Holiday

I didn’t post at all for two whole days. Here’s why.

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#365daychallenge Sunday, Tate Modern

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There’s been some quite robust discussion in the house over what should happen at weekends. As a result, on Saturday and Sunday nothing was written as part of a plan. I’ve stated in other places that now writing is my job, there is requirement for alternate means to relax when that doesn’t happen. Saturday was gaming, Sunday was the Tate Modern. Both had their surprises.

I’ll write at length about Olafur Eliasson in the week, as his exhibition caused an unexpected anxiety attack. It’s a measure of my progress that didn’t utterly ruin the day. It also provided a surprising amount of material that I now wish to write about, so in that regard I’m very happy with the entire weekend’s exercise. If there was worry previously over being unable to be creative, this has greatly assuaged it.

I’ll be in a forest in a week, which is the holiday I’ve been looking forward to for a lot longer than was previously believed. There’ll be a lot of writing there, but all the real work will happen when I come back. Many things will be pulled from their spaces on hard drives to be re-written. I’m ready to do that now, and instead of using new stuff as contest entries, it’s going to be old things, re-imagined.

I’m surprisingly determined at what will be achieved.

Love Hurts

Something I’ve been stressing over for about a fortnight is now done. The relief, especially in my shoulders, is palpable.ย I’m also beyond tired all of a sudden and yesterday’s lifts/squats are manifesting in hips and knees. It’s amazing how these things become physical issues when enough time elapses. Stress kills, kids, don’t let anybody convince you otherwise. Try and find ways to relax.

This morning, my mind is full of the lies I tell myself to keep focused.

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Like it or not, I’m part of a problem that manifests all over social media. Success is the goal, key to changing existence, icing on your metaphorical Life Cake (TM) and only through a tortuous, painful journey of exploration and discovery will we all find a particular flavour of Nirvana that is so desperately sought. To allow this to happen, an awful lot gets compromised along the way, including integrity.

It means, like it or not, everything that isn’t abject failure gets celebrated. This includes such moments as ‘hey I made the Longlist of Award X let’s stick that in my Bio’ and ‘you can utterly tweet about how I almost won this thing because there were 600 entries and to make it to the final 25 is progress…’ and the list goes on… and on.ย I may laugh at the nerd yesterday inventing his own hype to justify existence, but he’s no different than me.

Like it or not, we’re both fooling ourselves to a point.

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Sometimes, I wish there were a magic button to press allowing me to move forward the writing part of my journey. If only everything were like exercise, where amount of effort inserted becomes directly equal to progress made in fitness.ย Yes, padewan, you have laboured for ten years on the Plains of Blogging, passed the Trial of Being Paid for Content, and now are eligible to One Minor Literary Achievement Per Year.

Why is this not enough for you?

That’s a really good question: can there not be enough satisfaction gained from just having a published book in your hands? Apparently not, according to the woman who managed this at the writing event I attended last month and pretty much complained non-stop that because she wasn’t with a major publisher, it wasn’t enough. I realise, that if the positions were reversed, I’d be unhappy too. Making something out of thin air once sets a benchmark you’re then forced to better.

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My PT asked me yesterday morning whether I need a goal to work towards in terms of training: maybe doing Ride London again, perhaps a marathon, maybe working towards the Nuclear races so many Gym attendees seem to love so much. I asked for notice of the question, and sitting here now, there is real understanding that if you gave me a goal to work at in my hobby, I’d stop exercising tomorrow.ย I lift weights and run now as relaxation as writing’s now the job, and goals only exist here now, not anywhere else.

It’s why the news of my favourite video game going back to it’s original iteration this month is enough to tempt me back to the fold, until I remember the kind of people who would be playing, and the real possibility I’d want to be really good at it like I was before.ย It would stop being a hobby and become something else. It was others that finally ruined that for me, plus the realisation those who bankroll said game are here to turn a profit, and won’t ever share my world views as a result.

Winning isn’t everything.

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Some days, it’s tough to know what matters most. Right now, all that’s really important is being aware that lots of things are changing. Let them happen, digest consequences, make informed decisions based on what you know. If you can learn to trust yourself, answers will eventually become clear, as they have in the last few months. Most importantly of all, success will not define you. How you deal with change will.

