Can You Feel the Force

Every so often, something happens and you are given a unique insight into someone’s mental processes. If you’re a smart person, you’ll look long and hard at this data and learn from it. In the past week, I’ve had a couple of crucial conversations with individuals involved in various parts of my life: one personal and one professional really stand out as being indicative not how others have changed during lockdown, but how I’ve altered.

The professional one is really disappointing, but on reflection is probably no real surprise. My aspirations are vastly different to the people currently handling me, their concerns and mine not meshing at all. So, we’ll do what has been asked of me and move on. No drama, no fuss. A project that I wanted to do my own has been quietly subsumed. No matter.

The personal one I’ve seen coming for a while.

Finding people who share my passion for hobbies or pursuits has always been quite hit-and-miss. In this case, lots of people are clearly still struggling with the details of lockdown, and with the potential for it all to happen again in September, there doesn’t need to be any more stress in people’s lives than currently exists.

What going back to weightlifting has demonstrated is that control is a very big deal right now: who has it, who needs it and (most crucially) who cannot cope when it is imposed. I love getting to know new people but also know that there’s a point in every relationship where you either get closer and stay there or move apart and never return to that crossroads. I’m gonna be leaving a lot of people behind this month.

I suspect a few have already gone.

Guilt can be a strong motivator, however the damage that can cause often negates the point of effort. Right now, I need realism in my life, and lots of it, and if that means that along the way people and opportunities are missed or left to one side, it’s okay. I can’t get everybody to like me, and it’s impossible to do everything. Pick the moments, and your friends with care.

Life is moving pretty fast right now for everybody.

Back and Forth

You’ll no doubt remember the mini mental issue that happened at the end of May/start of June around some poetry. I got the rejection letter yesterday, but it wasn’t like previous ones. Over 500 manuscripts. I made it into shortlisting, roughly 10% of that total. I made it to shortlisting. I understand why people shove that in Twitter bios: you’re close. What I don’t grasp is those who don’t then capitalise on the knowledge.

Once I’m done here I’ll be splitting up that body of work into three pieces. All of them will go off to different places. I’m going to reorganise another collection instead of something half-written for summat in August. This failure has inspired me to greatness, and if all this fails again we’ll just pick ourselves up and start again. An important transition has been completed.

That’s all there is to it, I suppose. There is nothing else to do now than get on with it.

Time to do the work.

Regeneration

I have been to the Gym, and exercised in more space than I thought was possible. All equipment was self-sanitised. After an hour of PT, the biometric scale was self sanitised, then used, and the takeaway from nearly four months in lockdown is that within a significant weight gain, very little of it is fat, mostly existing on my legs.

There needs to be more running, but with the current state of my ankle, it makes better sense doing bike work whilst watching the calorie intake. No fitness has been lost at all, all that work during lockdown was utterly worthwhile, and the validation that gives is more than enough to negate the weight gain.

Now I have to decide what happens next.

The amount of physical and mental energy required to get through an hour’s training today has been enough to render me largely incapable now. Of course, it will get easier over time, but honestly there is a lot to factor into going back to what was normal when everything so obviously isn’t. There’s also the surrounding reality that people are still getting sick.

It’s also hugely apparent that a gulf of knowledge exists in certain places, that testing isn’t nearly as widespread as it could be, that some people still don’t understand they are the problem, that companies such as my Gym’s owners are looking at money first and people second… but there are changes. Some are good, some aren’t.

It transpires that Blaze classes are now conducted using a ‘remote’ trainer, : no real person in the room with you, just a trainer on screen. It’s effectively a Les Mills on Demand class, or a Peleton class: any desire to be involved has effectively evaporated. The main benefit of training with a PT is that, for an hour, they do your thinking, and you do as you’re told.

For that alone today was worth the effort in getting out.

I dunno what happens next. I really don’t, but I am gonna do a second session on Wednesday and then consider my options. I’m comfortable that the Gym is a safer place now than it ever was before to exercise in. My exposure to the place is entirely dictated by my own actions going forward. If I feel safe, I’ll go, but if I don’t, I’ll stay here.

After that, a lot of this will depend on choice going forward, nothing more.

Samuel L Riddim

Those paying attention will have noticed no blog yesterday. This was intended. Friday was the most stress experienced since Lockdown started, culmination of a remarkable amount of circumstance which has been approaching for some time and that was completely unavoidable. The consequences of this have been… well, [wrinkles nose] unexpected.

