Hope for the Future

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I didn’t get my mentorship. It wasn’t a surprise. In good news, they sent the e-mail nice and early, so I didn’t have to stress about it all day. Not that I would have, of course, because I already know how this is going to pan out.


What mattered more this morning was bettering my own standard.

I woke up at 7am with a mission.

I’d written an essay for today’s Internet of Words site that, frankly, I was less than enamoured with, far too similar in tone and outlook to the one produced a week before. I realise now that what works best in my four week format is a general essay on the book, and then a more detailed assessment of a portion of the subject matter, but seen through a wider lens. I have tried since the weekend to get a handle on what that view would encapsulate, and yesterday morning it came to me: time travel. So this morning I’ve taken a day’s worth of notes and a week’s worth of general research and produced something new pretty much from scratch. I’ve yet to do my re-read but honestly, I already know it is 1000% better than what I started with.

Today therefore is a resounding success, because I didn’t just stick with what was good. I created something better.


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Talking of creating something better… Bond 25 had better not be Diamonds are Forever or Die Another Day.

PLEASE DON’T FUCK THIS UP, SQUIRE.


Last night, the Real World crashed the party on Social media, and today lots of people will be REALLY cross. Be nice, and accommodate discussion. If your mental health won’t support remaining in public places, leaving’s perfectly fine. There’s plenty of us left to give the alt right, extremists and anyone else with stupidity running through their veins a run for their money. A smart person might even consider capitalising on current events.

I think I’d pay good money to see that happen.

New York Minute

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This time last year, family were waiting at Heathrow to cross the Atlantic.

How much has changed since that point, I realise, looking back to ten days in the Big Apple. In some ways it is seismic: staring at my body, grasping how far things have shifted. However, undoubtedly the bigger change has been mentally. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve gotten since last year, through some quite difficult periods of time. Today is a bit of a struggle, but with that is the understanding that before, I would simply have ignored the problem and hoped it went away. Now, I know what has to be dealt with, and so am doing just that.

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That means, before I take a mini break to visit family in the South West next week, there are some things that need to be said and jobs that have to be completed… I’ve also grasped that what I do as a ‘normal’ day’s work during term time won’t be nearly as easy during the Summer Break because you know, I forgot to factor kids into the equation. The stupidity of this, albeit staggering, is a wakeup call to the selfish days of my youth when that’s what would happen as the default, and I’m ashamed enough to now admit that in public. Now I have, it is a case of playing catch up whilst maintaining momentum. I have a list to complete, a car to take for repairs, a doctors visit and my daughter to drop off at her grandparents for a few days. Breaking things down to Post it notes worth of effort might seem a bit basic for starters, but it is working.

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The biggest problem, most of the time, is managing expectations. It is often hard for me to express my own problems without a lot of thought and effort. Yesterday, for instance, an issue that’s been bubbling for weeks finally got expressed, and I wasn’t expecting the manner in which it happened. That means I can often be my own worst enemy when it comes to being organised. I doubt that part of my personality will ever change either, so planning needs to either compensate or be flexible as a result. Today, for instance, anxiety is really high because I missed a cycling session yesterday, have a lot of responsibilities for other people to deal with, and am behind on what was planned. Throw on top of that a rubbish night’s sleep and really, honestly, the potential for disaster is considerable.

Again, there is one sure fire way to deal with all of this and that’s to stop talking and get working. Let’s do that right now.

Copy Me

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One of the first words my daughter learnt at her new school was plagiarism. From the beginning  to the end of the School year, that concept was drilled into her: just copying from the Internet and passing it off as your own work is wrong. I was reminded of this yesterday when reading, of all things, a Teen Vogue article. I followed the site after the US presidential campaign, and the resulting output turned out to be one of the best things to come out of 2016 for me and many others.

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This story, of a woman on Instagram effectively plagiarising another (far more high profile) user’s work gave me genuine pause for thought. I know this stuff happens all the time, have seen artists that I follow complain that their work has been wholesale lifted and copied without permission. With the size of the Internet, it is no surprise that even my own work’s been duplicated and used by ‘scraper’ sites: added as filler on websites who’s existence is dubious at best. One of the reasons I finally left Google’s Blogger site after being there since launch was the amount of site hits which went through me that was clearly spam, other people using the URL as a means to direct suspicious traffic. However, it isn’t the nature of this kind of plagiarism that makes me uncomfortable. In the case of our Copycat Instagrammer, there’s almost an artistic reverence to the work which, once upon a time, might have been considered acceptable. Now, with what I know about how the Internet works? It’s just plain creepy.

