Weather With You

I know why I didn’t want to write yesterday; simply not enough brain space to accommodate it. There needed to be other things done instead and today I’ll get back on the tasks in hand. Once upon a time, there’d be no means of questioning why stuff was happening either. Now, everything is considerably easier to fathom. The biggest realisation however is that some things will never be as they were.

1000 calories in a night is a big deal. There was a lot of pushing last night, and at one point so much sweat was dripping off me that I couldn’t see through my glasses. This is absolutely a new experience: arms this morning are sore in a completely new way. Interestingly,  historical injuries are also receding in concern. It’s officially the quickest recovery from blood donation that’s been managed since we started this journey.

Next step, of course, is to see if I can do it all again tonight with the same measure of success.

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There’s all the other stuff I gotta do as well, of course: prioritising it all becomes progressively easier with each passing day. Sleep patterns are slowly returning to normal, less caffeine is needed every day to keep brain functioning, it is all good. As long as that continues to be the case, life is the best it has ever been. The stress won’t ever go away, issues don’t ever vanish. That’s how this works.

The key is how that’s dealt with on the way.

Cantaloupe Island

Hey there Sunday. I did the majority of the work for next week last week and had hoped that there’d be time to swap over my desk space today but honestly, it isn’t going to happen. For the next two weekends I’m a lone parent anyway: it’s possible I might be going to Birmingham for the second one, dunno, it will depend on various factors. Whatever does transpire going forward, there is a lot on, but I’m ready for it.

Let’s make the second cuppa and get started.

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I’m working on a new novel. There is, of course, nothing at all wrong with the old ones, they just need editing but that’s not something I’m capable of doing right now. So, instead, it is time to make something new from scratch. That means a cover. This might be the best cover I’ve ever made, most relevant to content.

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Needless to say, in the downtime between poetry in May, this gets chipped away at… it also has a playlist, which is always a good guarantee stuff will be successful. This one gets to be listened to in the car, at the Gym, when exercising, so brain can be stimulated as well as the other muscles. Let’s see how successful it is.

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I have a submission to finish. It requires an artist’s resume. I bloody HATE talking about myself but it has now been proven that doing so produces results. Therefore, I’ll jerry-rig summat from that last successful submission (can’t talk too much about it yet, more as it happens) and see if we can hit the target again. This is tough work mentally, but knowing now it is successful, that people notice… that’s the key.

Just keep moving forward, doofus.

Personal Data // Alpha

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A lot has changed in my life in the course of the last year, more than had initially been grasped. It’s only when you have to lay life out to a total stranger that it becomes apparent of how a world view’s subjectivity will influence thinking and reaction. I’m absolutely not going to talk about the details of those conversations here, but I can consider the consequences they create in this virtual existence.

More and more, in my virtual sphere, it has had become socially acceptable to be the villain. Having played that role before such things were a means to make money, or show your disdain to other political/social groups, I realise that there is a lot of subtlety that is being ignored or simply not even being considered by people who feel that any criticism is bad. You either like summat, or you shut the fuck up.

Of course, that’s what I’ve done above. With the unsubtle, visceral lens screwed tightly into my world view, someone will read this tweet in exactly the same breath as the person who complains vociferously that their game’s being ruined by whiny, entitled fanboys. That position’s remained unchanged for well over a decade. The addition of ‘let people enjoy their stuff’ is irrelevant too. You come to Twitter for a fight, right?

That’s the entire point of posting a Tweet to start with.

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The subtlety of discussion is receding in my timeline. It’s quite rare to have that kind of interaction in the first place: what tends to happen is someone does a ‘thread’ on a useful subject that is read and discussed, people elevate memes to new levels of clever/ridiculous/indecipherable, everybody posts more pet pictures and that’s the game. Is it because I’m not following the right people? I don’t think so.