I have trained for events before, there had been effort expended to get fit. However, being introduced to Group exercise has changed the way in which I perceive and consume instructional effort. Tomorrow I am week six into a twelve-week bike training plan and am already planning to start a fresh plan when it’s done.

The change, undoubtedly, is in me and my brain’s ability to cope with progress. My reintroduction into group exercise (and its sudden loss in March) forced a bit of a rethink over how my cardio portion of events was conducted. Once I’m back with a PT on Wednesday, the much-needed bridge between weights and cardio is fixed. I really don’t need classes any more.

I suspect in that regard I will not be alone.

I’ve also noticed a distinct improvement in other things over the last couple of weeks, having reined in my sugar addiction from the dependency I had during the last few months. Skin condition is ultimately far better. I am able to work harder. The stress-related migraines however are of some concern, especially as I suspect that’s telling me I’ve cut back a bit too much.

Balance however is coming. Slowly but surely, everything is falling back into place. Once we get into next week, lots of other things come into play. I’ve submitted more in the last eight weeks of this year than took place in the first five months. This is progress, and every time I say that we move inexorably closer to my goal of just being happy.

Today’s a decent step in that direction.

The End of the Innocence

I am no expert at nutrition. It has, as stated above, taken me this long to grasp why food and I are not often comfortable with each other. In a period where many people are looking at their eating habits after Lockdown and grasping that lessons need to be learnt, wading into discussions over improvements is potentially fraught.

For YEARS, I’ve considered labelling menus as a good idea. It also forces restaurants and places LIKE GYMS to assess how they make their dishes and to maintain a level of consistency. Of course the issue with doing this is accountability. If you say your 600 calorie dish is that, you gotta ensure that’s the case. No shoving full fat anything in it.

Rules make life really hard for those who know they’re breaking them.

I heard someone talking sense on national radio today, which was it has to be said a pleasant change from what currently passes for reality: ‘people mistake inconvenience for oppression’ and I wondered if it was summat that maybe he made up on the spur of the moment. Sometimes you know summat’s bigger than the moment it appears in. Most people wouldn’t do the legwork to check. I’m not most people.

Just seeing your objection to something can and will blind you to the bigger issues. We all need to be able to think past the things that upset us, or ail us, and to try and work out why sometimes compromise really matters more than being right. It is another symptom of privilege, like it or not. Just because you are happy with the status quo does not make it right or fair. It just means you’re in the majority.

For those who aren’t, or need guidance, or require a six-foot-high neon sign that says ‘WEAR THE FUCKING MASK’ there needs to be thought away from your own need and desires. This is especially true of those who like to claim to be objective purveyors of reality. You know, journalists. It means you attribute, you don’t steal other people’s shit, and you don’t let your own bias or experience colour your output.

I do not like this World for many reasons. It bothers me that the only way to win right now is to win. There is no second place. Everyone either gets it or they don’t, and it therefore seems highly appropriate to wheel out this piece of video as evidence as to why this is so utterly wrong. This evidence may be fictional, but if you ever wanted a good demonstration of the disadvantages of a full nuclear attack? Well…

Many parts of existence will only alter with seismic change. I totally understand that. It would be really helpful if the people standing in the way of those changes could grasp that if they just stood aside, or walked away, it would improve everybody’s happiness, but that is not where we currently find ourselves.

Maybe if a lot of people stopped trying to win, we might stand a chance.

These Boots are Made for Walking

It has been mentioned here a few times how utterly woeful I am at doing Me Time. However, slowly but surely, this last part of the self-care redefinition is getting looked at. Next Friday, I’ll have new hair again which is good because I’ll be recording stuff on Zoom in August and looking fly will undoubtedly be an advantage.

My local Gym also opens this Saturday, and that means next week PT is back, but outside where it is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. I’m not happy being inside without a mask, and exercising with one may prove problematic, we shall see. Whatever happens, there will be more of the stuff I enjoy doing as well as work.

However, I have other interests that really need consideration.

I know Patreon’s supposed to be a job, but I have invented a New Thing that is already making me very happy. As long as I can keep doing it just for me, and it doesn’t become a millstone, this has the potential to be a significant source of enjoyment. Add to that being able to build my own empire from scratch, and yes, this is good distraction from reality.

If I can get this stuff to pick up interest, then I am really getting somewhere.

