The Test

Yesterday, I did my first FTP Test, and today I am quietly pleased.

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The last time this number was registered by the Zwift software, it was 135. When I began cycling, I believe I was somewhere around the 125 mark. That was at the end of December, so to have seen a 10% improvement over that time…? Yes, this is clear evidence of progress. For people who care about numbers, I can demonstrate that I’m not coasting, or plateauing. This is me, most definitely going forward. For me, however, numbers aren’t that important. My weight, as a single number (for example), is nowhere near the truth about my body composition. I’m happy to be able to walk today, because last night was the hardest I have ever worked on a bike.

In truth my chest aches more, thanks to lungs finally getting the workout I’ve been scared to attempt.

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I am still quite nervous about pushing into high heart rates, always have been due to my lungs not being as efficient as everybody else’s in providing the oxygen required. My lung capacity has, for some time, been about 30% lower than it should be, but I’m going to get tested again in a couple of weeks so I will be interested to know if that figure has improved. Making it into Z3 is not something that happens that often, and last night I realised that maybe that ought to change. However, to allow that to happen, I need more general fitness and less fatigue. Yesterday was not an ideal day to do the test, but on reflection, it was the right one.

Like it or not, numbers define my progress.

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If this were just about weight loss equalling healthy, I’d have failed so many times for it to be beyond a joke. Fortunately for me, I’ve discovered that health is so much more than just the numbers, but requires me to accommodate and understand other people’s needs for them, above my own, in order to make progress. Happiness is not clothing fitting better, or not being out of breath when I climb stairs. That still happens, on days when air quality is awful. I can’t help the lungs I was born with, and the sensitivity they possess. However, there are lots of things that can be done to ensure that this doesn’t stymie me long term. Making the muscles around the lungs stronger, allowing my body to be more capable of healing and protection… and the list goes on.

At the top, mental well-being matters most of all.

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However, I need to admit some truths. I like the way my body feels now, so much more than was the case before. I think my arms are my best feature, am really proud of both strength and definition. Being able to carry heavy things is always a bonus. I love the sense of satisfaction gained from progress: the numbers don’t matter so much as the sense of being more capable. Mostly, without the physical discipline that exercise has granted, I’d find myself really struggling to keep mental discipline in place. All my effort and achievement with the writing would not be taking place if not for the cycling, lifting and running.

I have become quite the model of symbiosis.

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That makes effort more than worth the reward. It pushes me onto better things. It’ll get me out of this chair in thirty minutes and to the Gym for a PT session, which I’ll walk to and from. It won’t save me from injury or stop me from procrastinating, but the sense of well-being that I currently inhabit is unlike anywhere else that I can ever remember. Finally, I have a happy place, and exercise exists at its core.

If I’d only realised this twenty years sooner.

Look At Me

I don’t like the way some people on my Social media feed are being influenced by large companies. There’s nothing I can do about it, of course, and by pointing it out I’ll simply be accused of not understanding their feelings. The fact remains, I watch daily as people are far too easily manipulated. No, I’m not imagining this. There is no tinfoil involved. In the Wild West of Social media, the law is not fast enough to keep up with offences. It is the moral turpitude of people involved in making fake news, ‘innocently’ promoting their brand using cheap emotional hooks or simply wanting to draw attention to themselves BECAUSE THEY MATTER DAMMIT that stands between here and social disintegration. Therefore, EVERYBODY has a responsibility, yet very few are prepared to even think about consequence

If you cannot clearly discern reality from the invented, everybody is in trouble.

There are too many problems effectively to solve if you go and stare at the negative for too long. If I have to isolate one that seems to be endemic to all the issues I personally experience, it would be emotional blackmail. I’ve watched this used by the alt-right against Florida schoolkids who simply want to live without fear. I watch politicians use it as a means to justify Brexit, not Brexit and all points in between. The most depressing form, however, is undoubtedly the format that seems to afflict everybody, from nobody to celebrity, which is beautifully encompassed by the desire to be noticed, but at the same time not ending up looking like an idiot.

Considering Social media as a ‘game’ must be done with a great deal of care.

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It seems to me that by far the best means by which you survive in this lawless land at present is to keep everything at arm’s length. It works, to a point, until someone appears with their Emotional Blackmail Joker and shoves it in your face. We’ve been ‘friends’ for X years, you can’t do X, Y or Z because I will take this as a personal affront and you will back down. Except for the problem, inevitably, is that you aren’t friends, and never really were. Unless the definition of friendship is quite clear, in this modern world, NOTHING is to be expected or anticipated. NOTHING AT ALL.