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The note at the bottom of that Teen Vogue article is the real takeaway from any story like this: in my mind I imagine the copycat ‘grammer had done this simply to try and gain new followers by dupicating shots she knew would be popular. The fact she went to the exact same places to do so is no surprise either, because if all that matters in your mind is a simple reproduction? Then you require the same backdrops. In a world where image is everything (and it is if you’re playing the aspirational lifestyle card) then one assumes the effort expended will be, in the mind of any copycat, worth the reward. Except here’s the bigger problem: thought. If you have all the money you need and the time to simply scrape someone else’s life and pretend that you’re living it yourself, does this provide any real notion of satisfaction? Do you get kicks and thrills simply by pretending you are that person? If that is the case, is this ever going to be mentally healthy long term?

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I know people online who live like this. There is evidence to support that case too, in at least one case from multiple sources. I’ve considered the wisdom of pursuing an individual but after a long and very interesting discussion with a member of the legal profession, any case comes down to whether your evidence is prosecutable. As soon as it is possible to gather sufficient concrete proof that your copycat/stalker/abuser is just that, Police and Law Enforcement are becoming increasingly willing to take cases to court. For everything else, gaps in international law between countries allows crazies to quietly slip through the cracks. You teach your kids to be careful, watch for the signs, but grown ups rarely do the same for themselves until it is often far too late.

For some, however, online plagiarism has become what they’re best known for. Copying others has evolved into their own ‘signature’ move… and can you blame people, when Hollywood will reinvent itself every 10 years, a movie’s not really a classic unless it’s been remade several times, and fashion relies on recycling trends each season allowing magazines to roll out decades old stock photos of when that trend was popular the last time. Everybody’s guilty from time to time of seeing someone else’s work, going ‘oh yeah I could do that better’ and doing just that. Without that turn of events I doubt that man would have invented the wheel, learnt how to plough crops or how to use plants to make people better. Like it or not, borrowing from others is a basic part of human nature.

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The problems inevitably surface when you cross a line, which is often far more clearly defined than many copycats might like to believe. Do it once and you’ll probably be smiled at and the duplication acknowledged (especially if you do a decent job) but keep on repeating and people will eventually and quite rightly accuse you of not having any of your own ideas. In fact, if you keep doing it to the point where someone notices and then you stop and simply latch onto something else? Perhaps it might be time to take a look at yourself. If all of this ultimately is an attempt to keep people interested in your life, then maybe the real issue isn’t having an adoring audience to hide within. Speaking as someone who, for many years, never considered the consequences of her actions, you may not be lucky enough to be forgiven. The better option, undoubtedly, is not to fixate on someone else’s life as being an aspiration, and to focus on fixing your own.

In the long term, it will be better for your soul.

The In Crowd

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I used to find excuses to stay at home. Gaming was a great one, absolutely cracking means by which I could avoid Reality, in all its forms. Now, I need excuses not to go out, and rarely find them. Today however I am at the beck and call of the Amazon delivery bloke, which is fine because there’s stuff needed for the rest of the day. However, as soon as the three parcels are signed for, I’m outta here. A lot of the chores are out of my hands: two bodyshop visits, dry cleaners, supermarket. However today I not only get to try and beat my best time for 10 miles on the bike, but it is Running Day at the Gym.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about my competitive urges in the last few weeks: I realised quite early on in this adventure this is not about using other people’s benchmarks to measure my progress. Weight’s also hugely unproductive to use as an indicator of attainment (as we have already discussed this week) and as I’ve put on muscle weight AGAIN this week thanks to increased leg and arse use? The only real indicators of progress I have are times and frequency. The first two days of cycling were pretty much minimum of effort to adjust to the process. Yesterday evening, I pushed. It wasn’t even that: the occasional burst of power, sprint section of the Track. However, there was undoubtedly more energy in my legs than has existed. This morning, with the benefit of a lie in?

I want to get out and exercise before I do anything else.

Although the markers are, in most cases, against other people (virtually) or a ‘good time’ (depending on my age) the only person I am ever competing with is myself. I don’t require  a race or medal to prove hard work or validation. I suppose that is why finally that gaming no longer has its compulsive claws fixed into me, because however many carrots may be dangled from sticks I’m just not hungry any more: desires have subtly altered in the last couple of years. I’ll have plenty of time to play once I’ve done all the other (far more important) stuff that needs doing.

