Disappointing

There are lots of things I don’t talk about here. Most are hugely mundane but there’s a couple of deeply personal issues that never get to see the light of day. Yesterday, one of those made everything really difficult. Maybe one day I will get the confidence to talk about that to an audience, but conscience reminds that it is good not to put everything out in the open. It isn’t just mystery, but necessity. Despite what the Internet might tell you, sometimes you don’t need to share everything.

Yesterday was also a shedload of #FirstWorldProblems which should continue to serve as the permanent memorial, were it really needed, to an understanding that however hard things become, I get to experience them in a rarefied atmosphere. I get my feelings matter and have merit, that’s not a problem, but honestly however ‘bad’ things might appear they’re extraordinarily awesome in reality. The view of life is inevitably skewed by pressing concerns like eating and having a roof over your head, but that’s a world away from those people who don’t have either, and live their lives regardless.

This is my scheduled blog post that reminds the entitled, selfish person I can become that this is no longer acceptable behaviour.

Constant Craving

This is never a great time of year to try and lose weight. Last night, I had to make biscuits, and yes, I had to eat one because it won’t kill me. I love my daughter a great deal but right now this is roughly akin to telling an alcoholic to stop complaining and drink that bourbon. All I crave right now is sugar, and all I want to do is eat. This does not contribute to positive mental health, and frankly will only end in tears. Therefore, I’m attempting to introduce mindful eating into the routine: thus far this morning it is meeting with a measure of success.

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Because I know the sugar has to happen, and will via fruit sugar regardless (I eat porridge and pomegranate to satisfy two of my five a day) I put a small amount of honey in my tea for a mid morning snack. I then made myself take time and consideration over drinking, trying to remind brain that the only way all this long term change is truly affected is not by me binging and going backwards. That means I can treat myself to a box of chocolates for Christmas but not eat them all in a couple of sittings. I reduce the experience to two, maybe three chocolates at a time, and savour each one. It stops being just about consumption to make me feel better, and becomes a means by which I slow body and mind down.

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I’ve begun to grasp that there does not need to be more food consumed to have the level of energy required to work harder. The last few days have demonstrated that eating at a level that is sufficient to lose weight also gives me plenty of energy to run and exercise. So, knowing this, it becomes about looking at things and getting out of the ‘oh I’ll just eat and worry about it later’ mentality. Of late sugar has not been the problem, but empty carbs via pasta and bread. Both these things are quite dangerous, it transpires, as is the case with pastry. So many potential Christmas treats I could nosh and pretend its okay because its okay there’s no sugar is not going to work any more. I gotta be hard with myself, but this does not mean I have to stop eating bad stuff.

I just have to be honest over consequences, which has not been the case for a while.

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I can no longer pretend I’m being healthy, when the calories ingested aren’t then balanced with exercise on the other side of the scale. This is the massive change in outlook from previous years. It is the hardest thing to do, on top of more hard stuff, and then it is really easy to grasp why others don’t bother and kill themselves via obesity.

This time, failure will not be an option.

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Not nearly enough of my life has been lived on principle. Expediency is no longer something I feel comfortable entertaining. Occasionally, reality holds up signs that you cannot easily choose to ignore and, in my case, the last 72 hours have been filled with offline portents. Forget the disaster that’s been my online life for the moment: waking up to snow this morning and the realisation that I’ve managed to complete some significant real-world milestones, but that others are a long way from even being doable. Life is about choices and making the best of what you have.

That means that certain things need to change.

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The more sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are now a number of donation buttons on this site. These are here as stop-gaps as I readdress what it is I want to do with writing, as I wait to see what Patreon has to say as a result of the last 72 hours. There is a desire to provide people who want to offer support all possible options, and that’s why (even as a committed tea drinker) you can now buy me a coffee via Ko-fe. However, at the back of my mind, I am now reasonably settled in principle as to what will happen going forward. If you want to understand those thought processes, you need the Writing Blog.

This place will remain as fitness, ranting, geeking and an increasing interest in getting back to reading and crafting. All this will be the balance of what remains very much a career in writing, however I choose to make that happen. There are other desires hidden too, things that will eventually get to see the light of day once there’s enough time and space to allow the ideas to grow. For now, I’ll be sticking to what I’m good at.

If I keep doing that, it will all work out in the end.

Road to Hell

I knew something was up with Patreon (I think) on Thursday, when someone who I support via the crowdfunding platform started making noise over fee changes. What I wasn’t expecting was the subsequent universal meltdown when it became apparent that my initial understanding of what was going on turned out not only to be the truth, but an intended part of the company’s business plan. I’ve spent a bit of time reading corporate forecasts over the years and know that you don’t lie to your investors if you want to remain a viable concern. This, to my eyes, is a company prepping itself to either a) get bought out by a larger concern or b) make more money than they already are. They are, in essence, a beautiful metaphor for what is considered ‘successful’ online.