If it matters enough that someone is friends with you, then you tell them. That’s why I spent a month last year doing just that. It is why the people I care about have time taken to read their tweets, or blogs, or consider what it is they have to say. I can support people I do not know well, and help them, but this does not make us friends. That only happens when both parties agree to the transaction, and never before. If you believe, whilst reading this that we are friends and that’s something that matters to you, yet we have never discussed whether we are or not? It is time to reassess your definition.

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I refuse to use Social media as emotional blackmail any more. I have followers, of whom a VERY small number (probably less than 70) are people I talk to regularly, of which maybe 25-30 are friends. Of that, less than ten are good friends. I communicate with one person with whom I share a genuine friendship on a daily basis. Just the one. There are three others I’d consider as close or comparable, so that’s four people. Everybody else, let’s be honest, I don’t have a clue about. Some people obviously think we are friends because they talk at me on a daily basis, but many of these ‘conversations’ make me feel uncomfortable. The emotional attachment others have to me is undoubtedly weighted in their favour.

If I cannot accurately discern intent, what chance does anybody else have?

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Smart people don’t have these conversations in public, but I’m getting to a point where there has to be some disconnect between the people who believe I’m their friend and the truth, which is I’m not, they’re just a follower. In the end, it is easier to just remove these people from my followers’ list and hope they get the point. The last time that happened, however, it ended in tears because the person concerned believed they deserved to be my friend and that I should return the favour. I don’t need toxic attitudes like that in my life, and to be fair to everybody else here, you shouldn’t be getting attached like that to me, to begin with. It’s unhealthy and ultimately self-destructive.

Sometimes the truth is what everybody needs and deserves.

Express Yourself

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Some days, I am incapable of communicating successfully.

When this happens, I force myself to go back to basics. Don’t tweet. Think before mouth is opened. Stop and take time to work out whether it is worth even starting a sentence. Only when all the criteria can be satisfied is it safe to go ahead and make your point. Believe it or not, this thought process happens with every blog post. Those who have been aggrieved therefore when they somehow decided I was chucking rocks at them? Just no. I don’t know how stupid you think I am, but if you’re dumb enough to take the piss out of someone in public, eventually it doesn’t matter how many locks and blocks are on your end of things, the truth gets out. 

That’s why you don’t do it, people.

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My bigger issue is making sure the point I want to highlight gets covered. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there, and I (again) have Mindfulness to thank for the step forward. The mantra ‘thoughts are not facts’ gets repeated quite a lot of late: just because it is in my brain does not make it some kind of insoluble truth. Searching for real meaning on the Internet is often a mug’s game, to begin with: I’ve had enough of being told what I should be thinking or be feeling to last several lifetimes. The only person who really understands what’s going on, in my head, is me and that needs to be communicated in far better terms than is currently the case.

That makes all this poetry and prose not simply entertainment, but education.

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I’m going to start taking a notebook everywhere, which used to be what happened before I allowed gaming to overtake everything. Now that is back in its proper place, words happen a lot more organically than would ever use to be the case. It is, like anything, a result of constant training: my physical muscles grow from repetition, and so is the case with mental exertion. I’m becoming quite proud with not simply the poems, but the leaps of deductive reasoning and analysis that can be made. Discipline is allowing other talents to surface, and it is not simply fiction that benefits.

Today, however, I’m physically exhausted: PT was a slog, thanks to a body still struggling to recover from last week’s blood donation. Things are definitely better than this time on Saturday, so (body willing) I hope to be back to what passes for a normal routine before the week is out. What is left of birthday money will go to an extra session on Friday to make sure I’m recovering properly. This week, therefore, I’m back on the calorie counting, taking care of myself and trying to get early nights where possible.

This healthy living doesn’t organise itself, you know.

Life on Mars

I have a confession to make: I watch perilously little TV these days. Normally there is just not the time to do so: there tends instead to be vicarious consumption via Social media. However, as of right now I have two regular shows which aren’t missed: Quacks on BBC2 (you can iPlayer the whole thing if you choose, I prefer to do it old school) and, on the same channel Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes? They are about as far apart as you can get in terms of subject matter, but I have interests in both.

The former is interesting for the subject matter (Victorian medicine but done for laughs) except I don’t find it that funny. In fact, I’m slightly concerned when I’ve heard other people consider it just that when I really don’t laugh that much at all. However, Rory Kinnear can do no wrong in my mind (you’ll know him as Bill Tanner from the Bond movies) and everybody else seems to be having a whale of a time so you know, it’s a win regardless. The Astronaut thing is as cerebral as reality TV shows can probably get at current levels: you ‘prize’ should you ‘win’ is a recommendation from former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to get you into the Space Programme.

