Personal Jesus

Here we are, at the start of a new week: already, there is a feeling of cautious optimism. There is a list of stuff I’d like to doΒ before bedtime. That’s it. No stressing or forcing. Before arriving here there was some progress on written projects, a plan for today’s scheduled work and how I knock off the last two pieces of backlog. Arguto gets some love today. However, that’s not what I’m here for. Today, I want to talk about guilt.

Every so often you’ll see someone who’s catapulted to prominence have a hater go digging back though their tweets to find summat to smear them with. With over 200k’s worth of stuff to my name, that’s gonna be a fun ask when the time comes… but yeah, there’s probably a lot of regrettable stuff buried in all of this. In fact, should it ever come down to that situation, that might be the moment to start again. If you want to know after that, go look in the Library of Congress. They’ll have it all saved regardless.

Then I look at this, the story of a woman who has made her name attacking people and things she does not like in public, and increasingly finding that those actions damage her own existence, to the point where she’s now personally in financial trouble. I’m not sure if the fact her kids are protected from her shortcomings is really a redeeming action, and I certainly don’t possess Jack Monroe’s generosity of spirit. This is the perfect example of ‘actions have consequences’Β and the warning anyone in the public eye should be using to think twice before ANYTHING stupid gets tweeted in anger.

So, does anybody really learn from Social media? It is hard to believe that’s the case when certain individuals continue to tweet hate-filled diatribes. Those who go to the other extreme and want only love and compassion might also find themselves in a bit of hot water if they’re not 100% watertight on the persona. That’s the thing with an abundance of data: at some point, somebody will test the waters. Spotify is the latest online giant being questioned by the mediaΒ but honestly, wherever your data is shared, this is now a very real possibility.

There’s an answer, of course, to all of this. Just be yourself, and be honest. If yourself is decent, mostly fair and tries to be kind as often as possible? Really, not an issue. If you’re a racist xenophobe, well that could still be mostly okay because there’s 40% of the UK right up there with you. At least you won’t feel alone, but there MIGHT come a moment where you end up being challenged on those beliefs, and you never know. That could cost you a job too.

Some days, personal shortcomings are the least of your problems.

Occupy Your Mind

Knowledge is power. We all know this, in many cases based on a simple understanding: the more informed a choice, the greater the freedom attached. If you want to scare someone, a page of dry commentary on an oncoming water-fuelled Armageddon is not the answer. You want pictures, and if there were ever a more compelling demonstration of why you get the fuck out of the way of a Hurricane, then this video is it.Β 

My daughter this morning prompted a conversation around honesty, and how learning when to use it can become a useful tool when dealing with confrontational situations. Allowing both kids a freedom with information which is clearly not the norm around their peers has bought consequences, but a parental decision remains sound. Discussing issues that cause anxiety or fear, dealing with concerns… all these allow a mind to find optimal means by which knowledge can be processed.

Yup, I’ll admit I never grasped that Red and Yellow Peppers were just Green Peppers that had been ripened until VERY recently. Why would this need to be something I knew? It is a perfect example of how new knowledge is applied to old experience, showing that if those two concepts aren’t forced to interface from time to time, mind can end up almost wilfully ignorant… typifying an attitude that means that no good music was ever recorded after the death of Elvis, or that the only good car is the one with the biggest engine.

Knowledge, however, is as only as good as your ability to process it effectively.

More’s been learnt about myself in the last two years than ever happened in the previous twenty. Not only must there be a desire to learn, but comprehension of how others perceive the same process, because undoubtedly you will encounter those for whom the journey isn’t about self-improvement. Often, those simply managing to stay stable won’t want or need your outlook, or indeed take kindly to any assertion they could do more.

Education of any kind is often a state many people simply never want to return to, because of bad memories from childhood, but remaining in a place where your knowledge never grows or is added to seems… well, an awful waste of life. I’m not advocating that everybody goes back to school, but even an occasional push out of comfort zones to look at bigger pictures could have massive long-term benefits to mental longevity.

However, you have to want this, and it is apparent many people are simply happier not knowing.

Only Myself to Blame

We have a doorstep milk delivery, from one of the few dairies that still run this service, except they’re not really that any more, but got swallowed up by a European conglomerate not long ago. Last night that company sent me an e-mail, informing that the normal payment method had been declined and this week’s deliveries were therefore cancelled. Checking details, there was nothing wrong with my card or the bank, and so I went to bed with a feeling of discomfort that something bigger might be at fault.