What seems to happen now is that people just don’t talk to each other as much unless they feel SUPREMELY confident of their ability to deal with all-comers. This mostly seems to manifest with genuinely arrogant, unreadable diatribes or the occasionally brilliantly smart, funny and readable commentator. I’ve had enough of listening to the smug writers and broadcasters who somehow are above the rest of us.

Looking for genuinely interesting new followers is an increasingly tough ask.

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Maybe this finally means the ‘if you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all’ adage is beginning to stick, I dunno… or maybe, more significantly for me, the feed I read on a normal day’s been reduced to something approaching quiet. The curation I’ve undertaken over the last six months has reduced my feed by about 250 followers: yes, I’ve gone in and force unfollowed a LOT of people.

Many of those were also people who would never, ever follow me back, and as a result are only useful to read and rarely react with. There are a few exceptions, but most of the discussions now are about subjects that are distinctly lacking in contention. I’m in no position to do anything else, and remain happy online. I look forward to the day when there’s more confidence to do so, however.

It will happen again, undoubtedly.

Go Up

I have always been a prolific tweeter: the platform very much gets used ‘as intended’ in that regard. As part of my ongoing process of enlightenment, there’s been some time given to what has happened to get me here. Twitter last week suggested following someone who I’d not spoken to for several years: looking back, I realised that they’d been blocked, and then needed to remind myself of why. Going down that rabbit hole was eye-opening, reminding how the platform has changed in just a couple of years.

It’s never your friends that are the villains. It can’t possibly be the sweet, kind individuals who very intentionally hide their true natures when online knowing full well the consequences can be devastating. The more you live a lie online, the more likely it is that someone will find you out. The behaviours are there for all to see: eventually, it just needs enough people to put together the pieces.

It means, over time, continually reassessing what it is I am and how it appears. All the contentious people that I’ve clashed with, over the years, fit into some fairly distinct categories. Most feel I’ve made a mistake, and they’d be right. I shouldn’t have gotten halfway through that community project and shelved it: the reason why it was never completed very simple. I lost confidence in the people I was supposed to be championing.

That was the moment reality finally broke my self-imposed fourth wall.

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Nearly all blocks imposed are the means by which I can exert control over situations that I feel threatened by. However, an increasing number are there to prevent people returning to read me, because they’re the quick and dirty means by which a feed can be instantly curated. As long as there’s gmail addresses still left to claim, it’s an academic task to set up a sock account and bypass any restriction: that act alone says far more about a person’s level of obsession than anything else. Take it from someone who knows.

The history of my past, littered with remnants of other people’s actions, nearly always paints me as the villain. I’m the one who seemingly shuts down conversations (clearly because I’ll lose) or I’m the one whose hijacking someone else’s feelings or personal sanctity. In nearly every case, there’s a realisation that the person you’re speaking to has either been dishonest, or is projecting onto you far more significance than actually exists in relation to the relationship.

That’s the killer: this other person thinks we’re friends, when we’re not.

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A lot of this comes from being burnt, an awful lot across the years, by people who decided I was their friend when it was apparent the entire relationship was convenience. It still happens: you have a historical association, clearly enough to grant rights to complain, control and ultimately dismiss one side of a story because clearly, that can’t be true. It’s why I refuse to Facebook, accept requests from people who I used to know on the basis you need to be able to feel comfortable with all the mistakes of your past.

I will become the shitty friend, and am more than happy to accept the mantle of arrogant, selfish, intractable. I’m the toxic element you needed to remove from your life,  yet so many people seem to find it really hard to let go. It’s odd, that: how many of those who complain so vociferously about being rejected will forget all that perceived mistreatment the moment they change behaviour. I know my shortcomings only too well. Learning those lessons is absolutely worth the effort.

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There are many consequences to living life online. This week, I’m watching someone I knew very well for about a year and a bit get dragged through the media: part of a fairly high-profile, rather unpleasant court case. We met online, communicated regularly: their Christmas compilation CD has significantly shaped listening tastes. Of course, I didn’t ‘know’ them at all, just the piece of themselves they decided to share with me. That’s all online life is about, in the end.