After that, there are a bazillion things I probably should watch but simply haven’t gotten around to doing, thanks to the levels of work at present. This includes The Handmaid’s Tale, Twin Peaks, anything on Netflix or Amazon Prime and pretty much every point in between. In good news none of this stuff is going anywhere, the nights are getting longer and I could conceivably do this whilst cycling in the shed. I’d have to make a priority list but it might be a plan for getting through until next year, assuming nuclear war doesn’t break out in the meantime.

Today however is Back to School day for everybody, and when you read this I expect to be celebrating with a cuppa and quite possibly a book before I get on with the rest of my plans for the week. There’s a poetry submission for the 8th but as I have to pay for it I’m still not sure it is summat worth doing. I’ll sleep on it tonight and consider the possibilities on Wednesday.

A New Day

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I’m using the same blog title in two places today, because last night I finally reconciled how the relaxation portion of my life is going to play out going forward. For about two years I was tied to a responsibility that, having now been released, I understand was effectively strangling my love of gaming. Now that is no longer a consideration going forward? It is high time to reorganise that side of my existence, in the same way I have with everything else. It has helped greatly that I’ve had people to talk to who understand my peculiar situation. It is also really helpful that relaxation is not simply via one means any more. Previously, escaping to gaming was all there was… now, that’s not the case.

I’ve wanted a mountain bike for some time now, because they’re simply more robust than the road bikes my husband seems to love. Having ridden this yesterday I am already happier than I have been for many, many months: it is not only built for a female body, it is incredibly easy to manoeuvrer and direct. What this gives me is a bike I feel comfortable riding to and from the shops, that I can do some road work without panicking, and that is 100% mine. We’d considered an old style upright, but honestly I’d rather have a backpack on than a basket… unless I get to the stage where a three wheeled bike with a massive front container is available. That’s a long way off, and I’ll need an awful lot more strength and stamina if I’m going to pull that off.

If you’d have told me a decade ago I’d have said I enjoy cycling, I’d have laughed at you.

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There is an awful lot of shit going on in the world I have absolutely no influence in changing, so it is high time I focused on what can be done, and do a fucking good job of it. That means getting strong, mobile and finding a voice.

This seems like a good place to start.

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.

New Life

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This week I’ve watched the weight closer than I’d normally do, which before in my mind would have been a tad unhealthy. This time around however it is to see how the strict carbs/sugar regime is affecting my body, and I’m beginning to notice what can only be described as shrinkage. As body sea-saws between the same scale points, body begins to lose fat. Under arms, at the top of my legs, around waist, across the stomach. All of these places where before fat was obvious and often frustrating have reduced in the last week. I don’t normally look at my body at length anyway, but right now the state of arms and shoulders is cause for celebration.

This is what was wanted when I was younger but never knew how to achieve.

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Today is a self-imposed rest day, because yesterday I did 26k steps, which is almost eleven and a half miles. It also doesn’t help that one of three bites I got on Friday’s gone full on zombie apocalypse near my knee joint, with a blister the size of a five pence piece. I’m assuming this is as a result of recovery from surgery and the fact I’m now pretty much dormant in the hormones department: my body loves to overreact at intrusion, but that’s always been the case. The blister’s healthy, no infection as yet and so I think this is a way of entry site saying ‘just take it easy today, ‘kay?’ I’ll do my 250 hourly steps, and probably grab a nap after writing is done to help with healing.

I suspect today will involve minimal physical effort.

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The first week of ‘proper work’ has gone incredibly well. Looking at the planner to my right, apart from Thursday where Twitter drama rearranged the schedule, everything has gone more than totally to plan. Once done here I’ll turn the page and start on next week, which already has a number of things planned (apart from the scheduled work) that I can honestly say I’m quite excited about. Then I have Patreon pledges to complete, the first of which I started on yesterday and will be continued with today.

I decided to test yesterday whether it is possible for me to write ‘in public’ and it was, rather usefully, a very good exercise in concentration. This is the first time that I’ve applied real process to writing in this way, going through several forms in one place so that my ‘thinking’ can also form a physical reward for the $10 Patreons. It is worth at this point stating I’ve managed to pass the $100 pledge mark:

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The next yardstick is $180, which is how much I’d earn a month with the paying gigs I gave up to commit to this. I couldn’t do both, and so in my mind I was going to give myself to the end of this year to make that figure: to have reached over that total in what is effectively less than a month is beyond staggering. It gives be real hope I can achieve everything I want.

Time to start planning for the week.