Patreon have made their name by enabling individuals the company do not consider as successful. That’s a pretty significant smack in the face to someone like me for whom their platform has literally become a life-changing experience. Without this ability to sell myself to people halfway across the World, my life would not be as good as it is now. Life changing sums do not have to be in the four figure or upward range. Knowing that more than 20 people would fund me was a revelation. As a number of people withdrew their support from the platform on Friday, each one contacted me privately, pledging they would continue to support me elsewhere.

On reflection, this is how I know Patreon is not needed to move forward.

I’m still very angry, but am not going to start attacking the CEO by name or hounding people via Social media. I can be as indignant as I like: it is very clear to me, looking at the evidence now available, that this is not a decision driven by conscience. It is, purely and simply, the means by which the business encourages those who are not making enough money to leave, or those people unable to organise themselves outside the platform to remain beholden. I saw a company rep suggesting in a message on Friday that Patreon users actively encourage their users to up their pledges in order to cover the fees. I’m not about to start strong-arming people who I know are supplying me cash often simply as the equivalent of moral support to give more.

What happens next however is a lot to do with my conscience and far less to do with the platform itself, which is a change from the situation last week.

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Of the people that I support who use the platform for their own work, all are very much in too deep to easily extricate themselves without serious financial hardship. I am about to hit $1000 made since I started the Internet of Words project. This is a not inconsiderable sum, but it is not huge. What the fuss around these changes is doing is making my low level funders (of which there are many) stop having an interest in the platform. Many will legitimately cite this as a reason for stopping their payments, but for others it will be a convenient excuse to move on. For that reason alone, I think it might be the moment to reconsider what I’m doing and rethink the plan.

I’m fairly settled in what is going to happen next for the Internet of Words. I’ll make a formal announcement tomorrow on the writing blog, knowing that the people that care and wish to support me will continue to do so regardless. That’s the key here: I’m not going to be beholden to someone else in order to secure my success. I want to do this on my own, and am well aware that is possible with the right backing. I won’t judge those people either who choose not to agree with my decisions. That’s not how business works: if I make the wrong decisions, that is my choice to stand and fall beside. In effect, that’s all that’s happened here.

Sometimes, you don’t need to make money to be successful.

Won’t get Fooled Again

I’ve dropped the youngest off at school, and have popped into the closest supermarket for some milk and apples. I’ve picked up a couple of rolls of wrapping paper for gifts, and am in the queue to pay. Behind me, a guy empties his basket onto the conveyor belt: three bottles of expensive looking Prosecco and a copy of the Daily Mail. I look at him and almost instantly he replies: ‘I know what this looks like, but there’s a good reason for both.’

It’s 8.50am, and already the day is interesting.

He goes on to explain he only buys the paper for the crossword, that his kids abuse him but it’s a habit. Someone then told him the night before at a Christmas event just how good the wine was and that it always sold out and so he’d come to get a bottle for Christmas Day, one for a gift and one ‘to try’ to check the person who told him wasn’t lying.  I then realise, as the guy shows me his Guardian app on the latest Android phone as some kind of justification for his own embarrassment that I’ve encountered a beautiful metaphor for affluent modern life.

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I know many people who insist they still buy reprehensible right wing scumbag newspapers from force of habit. They’ve gotten used to this being their daily purchase, for whatever reason: maybe their parents bought it, or they are addicted to a part of the paper that is nothing to do with news output. The fact remains, these habits keep papers like the Sun and the Mail in business. If people stopped assuaging their need to feel safe in familiarity, a lot of these ‘institutions’ could vanish overnight. Except that’s too hard.

Then there’s the wine recommendation, another way to soften the blow of bad news and coping with life. The fact he took this on spec and bought three bottles before breakfast says a lot of the persuasive selling abilities of the woman the night before. One assumes if he hates it they’ll gift two bottles instead of one, but this kind of impulse consumerism is what got the oceans in the fucking state they are now. The fact remains, social networks like this (and I’ll include Twitter and Facebook in the condemnation) are the means by which too many people define their lives, based on what other people say and think and not on their own choice.

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Yesterday I encountered this attitude in spades, and the even more galling belief by many that you shouldn’t complain when companies make money off their own success, regardless of whether it hurts anyone in the process. I’m not going on about the Patreon bombsite any more: it is apparent from the publicly available news regarding their efforts to raise venture capital that nobody cares about little people any more. All that matters is those users prepared to make money that in turn makes the company look successful. With no consultation over change and Patrons being told they need to push people to pay them more money to cover the charges… I get it.

What this means for me is that it is time to give people alternate means by which they can fund me. It is the opportunity I required to ensure stuff doesn’t become habit, and that I am thinking independently, based on what matters most to me. I know I shouldn’t start my day making snap judgements of random strangers, but when that stranger feels the need to apologise to someone that they don’t know over the suspect nature of their life choices? Who’s the one with the issue here, exactly.

Changing long term destructive habits is not hard. Have the balls to start today.

Work It :: The Beginning

Right then. Time to stop fucking about.

