Life is a Minestrone

Don’t worry, you didn’t wander in to the Gaming Blog by mistake. Quietly, and without fuss a while back, I shut it down. It really should have metaphorically burnt it to the ground too, but that’s a bit too drama queen for current tastes. Needless to say, this is Wordsworth. She has a lovely one bedroomed house with a basement on an island with some other people.

They’re not really her friends, if truth be told. She’s not really sure what they are right now, but they talk and exchange gifts and that’s fine because she can fish as much as she wants here and nobody gets cross at her. There’re gardens to tend and flowers to water and bugs to keep in check, and all of this is a lovely distraction from the real world on fire outside.

However, it’s not a life any more. This is just a game.

I spent time yesterday advocating to someone in a senior position inside a major organization that they are not doing enough for people who play games online. There’s a lot of other stuff we all know is patently wrong with the virtual world, but as this is the bit I personally have the most experience with, I’d like to start here.

There’s no real idea if this will come to anything, but I had to try. That’s the deal now: if there is any conceivable way of affording change, it needs to be pushed for. Interestingly, I now have an academic example of how Twitter operates in relation to mental health on a personal basis. I need to go take screenshots of the incident this morning.

People need to grasp how this medium makes people work.

We all have apocryphal Internet stories: the ones which you can prove as true are the incidents we need to start recording better. I must, for instance, go back and see if it is possible to find the DM logs of the woman I kept talking after she’d had a gun waved at her. There’s confidence I can recall time and date, now all I need is the evidence.

As someone with memory issues related to trauma it is becoming vitally important to record this stuff for posterity and so it can be accessed if required. It goes without saying right now that there are some conversations that ought to be screenshotted regardless. There are those in the world who will be quite keen to make history vanish, not realising that the Internet NEVER forgets.

Not only that, its timing remains impeccable when reminding you.

Just a Little

I thought for a bit about live-tweeting my Trauma episodes: however I respect you guys far too much for that. So, instead, we’re going to blog them, for no other reason than if I can forget things so comprehensively for a lifetime and then have them come back as if I’d lived them 15 minutes ago? Recording those reactions might be useful.

Let’s start with yesterday’s Instagram photo.

That’s not hyperbole either. I didn’t remember taking that photo yesterday. That’s before the kitchen was refitted, because this was the year it happened. Then, this morning, walking round my 6k ‘block’ of space in which I was supposed to be thinking about editing (which in fairness happened quite a bit) it came back to me. You needed to be accountable.

I took that picture because, for the first time, I felt capable. That confidence still comes and goes over time: right now there’s a definite effort being made in my head to separate what I think is attractive from what is real. The former’s still massively influenced by factors that aren’t healthy: weight, ability, other people. A bi-weekly Zoom meeting is beginning to help grant much needed perspective.

For long periods of my life have I refused to look at myself at all.

The last time I wore make-up was my wedding, so that will be over twenty years, and that was because the pictures were going to other people. I didn’t care what I looked like but EVERYBODY else suggested I should make the effort, so did. The idea of make-up was approached again recently. I have foundation, expensive stuff, sitting unused in a bag upstairs.

Why don’t I want to wear it? That’s easy. There is already enough hiding. The stage has been reached where people accept me like this, faults and all : I don’t need to dress up and go out to make me feel better. Fixing the basic stuff that’s broken in my head is a bigger priority. Once that’s dealt with, honestly, I cannot see me using make up ever again.

It might change, but right now that looks doubtful.

I am making myself do stuff that is uncomfortable in the coming weeks, but not that is against what I know is the true essence of myself, and makeup never really worked for me. It always felt like I was pretending to be someone else. When you can’t really and truthfully identify what you are in the first place, that causes a lot of confusion. I tend to do a lot of things because other people tell me that’s a good idea, and that has to change.

I know they want me to be happy when this is suggested, and I get the reasoning behind all the stuff that’s presented. However, what makes me happiest is often when I’m allowed just to be the person who doesn’t like what everybody else is raving about, or who isn’t immersed in the latest thing. Just a book, or a computer to work on, some food and people to talk to. All the other stuff is distraction from reality.

I think what is becoming increasingly apparent is that the world and I work slightly out of alignment. Normal is easy, what I need now is hard and difficult and it is to challenge the substance of my being to move forward in a fashion that truly represents my actuality, for the first time ever. When you’ve never really defined yourself properly, that can seem quite frightening.

The first stage of all of this is to be more confident in myself.

Believe

Oh look, July.

I’ve joined a group of people who have decided to try to do something positive on the back of the Gaming #MeToo Implosion. Their plan is to make sure that online spaces have rules that make it easier for people to know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. It’s a brilliant idea, and I feel somewhat underqualified being involved.