Don’t Believe the Hype

My husband is a very, VERY keen cyclist. That means, in our house at any one time, there are SQUILLIONS of water bottles: some vintage, some too big to fit into bottle cages, some promotional and all prone to getting very mouldy if not cleaned properly. The best ones, undoubtedly, are minimal in their design and easiest to keep sanitary.

Doing just that this morning, I realise it is (yet again) time for a clear out. Detritus increases quickly in the modern world, so much stuff given away ‘free’ when it would be better for us and the environment if you didn’t feel the need to chuck me a bazillion tote bags and charging cables under the auspice of ‘look, we care about our clients.’

Then it hit me, yet again, that all of this faffing is a metaphor.

If I am going to succeed in business, finally, after all this time, making life harder for myself is not going to work. There is no need to reinvent the wheel every month, despite the fact it will make me look cool and edgy. Maybe, just possibly, introducing some consistency to my work might be an idea. That means finding a game plan, and sticking to it.

When it comes to Instagram, I am an utter Noob. Ideally, I should be using what is available to me without attempting to invent anything else right now, however smart or funny it might look. Therefore, today we have started a Plan of Action that will move through until Christmas. It’s hard to think that far ahead, I’ll be honest, but it seems a decent timeframe.

Let’s see if this new format will pay any dividends at all.

It is tough on the brain right now, so much to have to try and juggle. Watching stuff go out in the world and not have hundreds of people proclaim it a marvel, a wonder, the content they’ve been waiting for is difficult to cope with, when all you’re ever really after is someone telling you what you’ve done is great.

Expectation management is the toughest job of all.

So Here We Are

Whenever two or three people I know and follow, on Twitter, get together and have a conversation, Twitter actively attempts to involve me. Even on Tweetdeck, that interaction appears unavoidable. With my tech hat on there are clearly very good reasons why doing this is a good idea for the growth of the platform overall. Talking is, after all, the point.

However, it’s a lie, clear falsehood. It’s the equivalent of what used to happen in the playground at secondary school when someone wanted gossip to make them the centre of attention. I am well aware of the level of interaction at play on any given day, and these people would not, do not include me. It is an attempt to drive passive engagement, and I detest it.

It also drags me into issues I am often already trying to avoid.

This is, I will freely admit, the reason why some people I really like are at present muted. Mutes don’t stop the direct @ when someone talks to you with your username. Crucially it doesn’t remove likes or retweets being visible on Tweetdeck, at least initially. It allows me to acknowledge those who are my more enthusiastic supporters, who refuse to engage directly (for whatever reason).

However, of late, it means that certain discussions and arguments are unavoidable, however hard I attempt to curate. Part of this journey is realising I cannot fix everything, and I would be foolish to try, because the energy expended by doing so does and has deflected me from my path. Many people have commented on the downsides. I am going to take their advice too, because they care about me personally.

I know this not through here say, but through personal interaction.

It is apparent to most now how important virtual interactions are in modern life, and being able to place a measure of control on what takes place is as important as keeping your real life manageable. Watching other people make the same mistakes you have does make you want to wade in and point out the hypocrisy. It is not worth the effort.

Asking people if they need help is a better way forward. It requires far less assumptive reasoning: if someone says they are struggling, then that’s your cue. Again, it can’t (and won’t) help you save everybody. That remains the impossibility that it takes a lifetime to shake and will, if you are that person, wrack you with guilt when it becomes apparent you missed someone else’s cry for help.

All you will ever do is your best.

What bothers me the most right now are those people who depend on the Internet for their livelihood, who know what good can (and does) happen here yet continue to malign it because it gets them attention. We all know someone like this, and I watch people do this daily, in the hope it might illicit some sympathy. That’s not how this works. We see right through you.

By far the most successful people on Twitter are ignoring the fact they’re not being successful and just doing what needs to be done. When your creativity and enthusiasm shines through, amazing things happen. I’ve only just discovered this revelation, and it is still sometimes a bit hard to balance with everything else but the results are, it must be said, transformative.

Stop talking a rubbish game, and start changing your outlook.

Monday, Monday

My hairdresser and I have formed a relationship away from work. It means that she feels comfortable to share little titbits of data with me: one that was a particular surprise is that she had trouble with depth perception. That means, if someone was to hit a tennis ball at her from distance, she’d be unable to judge where it landed. I’ve tried to imagine what this must be like to have to cope with mentally, and suspect it is a bit stressful.

