Shut Up

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I had my first decent night’s sleep since… well, sometime last week. As used to be the case when this happened during the sleepless nights of two early childhoods, I’ve woken up a bit confrontational. All that stuff that pissed me off whilst I was tired but I didn’t possess the energy to deal with is now all in my head simultaneously. There’s a lot I could address, but let’s take the old bloke by the shops yesterday that cat-called me and then made a lunge for my waist.

You really think women make this shit up, men?

Some people do, undoubtedly, to get attention… it would be churlish to think otherwise. However, they are such a pathetically small percentage of the real problem as to absolutely beggar belief. There are women who grope men who shouldn’t be allowed to do so either… then men who do it to other men. Women do it to other women. All over the civilised world, there are fucking thoughtless individuals who only care about themselves and their own individual gratification. These are the people who ignore personal space, boundaries and most importantly, the notion of respect.

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Many of these people are not smart. A lot of them (over a certain age) are never to be forgiven. Senility, ignorance, male privilege… I don’t care what it is, but just because you see a pair of breasts at 10.35am does not give you right or dispensation to fixate on them. JUST NO. The randomness of such events is enough to push half this fucking county into cars so they never have to deal with people on the ground. That’s unacceptable. I should be able to walk to and from places without the fear of being abused.

I have lost count of the places where that’s happened over five decades.

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For me, the worst thing of all is the women who defend men for doing this. There is a special place in Hell for those individuals, and I know they exist. I’ve seen them work, using other people’s situations to manipulate themselves out of the firing line. This is not powerful or aspirational behaviour. It is frightening, demeaning and ultimately as destructive as the men who do the same. It is directed at EVERYONE who ever thought it was smart to use other people for their own ends, and it’s just so utterly wrong as to beggar belief.

I saw people amazed at the number of #metoo hashtags on Social media yesterday.

Just because you’ve never experienced a problem, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In this case, you’re a very lucky person indeed.

It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World

NaNoWriMo 2017

I’m going to talk today, both here and on the writing site, about my NaNoWriMo choice. The latter gets a more clinical attack on subject matter and motivation but here I feel compelled to discuss an issue that continues to irk, and has made me stop and think about what it is I write and how. My main protagonists in this story are a white man and an Egyptian woman. There’s a really good reason for this: I feel really comfortable writing them.

On many days, I believe I’m a true mixture of both.

There is absolutely no doubt I am completely happy being biologically female, especially now the curse that used to afflict me monthly has gone. I’m at ease with the body I am rebuilding and feel no desire to alter the fundamental construct. However, it would be disingenuous to say I believe I think and act in the way I see a large number of women do. Makeup holds no allure. I do not desire to dress or act in an overtly feminine manner anymore, and the same is true of tending towards masculinity as an alternative. In terms of appearance, androgyny is increasingly appealing. However, my sexual appetite and desires remain unchanged.

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There is a part of me that wishes we didn’t need to make specific social groups the enemy, but feminists need white men to hate them and people of colour and ethnicity deserve the right to hate everybody who is white because they’re in charge. I get all this, I really do, the complex social and ethnic strata that now damns and defines every action taken as a writer. Yes, I could make my male protagonist Afro Carribean but I don’t feel comfortable appropriating because no, I sure as fuck don’t have permission. 

My Egyptian woman comes from a time period I know a lot about and (again) feel I can write with a measure of conviction. The key here is confidence, not political correctness or social mirroring. I am very much a product of my age, but the characters that are chosen as my cast need to have believability in the story told. In that regard, supporting characters mirror the ethnicity of the World but are not at its core. There’s a reason for this, as will become clear in the narrative, but for now, I’m happy with why my fictional people are the way they are.

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A lot of this is down to simple biology, as this is a story with science at the core. There has been a crucial change however to the sexuality of a number of characters, based on acceptance of what I am becoming as a human being. In many ways, this story has the potential to become hugely autobiographical, if I allow that to happen. However, what matters most is the sanctity of plot and action. I’m not here to make a political statement, simply reflect what I am when writing.

Mostly, last night I stayed up late and stared at my work in progress and found myself thinking ‘somebody will hate this because I made a white man the hero.’ Then came the more significant revelation: whatever happens, someone will be upset. If I spend my life worrying about the reaction of others and don’t simply do what matters most to me, then there will be no progress at all. This is about narrative on my terms, and as a result… we stay with the plan, and I stop stressing.