Reality is no easier, and far messier. Maybe that’s why we’re all here to begin with.

The World is Not Enough

The news today is full of BritBox: the collaboration between BBC and ITV which will undoubtedly see a ton of shows quietly withdrawn via other streaming platforms as the memo is read that TV’s future no longer lives in that box in the corner of your living room. Sure it’s the TV with Victoria’s face on it that dominates their splash screen currently, but acknowledging that phones, PC’s and tablets even exist as entertainment delivery devices is a massive, humongous step forward for terrestrial TV.

The world is changing too fast for these companies to ignore: if the customer surveys I increasingly get sent by Sky TV are any indicator, they absolutely see Amazon and Netflix as the only competition going forward. It’s not just TV either: behold the advert for a new team kit and ‘brand’ from, of all people, a county cricket team most people won’t even rate as decent. In fact, they got relegated to Division 2 of the County Championship last year, which presumably prompted this fairly radical change. Bricks as wickets, indeed.

Advertising is changing too. Once upon a time this would have been a poster or an advert in a newspaper, but nobody does that any more. It has to exist on a phone, in your hand on a train, and that means digital media. The choice of location for the ad is, I assume, Oxford, and could very well have been made using an iPhone: there is no need to employ sophisticated video editing like the Durham boys did. Anybody can be a star, and lots of people are. This is the future, where all that is needed to jump on a bandwagon is software and imagination.

It’s an amazing time for somebody like me, whose only restriction is the time available to make things come alive. It gives considerable pause for thought too: what might be possible on these platforms, what could be achieved with only the minimum amount of outlay. Undoubtedly the future is image as well as words, so how do you make the optimum use of both and still find the means to make a living…

Watch this Space…

The Name of the Game

[Sensitive men may wish to look away now.]

The menopause has effectively redefined who I am over the last couple of years. Sure, the same basic person remains that started the journey from periods that would effectively keep me housebound in the last months before they stopped, so much blood loss that I’d occasionally faint. Now, there’s a lot of things that are different, and a fair few things that are missed. One thing most definitely isn’t.

Anger was, for me, very much hormonally-based. Having lost most, if not all of that white hot reaction is really a bonus for everybody concerned. Sure, I’ll still let stuff get to me but now, it is far less incendiary. What does remain is a remarkable amount of sorrow: tears are a problem, and can often happen with complete unexpectedness. However, that too is beginning to be tempered. Tiredness is the key: making sure I’m getting enough hours rest every night has become an overriding priority.

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If I sleep well, the World pretty much resets to normal around that. Protracted periods of exhaustion mean memory issues, irritation and an inability to effectively communicate. This is normal for most of the world regardless, I just turned up at this point late to the party and am beginning to grasp what a more mellow, laid back version of reality can mean for existence. Becoming hormone free is, in that regard, the best thing that’s happened for decades. I am dictated to by my body no longer.

What this does force however is a different way of thinking about the business of everyday life. Some skills are needing to be re-learnt from scratch. The benefit of routine and goal-setting have become more significant than ever before, because it is this that allows me to maintain sanctity of both body and mind. Starting my exercise programme when I did, in that regard, may end up the most important gift that was ever self- given.

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Exercise is the drug that nobody can prescribe that means the withdrawal from hormone dependency is minimised. It’s also impetus and focus all rolled into one. I have goals and objectives that are set and defined purely on my terms that are not dependant on winning a contest or being popular in a peer group. It is the personal nirvana that defines increasing areas of existence. I don’t need group events to show my ability or skill, just myself. I am the arbiter of this destiny alone.

However, some days it is a wade through neck-high treacle. Yesterday was one of those. Today, with a decent night’s kip and revelation over an injury, everything is indeed considerably brighter than it was. Sure, the rejection and occasional inertia will get me down, because if it didn’t I wouldn’t be me. Today, however, they don’t matter.

