Change

The normal school run route this morning was closed: a Police car blocked the road, lights flashing whilst female PC directed traffic. My daughter gave her a thumbs up and amazingly, officer returned that gesture. My 14 year old turned back to me and smiled, as I apologised over being horrendously late for school: ‘It’s okay mum, I’m loving your story about the weekend. Keep telling me what happened.’

The last three days has already altered so many things, in little ways. Most of that, it occurs to me, came from my own willingness to give so much of myself to total strangers, for that’s what all of these women were. A couple had reached out via social media the week before, but there was nothing to believe I’d get on with anyone successfully across the weekend, yet I did. Connections were forged with so many people.

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However this morning the most significant change that presents itself is belief in myself. I’m off to see an old friend tomorrow, to explore a part of my psyche that is still largely untouched after exposure during counselling. It should be a lot easier to do that now, it will be simpler and less stressful than would previously have been the case. I’ve done a write-up of my early experiences here but what that won’t highlight is just how deeply affecting every single interaction was in different ways.

This wasn’t just positive either, and that point needs to be highlighted. A very small number of women I tried to talk to across the weekend were really not interested in returning that gesture. Once upon a time that rejection would have been devastating, but not any more. Not everybody will be your friend. The fact I lucked out over 90% of the time however is a statistic that is a testament to the empathetic skills of the organisers.

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Realism is important in the modern world, and although some love to highlight negatives as soon as they appear, ultimately this is a bad thing when the vast majority of your experiences are positive. It’s why the business of online criticism has become so difficult and perilous in recent years, especially in the industry I’ve walked away from to go it alone. There’s almost a blind mentality of dissemination without thinking, just because you agree with someone else’s grumpy take at the time.

To stop and think is what I had to do across the weekend, time and again, processing what I’d learnt or heard and occasionally failing. In fact I reached capacity at Sunday lunchtime and became mentally incapable of absorbing any more. That’s why I’ll apologise now and warn you that over the next few weeks here is where that is likely to take place. To do so that means not thinking too, which is what an early PT will facilitate.

Time to go lift weights and allow ideas to percolate…

This Is the Day

No Blaze today, because tomorrow is Day One of my writing event in Leeds. I’ll do an adult job of covering it on the appropriate blog, of course, but you can expect non-specific, personal wibbling here. I used to go everywhere on my own up until the birth of my son, then lots of stuff changed forever. As a result this won’t be the first time I’ve visited Leeds, but that was over twenty years ago.

One of the many jobs today is to build a number of suitable playlists for the journey up there for the car. I have foodstuffs and tea to pack, plus the possibility of knocking up some leaflets about myself. There are already business cards printed, so in that regard I’m ahead of the game for a change. What needs to happen before anything else takes place is to read the booklet about the event itself.

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My biggest single worry is blowing it in conversation. All I can do is be myself, I suppose, and think before I speak. After that, everybody else is in exactly the same situation as I am. Sure, other people will know each other, but there will be those who, like me, have come here to start a dream, or continue their training. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll find some friends here.

This is only one of multiple takeaways potentially from the weekend. The plan to change the course of my existence is well on course. Now, it is entirely up to me: make a difference, change the outlooks, start learning how to write properly. Asking the right questions will make a big difference to the helpfulness of my experience. Having other work to share will help too.

This is the start of an exciting new part of existence.

Easy

If I needed a confirmation this is the right way to go, yesterday provided it in spades. A Saturday rejection was accepted and moved on from in under an hour (probably less) pushing me to finish site back end work that’s been put off for months. My daughter came and hugged me before bedtime. Husband’s out this morning, cycling around the county and everything is pretty much as perfect as it is possible to be.

Yes, I’d like to win something, but to do that I need to get better first.

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Is that better or Better, I find myself asking? I’ll grant myself the realisation that the mental side of things is more significant right now, that far more is being gained from the process of counselling than writing. However, that’s likely to alter as time goes on, obviously, especially as my work matures and develops. There has to be this continuous reminder, we’ve only been at this for two years.

