practice what I preach, and be the change other people keep hoping is going to happen. If you don’t like my idea of change, you have every right to step up and disagree.

Welcome to the next generation of Social media.

Wide Open Space

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You ever had a day when you realised the fundamental problem in everything was you?

Once upon a time, when this used to happen (and it did quite often, coinciding with hormonal change before or during menstruation) I’d just go backwards. There’d be rows, recrimination and ultimately tears: yesterday all of those happened, but not in the way they had before. In fact, on reflection, Thursday ended up the best day of the week. Even with five hours sleep I know that yesterday was incredibly important. I’ll write about the literary consequences in the appropriate place but psychologically, we are breaking new ground. I’m pretty confident the meditation is what is helping (and I’ll be doing a practice later) but there are other, more subtle factors at play.

I find looking at myself intimidating, and yet next month am planning to start a video diary, mostly because of just that. Laying yourself bare is not an issue a lot of the current generation have, because they have grown up with the visual very much front and centre. For me, it is the last bastion of uncertainty. Now I am pretty comfortable with what I am, that there doesn’t need to be makeup or a particular type of ‘look’ to merit comfort, the time has come to start playing about with visuals. I’m also considering doing audio only readings of poetry with musical accompaniment for Patreon, so everything is coming together quite nicely.

What is at the core of all of this, inevitably, is familiarity with myself, which hasn’t happened for quite some years. This is due to a very particular set of circumstances which, one day, I will pluck up courage to share with the World. For now, the people who do know have been hugely supportive and understanding, and that’s probably all that is required as a result. I’ve also had enough of those people who come to read my stuff and are arrogant and self-centred enough to believe I’m talking about them. For the record, if you piss me off in the future, I’ll use names and make sure EVERYBODY knows what fucking tools you people are.

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The main reason I know things are getting better is because I’m still working on a domestic project I began on Sunday. I didn’t get bored, or lose interest, or think the whole thing wasn’t worthwhile. I’m still going, and today (after a second scheduled PT for the week) I’ll be carrying on. My personal sanity now depends not simply on internal factors, but the external too. If I can improve everything around me, not simply myself, the benefits are becoming immediately obvious.

The key here is to keep moving forward.

Look Away

Yesterday, something fractured in my head.

I went upstairs into our bedroom and pulled out all the trousers that have been waiting to be tried on, once I’ve lost weight. Many of them now fit comfortably for the first time. A couple are never going to be large enough, others are simply too big. The realisation has finally registered that I could be waiting forever to fit into a size or style, or perhaps it is time to just accept what is here and live with the consequences. Therefore, there are four bags of clothes sitting by the front door, which simply won’t ever get worn. I was holding onto them out of misguided belief, in the end.

A lot of my life is retained on that principle, and finally there has emerged means of escape.

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I know what triggered this, that the second week of Mindfulness Training has started the process of meditation, and as soon as I quieten my mind to everything else, reality is simply unavoidable. I don’t need all these clothes when I live in a small and well-curated subset of one type of apparel. There is no need to keep things ‘in case of X’ when X is never going to happen, and if it did, I’d be better served just going out and buying what was required. I’m beginning to detest the excesses of materialism with a passion that was normally reserved for politics and stupidity. I don’t need anything except a notepad and pencil on most days, a basic PC as a luxury. Everything else is dangerous and potentially addictive, when all is said and done.

So, the house is going to lose a phenomenal amount of content and weight at the time of year when one is normally considering the excesses of Christmas and New Year. In fact, I am going to go fully digital for gifts this year with a number of exceptions who’ll get something hand-made and personal to them. I need to start planning now, on reflection, but it won’t be a huge task to get my arse in gear, especially when so much of my ‘old’ life is going out the door in the next couple of weeks. It is true what they say about de-cluttering, how cathartic it is to release from constraints of the past. It is also very comforting to know that deep down I’m beginning to accept what I am for the first time in my life, that there is no need to conform to anyone else’s view of what is right.

I realised when I began the Minimalism course that it had the potential to fundamentally alter what I am, because I had simply been too afraid before to listen to my basic self unhindered. Now that is happening, life is less about worry and anger than it ever was. Self-control is becoming a tool of liberation.

There’s a revelation in itself.

Knowing Me, Knowing You

header78Yesterday, I ate something I will not eat again. I now understand that my body loves certain foods but will effectively cripple me if I eat others, especially on an empty stomach. Let it not be said I do not understand how life without a gallbladder works. My plan therefore is bland, small and lots of water in between, followed by a VERY long walk somewhere for stamina. Camera is ready to take pictures. Think today is one I need to move, but not in a manner that might make me throw up. As much as I ascribe to the ‘if it is not hurting it is not working’ mentality, that does not work right now.

Time for gentle exercise and no recriminations.

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I realised quite quickly into this journey that although yes, I can live perfectly well without a bile regulation device, I cannot eat what I did any more, despite various people’s assertions to the contrary. It has taken four months for my body to reasonably adjust to the differential, but now I cannot digest certain foods that were problem free for my digestive system previously. Dietary choices therefore have shrunk and not remained constant. It is probably fortunate therefore that most of those foods aren’t exactly good for my system anyway, and losing them is no massive hardship.

Then I remind myself of the consequences had the organ remained in my body, and a loss of a few foods is academic. What I ought to do is get myself looked at for allergy testing, and make sure there’s nothing more sinister and long term at issue here. With my son’s allergies being of significant importance at present, it is entirely possible that my genetic material is at fault. That is something to add to the To Do list for next week. For now, however, it is time to get ready for my walk.