Oh, there’s the doorbell.

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Next month’s Internet of Words Book of the Month will be going full on sci-fi. I’m not gonna lie, I love myself a good hunk of speculative fiction, and the World currently is just DRIPPING with possibilities for those of us who love to write. With my Tomorrowland hat on (worth your time watching, not nearly as awful as some people will tell you) I’d like to celebrate the fact that, in my lifetime, you may well be able to travel from New York to Washington in 30 minutes, which puts the pedestrian ideals of my country’s High Speed Rail link to utter shame. That’s 226 miles, approximately a three an a half hour car ride south via the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95, down to 30 minutes. The future, people, is a joy to behold when technology gets its oil-stained fingers on things. Gawd bless ya, Elon Musk and your solar-fueled empire of renewable awesome.

It’s the God emulators we have to watch a little more closely.

DNA faffing is nothing new. For 120 quid I can get a home DNA testing kit delivered to my door and discover what latent disease might yet end my chances of a long, happy life. For everything else however it is the stem cell that matters, and I’m not sure why I’m surprised that this claim above is even news. Rules, scientists will tell you, are often there to be broken in the interests of progress. When you learn from Teen Vogue of an experiment you’d never heard about it is no time to be snotty about who reports the news, but simply to be grateful it is reported at all. Social media might be able to astound you with facts about cheese, or that amazing video of the puppy rescue but really, wouldn’t you rather know about how the past dictates the future? There will be experiments running right now with dubious end claims. The only way you may ever hear about them is if they are successful.

All the ideas that drive TV formats, which rely on dodgy or invented ‘versions’ of science aren’t the ones that matter right now. It is the fact that procedural shows are perhaps some of the biggest draws which shows that the thirst for actual fact can be both accomdated and satisfied in ‘normal’ drama. According to Wikipedia, a procedural is ‘a cross-genre type of literature, film, or television program involving a sequence of technical detail.’ That includes medical dramas (Greys Anatomy, Casualty) and crime scene institutions such as CSI (all flavours) and Silent Witness: start with a crime, or an illness, and cure it in an hour to ninety minutes (plus ad breaks, your region may vary.) These shows now pride themselves on truth as part of the plot. Although people still love a good fanciful ‘what if…’ scenario, reliance on reality is becoming increasingly important.

There is a flip side to this, however: what if your fantasy is too close to reality for you to cope with?

The Circle promised a great deal with early trailers, but released in late April to barely a whimper, and was unceremoniously shuttled to Netflix in late June without a word. Sometimes it isn’t just the pacing or content of a film that makes it unpalatable to cinema audiences, often content itself can be too close to issues or ideas that people are not yet ready to grasp, and however melodramatic some might consider this attack on ‘full transparency’ to be there will be moments of discomfort for anyone who lives their life far too fully online. Speculative fiction allows readers (and viewers in this case) to grasp the possibilities or event can have on shaping a different future for everybody. It is no wonder that the Planet of the Apes franchise is currently undergoing a renaissance, that superhero movies are front and centre. Imagining alternate reality is not only a wonderful means of enjoyment, it also has the potential to promote thought on very real issues emerging in both science and technology.

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There are already microchips in Swedish employees: about the size of a grain of rice, capable of simple tasks only, nothing fancy. Wearable tech is already here: I can keep all my credit card details on a ring or a bangle, if I don’t think my phone is safe enough (and I don’t.) I swing between Luddite and Evangelist right now, because the speed of change rarely if at all keeps pace with the means to protect information. When you know you can’t trust anyone to be 100% honest and transparent over what they’re doing, especially the people in charge, it makes for a little bit conspiracy theory and an awful lot of cautious optimism. As is the case with the Internet, everything’s a bit Wild West and you gotta just hope that the good guys are the ones who win.

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There’s a lot going on in the World. People are attempting to clone extinct creatures right now, I can guarantee you. Yes, you should really be worried what could emerge from the ice when the polar caps melt. Buying a boat if you live near the sea is a sound investment… and the list goes on. For now, enjoy the speculation and don’t get too stressed about the shit you can’t change. However, your mind is not one of those things: the more information you can glean to make informed decisions for yourself, the better.

Start opening your eyes to the real potential of the future.

Hunting High and Low

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Everybody wants to be inspired. It’s what Social media is perfect for. This morning, when I woke up, the first thing I saw was a video about an 80 year old Chinese guy who’s making a name for himself as a catwalk model. The Tweet’s no longer available, I assume because the company hijacking the inspirational message didn’t own the copyright. If that’s not a metaphor for life right now, I don’t know what is.