What matters most is to be true to your soul.

Regeneration

Never start ANY project on the first of the month. If it matters enough, procrastination won’t help. Begin when the idea strikes you, straight away. Planning can be refined about a week in. Of course, sometimes, you don’t need the organisation. Stuff just works.

I switched my 55 to a 45 Blaze for good on Wednesdays. Reasoning is simple: 55 is not helping me work hard, but teaching more how to build up stamina. Because the extra minute per zone demands a lot of work on managing energy, it’s less simple to just go flat out. This has been confirmed by lots of weeks where I’ve genuinely struggled to feel as if anything was progress. Therefore, a change was facilitated.

More importantly however I don’t (as yet) know anybody doing the 45 in this group. I was a stranger. This was an added advantage because the sense of being in contest with people you know did not exist. It helps in some ways, but hinders in others. I managed red zone time last night in combat (though not enough to register on the app) and on the treadmill, and this is something that’s not happened before. Change holds a lot of value.

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That’s a lot of yellow. More importantly, I came out of the class awake, aware and more functional than has been the case for weeks. I walked home.ย That would have been unheard of a month ago. The improvement to physical fitness is only part of the picture, however. Last night I did the whole class without my glasses on, so the worry of steaming up was alleviated. Mentally, I didn’t care about anything except effort, and it happened.

Let’s be honest, it’s the mental change that is the biggest shift, and that happened last week. Since then, everything is just a little bit brighter. I could have waited until today to start this change, but then a whole week would have been wasted by doing so.ย All the momentum I’ve built since being in a pile on the floor in the heat, crying my eyes out, would simply have been lost.

You really are the catalyst to make major change to existence.

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I also know how easy it is to ignore your own issues. It will still happen, of course. However, that likelihood’s now far less of a certainty.

The lesson has been learnt.

Personal Jesus

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I remember when I first saw someone on LiveJournal had joined Twitter. ‘What’s the point?’ I wondered, ‘I can’t write anything worthwhile there.’ It’s coming up for eight years now since that attitude changed, and on the main account, I’m well into six figures of content outputted. I’d love to know how much of that is GIF-related. It’s gonna be a bit. I was doing THAT before the company added the UI functionality.

It’s good to know you’re a trailblazer.

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It’s not healthy to dwell on the negatives in your life, everybody. Down that road only stress and anxiety lie. Except, from time to time, it is worthwhile reminding yourself that other people are the ones who take offence at your attitude and outlook, and that’s not your problem,ย but theirs.ย When Internet Dinosaurs smell blood, it’s never going to end well. This week, I have been reminded of one person in particular.

Except, the more I examine what happened, the more it became apparent at just how common this behaviour has become. There was a belief initially it was just guys who’d do this until a woman trumped all the male stupidity in the space of 48 hours. The sexual orientation of your idiot is largely irrelevant. What matters is manner in which you are targeted and person’s aim when doing so.

Control is the key to absolutely everything.

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The particular individual in question was unbelievably smart. He began politely picking me up on typos and grammatical errors in my blogs, and as this was a fairly regular occurrence, I was grateful. Then came the moment when we disagreed about my use of question marks in sentences where he was convinced they shouldn’t exist. I accepted his objection, but began to realise that maybe his interest in my work was a bit excessive.

I decided, for the first time, to go look at his followers list and who else he was interacting with. I can still remember how sick I felt scrolling through hundreds of female accounts and pornbots. When examining his interactions, this was taking place with other women, many of them. The behaviour was identical: polite until someone disagreed with taking his advice at face value.

Then he’d go crazy.

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Blocking on Twitter was pretty basic back then, and reporting harassment close to pointless. I can remember being schooled in victim shaming too at that point, because the assumption was that it was at least in part my own fault for not doing my homework beforehand. A smart person would have checked the person I blindly followed before interacting, so it was clear what I’d be signing up for.