Hard work matters everywhere: on an exercise machine, in the Gym, in relationships and friendships. I’m still kicking myself I missed a close friend’s birthday last week because that’s simply not where the head-space is right now. This is more thinking about myself than has taken place for a decade. As a result, and with other real life trauma to balance, I shouldn’t beat myself up too much about it. But I will.

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That means being up this early on a Sunday to make the most of quiet time before the day starts (and cricket, it’s great to have a World Cup to listen to) and then focusing mind to actually get the jobs done that need work. Having almost completed all the back end stuff last night, that’s what gets finished this morning, after which I can finish off the first draft of the Southend poetry.

It is already a brilliant day, and it’s only just begun.

Look Away

When I began dealing with my own mental shortcomings, I was asked to provide a description of how life felt for me at that point. I described a room with sixteen walls, with me trapped inside. On each wall was a mirror: they weren’t there for me to look into, but to reflect back my own shortcomings. There was no way out.

As each week has passed, a mirror’s been smashed. The fear of bad luck is irrelevant, old wives tales summarily ignored and passed by. Behind frames have been rewards: sometimes a door into a dusty room, not lived in or seen for sometimes decades. Occasionally it’s just been a phrase in my own handwriting, written then forgotten.

Then, last week, a mirror was broken that proved this room is actually a building.

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For a week I was outside myself for the first time in many years, existing in a green, warm space that had been largely forgotten. The building is still there though, there’s walls left where mirrors should not be. However, one remains intact, and that’s the one which reflects back my own need to be true to this new, but old, person.

Once upon a time, so much would scare me. Things would create chaos and fear in my mind: what would people think of me if I was myself? It was impossible to distinguish these multiple reflections from the person I really was. Sometimes, I still get fooled and undoubtedly going forward, this will still happen.

However, it’s not going to destroy what’s been rediscovered.

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That means, going forward, that I’ll be far more willing to explain what bothers me. If you upset me and I feel it worthwhile, you’ll know why that was. There will be no more passive aggressive behaviour, either. I default to kind whenever possible, but if you turn up and don’t contribute anything of value? Sorry, there are better people to talk to.

Life is far too short to get hung up on the non-contributors. If you’d like to matter and be part of my life going forward, turn up prepared to give your all, 100%. I don’t have time for all that shit any more, and if the future is to be built away from that old building, and it will be, the darkness beneath it must be forgotten forever.

This is my life now, and I am never going back.

Two Days in the Valley

I think it would have been at about 2pm yesterday that something fundamentally altered in my head. Playing my new game of choice, I was trying to get back to the point where I expired, having dropped all my cash when doing so. Then I realised something fundamental: you don’t need to stay here. Go make another world, start from scratch, you can just begin somewhere else. You are in control.

Once upon a time, there was no patience when I failed at learning new game mechanics, would just give up and stop playing. Warcraft taught me persistance, showed rewards for doing so, but then it became destructive. I realise now I made a job out of that need to keep playing, which eventually wasn’t enough. There had to be a separation of action and consequence.

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There’s a June 1st deadline for a novel writing prize that’s been causing some stress: should I enter or not? Yesterday, whilst playing, my brain confirmed that yes, I should, but not until I have something that is actually finished, which nothing really is. I’ve got to the end of three stories, but editing is woeful, and that’s what has to be worked on. You don’t have to do everything now. What is more important is a focus on ability.

A narrative has been picked to work on, which is happening, but the poetry project is more important. Being distracted from what matters most is probably my biggest single problem when it comes to completing work to deadlines, and if the plan is to work on one issue at a time, then this is the one that deserves the most attention. Therefore, we will be changing the habits of a lifetime and making this happen.

Needless to say, gaming has helped me unknot brain in ways I didn’t think was possible.

The Greatest Love of All

Okay, where to start…?

