Breathe

It’s almost been a month with the Health Wearable not owned by Google and the benefits of this piece of tech are becoming apparent. For a start, it pairs with the static bike trainer I use for virtual cycling without so much of a complaint. It has a problem with units of measurement at present, but we can fix that without too much pain in post-production. All the important stuff still gets saved.

Then yesterday, after the stress of two submissions back to back, it vibrated and asked me if I’d like to do some focussed breathing exercises to relax. It can tell me how uptight I am in traffic (a lot of late it must be said, after a couple of bad experiences in the last few weeks) and as a result I find myself wondering how to get those numbers down. I like the irony of having to reduce output to gain result.

It ought to bother me more that the answers to so many of my questions have been ‘out here’ for a very long time and I’ve just not known which questions to ask. Except that to learn how to be better, one has to also be able to accept what isn’t optimal and then work from there first. To accept knowledge, you have to be prepared to listen and that’s the biggest issue of all. It’s a complex equation based on your willingness to receive.

That’s a fact lost on an awful lot of people right now. Whether it be cultural insensitivity, political affiliation or even spoiling a favourite TV show, there’s a multitude of ways in which we can show just how ignorant and unwilling we truly are. Often you may not even realise it’s happening: in social situations, especially, the truth about prejudice and ignorance can be very hard to hide, ot ignore once seen or heard.

Ultimately, I really want to get better not just at running and weightlifting and writing,  but at interaction with other human beings. I want to start conversations that are difficult, and push through issues that make people uncomfortable. There continue to be no easy answers in life, and although once I was happy to live without conflict, I feel this is the moment to change a long-held view.

Education makes everyone better long term. Understanding does, with help and support, build greater tolerance and accommodation. That has to be a better way for everyone. If it means coming out of comfort zones whilst learning something about myself in the process, then so be it. To want something enough, there has to be a part of yourself given as means for progression. I’m gonna do this.

I know at least my health wearable will be looking out for me when I do.

New Horizons

When the Labour Party imploded before Christmas, a lot more people should have been surprised. I can remember the rhetoric on Social media when Corbyn was elected leader, that nobody in their right mind would ever trust him as Prime Minister. Of course, that’s no help now, in the darkest days of the Planet, and what is required is someone who can make ordinary people feel as if they truly do have a voice in the void.

If the future entailed voting on someone based solely on the strength of one video, this is pretty compelling stuff. However, as is about to become news once again, The Truth is no longer as black and white as was the case back when there were only four TV channels. Archive footage is irrelevant when placed beside memes and infobursts. Our future is ignoring the memories of old people, because they voted for Brexit.

What matters more than testimonial videos is what That Bloke on Facebook posted an hour ago. Although I may have abandoned the platform some time ago, my husband still sits and watches comedy videos and uses it for Hockey and Cycling groups. I’m fairly confident he’s not being manipulated in any way by fake news, but until he feels physically compelled to leave? Houston, we have a FUCKING HUGE PROBLEM.

That’s not the only issue: no other service is as badly regulated, is as casually used and abused, or easily accessible. Businesses demand employees use it, companies won’t promote themselves anywhere else. It plays on the most basic human need for connection, exploits it mercilessly, and then uses those connections TO SELL SHIT TO YOU. Most people don’t even care, but they won’t be the first to leave.

It is humanity’s inherent laziness that allows this platform to thrive.

I’m still using Instagram, it should be stated for the record, 100% in a promotional capacity. That’s only happening because it is free. However, there was a period before the writing career took precedence that Facebook was considered as a platform. I looked at ads. It scared the life out of me: how much money was needed, where the reach went, how the company pretty much demanded total immersion before anything became worthwhile… and I found myself, not for the first time, considering addiction.

This year is the one I’ve made a conscious decision to stop using Social media as a crutch. Online time is strictly limited on my phone. As this is the last day of the school holidays the tablet by the bed will be removed and left down here so there’s none of that either before sleep or when I wake up. The differences it’s making not only to sleep time but mental awareness is already obvious. Yes, you are addicted to Social media.

Addiction however is acceptable when everybody else is too.

None of this is relevant to anyone else, of course, because they aren’t addicted. It’s just a place to hang out with mates, or watch funny shit your cousin posted. Except there is increasing proof that repeated exposure to bad shit can alter good people. It’s how teens get radicalised, adults become utter morons and Chinese manufacturers convince you that purchasing their cheap generic knockoff is a better bet.