It’s a lesson that I’m still learning, even nearly eight years on. You won’t be friends with everybody, and however hard one might try to be polite and adult, some people can and will wind you up the wrong way. Others will decide that you must be talking about them (because everybody else does) whilst a few will be so spectacularly arrogant as to defy belief. The guy whose apology hinged on ‘I’m sorry I stalked you but I was in mental health counselling at the time’ย was a classic.

When you speak your mind, other people can get the right hump.

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I find it increasingly fascinating watching other people talk to those I have blocked and no longer interact with. This isn’t the version of reality that used to exist where people would somehow vanish once you’d ignored them. Sure, you can stop reading and listening to those whose outlooks and attitudes were so toxic, but they don’t go away. Nothing bad ever really goes away, it’s about accommodating personal change to deal with those consequences.

The irony, of course, is that occasionally the people who have serially being attacking and abusing people do get caught, and they do end up in the spotlight. I can think of several occasions where that’s been the case: the rush of amazed indignation from some quarters being staggering. People rarely talk to each other any more on Social media, except in very well established friends groups. If they did, an awful lot of behaviour would be on borrowed time.

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I have a lot of social Twitter followers now: they don’t talk, but use the account to read other stuff. The interactivity portion of online proceedings takes place elsewhere: Slack, Twitch, Discord… but not out in a medium that historically can do far more harm than good. That’s a massive lie, of course, and even after multiple incidents of drama, arrogance and abhorrent behaviour, there’s nowhere else I’d want to hang around in.

Me and Lin-Manuel understand the future of Social media’s only a tweet away.

Lies

This is a scheduled announcement that when you’ve been on the Internet as long as I have, you’ve seen an awful lot of stupid shit.ย In some cases, you were there the first time someone was dumb enough to try something, it got totally forgotten, and now the same old rubbish is being recycled again (and again and again).

Example: I’ve seen the ‘I forced a bot to watch X’ meme a few times now, each with a different subject matter. It’s a great means by which a comedy writer can eke out exposure and flex their social media skills. Good luck to them all, I say, this is a good use of the medium. It’s only the equivalent of that picture of the guy with the pretty girl, staring at another (clearly prettier) girl and the dichotomy that creates in our subconsciousnesses. It’s known as the DISTRACTED BOYFRIEND meme.

Memes are what makes the Internet tolerable. They are the distraction many of us crave in these dark, ugly times. It is also by far the best means to make information stick. It is no wonder therefore that certain commentators, who are incapable of altering the collision course this country appears to have adopted with it’s own self destruction, are using similar tactics to create a picture which is, like it or not, utterly false.

I’m seeing a lot of stuff like this of late: high-profile personalities ‘bigging up’ the fact that once upon a time, this country was fantastic, and it clearly isn’t that way any more, and really, it’s beginning to piss me right off. There are two reasons for this. The first one, perhaps unsurprisingly is that it’s just not true. The Olympics did not somehow make this country a better place to live in.ย Yeah they were great, and the legacy’s been awesome, but truth remains the UK was shit beforehand too.ย 

The second one’s more insidious: this isn’t meant as a means to get people encouraged to do anything about the situation, it’s just for views, to create an illusion of participation and interest.ย The fact that other people don’t get this remains a mystery to me, until I look at a certain type of user on my own feed. They’re the one’s who don’t ever contribute anything of value to any conversation, but try and make you react in order to feed their own attention-seeking status.

If you go look at your feed, you’ll know who I’m talking about.

Occasionally, you have to assume some of the stuff spouted online is stated in total ignorance of what actually takes place online, this tweet being a case in point. I know that this definition has become a slogan and is being used quite extensively by a group of trans-exclusionary radical feminists. I can only assume that someone in Government would do their homework when receiving a gift such as this… that’s how this works, right?

On Social media, a lot of very stupid stuff happens. Most is easily corrected with retraction and apology… except that rarely ever happens. If you’re using your account to talk AT people and not TO them, you are part of the problem.ย Just being online, posting things, or talking to yourself in the hope people respond… what are you contributing? What’s even worse, of course, is when people respond and you don’t.ย You’re not in a conversation when that happens. You’re lecturing.

No good comes of discourse that is ultimately one-sided.