Whatever I produce will be the best of what I am.

New Life

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I’m sitting here having breakfast, after seeing Mr Alt off on the inaugural Velo Birmingham. This is just another race to my husband, but for me it has become a powerful metaphor, and only this morning have I fully grasped the significance.

When Dave was diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes, it was a wake up call for him, instant incentive to get fitter and work harder to deal with a problem that was, to an extent, of his own creation. His father was diabetic, so historically the deck was already stacked, but I think we both know had he had made an effort to be healthier before, this diagnosis may not have happened at all. Now it has, it isn’t somebody else’s problem to deal with, it is ours. That doesn’t just mean him either: I have a duty of care as his wife. That’s why I’m here today, as support, and why I’m doing more to help as time goes on.

When that diagnosis was made, we could both have done nothing. He might have ignored the advice, still be overweight and not tried to be fitter. We could have blanked the problem and carried on as if nothing had changed, which would have been both ignorant and potentially dangerous. Instead, we are proactive and positive, sometimes when that’s hard to do. The key is acceptance: what is both possible and doable, what is worth focusing on. Wasting time on the pointless when it is out of our hands is counter productive, so we learn to both focus on the achievable and let go of shit beyond the remit.

Except sometimes, things are not as out of your hands as first appears.

Someone tweeted this into my timeline this morning, and it struck a chord, because as a piece of writing it can both be read and interpreted in so many different ways, and there is no real method in 140 characters to accurately interpret them all. This tweet was, I suppose, the final straw: after a weekend of self-reflection, and realising that I never want to try and discuss anything complicated on Twitter ever again, this message distilled what is the real problem: US. No, not the United States (though some may consider they started all this) but me, and Mr Alt, and everybody else who thinks that improving the World isn’t their task.

The World is our problem to solve and not to complain about because we can no longer have ‘fun’ any more.

Life, like it or not, has always been difficult and hard and ultimately painful. Thinking that somehow if you just ignore everything else that is going on and hoping/expecting/dictating that someone else will fix it is the Elephant in the room no-one can now afford to ignore. Sure we can all still have fun and enjoy life but not at the expense of other issues. More importantly, believing that your own opinion has merit and has to be justified, internally and externally, with every breath is simply not the case. Yes, it is tough and hard, but if you’re using Social media to pretend you’re part of the conversation, you cannot dictate what is said or expect to be allowed to pronounce without consequence.

Conversation is fluid and malleable: arguments should be passionate but never at the expense of learning a contrary point of view. If your standpoint is so inflexible as to exclude everybody else, expect to meet resistance. If you will not look outwards and grasp the possibility you are wrong, you will make things worse. In many cases, what one person thinks is kindness ultimately ends up as the most vicious of cruelties, and spite is all that results. Then is the moment when you’re convinced you know someone else’s motivations, and ultimately end up with the entirely wrong end of the stick… the problem isn’t the people, however.

Twitter has never been the medium in which to fight these battles.

Part of me hopes that 2017 will be the year that blogging undergoes a renaissance, that the long form of debate will replace petty name calling and mudslinging now favoured by the President of the United States. Needless to say, his ‘actions’ in the week have simply heaped more shame on an office that used to stand for all that was good about America, and has now come to symbolize the worst of individual xenophobia and arrogance. Ultimately, those of us who regularly use Twitter are now going to be tarred by the same brush, like it or not. That means it is time to start a reassessment of what the platform is good for, and what is ultimately detrimental.

After a really bad week of social media drama, I’d already taken the decision to not go to bed with an electronic device any more (starting on Monday) and if I want to read, to start buying books again for that purpose. The idea of taking written social media (Facebook, Twitter) off my phone is certainly attractive, and instead to only use Instagram for ‘reporting’ as that will automatically post to both platforms without the need for me to read. That’s the key here: getting sucked into other people’s arguments, when I should be out either a) enjoying myself right b) doing something constructive. That means social media is only for my ‘job’ or when I am working at my desk.

The other major change to my lifestyle, starting this morning, is what I pick to react to. If I’m going to choose a hill to die on then from now on Twitter is not the place to do it. If that means I lose people’s interest by refusing to take part in debates, then so be it, but if I have learnt anything from the last week it is that people will only hear what they want if they consider you’re attacking them. There is neither space, convenience or ability to have a clear discussion on Twitter. It is a place to profess clear, well thought out opinions or engage in quick, visually-enhanced point scoring. For everything else it is a fucking disaster, and yet people like me forget this, time and again. Well, not any more.