People call me inspiring, but the truth is that I’m just being selfish. This is me, doing the stuff I’ve always wanted to do but previously wasn’t possible. It is, like it or not,  putting myself first: health (both mental and physical) needed to be addressed before I got too set in my ways and age made progress at the rate I wanted impossible. From the outside, stories sometimes appear lit differently than is true viewed from within. Society dictates that when we are presented with a question, there is often only one answer. That’s science’s fault, to a point: when empirical evidence exists to explain just about everything, trying to pretend its magic or just luck doesn’t really work as a reason. That’s why (despite on certain days it appearing otherwise) this is no longer the Dark Ages.

Except, in the last decade, Science itself is facing up to the reality that what has remained as ‘the truth’ for centuries is now being challenged by our own ability to combine technology and reasoning. Some very well-cherished standards from greats like Einstein are coming close to being reassessed, and once you start poking the established world… well, that’s how wars start. Don’t forget that science (atomic theory) became a weapon that kickstarted a period of societal uncertainty that lasted for decades. Challenging existence itself is a big deal. You could argue that pretty much every religion on the planet did just that too at inception… but I’m getting away from the point I want to make. Me, over here, being selfish is as much a seismic alteration in my own mind as any change to gravitational theory. No, I won’t be remembered for centuries to come, but the decisions I make now could assist the next generation of my family to do just that.

This morning, I found myself wondering why so many carry an unswaying belief there’s just one ‘answer’ that works for them.

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This all started as I poured pomegranate into my porridge, which has been my way of stoking up on a reliable sugar fix for a day without it. Then I began to think about dieting: so many people offered me alternatives when I began this journey: some worked, but at least one may well have contributed to the failure of my gallbladder. Some swear by Weight Watchers, others need supplements coming out of their ears… the approaches to getting thinner are almost as varied as the people who try and sell them as the ‘answer.’ Except, in the end, that magic formula can’t be written on a blackboard. It becomes totally unique to you. Mine involves only the minimum of sugar and carbs, daily exercise and an inordinate amount of stretching. Oddly, the stretching has become almost as important as the exercise, as this is where I think about what is happening to me.

The exercise bit is great fun and very enlightening when I have my trainer to help. However, when I’m alone it is hard and I want to stop. My balloon is burst by the realisation that if you want ANYTHING that’s both sustainable and fulfilling, it has to take time. Instant results grant no satisfaction, which I’d argue is true with absolutely everything. Some days you wish it would all just happen, but when that is the case the consequences are normally too terrible to speak of. Once you grasp the inevitability of fighting chaos, then you need distraction. I distract myself all the time when I’m working out, and pretend its not happening. That helps time pass faster. It is why they put TV’s into running machines. Once you’re able to grasp that you’re using a machine not to pretend its a sofa? Then you make progress.

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A lot of people have come together to help me produce my redemptive path. When people ask for advice, therefore, I always feel like a fraud. I cannot give you the answers. People make millions from self-help tours, inspirational speaking and book/DVDs on how to get fit, be happier, live longer and they’re all selling their own story. Just because it worked for them does not mean it will work for you, yet for years I bought into this belief that somehow, someone could magically make me what I am now. The only person capable of doing that? Me. Take away your magic crystals and downward dogs and seated rows, none of it actually matters one iota unless I DECIDE SHIT IS GOING TO CHANGE. That has been a fundamental shift for me, too. I wasn’t ready for it in my youth, certainly not prepared after the birth of two kids. Only now am I properly receptive, and that’s the key.

If you don’t feel you need to change, how will it ever happen?

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The other key here is fear. Knowing members of your family have passed in their 50’s is a great motivator. Understanding that hormonal changes can potentially produce brittle bones and impede physical exertion… that asthma could cripple progress in the winter months… all of these eat at a rational mind that says you’ll live longer if you just do nothing. Except, I won’t live a satisfying life. My depression will consume everything and… no, not going there any more. I refuse to allow other people to dictate my life. I can manage asthma with exercise, can hold back the effects of ageing with it too. I am a time traveller: I have the body of a 38 year old woman and am almost 51. The mental benefits of long term exposure to endorphins is enough to convince I’m not stopping now. This, quite frankly, is the best my life has ever been.