Occasionally, when online, people will share memes that make me realise a) just how young they must be and b) just how old I am. It’s not a problem insofar as gauging how far into the past or future other people are related to me. I like to not judge at all, if I can help it, rather assess each person met on merit. It is up to them to show me who they are.

Grasping how people operate online however can be a little more difficult.

There have always been people who think that ‘online’ is the real danger, ever since Usenet allowed people to communicate without external regulation. There will always be outliers, and despite what Malcolm Gladwell might want to tell you their success is often defined by not being the person who is easy to profile, quantify or indeed locate.

Ironically, in these days when enemies are in plain sight and have no need to hide, highlighting those pedalling the low level dopamine hits to the masses is very easy. You don’t need to see either in front or behind to grasp the dangers: one could argue it is why government won’t regulate institutions it knows have at least some nominal value to them in keeping control.

The bigger enemy to freedom right now, ironically, is information.

My family love to mock my paranoia over tracking: yesterday, the world will know I did a virtual bike ride in my shed and then a real life one down the Thames Estuary. In the latter case, it will be obvious I navigated a portion of sea wall that has been ‘nominally’ closed due to being unsafe. There were no laws broken, but there’s enough private property in that area that had I strayed into it, Strava would have recorded it.

The ignorance most people hold over exactly what they wear and how it tracks them remains eye-wateringly painful. Seasoned protestors know how to disappear, which is why facial recognition software has become as big a topic of discussion as it undoubtedly is. The irony of having to wear masks in a place such as shopping centres where retailers employ such devices to prevent theft will not have passed many people by.

How far you can see entirely depends on what you’re capable of focussing on at any one time.

The longer COVID goes on (and no, Boris, this won’t be over in time for your no-Deal Brexit) the easier it is to see those people who are adapting, and those who face extinction. The latter won’t go quietly, or without a lot of noise and mess. Letting them go would be a lot easier if influencers stop pointing and laughing at the death throes.

Real cancel culture ought to mean silence: you just stop talking about people, ignore their desperate pleas to be relevant, and then watch them tank off their metaphorical cliffs without any more need for propulsion. That’s my plan going forward: lift up the voices that I feel matter, amplify the people who deserve to be heard. Seeing everything is sometimes disadvantageous, but not right now.

Accurate depth perception has become a part of my arsenal.

Nothing Compares to You

I think about a lot of random shit when I’m exercising, which divides into two distinct categories. There are the sessions when I have a plan of attack, accompanied by a specific musical soundtrack. Today however I was up early with nothing in my head except getting the job done: 1 hour and 45 minutes of HIIT work on a static bike. During those 104 minutes, there were some interesting revelations.

I am, like many other people, quite angry at present. One particular source of ire is directed at those people who have turned up where I live, complained it isn’t what they want it to be and then tried to sell me their ideas… I’m not talking about my physical home, but the virtual one. Lots of people find ‘digital native’ an unpleasant term, but that’s what I am, like it or not.

In the last decade watching big business and politicians turn up to try and both monetise and politicise this platform has been in turn depressing and baffling. We have reached the stage where it is apparent some people cannot get what they want from the current systems, and are now trying to advocate their own slants in the hope it will improve everybody’s wealth, and that’s where the bus is stopped, parked, and staunchly defended.

You do not get to change stuff because you believe you know better.

Ridiculous stupidity, in many forms, continues to happen with horrifying regularity. The Internet, like it or not, remains the Wild West with less law and more casualties. When absolutely everyone in your sphere states you’re wrong, that your outlook and attitude are the things at fault, you should already be on your way out of town. Except people don’t realise they’re the problem.

I had quite a long debate about this yesterday in the real world: is it wilful ignorance that makes people just ignore everyone else around them? Are these people too scared to ask for help? Is it just easier to keep doing the same old shit because anything new is too frightening? It is probably a bit of all of these, plus the overriding need to assuage those basic, inescapable urges. You know what I’m talking about.

If I had my way, all advertising would be banned on Twitter overnight: no political advertising either would be a start. Then everybody would have to graft for their own crusts on a level playing field. The winners would be the smart wordsmiths, and those who would manipulate their environment in the most artistic and entertaining fashion.

The reality of course is now it is impossible to separate these things from each other, thanks to the continued weaponization of personal data. I can get as angry as I like but nothing changes, so the future is slowly shifting towards less personal ire directed at the shit I can’t change and a redirection of energy to the stuff that can be.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.