It is time to rediscover the value of silence. If you’d like to have a discussion with me, that’s what the comments section of this blog is for, and I’m looking forward to your responses. As of right now it is time to practice what I preach, and be the change other people keep hoping is going to happen. If you don’t like my idea of change, you have every right to step up and disagree.

Welcome to the next generation of Social media.

Saturday

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I know, instinctively, that the days of not pushing myself are over. The moments when I’d rather just curl up with a duvet and a good book, especially after a poor night’s sleep, are over (at least for now.) Lying awake at 3am this morning, in the midst of a hot flush that was so fierce my skin felt as if it were melting, I remembered the mindfulness practices I am learning and reduced panic to an inhale, exhale, focus on the breath. Amazingly, it worked. There is always this rueful disbelief when something I’ve been taught turns out to not only be helpful, but a revelation.

This week has been a lot of that.

Journeys are not simply getting to your destination: more often than not is the stops along the way that define the final trip. Today, that means sitting in a clubhouse built as Legacy content for the 2012 Olympic Games: a place that is buzzing with life and enthusiasm, where a continuing commitment to sport has become the true significance of events from five years ago. Watching women warm up outside the window, a really decent men’s hockey game on Pitch One below, is the reminder that life happens in ways I forget.

The TV above me is the reminder of a constant backdrop of concerning and often disturbing World news: Brexit, Iran’s missile testing, an escalation of world tensions that then put my existence against an even larger backdrop. Once upon a time all I would have cared about was the stuff that directly affected me. Now I realise that, with 50 years on the clock, the time for such selfishness must be over. The moment has come to try and find ways to give back beyond my personal bubble. How I do that is still very much in flux.

There are starting points, however: the Patreon this week, when I focused on personal development, got more interest than at any point in three months, and I’ve learnt an important lesson in combining academic and individual experience. I’m writing something this weekend to help a friend hopefully resolve a personal issue successfully, grateful I can utilize a skill for good. Then, I am giving back to my husband, which to my shame I should have done a long time ago. He is the kindest and most forgiving of men in that regard, and I am very grateful that there is still the opportunity to do so.

Once upon a time, a Saturday alone would have been my desire, but I’ve spent far too much time alone already. Destiny remains mine to dictate only to a point, and the understanding now that I willfully, for so many years, wouldn’t push myself out of that bubble… it is like looking at someone I no longer know or understand. Most importantly, at 3am this morning, came the final understanding that introspection makes for great poetry, wonderful fuel for fiction, but crap content when I write a blog. The days of blaming myself for things out of my control may finally be coming to an end.

Sometimes I am told I care too much about things that do not matter, in the wider scheme of the planet. When this happened before, my reaction would always be the same: well, it matters to ME and that is all that is really important. Only now do I grasp the truth, that only by stepping back from emotion and truly thinking about WHY things happen can you ever expect to improve as a person. Only after having children has there been the ability to put self aside and truly learn how basic emotional reactions matter, and that you have a direct control over consequence.

Only by being able to accept what is wrong with me have I been able to change.

I’ve officially had enough of introspection. The best work I do however is with that quality at my core and not the periphery. The trick now is to put aside the stuff that doesn’t matter to focus on the people and things who do. Next week is the most important week of my new ‘career,’ where my own actions will effectively make or break a potential stream of revenue. If I’m going to succeed in this venture, I cannot afford to allow myself to lose belief I am able to do so. Sometimes, you instinctively know when you’ve fucked up, and then there are moments when you simply have to trust your gut that this is the right path.

I am on the right path. This is the way forward.

Deliver Me

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I had a honey free, reasonably sized cup of tea before bed last night, and slept better than I have in ages. Waking up and weighing myself, body has gone into maintenance mode: no weight change, but a clear alteration in both look and feel. Waist remains at 33″ and before I go all Bridget Jones on you all, I’m not obsessed, just determined. That’s why I’ve busted my ass in the Gym every day this week, and when I’m done domestic-ing here the same will be true. This is the best shot I’ve had at real change for a while, because I can feel it happening internally as well as see the difference. There is some odd voodoo too: a mosquito bite near my right knee swelled yesterday to the size of a ping pong ball, and stopped a full running schedule. Coming home, after an hour, it had completely vanished. There’s still some pain this morning, but it is as if nothing happened.

