Saturday

Just gonna knock one thing off my Saturday To Do List before I start here, two secs…

Been another odd week. Watching people I know succeed in things that were aspirations last year, but were (rightly) ignored this for a bigger picture. Having everything is not attainable, so it is about making the choices that work not just for you, but also circumstance. Being on the right side of history matters.

Most importantly of all, there’s a lot to lose.

Tomorrow I need to be brave and attack some stuff that’s not been touched for some time. There are new windows of opportunity opening all the time. It’s as much about being proactive and flexible as it is attaching discipline to actions, which can sometimes cause something of a conflict of interest.

However, undoubtedly there is change.

Tower of Strength

A bunch of ridiculously rich people worried about being ‘cancelled’ (with no grasp at all what this really means) co-signed a statement yesterday. The two most notable (at least for me) had already come together in conflict earlier in the day on something far more telling.

This is where we are now. There are no precisely drawn lines… except one. Wealth. All of those people have money, and by definition access to anything they might need to ensure their lives are lived without issue. Except, of course, as writers, they are supposed to be revered and loved for their intellectual stimulation and insight or else their reason for being does not exist.

Think it’s time to bring Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs back to the table.

All those rich people are not at the top of their pyramids right now. They might have made it to Tier Two without breaking sweat but Tier Three is the deal breaker for EVERYBODY in Lockdown: when ‘they’ say that money won’t buy you happiness, this is normally the space where the majority of that assertion lies. The shift from Safety to Belonging is fucking HUGE.

For this writer, I can absolutely attest that once you move into the Esteem stage of proceedings, an awful lot of stuff that was not previously possible becomes just that. The self-imposed obstacles that are set previously simply cease to exist. You can and do attain things that were previously impossible. It is, ultimately, all about your own personal journey into enlightenment.

Wealth then becomes far more than material fortune.

Except, for many of these writers being unchallenged on frankly vile opinions for decades is coming to an end. Having an ‘opinion’ is finally beginning to mean accountability. The more insidious upshot of this, at least for me, will always be the mental health consequences of having opinions and outbursts in a public forum, in front of a massive, often highly susceptible audience.

Never more was that apparent than when this particular piece of video appeared yesterday lunchtime.

I know this might raise some eyebrows here, but this is dangerously close to doublethink tactics. I saw the term ‘psy-ops’ used in a few places by some notable players and had to go look it up. They say every day is a school day in this parish and that it is.

First off: THESE GUYS HAVE GABRIEL AS THEIR PATRON??? Quite apart from the numerous WTAF’s that resulted from this rabbit hole, it is apparent that mental warfare is now a big deal. Undoubtedly, having looked at the tell-all book a member of the Orange Twat’s family has now been allowed to publish, it’s quite clear that childhood trauma’s got a part to play in proceeedings.

Speaking as someone already waist high in the same shit another writer’s sold for a fortune, objectivity becomes the defining feature for absolutely everything. If I was holding the keys to a massive nuclear arsenal, I’d fucking demand other people made me accountable. That’s not happening right now, and needs to change. Toxic behaviour is no longer acceptable, however fucking rich your books have made you.

It is possible to put everything in place and it still to work.

Some rich, white people will be casualties. Whether there are enough of them, and whether the right ones are quietly shifted aside remains to be seen. Psychological warfare is the tool they have used for decades to subjugate others, and if we’re being all biblical here in terms of revenge then one good tooth extraction deserves reciprocation.

Except these aren’t the white people who will turn on us and attack our friends. That’s far more likely to happen in a supermarket or a public space. It won’t just be extremism from one direction any more. It’ll be everywhere… except, of course, that’s been the case in certain places for a long time. Maybe that will be noted and dealt with.

There are more problems here currently than solutions offered.

Art for Art’s Sake

Overheard on Friday night, in Westminster…

In a certain light, a lot of the indignation over the arts looks staged. I know that’s not true, but it is REALLY easy to see how the conspiracy theorists are earning crusts during the Pandemic. It won’t be enough either. It never will be enough to undo the destruction wrought during austerity. However, the arts will endure, because of exactly the reason government seems not to give a flying fuck.

In another world, there are better solutions to these problems.

Publishing is a bombsite right now: nobody is covering themselves in any glory amongst the major players. Yesterday, She Whose Name is Not Spoken decided to yet again try to explain her position as being tenable. She failed spectacularly, and I’ve lost patience with people who think it’s okay to still like her and what she does. Sorry, but that’s your lot.

