The Old Songs :: Two

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Okay, I’m back at a PC: I took a tablet with me across the weekend, but there was simply not enough time to write. Honestly, the last three days have been more packed than has been the case for MONTHS… and I want to make sure I get it all recorded before memories fade. Therefore, let us start with Friday night, and I’ll detail Saturday and Sunday starting next week.

Dinner: Prawns, courgette fries BOOM

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This time, we left early as last year’s driving around in the dark in a strange place was, to put it mildly, quite stressful. Once the Hotel was found and we’d checked in, the next task was to find somewhere to eat. Having missed dinner, we were directed by hotel Staff to The Old Dog at Ashbourne, and dinner was simplicity and brilliance all rolled into a small, perfectly formed package. Mr Alt took a burger and I went healthy, until I ordered a pint of Rhubarb Cider and everything went downhill very fast. It was, more or less, like drinking highly alcoholic cordial, and there could have been many, MANY glasses bought. Fortunately, common sense prevailed, because the plan for Saturday morning was to cycle to the event.

Thanks to the wonderful way the railways were fairly savagely shut down back in the 1960’s [see Beeching’s Cuts] there are a lot of cycle paths around the Derbyshire Peak District, one of which is conveniently located at the back where we were staying, effectively providing a direct route to Eroica’s doorstep. Nine and a bit miles is more distance than I’ve taken on in any form since the operation, so I’ll admit being nervous, and that’s probably why not too much got drunk on Friday night. My bike was bought especially for the occasion: a Nigel Dean World Tour (circa 1982) which is now, I suspect, going to get a complete overhaul, and we were up bright and early on Saturday morning to do the run to the event.

You can have those stories tomorrow, after I’ve had a much needed night’s sleep in my own bed…

Design for Life

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Yesterday, I went out with husband and daughter for my first meal post-operation. I played it safe: nothing overly fatty, healthy choice, and only a single beer, and woke up at 5am with a hunger I can’t recall for quite some time. Yesterday’s PT was all that was hoped for too: weights were utilised, exercises suggested that put no pressure on my healing umbilical hernia, and once my daughter’s packed off for a sleepover with a friend, I’ll go and do 5 miles on the Octane. When I do that tomorrow it will be with press ups, TRX rows and single arm rows as accompaniment. This is maintenance mode for two weeks, so that the hernia gets a full month to heal. Then, we’ll go back to where we were.

I’ve put on half a kilo at weigh in time, which could be as much about the Gym clothes I was wearing or the fact I didn’t use the loo before I stood on the monitor. What matters below the weight, as I have discovered in the last few months, are the important details such as the percentage of my body that is fat, and how exercise translates to general body health. In that regard, owning the body of a 40 year old is something to be pleased about, and having lost 4% body fat thanks to the operation? Yeah, let’s take that as a win. The trick now, of course, is to make sure it stays that way. Doing the work has never been a problem. My PT yesterday made the point that she wasn’t surprised I was back in and exercising less than a fortnight after the operation, that was ‘just the way you are.’

You bet I’m going to take that as a compliment.

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We also went as a family to see the installation of poppies that has been adapted from the original art at the Tower of London. Hopefully I’ve done the magic with the URL from my Flickr account to link that here so you can take a look. It’s on land that the MoD sold to developers about a decade ago, and the original Barracks were converted into housing. Needless to say, it was a lovely evening and very moving when, at 7pm, a lone bugler came and played the Last Post by the wave of poppies.

Without further ado, let us get on with the day.

Wish You Were Here

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Okay, I can positively attest that personal clarity and focus has returned to my brain after yesterday. The focal point came at about 4.30pm yesterday afternoon when I sat on the sofa and could feel an anaesthetic ‘fuzz’ almost pulling me to unconsciousness. There was an incorrect assumption that after three days I was shot of the worst of it, and that is was increasingly apparent what was needed was a return to ‘normal’ working hours as a matter of priority. This morning I could have gotten up and stayed up at 7am, but made the choice to go back for another 90 minutes. The benefits are already obvious, but I am still having to concentrate on focus. I can but hope that with the application of caffeine and enough time, this too will heal.