I spent an hour yesterday with my Trainer, and she made me a plan. It is, without doubt, quite a conservative affair, but has the potential to break me. Except, as I hung on the Roman Chair yesterday after 30 minutes of really very hard treadmill exertion, sweat literally dripping off me and onto the floor, there was a realisation. I don’t hang any more. Now I hold on and in my arms is the distinct realisation that, if I wanted, I could pull up. Sure, I wouldn’t get very far, but there will be a point not far from now where, when that happens, I will do pull ups. I will go up and down, and that will be another thing ticked off my list.

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I made this happen. Sure, my Trainer encourages, and lots of people support but, deep down I have become my own evolutionary process. I’m the one putting in the hours and working everything else around it. I know the limits of body and that’s why this new plan will be hard because there’s so much new stuff to learn. I’m gonna find a way to save every new cardio workout in my Phone, and then make reminders of all the other stuff in the same way. I’m gonna spend time at the weekend making new iTunes compilations. Then I’m gonna turn up on Tuesday after my PT on Monday and fucking smash the next five weeks into the ground.

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When I do pull ups properly, you can absolutely bet your fucking arse there will be video. Then it’s onto the next thing I couldn’t do, and the next one, until I run out of shit that scares me in terms of exercise. I’m too far into this now to turn around on January 1st and say fuck it, stopping now. This is not about proving a point or letting my progress slide. This is making absolutely sure that I am strong enough both internally and externally to do all the stuff I want to, for as long as is need, on my terms.

Fight me, fitness regime.

Games People Play

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Occasionally, there are days (like yesterday) when you have to accept loss. Like it or not, everybody screws up. Sitting crying in the Gym car park helps nobody: sure, it makes you feel better, but a logical mind can grasp that if you’re the one at least in part who started the fight, then you have a responsibility for the argument. As long as the days going backwards don’t exceed your forward momentum, everything is golden. That’s why I’m here to remind myself this morning, ahead of all the other stuff that has to happen, that how I conduct relationships is really important. This week, therefore, has been significant in terms of how that takes place online.

Everything I ever needed to know about life I learnt from James Bond.

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Okay, hang on a minute there Bald Eagle, how does the sexist, misogynist 007 start handing me life lessons, exactly? Well, quite apart from ensuring I don’t end up living my life in the manner of a Bond movie (with the inevitable big red reset button at the end) I find myself thinking about what James is good at, and how (amazingly) that provides lessons for me. He’s the best poker player in the British Secret Service, for starters, and that’s because he never plays his own hand, but always that of the person opposite. He’s also taught me how to deal with being poisoned and betrayed, but that’s not important right now. Let’s apply the Poker metaphor in a slightly different fashion, shall we?

When you move into new online relationships, the temptation is often to go overboard in explaining yourself: motivation, ideas, goals… all this in the first flush of ‘getting to know each other.’ I realised this week that this is not the most sensible approach, because it can often isolate people who are not easily comfortable with coming forward or opening up to strangers. It can make you look pushy and domineering. What I ought to be doing is letting the other person come forward first. In effect, I have to become them. Instead of playing my own ‘hand’, if I play the person’s I’m speaking to and effectively imagine what it must be like to be them, there’s a chance of better understanding and empathy from the word go.

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This has worked at least once in practice since the revelation hit, and going forward seems like a really logical means of finding a middle ground with relative strangers. When someone asks you how you are, don’t spend 15 minutes explaining the details. Summarise quickly, effectively and then ask about them. This is probably common sense to large proportions of the rest of the world, I realise, but I’m coming to the world of interpersonal relationships with strangers quite late in the game. If nobody bothers to take the time to explain this shit to you and you have to work it out on your own… well, here’s how it pans out.

Start new relationships by looking at other people first and not yourself.

It is a fine line we all tread in the modern World when it comes to interactions, especially when kids are being taught social niceties via YouTube. I realise now that it is all well and good to believe you have all the tools required to be a decent human being, but that is never always the truth. Every part of your personality needs constant reassessment and balance: you don’t have to do it daily, not even weekly, but every so often sitting down and asking yourself ‘am I doing enough?’ should be a prerequisite for every human being. My son might laugh at my attempts to reduce food waste in the house and increase recycling, because he can see no discernable change in the issues via a wider stage. However, if everybody does these things, the World can and will change. Believing you have no direct influence on the environment around you is a lie.

If you desire change enough, you can and will make it happen.

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My daughter will tell me that she hates my inspirational speeches, but I won’t stop giving them, because if even a scintilla of that belief gets through to her, it is progress. Nobody bothered with me, arrogance assuming that I’d just work it out for myself. Well, I didn’t, and after decades of nobody pointing this out finally, blissfully, people did. Only when other people cared enough to break the shell of my own ignorance, unwillingness and despair was I able to move forward. I entirely understand how horrendous and soul destroying depression remains, but in my case at least, it is my task to deal with and nobody else’s problem but mine. Learning to ask for help was the hardest thing of all, and it still is. However, now I get the formula that works. There’s understanding of what needs to be done. I stopped playing my own hand, and looked outside myself to move forward.

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Plus, any excuse for a bunch of Bond .GIFs is never a bad thing. Next time you start a conversation with a stranger? Ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen.

Learn about yourself by listening to others.