Then this morning, a guy who has done blackface in living memory won’t lose his publishing contract either, but at least people are now prepared to stand up and state how fucking awful his kids books are, because they are. In both cases, publishers have said and done nothing. Why would they? These people make them squillions of pounds.

That’s part of the problem.

However, it is possible to embrace your shortcomings and move forward. L-MM is a case in point, and as the discourse over Hamilton continues to rumble on, we are all wise to start reassessing the choices made when younger in a more current light. A lot has changed in a short period of time. Some creatives are prepared to accept their shortcomings. Others are digging in their heels. I know who I think looks better at distance.

Objectivity is a big ask for those who were never flexible to begin with.

Think

Saying nothing, until you are capable of formulating a rational answer. It is a lost art, especially amongst the political. They would rather grasp the immediacy of the visual metaphor. It’s cleaner, easier and only requires your military to tear-gas a couple of blocks and not shut down the whole damn Capitol. Except, of course sometimes that’s the unintended visual metaphor everybody else will make the best capital from.

When we all look back on the last week, properly grasping that ridiculous is defined by the last thing that made us think we’d seen everything but clearly haven’t the visual will be what defines this year. It was when companies finally grasped that just sticking up a black block then pretending to care wasn’t actually enough any more.

The bigger truth is that the lies are now so much more apparent when there’s no other shit to cloud people’s minds. By being stuck inside, many have had epiphanies the like of which never really took place when the fascists were voted into power. It has become the perfect storm of information + comprehension = understanding.

As the scales fall from an awful lot of people’s eyes, will you just decide it’s all too much and walk away, or will you understand this is an opportunity that comes around once in a lifetime. Are you about to grasp the opportunity presented, or simply return to the vacuous life you had before because, in the end, all you really care about is yourself.

You are seen, in every connotation of the Urban Dictionary definition.

Time to make the difficult decisions.

Moonlighting

A lot of people right now will be feeling pretty impotent, for vastly differing reasons. That’s probably no different from any other Friday, with my Bigger Picture hat on, but I know that’s not true. Last night I missed group exercise for the first time, and the reality finally hit me that there is no escaping this without huge, life-changing consequences. The thing is, I didn’t need this now. My life was getting better.

I want to be selfish, but know that’s just not possible.

groundhogagain

Change has never been something I cope with well. There is an inordinate amount of thrashing around, plus anger. BOY am I angry right now. The last straw last night was my Health Club actually grasping their heart rate belt system has use beyond just being sold to members, and that it could be used for good and not just as a piece of gym equipment. HOW HAS THIS TAKEN YOU SO LONG TO GRASP, and more importantly why are you offering a pathetic £500 NHS Trust donation for an exercise challenge when you could afford ten times that easily???

Finding ways to let that anger go is becoming a tough ask. It doesn’t help that within all of this shards of past trauma keep appearing out of nowhere and I have to deal with them, but this is not a present that is mine to control. As the Twitter dump above states this morning, this is about being in control of what is doable and letting go of what isn’t. Therefore, this blog post is going to count as a cognitive behaviour exercise.

cbt

I’m no therapist, quite obviously, but having been taught how to step back from emotion via counselling, I was told there would be moments going forward where these skills would have a use. It is why being up earlier than usual this morning was important, to let brain sift through everything logically. It’s why I won’t take a phone or tablet to bed going forward: news can carry on without my attention quite happily.

Joy is out there, it just has to be relocated and grasped: exercise is altering, my mindset towards what is possible slowly shifting. I am getting physically stronger, that much is now inescapably obvious. What is needed now is the ability to escape gravity of bad news, negative thoughts and feelings and propel myself away from this crisis on a new trajectory.

Change has to start now, NOT when all of this is over.

surreal1

Life will never be the same again, regardless of what transpires in the next six months. Many people you love and respect will lose their lives. There will, undoubtedly, be reckonings of many varieties. However, this is NOT the time for me to retreat inwards in an attempt to try to stick this out. The future is externalising, rational responses and not letting anger slowly eat away at all my previous good work.

Today, we start doing things differently.

Long Distance

There are two parts to this post. One came after the other, a Friday night surprise. The second bit won’t be spoken about again until there’s a confirmation email. Needless to say, the past has an odd way of coming back to haunt you. That’s why you should always try and do your best work, and live an optimal experience. People have an unexpected way of dragging things back from where you left them for another turn in the light.