I can feel that happening now, rather bizarrely. My left wrist, belly button, upper chest are all tingling. The entry for instruments on my lower right hand side is no more now than a scar, not even bruised: it’s not counted as an injury. I’m still getting occasional tinnitus on waking and going to sleep, which says to me that maybe it’s not just ears but neck that could do with a poke, which I will bring up on Thursday when I see the surgeon. Half term starts Friday which is totally perfect timing, and the plan is to be back to ‘normal’ (as much as that is possible) for the first week of June. I’ve learnt an amazing amount about myself in the last six days, and I suspect there’s still a lot more to factor in.

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However, this morning my legs are really keen to do something. I can’t lift yet for another eight days, but nothing is stopping me being outside. Therefore, I’m already planning to go and eat lunch at the Gym today, and at least walk there for a drink every day this week. It’s a perfect short hop with two breaks in between, allows me to judge my levels of stamina, and stops me from going insane by being stuck inside. Plus, if I believe the weather forecast, I really don’t want to be stuck inside anyway. It will be glorious all week, and considering that I’ve been stuck in my own head for nearly a month now, getting outside needs to be a factor in the recovery process.

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In fact, let’s get organised so I can get out and enjoy the day. Be warned, there will be Instagramming.

Just

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An awful lot happened yesterday, and not all of it was great. While I am still processing consequence, this morning left me open to honesty. What happened next is a story all of its own, which was recorded via Twitter starting here. The longer I spend on this particular Social media platform, the more apparent it becomes that some people can’t cope with fucking stuff up. Whenever it becomes apparent that circumstances have moved out of their control, everything changes, and the rules that used to apply simply cease to exist. It’s quite an effective way of living your life if you don’t want to feel restricted, but it makes consistency almost impossible.

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Ironically, on several occasions this week I’ve seen something really good that I’ve wanted to tweet, but somebody’s personal bias has prevented me from gaining them a wider audience. I may not like you or get on particularly well with certain people but if they produce good work, it deserves a wider audience. It is wrong to allow feelings on someone to impede judgement, and yet watching this play out with depressing familiarity on a daily basis that’s exactly what other people love to do. For some, it has become almost a badge of honour. If someone does not ascribe to a particular mindset, undermining their position becomes a crusade. It is pettiness on such a grand scale as to be staggering, and I will not be a part of it.

Except this morning came the fresh realisation that my memory is part of the problem.

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I remember exactly why I blocked my inspirational quotee, and why the bloke who made that great meme has me blocked, and every other person I’ve dealt with in similar fashion, because they all taught me lessons around how Twitter works. All those people at some point fucked up when it came to interacting with me, or I did the same with them. What happened after that defined everything else that then followed. In each case recalling both circumstance and consequence helped define the journey forward, and those lessons are as important as anything learnt elsewhere. It is why screwing up really matters too, and simply changing your name and vanishing does nobody any favours in the end. I’ll grant that sometimes circumstances present you with no choice but to disappear however, and I hope the day never comes where that is the last resort.

I know only too well how dangerous that form of obsession can be.

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Regret is part of being alive. Learning to live with what is less than perfect is a tough ask for many, and it really shouldn’t be. Accepting this should be the norm, that everyone at some point fucks up horribly and maybe the trick when this happens isn’t to ignore it or run away but to stand and deal with the mess you made. Ironically, being able to say you’re wrong is a life skill many people will never grasp until it is often too late to fix the damage done. There doesn’t need to be an inspirational quote to grasp how lucky I am right now or how I’m learning to avoid drama before it happens. That’s just how it should be.

This is how life should be lived.

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Today I am comfortable listening to myself. People are a problem, and more often than not if you allow them to derail your progress, the consequences are too terrible to speak of. I have no qualms about blocking the girl who pissed off someone I care more about than whether it’s right, popular or acceptable to do so. In life sometimes you make choices and have to hope they were correct. I don’t regret what I did, and I doubt I will.

Amazingly, life continues regardless.

Time

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My life is coming to a fairly significant crossroads. In just over a month, I commit myself at 50 to becoming my own arbiter, attempting to create a new career as a 21st Century Nonconformist. In a World where so many shout their mantras into the ether, which some believe rotates far too closely around circles of electronic Hell: will I be seen as any different to the heretics and fools that embrace diversity, speeding us all towards the World’s end? This historical period is as close to chaos as many will remember, but for me I am reminded first of the early 1980’s and before the 1970’s: the Cold War and the Three Day Week are memories I carry a world away from what now passes for normal daily life. If the last few days of dreams are any indicator, my subconscious grasps only too readily that these are turbulent times ahead.

