Baba O’Riley

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. Yesterday was a tough one for eating discipline, plus exercise. For the first time I can remember, there was a scrabble to find a snack before my scheduled class: I was light-headed. It would have been a struggle to do 55 minutes without it. As it transpired, by the end of the class, there was not a part of me that did not hurt.

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The killer, undoubtedly, was being pushed out of comfort zones: having to pick different weights for the strength portions of the workout, being asked to run on a 10% incline (I didn’t, walking was enough to kill both hips) and to spend approximately half the time lying on my back, exercising chest and core… there’s enough of an understanding now about these graphs to grasp that 75% effort from that is a massive bonus.

This however is not an exercise post. Today is about happiness, and how it feels to be out in the fields, watching the rest of the world around you throwing their toys out of ridiculously decorated prams, arguing about petty insignificances in their lives that somehow end up being so much more important than they need to be. There’s a lot of that going on in my corner of existence too. People forget what really matters.

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I thought it would get harder as age advanced to separate what’s worthwhile and isn’t… except, it is getting easier. It’s really easy to be stupid, to act on your own desires ahead of common sense and considered reason. That’s what has caused so much trouble for me over the years, allowing obsessions to overtake reality. That’s what’s happening around me now, on Social media… people who should know better, losing their grip on reality.

Having dragged myself out of bed, to do the day despite feeling like body was broadsided by a truck, all of this boils down to choice. Nobody is making me eat this cleanly except… well, me, and it would have been easy to not attend last night’s exercise class. 18 people were booked, only 12 showed. All these decisions are based on the realisation that even on shitty days when everything hurts, this path is worth walking regardless.

Back it comes to principles and ethics, every time, that innate sense that whatever happens, more than at any point before humanity requires a moral compass that is unshakeable. It’s why attacks on free speech matter just as much as those using fake news to try and sway the unsuspecting. This isn’t just innocence or ignorance that needs to be addressed either: smart people are being stupid. We should not facilitate this.

That means, on any given day, making sure I don’t retweet the people being stupid but simply comment on them. It demands I look for voices of reason and objectivity, because from them comes the means by which we can be set free of our own restrictive and often damaging thinking. To reinvent ourselves in the modern world is an absolute requirement: it needs to take place, often on a daily basis.

True happiness does not manifest without considerable personal effort.

Silence is Golden

Social media has always been a popularity contest. Zuckertwat created Facebook to rate girls, remember? When that fact is grasped… well, everything becomes a bit of a wankfest. The dopamine hit of self gratification when you ‘go viral’ is undoubtedly better than anything a cheap bar of chocolate could recreate… which is why exercise is, I now grasp, so much better as a gateway to kicking the habit for good.

As that’s happening with greater frequency (and satisfaction) this week was always going to be about stripping back on crap. It’s all Reddit’s fault, if truth be told: after I deleted my account there was a sense of… well, actual liberation. The platform was rarely used. It’s users are… a colourful bunch, but the fact remains that popularity comes from a particular brand of interaction, that I’m simply not prepared to do.

Once that was gone, there was empowerment to go further.

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In the last week an awful lot has been learnt about how my WordPress blog actually works, which is long overdue. I’d say about 95% of interactions via likes are non-human, and so to remove them and the avatars people use with which to do so was really a no-brainer. The only notifications that will register are when replies are written to posts, the only way to post is when you’re authorised by me.

There are those who undoubtedly would argue ‘this is not free speech’ and they would be correct, but until WordPress allow me better means to curate who can see my work without taking a blog private? This will have to do. However, the silence of the last few days has been utterly glorious. Not gonna lie, this is something I should have done YEARS ago because it removes so much pointless detritus from existence.

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Respect’s a tough thing to earn in the modern world. If my work’s good enough to make someone want to respond, undoubtedly they will, and that means past a click. Likes are no longer worth purpose when they have such a negative psychological effect on people, especially those who are easily influenced. However, the biggest bonus for me in all of this is undoubtedly the opportunity to dictate personal terms in public spaces.

As the future becomes control taken out of individual hands, the ability to pick and choose who and where my information is disseminated is vital. It isn’t just AI that causes concern either: real life nutters and stalkers are a constant, insidious threat, and with little or nothing the average person can do to protect themselves, it is massively  important to know how you can minimise such issues.

Knowledge really can and will set you free.

Bad

Don’t want to talk about exercise or weight today, as it happens. I want to talk about people who do things that to them seem perfectly normal and acceptable. Except, inevitably, they’re not thinking about anybody else but themselves.

Inevitably, in the modern world, victims struggle to be recognised if there’s enough money and/or power behind those accused of abuse. It’s the constant reminder of fact: it does not matter how advanced or enlightened the modern world claims to be, if someone decides to hide abuse, then they will and they do. Effectively, we are still in the Dark Ages.

That fact does not really seem to change however far down the ‘chain’ of abusers one goes. Ignorance is what keeps most abusers in the dark: not other people of their actions, but them of their own. ‘I had no idea I was hurting you, I’m so sorry’  can read as either manipulation or salvation, and at that point in any relationship, it depends on how much trust has been destroyed. Anyone can be an abuser. ANYONE.