All that is of consequence is the motion forward.

You’re So Vain

Starting tomorrow, for a whole week, I’m going to bore you shitless about what happens in my head. My problem with all the times this happens with other people (normally sponsored by the charities who all need to promote that message or newspapers trying to cash in on Time to Talk Day) is the inevitably sanitised version of events that is presented, because you don’t want to scare normal people into being too frightened to help.

Throughout my entire life I have experienced first hand what happens when ‘normal’ gets involved in the equation, and honestly it’s like living the same day, over and again, before everybody else forgets how horrible everything was except you. You are trapped in your own Groundhog Day, except there’s no cute large ground squirrel for company or the opportunity to fall in love with Andie MacDowell.

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The choices presented therefore are often difficult, painful and ultimately hurtful. If I had to sum up the overriding emotion felt right now, undoubtedly is is sadness. Trying to get other people to understand when the world generally right now does not have a fucking clue what’s going on, mired in uncertainty and often anger. With so many other things taking up the precious free time others possess, why bother helping other people?

Mindfulness has, at least for me, opened a door to better mental places, spaces that only I inhabit away from the noise and fuss of the rest of reality’s demands, which allows the opportunity to deal with sadness, anger and resentment quite effectively. It gives the means by which obstacles can be circumnavigated, and wisdom slowly distilled from the journey thus far. What have I learnt, in all of this? Fear is what underpins everything.

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We’re not talking being afraid of spiders, or not succeeding in my new career path, because both of those are now happily rationalised. We need to treat all the world’s creatures far better than is currently the case, and I have already succeeded, and will continue to do so going forward, because these paths are not hampered by my own inability. Sure, there are days when mentally below par that they become problematic, because nobody is perfect every day. You do what you can to survive.

Fear stops my brain from pushing my body, or at least it used to. Yesterday, in the gym, all those people who can just run without the nagging fear they’ll run out of breath, that their legs will stop working, that the treadmill will dump them face first on the floor in a comedy moment. Each one of those fears has been removed, rationalised and dismissed. Yesterday, I just ran. The most difficult thing ever became the most normal thing. That’s my brain at work, and why everything makes me so fucking tired.

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In the end, of course, those people who stop listening to other people’s issues are often those with their own demons to face, with no desire or ability to start that process. Reaching into computers to tell them this is, I realised quite early on, a mug’s game. Many are here to play the martyr because it suits their agenda. If you have spent a lifetime without the means to deal with the world around you, the Internet’s a perfect platform to find like minded souls who do the same and HEY then you’re not alone any more.

Except it’s all a big, fat lie. Dealing with your issues will vastly improve quality of life not just for you, but those around you. That’s the key: this isn’t just about taking care of yourself. It is the benefits your new outlook will grant in the wider world of work, social interaction and all places in between. Most crucially, at least for me, it grants you the means to communicate to others like yourself that yes, this is worth the pain.

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Trying to work out who is listening can be a fairly hit or miss affair, of course, and wading into people’s lives as some kind of white knight bringing salvation is not the kind of thing to be recommended, especially in the current political climate. So, start small. Cake .GIFs, the occasional hug. Ask a question in your timeline that might promote some discussion, but don’t think that because nobody answers, this doesn’t work. Helping people is not a means by which you gain followers or increase reach.

Genuinely helping others is not a clever Tweet with an inspirational photo sent at 5pm because that’s when the most people will see it. That’s opportunism, appealing to the widest audience and although it might work for some, its now unlikely to be even noticed by the people who need it most. True support is learning to listen, understanding the land and then presenting people with the tools they need to grow, encouraging whilst they do so. The true heroes are the ones who never get the accolades.

You have to ask for help and mean it to move forward, staring past the rhetoric of others and the belief that nobody understands except you.

Amazingly, you really are not alone.