To The End

I’m fucking terrible at looking after myself.

In my defence it is getting better, and I have the Internet to thank for this. Let me wheel in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as an example of how self-education is allowing my brain a chance to expand and embrace the shortcomings:

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If you’d like to know how this became one of the keystones of modern Psychology, there’s a YouTube video for that. Needless to say , it’s a beautifully visual means by which I can grasp exactly what self-care ought to mean.ย There’s been failureย on almost every level of personal balance in the last week. I’ve not eaten properly, failed to look after my health, done less than great things with relationships and ultimately lost sight of what it is I’m here for.

One level however has been massively restocked with energy: esteem.

For a LONG time the top two parts of my pyramid never actually existed at all. I’ve been trying to crack relationships properly my entire life, with varying degrees of success. Above the ‘Love and Belonging’ point for probably a decade there was simply nothing of any value. With the push towards trying to better my own personal narrative, there’s the outline of a pyramid in place. That’s still all it is. There is a phenomenal amount of work to do.

I survive on a lot of vapour, especially during days when the eight hours sleep required for basic survival doesn’t take place. When tired, so much else just disintegrates, which is why it has become so important to instil a level of physical fitness to offset this… but that requires a phenomenal amount of mental effort to establish. That, plus the ability to rebuild my writing skills from the ground up have finally given this pyramid a top. Yeah, it’s doable, but not all at once. I failed this week by overloading myself.

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The consequences of expanding my understanding are important to note: you don’t just absorb the information and that’s it. All the new stuff needs to be considered and absorbed, integrated back into the framework that already exists. That’s where I failed this week, because the layers of my pyramid are not nearly as well defined as Maslow’s. Certain elements cross all the levels, some only a few. There’s lines from top to bottom too, side to side that require acknowledgement.

Visualising all this however is the master stroke. Being able to ‘see’ where some emotions begin and end, that others are far more significant in holding me together, that there’s still an awful lot of negativity that has not been addressed. The answer, of course, is to keep on working the problems, deciding what matters most, and then attacking those areas in a sensible, structured way. No good is ever going to come from approaching a dozen problems all at once.

Yesterday was the first day of grasping that doing nothing is neither bad nor wrong.ย The results of stopping myself from thinking for a couple of days are already emerging:

Then, the sleep ‘problem’ throws up its own odd consequences:

This is new territory, except it’s not. That’s a story for another day. For now, time to strap in and see where this new road is taking me.

Acceptance

It’s taken thirty two years to reach this next point, where personal narrative finally diverges from a very well-worn path. There’s no fear either, which is a surprise. Maybe that’s because, for the first time in fifty years, understanding isn’t a problem. Running yesterday, it was fun. You know, the stuff the rest of the world experiences on a daily basis but was somehow lost in the last twelve months.

Just how off course were you on this particular journey?

The last time a book/s affected me so significantly was The Bridge by Iain Banks back in 1986. Thirty years of literature hasn’t so much passed me by, it’s that I’ve not really ever felt it as much as perhaps was possible. That’s the biggest take-way: not you books, most definitely me.ย I, the party of the first part, am most definitely the one at fault. It’s not just words either: lots of stuff has been eaten, seen and listened to without the correct level of mindfulness applied. There’s a lot to catch up on.

I tried reading this trilogy last year, but my brain couldn’t cope with it. Having finished the final book, the reasoning for that has become abundantly apparent. The chain of my subconscious, delicate silver, remains knotted and dense. It requires patience plus a needle to unravel. Now we’ve established this is not a five minute task, that there’s a LOT of work to do straightening links, it’s time to get working. It wasn’t just meditation and mindfulness that was required, but my own admission of inability.

Last weekend sorted that out for good.

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Weeeeellll, yes and no. I get what’s gotta be done now, even if that’s just broad strokes in some places and being oddly specific in others. Life is no fun unless you live it, bad and good. That’s happening: as we get a bit of momentum up, there’ll be time to tweak the plan. The biggest step forward however is that going back to the way I was will never, ever be an option, because that person no longer exists.

That’s a positive I’ll never get tired of celebrating.