If you’ve been abused, it is incredibly easy to see the signs from distance.

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It also makes you struggle to trust people and establish worthwhile relationships, a fact which can then cloud your judgement… except it doesn’t. Believing the person who has been abused should always be the default, and so often it isn’t. I’ve done this myself in the past, and there’s been cause this last week to consider those situations in a different light. Again, abuse has become personal. Does this abuser even realise their crime?

I doubt they grasp that what they’re doing even is abusive… because, you see, this isn’t just about physical domination. Most abuse is mental, psychological attacks, long-term trauma that one can deal but that just keeps coming back, again and again. When massive, household names appear on TV or use social media to highlight abuse, it’s often with no reference to them at all. Except increasingly of late, those rules are changing. Abuse is everyone’s problem now.

All abusers care about is their own welfare, their own happiness, their own professional positions. Telling them to stop, blocking the means by which they can communicate, refusing to engage are all well and good but that does not stop the person from continuing to abuse others. In the two most high-profile abuse cases you’ll find in the press this week, greed seems to be a strong motivating factor.

More significantly, it’s making people choose sides, when that should never be the issue to begin with. Without full grasp of all the facts, everything becomes speculation, hearsay. In such situations, one inevitably returns to personal experience and your own moral code. Inevitably, the same conclusion is always reached, because it is the most sensible. Believe the victim, because inevitably they have the most to lose.

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Except, in at least one very VERY high profile case involving young men and an older man, many people won’t. It would destroy their perceived vision of a legend, and it is easier to let that vision of wholesomeness remain intact, untainted. In the era of what will be called ‘Fake News and the Preservation of Self’, several decades from now, history will remember those who’d rather believe lies than have to accept personal growth.

We’ll stop believing victims because the people they’re attacking have too much to lose. When the world teaches us that the pinnacle of achievement is to be rich and famous, attacking those who have this is unfair. We cannot accuse these people because they have so far to fall if found guilty. It is not right to ask these people to give their money to those who have less, because it is theirs to begin with…

If you people could hear yourselves. Abuse comes in many forms.

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I’ve wanted to write this post for months. The stars aligned this week, and finally the right words arrived to allow it to happen. Your life is nobody else’s to dictate but your own, and the choices you make should NEVER end up stopping progression. This week, not only did I find my voice, but grasped that some people, whatever they have to overcome, will put stones in their own roads to stop that from happening.

I choose who friendship is given to: it is my decision, and mine alone. Perception of me is wrong if there’s not understanding that by refusing to communicate I’ve stopped being a friend. I cannot help how anyone chooses to see me, but I can guarantee it’s not the real me. That only happens with prolonged, personal interaction. Reading my blogs for years does not make anybody my friend. It just means they need a better hobby.

Manipulating others to get your own way is never the answer.

Control

Normally, after five days of concerted effort, Friday morning’s a big ask. Today, however, things have been different.

Don’t worry, this is not an exercise post. I’ll stick this here however because it’s useful as a reminder as to why I am considerably less fucked than has been the case for several weeks. Physio this morning, albeit painful, was the most productive session since they got my hip back on board. I’m kind of glad now that this whole issue with bloods and cholesterol showed up when it did. The kick start it has given me is considerable.

But it’s not just that which is making the difference. NaNo’s going well, I have my gaming plans in hand… this weekend, there’ll be more work on the house. I’ve made some significant steps in making my online spaces more relateable and safer, not just for me but others. More importantly, how I view all of these things is altering. Is this more red blood cells in my brain, I wonder?

I found myself wondering this morning what might have happened if I’d not had that blood test post hospital… one assumes I’d have just kept on going until I was sick again, and then maybe it would have been picked up later down the line… when what was needed more than anything else after the hospital was the means to make myself fitter. Sometimes, it isn’t just about getting fit. Other factors are at play.

There’s some pretty significant psychology going on here too. The ability to take life into my own hands, control and dictate what it is that is done and not… but crucially an understanding that I am indeed the arbiter of my own destiny. Nobody else gets to dictate the terms in this particular set of circumstances but me, which is probably the most liberating part of it all.

Having spent decades having to listen to other people, telling me what I should be doing… there’s definite joy in finally directing my own destiny.

I’ve Got The Power

Settle down, class. The subject today is power. I hope you came suitably prepared.

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I’ve been trying for several months to change something that, if I’m honest, cannot be altered. Fighting lost causes has been a thing for many years, mostly because there’s this will within to just keep pushing, in the hope that maybe eventually the tide can be turned. Is this a Canute and the Ocean situation? Yes, quite possibly, but until there’s been this one last push… and it has to happen… 

An appointment has been booked for 11.30am next Wednesday. There’ll be some work done, at the weekend, to firm up what it is I want to say. Then, I have to hope that the person who promised to be here on that date does indeed turn up, or I’ll be forced to go and start a formal Dispute procedure… and nobody wants that. It’s not like there’s much that can be used to to persuade these people to even listen to me anyway.