Once you can see through the lies, life becomes easier to rationalise, but no less painful to navigate, because unless EVERYBODY ELSE stops being dependant on the platforms, nothing changes… and eventually, unless we all regress back to a pre-electricity dependant state, someone else will come along and do the exact same thing. The only way life changes now is if EVERYTHING changes, and the chances of that right now seem incredibly slim indeed.

Other people can tell you the horror stories. I can recommend podcasts which explain how Facebook tries to be good, but at a terrible cost. There’s enough conspiracy theories out there to last a thousand lifetimes. The reality is simpler, easier to rationalise. You get one life, it remains finite and right now may not necessarily depend on how long you survive. The planet, for an increasing number of us, may burn before we do.

If that’s the case, this is the moment to stop staring at a screen for whatever reason, and to get out and do some good. Instead of filling social media with complaints and frustrations, this is when we get out there and do some good. Stop looking at other people’s lives and wishing yours was better. Make the change. There’s no statute of limitations on New Year’s Resolutions. Today is a great day to start fresh.

Any day can be the start of something better.

Right Said Fred

Those of you who regularly frequent this space will know I quite enjoy a cuppa. For the last few years I’ve seen other people expounding the joys of a TEA ADVENT CALENDAR: considering my dietary restrictions at present, this is an idea I was really ready to get behind. Therefore, starting tomorrow, I’ll be using Instagram to record my experiences, and this blog for some reflection.

It’s also going to be an obviously blatant exercise in brand awareness.

This presentation box was not cheap, and was bought using the last of my birthday cash. However, it has the potential to be recycled after use on my bookshelf as storage as part of one of the New Year Endeavours (more on that in the week) so in that regard, it is already paying for itself. There’s already been a sneaky peek into Drawer One and the surprise I didn’t realise existed is that there are other gifts than just the teabags.

We’ll be employing an ACTUAL MARKS SYSTEM too for this exercise: these are Whittard’s teas (in the interests of full disclosure and use of their Twitter tag on Social media) and will be considered on a number of Laughing Geek criteria:

Drinking the Tea Advent

LOOKS: To be fair to the experiment, and as there’s two teabags per day to work through, we’ll brew one the way the experts do (nice white cup so you can see what the stuff looks like) and drink it without milk. However, as a rule, I’m a milk gal (with the obvious exception of herbals and greens) so if I can stick the second bag into my daily routine with some semi skimmed and honey, I will.

SMELL: I have sniffed a fair few teabags in my time, and this for me is a decent indicator of whether any enjoyment will actually follow via drinking. Smell will be important. I’ll have to see if I can work out exactly what’s in a blend… and then whether that smell translates into something I would actually consider drinking.

FLAVOUR: Some of these teas are gonna be stuff I’d never normally consider quaffing, and that is where I suspect flavour will really come into play. There will be lots of open-mindedness too: just because I’ve never considered a blend should not exclude it from fair and objective consideration. Most importantly, as I’m not doing this for advertising or promotional purposes, there will be honesty. If it’s awful for me, I’ll say so.

RESULT: Would I drink this again? Is it worth buying a whole packet? Those are the two questions to be asked first, after which I suspect there’ll be some thoughts on mood, productivity and satisfaction. All these thoughts will, unsurprisingly, be recorded on PostIt notes for your perusal on Instagram, and I’ll do a slightly longer write-up here. If anything, it could work as decent feedback to Whittard on their current range.

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We’ll start on Monday, with posts Wednesday and Friday. It grants some much needed regular content into my month that isn’t exercise (more on that later) and is a nice side project away from writing.

You never know, I might even enjoy it.

Belief

This week, I am going to do things differently. You won’t notice most of them, but trust me when I say to you that this is already happening. It did for a couple of hours yesterday and the sense of well-being it created was palpable. This is what is needed more in my life right now.

There’ll be a longer post when I’m done with the day.

Aquarius (Let the Sun Shine)

Yesterday was important for a couple of reasons. Let me talk to you about the one you didn’t see talked about at the time or retweeted.

Last year, someone told me that I was exhibiting a great many symptoms of autism, but was not in a position to confirm formal diagnosis. If I wanted that to happen, it would require a period of counselling, and then some effort on my part to get access to the specific testing mechanics that allow that to be considered. Having finished the counselling portion of proceedings last month, something significant has altered.