My experience however spans four decades. I used to moderate back in the 1990’s, briefly voted onto a group involved in keeping UK Usenet in check… and then I resigned. I remember now the reason why, the abuse that would clog up my dial up, when the phone started ringing at home, I’d answer, then the abuser on the other end would hang up.

This shit really has been going on for two centuries.

Rules are great, and it makes it easier to effectively maintain safe spaces, but they don’t identify why it is people choose to break them. In all of these high profile cases, all the rules in the world would not have prevented predators preying. Sure it might have sent them somewhere else, but really that won’t solve the underlying issues.

Last night I got taken to task (quite rightly) for flippantly suggesting that people were stupid. Without context, yes, it is an insult. However, when you add context, stupidity is quite easy to identify and even easier to expose. The world, like it or not, will never be as black and white as so many of us wish it was. All of us have moral dilemmas to address.

What happens when your own brain can’t do that for you?

All of this, like it or not, comes back to mental health. It is the lynchpin of so many other issues, and getting people to talk about it freely has been almost impossible for decades. Slowly, surely, the stigma begins to relax, to the point where, during lockdown, I was approached and asked if I could recommend some resources on how to cope mentally with what is going on.

That’s when the daily Mental health Tweet was born.

Yesterday, for the first time, one of the organisations I reference took the time to reply to the thread with additional resources. It’s a slow, measured process of just making sure the information remains active in both my timelines. I’m not pushing into conversations and asking how people are. That’s not how the Internet works.

However, if I see someone retweet the information, or I sense by their tweets that maybe they could do with someone to talk to, I’ll ask in public. I’ll make DM’s open to them. There will be a willingness to help and support as much as I can. I know this happens on servers and in gaming guilds and clans, but it doesn’t happen enough. People need to care about others, not just themselves.

There needs to be those willing to try to spot issues before they escalate.

It’s a tough job. Over the last three and a bit decades, it has undoubtedly affected me. People have threatened to hurt my kids, attack my husband… and yeah, I get why they’d want to do that to me. I won’t give them what they want, the belief that somehow they control me. They don’t. None of them do. I am my own person, and I always will be.

Abuse comes in many forms, people. It isn’t just pictures, it isn’t just verbal. EVERYBODY needs to do better, and if that’s ever going to mean change, all the rules in the world are pointless if the people who are supposed to live by them don’t understand that sometimes, brains just break. When that happens, we ALL need to gather round and deal with the consequences.

Mental health is the conversation we ALL need to be having.

Shipbuilding

For all of you that were really hoping you could avoid politics in 2020, NEWSFLASH it never, ever left. You pretended (often vainly) to look the other way and hope you could just keep using Twitter to publicise your gaming stream, or post your screenshots. Of course, this is still utterly valid as a means of promoting yourself, but that’s part of the problem.

You are pretending that nothing is wrong, that you can just carry on as normal, which IS THE PROBLEM. I appreciate you have hopes, dreams, aspirations and desires, but if those are more important than accepting and acknowledging you are involved in all this shit, then you’re being selfish. There, I said it. What are you doing to change the way you think?

Visual metaphors are damning. It makes it quite easy to see who isn’t coping right now. Those who have to tell me that they’re doing something in case it wasn’t clear. I know your mental health’s not good right now. I know you think nobody cares. I not only understand this but accept that as part of a wider narrative.

It’s why so many of you have gone quiet. Tweeting counts as a visual metaphor too. I get that. Someone will undoubtedly turn up and remind us all to stop being so serious and lighten up, and they will in part be correct, but maybe they too will have missed the larger point at play here. We are in a period of SIGNIFICANT societal change.

That means, quite possibly, that your playtime is over for now.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. The choices made in the next four weeks will alter the next six months, and yet many people only seem to care about their own needs, NOW, and this is what has to change with speed… because, if it doesn’t, there is the potential for tens of thousands of people to die, and a Second Wave of COVID 19 to rise.

If all you care about is buying stuff, you are part of the problem. If all you care about is getting sport back, you are part of the problem. If all you care about are your own superficial desires, YOU ARE PART OF THE FUCKING PROBLEM and it is probably the moment to grasp that life and death are more important than entitlement and superiority.

Except, of course, you won’t, and never will.

500 Miles

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My mental health has been largely left unaddressed in the last eight weeks. This morning we began to fix that.

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Things to Note

  • This is not about breaking records (or indeed necessarily burning calories, which happens on a static bike or with weight training) but about BEING OUTSIDE, which is quite a scary prospect for someone with limited lung capacity. It is also, crucially, about having space to be able to THINK ABOUT WRITING.Β Some of my best work undoubtedly takes place when I’m walking.
  • Making writing easier is part of the current mental well-being plan. I’ve set some quite tight targets for June on the back of this, which should be easily doable with some pre-organisation acumen. We’ll measure the mental difference after a week, and review as a result.
  • It’s almost Summer.Β I should be outside more anyway; the more time I’m out there, the easier it will be to return to what someone else will undoubtedly refer to as ‘The New Normal’ which isn’t a reality for me until there’s a vaccine, because there’s NO WAY ON EARTH you’ll get me into densely packed spaces with other human beings until that happens.