My PT knows I like taking pictures, so asked if I’d be willing to come visit the site where lots of clients were taking part in a sport that could one day be considered as an Olympic one. The plan, of course, was to try and persuade me to take part. Here is your test of ultimate fitness. My trainer does not as yet grasp the real reasons why I’m exercising, that the assumption initially is that ‘oh look, I need validation of my efforts…’

Three hours I stood, taking pictures, before anxiety finally consumed me completely and I had to leave, simply did not want to stay there any longer. My counsellor has now taught me to ask ‘why’ such things happen in these circumstances, and so I did, in the car. Why was I so anxious? Because I was lonely. The feeling of comfort and security I’d felt on Friday had simply vanished and this was difficult, exposing. What had happened?

You could tell instantly the people on the course who were racing for themselves: these two, for instance, the early (super fit) part of the Gym team who didn’t need to have a GoPro strapped to them or be part of a group of others for encouragement. Their race was theirs without the need to be be part of a collective whole. They were comfortable in their ability, something that still needs to happen with me, because being part of a ‘tribe’ has always been a struggle.

I thought it was the concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) that was my problem but actually, it’s far more judgemental. I am the person who suffers from FOBC (fear of being criticised) and that if I couldn’t do the course, I’d simply not be good enough. It didn’t help that my husband didn’t want to come with me yesterday, and an opportunity to talk (which hasn’t really happened for weeks) didn’t take place. That’s why anxiety rose, clear definition to it’s occurrence.

So I came home, got upset when I couldn’t help my daughter with a trivial issue and ended up taking over in an effort to show how helpful I was, cried some more and then had a bike ride, which was a small but definite improvement on the last bike ride, before making my husband stop and make time to talk about stuff because it has been bothering me for ages. At the end he told me he’d enjoyed the fact I’d come and found him to do so.

Only now, this morning sitting here as the rest of the house sleeps does the complexity of what’s now taking place inside my brain begin to really make sense. No, I’m not lonely now, like I was yesterday, and if I find myself in that situation again now I know what to do. I still don’t have a Tribe, I sit on the fringes of many places and actually, given the choice that’s where I’d like to be. This isn’t about feeling like I am a particular type of person.

This is about feeling like I’m being true to myself.

My PT messaged me, after she’d raced, and asked me if I’d been inspired to compete. When I am sent to Hell, whenever that finally happens, it would look and feel like this obstacle course, and I’d be forced to compete it wet and cold for the rest of my days, appropriate penance for the sin of refusing to conform to other people’s perceptions of my worth. I was honest with her: it made me uncomfortable and frightened. Both of those feelings are easy enough to deal with, but I’d still not need to do the course even when they are

When I’m finally comfortable and confident, I won’t need a medal as validation.

King James

Halfway through my counselling; the paradigm has changed.

I wrote a Dear John letter this morning which has been put off for months, because tomorrow Activision Blizzard relaunch the game that started all this trouble in the first place and

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yeah we’re absolutely done with hiding inside video games instead of dealing with issues head on. I fully accept the debt it paid to saving me back in 2009 and now, for everybody’s benefit it is high time to move forward. May you all enjoy the new stuff and if you want to do it all again from scratch go right ahead, but this is my reminder that this is not my personal reality any more.

That destiny lies elsewhere.

Tonight is a 55 minute Blaze with a pretty impressively cut disco hits soundtrack. I was allowed to hear it today as I photographed the PT and staff at the health club doing a 45 minute class for the Project which, quite frankly, I’d never EVER be able to do that well, even if I were super fit. It was very inspiring, and made for sober realisation. If I’d begun this a decade ago, how fit might I be now?

Of course, I’ll never know.

Also, I went to the Estuary today, and was reminded of a past that can no longer be ignored: further back than a decade, a VERY long way. We apologise for the interruption of normally scheduled tomfoolery as a result, because like it or not all this stuff’s gonna be sorted out one way or another.

What’s the worst that can happen?