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I am not your salvation, I do not have all the answers. Nobody does, except you. That’s why, when you are diagnosed with a mental illness, it is only one part of an extremely complex puzzle. Knowing what you are is, of course important, but no two people suffer depression in the same way. You can bond with a fellow sufferer over the means by which your condition overlaps, but pretending there is one answer for everybody is dangerous. Some will be totally receptive to your thoughts, some perhaps too much as to be swayed and influenced and that’s why I always get a bit nervous about pretending I am something I am not. The Universe will offer solutions to your problem, science can rationalise a lot of them to 1’s and 0’s but only you truly hold the answers. It is up to you to listen to your own voice, to accept your identity (faults and all) and set your own journey to redemption. This is why the real heroes in this world never need to tell others what to do.

They understand that the only real truth is that which you discover for yourself.

Night Boat to Cairo

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It is almost August. How did that happen?

I am now down to my outstanding Patreon list fitting on a Post It note. This means that I’ll be up to date August 1st, when the process has to start again: however, I have adapted a very great deal in the last four weeks. It is a learning process that has thrown up more than a few surprises, and an understanding that, with thought and effort, anything really is possible. That is the biggest takeout: these tasks are no less relevant or significant than  anything else done before. The fact people now give me money to ‘work’ is just the way it always is in the early days of establishing a business. The difference here is that I’m just coming to the whole experience later than maybe would be normal. That’s great however because it allows an awful lot more experience to accompany me to the table.

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However what is most satisfying right now is the understanding that what is written doesn’t matter as much as what that allows other people to get from the experience. This appears to be the case with the growing use of Twitter Polls in my feed as a writing tool: I make no bones about using the service primarily as a basis to spark unprompted conversation. When opinion is not the reason why something happens, just facts reduced to a simple choice, it allows people the ability to discuss and explain their own feelings and experience. Currently, the Internet is mostly opinions clashing, points of view in dissonance. Sharing a common ground yet allowing diversity to thrive within is, in my mind at least, a far better way of promoting discussion.

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There’s also been communication in a manner I’ve not seen since I began this journey. People are spontaneously (and unprompted) suggesting new topics, and thanking me for the discourse. Normally, when I start a conversation on the Internet like this, it has ended in tears. However, I realise that a lot of that historical trauma was as much about how I dealt with the responses than anything else. Also, my ‘don’t tweet to anyone for the first hour of the day or until you are fully awake’ rule really is beginning to make a tangible difference in how contention pans out. It is the understanding that yeah, I have my part to play in all this, but only to a point. That whole ‘two people to argue’ thing is absolutely true. If someone ignores you, there’s normally a lesson to be learnt.

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However, the Internet doesn’t change. The dicksplashes remain, because their own Community ‘bubble’ allows that toxicity to continue unchallenged. Very few people are either willing or bothered to vilify such behaviour, because in most cases these people are normally functioning members of society. In fact, as long as the current President of the United States can utilise Twitter as a policy tool to push forward intentionally divisive and damaging administrative choices, nothing will change. Legions of white men will be encouraged to be utter morons and treat everybody else who disagrees with them like dirt, women to assert only the impression of independence guided by often fundamentally floored visual prompts which further act as restriction. If you don’t fit those two gender groups or their traditional notions of sexuality? You’re on your own.

So, how do you ever make progress?

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However many times I tell my daughter I love her regardless of what she wears, the spots on her face or the thickness of her thighs, it’s never 100% certain she understands or believes me. That’s the benchmark, in my mind: you do it one person at a time. Start with yourself, and then try and make other people understand what you’re trying to say. Make sure that, when you do, it is accompanied by an openness and honesty that allows you to be clear and concise. Effectively, it means opening yourself to ridicule and scorn, and for those of us who are sensitive to personal attack, that can be a tough ask. However, to survive in the Real World, that’s what it takes. If you decide to put yourself out there, the consequences are just this. You want to make a difference? You will get hurt. Then you have to decide if that’s worth the effort or not.

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If there is one consistent takeaway from all of this, it is that you can forgive others if you wish. However, there are situations and relationships where it is absolutely, positively the best thing for both parties that you never see each other again. Blocks are what they are, court orders and everything else exist because one day, you will encounter the person for whom reason, common sense and decency simply do not exist. There are all the shades in between, but just because your mate’s now great friends with their ex does not mean you are the same. Life works for everyone in a different way, and the trick it seems to me is how you manage to accommodate everything, rather than excluding all the stuff you hate.

I doubt I’ll ever work it out, either.