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I have always been considered as a troublemaker: however, I never really wholeheartedly embraced the concept of rebellion until I hit my late twenties. I’ve come to most things later than others, I realise now because of the ability to properly grasp implication behind those actions involved. With the benefit of time, an environment was created which allowed me to both develop and evolve at a pace that suited mind and body, and that was not dictated by circumstance. Only now is it becoming apparent how useful that has become in order to be able to see a larger picture. It is also a daily reminder of just how lucky I am as a white, middle-aged woman to have the opportunity to begin with.

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If I went to the Bank on June 1st and asked for a loan to become a full-time digital writer, they’d laugh at me. I could submit articles to a hundred online sites and be rejected for every single one. This is a profession that is so subjective as for it to be impossible to quantify what matters on any given day: the way in which we devour, create and even transmit our communications alters sometimes on a daily basis. My online newspaper of choice doesn’t simply provide written commentary any more, there are short video ‘articles’ peppered amongst the headlines. If you want a novel to be a success, having robots recognise your website is as important as a set of good reviews. My ability to communicate in 140 character bursts is as important as long form mastery, and textspeak. It isn’t about being ‘down with the kids’ and more either, there are languages for every part of the Web. If you don’t know your Deplorables from the Untouchables? You won’t last long in the Digital Wild West.

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What I bring to the table in this Digital relationship is time: not only have I been here since inception, but I’ve grown with trends and diversification. I am very much anti Facebook and pro Twitter, but it doesn’t mean I don’t grasp the commercial implications of both. I may avoid SnapChat because of the filters and vanity, but it doesn’t take an idiot to grasp how significant the platform is for a generation of users, for whom instant information is key. Learning how to be a better person might seem a waste of time in a place where nobody needs to know who you are, but when you’re willingly giving away personal details to anyone with a contact form? Consequences will matter. In fact, there will be a generation of Internet users for which the repercussions of digital immersion will only truly become apparent if we can survive the next forty years without the Planet disintegrating around us, mostly because lots of people failed to pay attention to Science when it mattered. Of all of this, in the digital world around us, a grasp of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and every sub-branch in between is more important now than it has ever been.

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I’d love to say that telling stories is the real reason I want to be a writer, and although that is true, I’ve realised in the last few years it isn’t all that now matters. I can still spin fictions in the manner I choose, but not at the expense of ignoring bigger stories. The Internet of Words is my way to do many things at once: fulfil my dreams, yes, but also expand the potential of others, because without learning to better communicate as a planet, we are all doomed to failure. It cannot just be any more that you work towards your own ends, making individual success matter. Without everybody being able to win, frankly, there’s not much left to live for. If you think the future is living in your own, safe and consequence free bubble, I suspect there’s some major shocks coming very soon indeed. One of the races in my favourite computer games have a phrase: ‘Time is money, friend’ and this morning I realised that’s more true on an intellectual level than I’d ever previously grasped. The time I have lived is indeed worth something, what I have left to use so precious that not a moment should be wasted.

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I’m now sitting on a lovely pile of CoPromote reach and on Monday I’ve decided to use the IoW site to officially launch my concept to a bunch of total strangers. I have no idea how this will go down and frankly, I’m not that worried if the interest is minimal. What matters most is having the confidence to stand and fall on an idea, and nothing else. Bringing unique perspective is what I’ve always done best, and I’ve ever been afraid of being unpopular as a result. After all, as I never grow tired of reminding anyone who’ll listen, the reason why you fail is to learn how to succeed. Once you know what not to do, the options become less complex to grasp.

Then all you need is courage to take that first step.

There There

This week has been tough. Mentally I’ve coped pretty well but physically, my digestive system is a mess. Having to lose what I’ve become reliant on in terms of high fat foods was a wrench my body initially wasn’t at all happy about. However, a week in and I’m beginning to cope. The other major loss is what counted as rewards on Treat Days are effectively out of the window too until I can get the all clear on my scans. I’ve been living on coated nuts in small portions, the occasional flapjack and luck, mostly. I wondered if I was doing this right until I got on the scales: my weight’s dropped consistently this last week, and I’m almost two pounds down. The key here is that there’s been only light exercise, because again I’m on orders not to strain my trunk area too vigorously.