Can’t be more specific than that right now, sorry.

How is that possible however when there’s no time to ever do anything else? I have watched a couple of people this week lament how their lives are all work and no enjoyment. That balance is a tough one to strike, speaking as someone who is still attempting to find the sweet spot herself. Your future, always, should be possibilities, not a set of intractables.

Amazingly, you can still make time to chase those dreams.

tractordonuts

The key is to identify when you have time, and surprisingly that can come from lots of mundane places. Getting up 30 minutes earlier. Ditching social media on your mobile device. Keeping a diary for a week and being REALLY ANAL about exactly how long everything takes in your day. That crap about ‘these 5 simple things’ you see in dodgy Facebook ads can, amazingly, have a benefit.

The key here is small changes first. If you try and create massive upheavals, the alteration will be too much for your brain to easily accommodate. My classic, much-used primary change was taking an extra 15 minutes walking back from school, dropping off my daughter, to burn a few extra calories first thing in the morning. I could have walked straight home, but instead detours became a part of the routine.

walking2

When I was walking for an hour in the morning and nothing was being upset by that action, it was time to accept I could do more if I spent that hour in the Gym, and so a habit was formed. There’s wisdom that suggests that it will take you 21 days to form a habit. Then, if you can do it for another 90 days? Part of your lifestyle. I’m one of those people for whom about half that time’s more than enough.

It doesn’t have to be exercise. It could be one day a week to go see mates, or get your house properly clean, or maybe start that great novel that’s been demanding to be written. Letting the World stop you from what you desire can be as much an excuse as anything else: if you really don’t want to change those habits, it won’t happen. There’s a door in your brain that needs to open, and stay that way, to allow real alteration.

Deep down, you have to accept that not everything is possible.

alwaysright

That might sound a bit counter-intuitive: but why can’t I have everything? The response is simple: you don’t need it. What is required for happiness is a balance between the stuff that has to be done and those things that don’t, or aren’t as essential. That means that you do not necessarily have to work as hard as you do, all the time, if you’re prepared to cut back on those luxury items. It will, undoubtedly, all pivot on what you consider success.

If that means buying every new thing on release, or constantly being on the bleeding edge with tech? Yeah, it will feel hard. Taking a step back, looking at what you spend, maybe cutting back on eating out and clothes and gadgets might sound like the stuff of nightmares for some, but consumerism is one of the most odious and insidious destroyers of both time and money.

If you can release yourself, just a little from its grasp, the effects can be sizeable.

twist

I don’t want to sound like a self-help guru here. Everybody’s lives are different. I just know, from experience, how one small change unlocked a puzzle in my head I’d spent decades trying to solve. It is a complex, difficult path to enlightenment, because if it wasn’t we’d all be there by now. No two people are the same, and therefore that whole ‘tell me how to live your life’ thing is pants. You don’t want my life, but need your own.

Therefore you try everything you can, then see what fits. However, don’t change everything overnight. Start small.

Consider everything as a possibility.

Everything is Beautiful

Here we are, with an unexpected day off for my daughter due to a burst water main that’d taken out another two dozen schools and the local Leisure Centre. It gave me an opportunity to make a start on the rebranding I’ve decided is how I go forward with my personal Twitter account, instead of deleting the whole damn thing and starting again. Only time will tell whether it is successful or not.

An awful lot has changed in the last five years or so, and this is exactly as it should be. I’d not want to be the person I was last week, let alone that long ago. This is a far more productive and pleasant space in which to exist. Not gonna lie however, there are things missed; not because going back to those times is more attractive. Occasionally, when everything is disposed of in an attempt to move forward some good stuff is unintentionally dumped.

Then you have the task of working out what life lacks, and in my case that’s quite easy. The harder part of the equation is integrating those elements back into an existing schedule. That’s where we start today, therefore: renaming stuff, refreshing places, trying to introduce back to proceedings some of the desire and enthusiasm for communication and interaction has been lost.

I really need to start following some new people.

boosh

There’s no excuse really, and a world of people out there from whom I can learn stuff. But it’s not just about that, it is paying attention to trends and people who drift by and when someone looks interesting, a hand outstretched will be taken one of two ways. If the plan long term is to try and change people’s attitudes to mental health, then maybe that could also occasionally result in a new person to talk to.

I’ll never know until I try.

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.

teagetmesome.gif

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.