 

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The rest will depend on levels of fitness, ability to cope with circumstances, and other factors, one of which raised its head this morning.

It’s estimated 10,000 people have died in this manner since the Pandemic began. To imagine that happening every day, somewhere across the country, is a massively sobering thought. Sometimes, there are moments you will never provision for, that have to be ridden out, like it or not. It’s getting easier, though the anger this had to happen at all is never likely to ever diminish, will fuel future writing progression.

The consequences of this event will have ramifications for decades to come.

Treating ourselves with kindness now is absolutely the way forward.

Try a Little Tenderness

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Over the years, I’ve written extensively about my mental health issues: if you’re bored, go look up on the gaming blog the dates in previous years when Mental health days have corresponded with posts. Having spent time talking to professional media people over the last few months I realise a lot of those stories would not be considered as acceptable for general consumption, and not just because of their subjectivity.

It is easy to slip into stereotypical behaviour when you’re the one who’s struggling to cope, and the whole point of weeks like this is to try to alter everybody’s mindsets, including your own. Telling a story matters, of course it does, but doing so in a fashion that alters outlooks and challenges stigma means thinking long and hard about language, and how other people will react to your words on a page.

Language is the key to so many things.

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I’m still caught up using insults that will undoubtedly resonate with those of my generation, but which are woefully cringeworthy in the modern world. It helps a lot in this regard to have a 15-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son who constantly remind both me and my husband just how jaded and dated our language can be. Having a decent digital friends list is also an advantage.

This isn’t just about listening either, learning is vital.Β I possess the world’s most pathetic learning curve, so there are still insults that slip out, especially when stressed. Unlearning historic behaviour is a tough ask: however, if I can be taught to run from scratch, can find the means to beat personal bests posted when I was considerably more physically able? It’s doable. People can change.

The bigger issue, of course, is if they want to.

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This week I’ve produced quite a lot of content in relation to the MHAW Theme of Kindness:Β there is a lot of history for me, online, where my own anger has superseded the rational. Many people have decided I was the villain too, and sometimes, they were right.Β Admitting your faults, especially in writing, is a tough ask for many, but an important part of the process to grant both redemption and healing.

Being kind to yourself, ultimately, is the hardest task of all.

Carboot Soul

My phone finally died yesterday: the battery appears to have… well, expanded in place, which really does not fill me with massive enthusiasm that it’s safe. My husband has very kindly stepped in and is sourcing me a previously-enjoyed replacement unit. He doesn’t like to use the words ‘second hand’ when it comes to tech, but that’s what we should all be doing. It should not matter that you don’t own the latest, or the best.

I’m seeing a lot of tech snobbery of late, embarrassed to say I was a snob earlier this week myself. The assumption that if you own the latest thing then everybody else must too is… well, dangerous. It will also make you look pretty stupid in certain positions: my PC has only a monitor, no (functioning) webcam as yet, and good sound is a massive faff to achieve. I could have used my phone yesterday for Zoom, were it working.

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What this is telling me, of course, is that I need to extract the digit and organise myself better. The truth, under all of this, is that massive group meetings scare the fuck out of me. All those ‘benefits’ that normal people will gain from the notion of being part of a participative event set me screaming. I’ve never worked well in those situations, doubt I ever will. The best work is done with communication on a one to one basis.

Then, everything else gets blocked out and I can focus on a person, the job in hand. That’s probably a lot to do with why I’m currently really not stressing about the whole being locked inside thing nearly as much as everybody else seems to be. I get there are lives and jobs and the like on the line, and I’m indescribably grateful to my husband who has heavy lifted all of us through this because of my health issues.

The fact remains, I was built for Lockdown.

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That means, starting today, it’s probably an idea to start taking a few things a bit more seriously than previously. I have some cycling PB’s that won’t get broken without a concerted redefinition of training goals. It is the moment to start getting serious, and shit to become real again. Plus yesterday, after throwing a submission together and writing a cracking poem, it might be the moment to use all this grief constructively too.

Let’s see how we can do this day better than yesterday.

Lies

Why is it that we are constantly trying to achieve the things that make us most frustrated by their absence? Why is it that the people we crave most to be part of our lives never seem to even notice our existence, unless it suits their agenda? Why am I asking all these dumb questions after only one cup of tea…?

Hang on, let’s fix that before anything else happens.

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It’s been a tough week, and we’re only at Wednesday. However, there are solutions for all my issues easily to hand, there’s progress on my Experimental Poetry (more of that on the work blog) and frankly, that’s all there would be on any other Wednesday. The problem is clearing out all the pointless stuff I can do nothing about from a brain that uses this stuff as means to berate me on my lack of progress.