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It is more than a year now since my last period. The night sweats remain, but are slowly tapering off, and I don’t seem to get hot in the daytime nearly as much as was the case before: *gasp* I’ve felt genuinely cold on a few occasions this last week, which is a distinct change. The biggest difference is my skin, which used to be really greasy: now I’m almost permanently dry, but the skincare routine is taking care of that. Oh, and body hair’s stopped growing, which means that I’m brushing my hair less and it is undoubtedly thinning. If genetics isn’t lying I won’t go bald, but even if I did I think that’s a hurdle I could tackle. I love my long hair now and I’ll be making the most of it for as long as I can.

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It seems odd at this stage to be undergoing so much change, but I’m quite sanguine about everything that is happening at once. I’ll be doing a session at the Gym later with weights but only light Cardio, just so I can keep momentum going. I don’t have a PT on Monday as my trainer is away so I think going forward I’ll plan to do *something* daily in order to keep the weight loss moving but not get too stressed if I don’t break goals. I’m certainly not in a mental state of panic or unhappiness over anything related to weight or exercise right now, and long may that continue.

In fact, everything’s looking just fine.

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Life is a constantly evolving learning process. This fact is lost on so many people that it staggers me: no two days will be the same. Of course, the biggest single problem for most people is being able to see life with enough objectivity to understand what is going on around them to begin with. In my 20’s, the undoubted problem was a basic inability to escape from that understanding. In my 30’s only the introduction of another life allowed that process to begin. It was my 40’s that truly broke the fourth wall of insularity, taking a good decade to put pieces of my disparate puzzle together. Depression and anxiety crippled me for a long time until I was able to identify the triggers that began those downward spirals.

I’m never going to be cured but I’ve become supremely good at crisis management.

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When your life is dictated by everything at once and you’re unable to filter the chaos from meaningful, there comes a point where the only thing left is complete withdrawal. Yesterday, I’ll happily admit that the Internet became too much to even read, let alone participate in and so the standard disassociation tactic was employed: headphones on, music as distraction, be somewhere else. As I worked to clear out stuff from the front room, something interesting happened. Answers to questions appeared without prompting. The issues I had were resolved far faster than I ever remember previously, but more importantly the residual guilt I normally feel wasn’t present. It is okay to be myself. That feeling hasn’t gone away, whereas on previous occasions in stressful situations my self doubt has always returned. Somewhere between Christmas and now, something fundamental truly has changed.

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It’s also meant that I’ve stopped obsessing about weight, in fact I don’t remember the last time that I’d got hooked up on loss. I’ve become more concerned with shape and tone, that my back no longer hurts and that my arms are adjusting to an improvement in technique. I’m now approaching food with more realism too, so I can eat more of what I enjoy yet not beat myself up over those same choices. This is undoubtedly both the strongest and fittest I have ever been, and the journey now is to integrate those achievements into a lifestyle that allows me to reward myself without excess. Therefore today, after I’ve written this, I’m going to my favourite chocolate seller’s website and ordering an Easter egg. I’ve already ordered a new teapot and loose leaf tea. As my husband said to me on Saturday, I am incredibly simple to please: cuppa, chocolate and to be loved is all that is required. That’s the truth, too. Everything else, frankly, seems excessive and often pointless.

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Yesterday therefore was something of a revelation, and as a result my brain’s creativity unlocked as thanks, and I wrote fiction. Now what needs to happen is for me to not allow distraction and my own failings to get in the way of what needs to be done. This matters enough for me to give 110% to the cause, and so I shall. I have non fiction completely sorted now, and a routine that works for me. The next step is to insert the stuff I love most into this mix and them make everything work to my advantage. I’ve also got some interesting projects in mind for when I begin my Patreon, which I’ve decided will begin in late June. Most importantly of all I’ve opened my mind to collaboration. I won’t say anything more than that right now, but these are exciting times ahead, and I have an awful lot I want to say.

Without further ado, let’s get working.