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It has, inevitably, required time for what was pulled up from counselling to settle and be digested. Part of that happened yesterday. As of right now, I am finally confident pushing for an autism diagnosis would be a waste of everybody’s time and resources, that others deserve those valuable things more than I do. There’s an incredibly complex set of reasons behind this decision, which I’m not as yet prepared to discuss in public.

Having a reason for why I was what I am became an obsession, for a while, until the truth emerged. This is the first time in my entire existence that everything feels at peace. It makes sense to me why I am what this is, right here, writing these words. Of course, there will be contentious issues, and returns to the heat of my fears but my ability to deal and process, to manage what I am, has improved vastly.

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After a night when dreams were full of things that had been forgotten, the future more optimistic than I ever remember it being, I’ve changed a line in my Twitter bio. Right now, I am dealing with multiple incidents of Trauma. Once that’s been managed and measured satisfactorily, we’ll look again at where I stand. For now, this is a journey that, on reflection, was never going to be easily labelled and then dispensed with.

At least that lesson is now learnt and taken to heart.

Teenage Dirtbag

It’s already over 70 degrees outside on a Monday morning. There should therefore be a huge thunderstorm at some point in the next couple of days, ‘coz that’s how it works in the Estuary area. If it happens, there may well be standing around outside because I could do with getting soaked. Everything itches. I thought I’d escaped the worst of hay fever this year but BOY was I wrong. However, finally, my left ear is back to normal.

Today therefore, time to talk about moving forward.

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There is 5kg’s worth of fat on me that needs shifting. I can see it, and feel it: the importance of its removal has become wrapped up in an ability to prove to myself I can do hard work when it matters. I’m not setting a target date, but will make an effort. There’s other stuff that needs fixing too: personal things, shifts in axis that can’t all be done at once. You’ll grasp this when it’s done, with everything else.

For now, this is a busy week. I’ll finish off the last of my currently pinned poetry’s mirrored background gubbins this morning, then the last ten poems can go up. I’ve asked for two to be removed (and I’ll repin them when it happens) and then that’s it, the whole collection is ‘live’. I have then until Wednesday to get the last of the mirrored stuff up. That’s eminently doable in my time-frame.

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Kettle on, let’s roll.

Paris

Yesterday was tough. Paris has enormous personal significance for me, since my early 20’s. I said a lot on the personal feed yesterday, and history will recall that I learnt about the fire, almost moments after it started, because of Social media. In fact, I knew about it in a house on the East coast of England well before major news outlets reported the fact. This is why this medium has become so important.

The world, quite literally, is at my fingertips.

Of course, it matters a great deal in these situations who you follow: I have a number of Parisians on my feed thanks to that computer game. At a point in proceedings someone decided that the way to go with reaction wasn’t ‘this is horrible’ but instead that ‘yay, organised religion is burning’ was a better angle. Once upon a time, that might have been a great way to pull in the more radical fringes to your cause. Not any more.

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There’s a consequence to being in the public eye: if you fuck up with an audience, it is increasingly difficult to hide your crime. This was the fate of a Sky news anchor  yesterday who said all the wrong things on camera and when apologising via a Tweet forgot to actually say they were sorry. Words really matter, especially on a text based medium. Using the right ones is a skill many don’t grasp.

Individual culpability on an instant message network has never mattered more than it does now. Knowing when to say stuff, or more importantly, when to stay quiet is a life skill that so many have never successfully grasped. It’s something only now I’m comfortable with, after (I think) nearly eight years on the platform. It’s also why I’ll never, ever EVER go back to Facebook.

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I remember the day when it became apparent that even if I was interested in leaving my past behind, other people weren’t. The perpetual obsession with marking yourself against those you were educated with, social groups you felt uncomfortable with and subsequently left, is a source of constant amazement. The human obsession with maintaining such bonds when the knots they are tied with are inherently flawed has never made sense.

This is the place where I am happiest after half a century, without doubt, divested from the distractions of the past. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of that via my husband’s need to be reminded of those people and their achievements, and am reassured that nothing significant is either lost or missed from removal. After all, if these people truly cared about me in the first place, they’d be here now, reading what I do.

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The fact no-one bothers beyond the spoon-fed auspices of mass media hubs is a lesson in itself: I know this is possible, because individuals have made that move. Some came and stayed, others got frustrated with my attitude and again left. I’m not here to personally entertain anyone or conform to your view of what I should be. This is about evolution, development and expansion.

If that matters enough, you find a way.