Except, of course, that’s complete bollocks too.

I missed a deadline for a contest yesterday, that’s so not for Poets Like Me.Β That’s gonna end up as my next video project, as it happens: all these people I see, writing flowery prose or being all energetic and in people’s faces as if that’s the way we all write. I’m beginning to realise the gulf of difference between me and everybody else not as a disadvantage but a selling point. Different is defined by other’s ignorance.

Ascribing to the school of ‘everything happens for a reason’ as I did, for so many years, means that at the back of my mind this week will end up as more of a personal watershed than it ever appeared would be the case going into it. The loss of a family member to COVID shouldn’t have been inevitable, but it was.Β Knowing the truth is a long way from experiencing its consequences, after all. When that happens, everything alters.

This is, like it or not, a page in the book I need to write for myself.

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Blogging is therapy again, for the foreseeable future. Please fasten your seatbelts.

The Departure

There are a bunch of Twitter people, out here /pointsΒ who appear to have evolved as a weird hybrid of human being and motivational action poster. All they do is post single sentence observations on life, often with no discernable means by which you can tell if they are either real or AI. They seem to be American in the main, which might explain a few things, on reflection. I’ve crossed swords with a fair few in my time.

Accusing them of being AI is often a good way to reveal the person behind the generic frontage: it becomes more apparent when you don’t just blindly accept the follow, but dig deeper into their likes and retweets. I like my Twitter with obvious depth and breadth, because eventually it becomes apparent who the real people are, and who it is trying to be something else.

You’ll now be wondering why this blog post has begun as it has.

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I’m getting tired of the gallows humour, people. If all you can reasonably present as means of surviving the horror story we find ourselves within is a stream of intelligent but ultimately hastily considered gags as response? It’s not helping.Β Yeah, everybody can see how clever you are, and we can all share the responsibility of feeling briefly better, but this is not going to fix the situation.

We’ve become nothing but frontage, just like the Aspirational One-Liner People: true anger and fear no longer seem to matter. I KNOW everybody is tired, and it’s not going to get any easier, but holding government to account needs to happen in better ways than your smart 280 letter interpretation of the new social distancing rules. I know that did your ratio no end of good by posting it, but I thought you were better than that.

We need people to stand up and call accountability, not to just point and laugh.

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More and more people are showing their true colours as time goes on: they are only interested in their own well-being (perfectly acceptable in these times when nobody else seems to give a fuck about staying in and saving lives) which also means focusing on their own interests and feelings. Except, that’s not a good mindset either for good mental health or to support others who may feel as if they need your help.

I’ve taken to having a rant first thing on Twitter, every few days, normally following an outburst of Government stupidity. This explains the sizable drop in personal account followers over the last six months but frankly, I don’t care.Β This is what you get now, I’ve laid out the change in direction enough times, it really should not come as a surprise… but then I wonder how much attention the World pays to each other when it is clear how people meltdown online, apparently without anyone noticing.

I’m doing my best at present to offer help and support where possible.

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Nothing is ever perfect in life, but you can try your best to make your surrounding spaces more comfortable and conducive. Although I appreciate dealing with the world by only using single sentences is one way to approach the Apocalypse, it is not a lifestyle choice that will ever truly appeal. I’m looking for more direct means of support and understanding.

The loneliness is real as a result.

Nothing

My perception of time is a bit wonked this morning, and it doesn’t help that even after a solid ten hours kip I am still tired, but I would not swap the last two days for anything in the world. Nobody likes being sick, especially right now, but the last few days has made me realise a lot about both myself and family that needed reinforcing. Most of all, I’d not exchange anything at all for quality time it’s allowed me with them whilst recovering.

The priorities right now will to be to get back to exercising (we’ll do weights plus bike both today and tomorrow at reduced rates and then back to ‘normal’ next week) and after that, well… I have a nice weight reset to not throw away. I’ve lost five pounds since my last weigh in. Time to capitalise on the advantage, and not see what just happened as a negative.

This is the move forward I often fail to make.

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I’ve been asked, with my Mental health Champion hat on, to provide poetry for my local Time to Change Hub. I’d already been working on some pieces, and there’s one in particular that stand out as ripe for doing video work with. It’s apposite that skill set’s been worked on this week (Monday seems a world away now) and the results will be a good barometer of whether I’m capable of doing other work in this way.

I need to have a piece ready by the 11th, which is just over two weeks from now. I’ll set up a microphone for recording, have a rough idea on what to storyboard, and we’ll plan on making it happen tomorrow. Once it’s done, we’ll see if it’s good enough to share to a wider stage. That’s all I can do right now: keep making, doing and sharing, and hope something has the potential to pique interest…

We take our experiences, allowing them to define what we are going forward.