In this case, a Social media rant is not the answer.

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Power’s a tricky thing to grasp. Forget for a moment about dynamics and players, there’s the bigger issue of overstating your own importance in situations where on any given day you’re simply part of an enormous, largely irrelevant whole. Having spent several years labouring under a misapprehended belief I had the ability to change something that would never, ever have taken place? I still haven’t learnt the lesson

Even if all this effort comes to nothing, I have to try. This is not about making headlines as ‘the woman who took on X and won’ and never will be. This remains the need to ensure I am true to my own ethical code. If something is important enough to stand up and say in one place, that should be the same for anywhere else, regardless of the consequences of doing so. If I don’t try, I’ll never know.

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All you can ever do is your best, as I keep telling my son and daughter. If it isn’t enough for other people, that’s their problem to deal with and not yours.

I have a plan. Let’s see how things go.

bury a friend

I’m trying to make friends with people. It’s tough. Once upon a time, all that mattered was similar interests… which is why so many of the people I consider as friends right now are tied together by a love of gaming. A couple of bad experiences in the last year have made me realise that even in places that feel like safe spaces, people can be selfish, arrogant fuckers. There is no escaping that. It just happens.

Then, there’s moments like yesterday. You think someone is becoming a friend, and then something happens and all there is for you is uncertainty and confusion. How do I make this work? Do you lie to hold the person there, or is the truth what matters most? I’m really too old for this shit, when all is said and done. I’ve never been great at being anything other than myself. So, honesty or death it is.

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No, I said HONESTY Eddie, you know cake is off the menu.

The whole concept of friendship’s an odd one. There’s already a person to share my life with, and has been for decades. You don’t need to have someone there 24/7 either or else there are dependency issues that really don’t need to take place. Dealing with loneliness is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and ultimately it is getting easier, mostly because of the coping behaviours that are now in place.

Knowing how to deal with yourself is something a lot of people could do with working at, it occurs to me. Having been, at various points yesterday, emotionally manipulated, massively complimented and used as an example of how to do things right… there’s never really a point where everything is 100% in your hands, however much you may consider life to be otherwise.

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It seems to me that the best way to measure success is via achievement, in these cases. If I see someone on Wednesday night, yesterday’s conversation went better than expected. If I don’t hear anything from somebody else for a while, I’ll consider my actions a success. At all points in between, the calls will just have to be made and if it’s out of my hands, so be it.

Reassurance can also be taken from the fact that it’s been quite some time since I was the one causing drama. That’s the most positive, comforting change in all of this. The longer that fact remains, the happier everything becomes. Once you realise where a problem began, everything becomes so much easier to rationalise. Then, it’s just a case of keeping on top of what alters going forward.

Honesty really is the way forward.

Living by Numbers

Thanks to an article in Sunday’s Guardian I am now considering the concept of Quantified Self: a term coined by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007. The latter is an ex Wired journalist, former said magazine’s founder executive editor. Both are cited as founding fathers of the Quantified Self Institute in the Netherlands, whose aims are very simple:

Quantified Self (QS) is the term that embodies self-knowledge through self-tracking. The list of things that we can measure about ourselves is endless: among others our heart rate, respiration, hours slept, or even the number of sneezes and coughs during a day. However, not all important things in life can be measured and not everything that can be measured is important. QS really revolves around finding personal meaning in your personal data.

This weekend I made a decision to stop using Fitbit as a result of their acquisition by Google, but an alternative fitness tracker has already been chosen. It would be tough to live without the mental and physical advantages a pedometer and sleep analyser provide me at present… sure, it could happen, but the benefits such metrics provide me in terms of self-motivation… I’d miss them.

I suppose I am a QS advocate without even realising that was the case.

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In a period where increasing numbers of people are rejecting and regulating their tech use, there are lots of factors to consider around who holds this kind of information and for what ends. Once, it was just about selling your name and address to advertisers if you gave details to websites. Then credit cards came into play, stakes increased, but when one thinks about heart rates, menstrual cycles and exercise frequency as saleable data…

Of course there’s a crucial caveat: as yet, wearing a pedometer/heart rate monitor is not enforced. All the people who might yet get judged for their sedentary lifestyle are far less likely to care about their QS than those who have become enamoured with the benefits of such metrics at their disposal. However, there’s at least one life insurance company asking for activity tracker data to gain discounts, and that list will undoubtedly grow.

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Without my heartrate monitor, I’d have not learnt some vital lessons in the last six months. These figures are often more accurate an indicator of general health than I’d ever be able to obtain, at speed, from a medical professional. However, they are really no substitute for actual medical intervention and regular check ups. You can be as self-knowledgeable as you like, but you’ll never be an actual doctor, so don’t try.

Any exercise plan is only as good as your own overall health, and many issues can hide undetected from sight. If you’re going to become a member of the Church of QS, remember to cover other parts of your fitness equation. Oh, and don’t get stressed if you’re constantly being beaten on leader-boards by serial overachievers. The only contest that matters is the one with yourself.

Winning isn’t everything.