This morning, before sitting down to write, came another email: your payment details are fine, we have the problem.Β Between last night and this morning enough people must have complained for someone to flag up the issue. In this case, it genuinely isn’t my fault, yet the email initially sent sticks all the onus on me because obviously the default state in these situations is to assume the other person at fault. My residual guilt complex did that job pretty well too, and it was an awful night’s sleep as a result.

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This morning there was also the realisation that a friend’s birthday has been missed: before I went to correct the oversight there was a moment of considered reflection. When was the last time they remembered my birthday? Come to think of it, were’t they supposed to have contacted me over some stuff that they wanted me to do far earlier in the year? Yes, they were, and it never happened.Β I got my hopes up that maybe we’d be able to start communicating regularly again and look what happened. Today’s thought therefore is this: how much chasing someone is acceptable?

When does a friendship stop being just that?

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I’m not great at personal relationships, let’s be honest. When what was my best mate moved away there was a real effort to keep the dialogue going, but ultimately… nope. The sad fact remains: people move on, but I don’t.Β My attempts at trying to engage with people online has been hit and miss: there’s two lovely women however who remember birthdays and communicate regularly. Both are most definitely close and significant friendships. Neither however are what could be considered as ‘local’: that makes me think that perhaps there ought to be some effort made to try and foster some new connections.

Then there is a reminder that evolutionary anthropologists state you’ll be lucky to manage 150 meaningful relationships in a lifetime.Β This makes perfect sense to me, considering the issues encountered in recent years. Where do you begin, however, when the latest attempts at organising physical meetings result in silence or a scrabbled ‘I’m sorry, too stressed, I’ll get back to you?’Β Is this the truth or is the ‘scary internet person’ just that? I’d also like to develop some meaningful male friendships in reality but honestly, is that even possible in the current climate?

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Perhaps the answer is to just keep trying with the uncommunicative people in the hope they see your pain and discomfort and want to help. It’s tough enough doing this in your teens, but a nightmare in your 50’s.

If all else fails, it makes for good subject matter.

Brimful of Asha

I suddenly have a phenomenal amount of stuff on. A couple of prizes have appeared out of left field, and both allow the opportunity to recycle existing work to enter. In fact, what’s occupying my mind currently is an old fiction work which can be re-purposed (possibly) for another prize in October. It is oddly satisfying to stare at something that was considered the pinnacle of your efforts only a few years previously with a new set of eyes, plus realisation that nothing is ever really perfect: you simply decide to stop fiddling with it.

I am also forever indebted to one person on Twitter who retweeted a small nugget of personal wisdom that has fundamentally altered my outlook on the months ahead. Pinning all your hopes on one project is a road to ruin.Β The reality is lots of things, all made with similar passion and commitment, before being summarily thrown into the World, in the vain hope one of them sticks. If they don’t, then there’s also a backup, because you need backups.

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I listen to all the shit that passes through my feed. A lot of it is digested over time, and occasionally you can make a real impression without even realising. It helps me pick the honestly from the bullshit too, because a lot of people let their guard down in certain conversations where it wouldn’t happen in others. I may fail occasionally to grasp intent because of the difference in perception filters, but text remains my medium of choice. Some of you people need to think far more than you do before you Tweet, but you don’t need to be told this. That’s part of the reason you’re here in the first place.

I know why I’m here, and that’s the path ahead. Time to start putting the miles in again.

Return to Sender

This week, things return to normal, despite the fact school does not start until a week on Thursday. I need to be back on the creation trail after time away, and there is a lot to do on that front which is already in the planning. More importantly, there will be a slew of poetry rejections next month, and that work will need to be assessed and used in a constructive fashion.

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More importantly, there are lots of projects that need to stop being dreams and become reality as we move into the Autumn.

BRB, re-organising my life.

The Winner Takes it All

On the To Do list is to make some headers using imagery from the Italy trip, but that involves me getting around to uploading the pictures to Flickr. It’ll happen, probably some time next week when I plan everything a bit more precisely.

I have been very surprised since returning from holiday at how my perception of the world appears to have subtly altered. I’ve read a couple of really difficult articles in the last few days too: how the menopause destroyed a woman’s whole existence plus stories of the people who died in the Genoa bridge disaster (the same bridge we marvelled at just over two weeks ago when crossing it.) All of this has distilled together, and Ruth’s tweet this morning sparked a train of thought that now demands some attention: why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

It’s a classic tale: you’re healthy, can feed yourself and don’t have to worry about how normal life pans out, and yet everybody’s aspiring to be somewhere else. There’s no desperate rush to get anywhere and yet we all tear headlong into each new thing without thought for consequences. The diet that we thought was great for us at the time then turns out to be less than stellar, or the game we play is boring because we consumed all the content far too fast in the first place. Then, rather that look to ourselves as the reason for all this, it is simply easier to blame someone else.

None of this is news, or any surprise when viewed in the History of Human Behaviour.Β There is a fixation in us all of our point of current existence: the stuff at either side of this, or at points in future (or past) is very easy to forget. Focusing on now however has multiple consequences: for our kids, for instance, who have their whole lives ahead to live and are unlikely to remember a lot of what happened as kids, unless it is traumatic. The individual perceptions of benefit and pain are also so subjective that what some people might think of as the depths of depression are quite normal operating parameters for someone else.

Then, when asked on top of all of this to present answers to questions like ‘what do I aspire to’ it would be very easy to just say what everybody else does to feel part of the whole, or aspire to be in a position where you could simply buy your way out of trouble. That whole thing about money not affording happiness is a lie too, when you stand back from the truth. I read somewhere that GoFundMe in the US is paying more people’s medical bills in the US than some insurance companies. When that’s the only option for many when disaster strikes, aspiring to wealth makes perfect sense.

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My kids often berate me for being too worthy, that persisting in my attempts to make them recycle, turn off lights and consider the environment don’t need to be repeated ad nauseum. My husband gets annoyed when I pull the Political Correctness card… and there is the sense that worthiness is all well and good to a point. We all want to be lazy, and not worry about the stuff that is someone else’s problem. Except, as time goes on, these issues are everybody’s to solve, and inertia piles up as does rubbish around us. Sometimes, happiness isn’t enough: as this is the happiest I’ve been in 51 and a bit years, by some way, and just enjoying it has become an issue.

The lesson I finally learnt is a simple one: yes, you can arrive at your aspirations, and live a perfect existence, but what happens then?Β As there’s been so much effort exerted to get this far, I can’t just sit around in my perfect life and be happy, because there has to continue to be forward movement. Once I achieve something, there’s no point in just stopping and saying I’m done.Β My happiness depends on a continual, gradual process of self-improvement for as long as I still draw breath, and that needs to happen every day, without fail. To maintain the happiness, it has to be worked at.

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This .GIF remains a constant warning of my Past Self to Future Self: just because you did something good, doesn’t mean you can relax.Β This is not about points on a board or favours piled up. Life should be a constant case of reassessment and consideration: is this working, should I try something else, would that be sensible?Β Right now that means girding my loins and looking at swimming lessons, so I can finally do laps of a pool without fear. It is what pushes me to complete two contest deadlines with absolutely no guarantee of success, but the understanding that the more stuff is entered, the better my writing skills become.

Happiness isn’t enough to be satisfied, at least not for me.

Somebody that I Used to Know

There has been very little time to sit and consider the achievement of last week until now. I will be applying for the Ballot for the 46 when it is open, with no desire at all to complete the 100. Knowing what’s involved, having had to deal with the virtual versions of both hills, that’s not what will ever be considered enjoyable. I’m not sure a lot of the 46 was that much fun in the rain, but it would be a lie to say the overall experience wasn’t satisfying. Next time however I’m determined to complete the thing on more than three hours sleep.

Sitting here in a foreign country, this is the first opportunity there’s been for a while to think generally away from what counts as normal life since before I started race training. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that on my return there will be much more of the same, with a probable increase in frequency: not because there needs to be improvement, but because there’s more enjoyment whilst doing that than was previously realised. Exercise has stopped simply being for a purpose, and has evolved into a genuine form of relaxation, which may sound odd, but is 100% accurate.

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There are other changes already being formulated too: my working space is going to alter (and reduce) plus there are thoughts forming that might relocate me completely. The benefit of going away, ultimately, is to allow readjustment of everything that surrounds, and it would be a foolish person (in my mind) that did not attempt some form of reinvention at least on a yearly basis. So, on our return (after a break with its fair share of drama) it feels only right and proper to start as I mean to go on.

The other key to this shift will not be to go out and buy new stuff to fill this space, but recycle what already exists in the house. There is plenty of desk space available to move and shift, and I’m not looking for anything sparkly or ‘new’ to work with. It will be a challenge of an ability to creatively recycle, and that’s something that appeals to a brain which is beginning to grasp that the future isn’t about a relentless process of continual consumption. There are some issues left to address at home too, it would be lovely to try and fix as many as possible in the months that follow, and those within my grasp will be summarily addressed.

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This is a much needed holiday. When I get back, the hard work will begin again, but with renewed enthusiasm.