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My son made a telling comment yesterday: when was the last time you wore something other than Lycra, Mum? I know why this is the case, because normal clothes make a part of the brain decide there need not be exercise. That ALWAYS needs to happen, and so if I’m wearing the gear, it will. Family is off to see the Wonder Woman movie this evening at the Regional Shopping Complex, and if I’m quick I can get a running session in before we go. However, that means I will make an effort to put on something other than a pair of leggings, if only to prove to myself that I can switch between business and pleasure. The problem, of course, is that I’m still not able to make an accurate distinction between the two.

This is a constant balancing act, I’m beginning to grasp. You get one thing sorted, and another goes tits up. Dealing with the unexpected is now an ability I can say I’ve got a plus skill to attack: the fear is still fresh from being told I needed surgery immediately, that the whole World had to stop in order to accommodate this. Despite what my daughter might tell me, I don’t want it to be about me. In fact, given the choice I would far rather it were about everybody else first.

Chinny Reckon 👌🏻

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NO REALLY IT’S TRUE. Fuck this, I’m going to the Gym.

The Numbers

Yesterday, I completed a task that it has literally taken me 15 years to address.

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My writing folder has been a mess since somewhere in 2002, and I could never face the horror of delving into it, mostly because of a number of very, very personal files that I’d written, then forgotten the names of. That meant reading anything I wasn’t sure about became a bit of a trauma, but yesterday I took a deep breath and went for it. This, I realise, is the complete body of work I’ve attempted in fiction since that time, only one part of which has ever been completed. Well, starting this month, that is going to change.

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Most of the titles above are not complete or are simply outlines, but a fair few are significant works in progress. Once I take a day to go through them all and work out what I think is most doable, there’ll be an effort made to bring one to completion. Right now, I realise, I don’t have the tools available to finish the work I was doing with my November NaNoWriMo piece, and I’d probably be better off trying to complete something at this point with the story already completely plotted. That gives me a few options for editing starting next week, as I want to spend at least an hour a day doing just that as a way to effectively get my groove back.

The plan is to not beat myself up over what hasn’t been done, and to focus now on what I can do well to move this fiction journey forward.

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The trick now is to not let my enthusiasm and impetus falter. I’m going to plan as well as I can, and not give up until I’ve finished at least one novel length work. As relaxation and a counter? I’m going to go back through the Bonds and pick up the spellings and typos I’ve noticed on subsequent re-reads. That’s the plan, and the Writing Site will reflect this going forward. For now, however, I’m going to see if my body can sustain a Gym trip, followed by a quick zoom to the local Shopping Multiplex for the youngest, where I’m going to take my passport and finally visit the Bank of the department store where I had a credit card that’s just been paid off, and cancel the account once and for all.

This week, after all, is all about concrete progress.

Don’t Sweat the Technique

I have a very bad short-term memory. It’s always been that way, for as long as I can remember (badum-tish) and what this leads to is a fair amount of repetition in daily life. I’m also a great sufferer of inertia, that my brain can get caught in cycles of ‘I’ll do that in a minute’ and it never happens. It is why, more and more, I am pushing out of those established comfort zones into places where I’m forced to react more and function less. I’ve also come to the important conclusion in the last few weeks that, like it or not, a lot of this stuff has to happen alone, without either reassurance or praise. In fact, as I discovered yesterday, sometimes most of what happens is for my own benefit and nobody else’s.

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My husband is not a regular reader of my posts online. Many of the people I call friends don’t read them either, finding me too prolific to keep up with. I also had to chuckle this morning as it transpires someone whom I enjoy interacting with a lot thought they’d muted me yesterday when instead they’d unfollowed. This was one of those moments where me asking the question out loud bought up the mistake and this morning, all is well. However, as I am well aware why this happened, it gives pause for thought about what makes a solid online relationship work to begin with, and undoubtedly that has a lot to do with give and take. I learnt an important lesson about this person yesterday, completely by accident, and I’m very glad I did. My feed would be less than it is without Simon in it, but the fact I prompted him to mute is a lesson learnt.

Sometimes, you have to stand alone for the things you believe in.

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I said a lot of stuff yesterday that caused certain people issue, who then left my feed as a result. However, I’m still convinced what I said was fair, and I wouldn’t go back on anything that transpired. I wrote a post for my paid job yesterday on how my favourite MMO isn’t a place to go hide in when things get tough. If you want to do anything properly, in my head, there has to be a notion of effort inserted, and that can often come into direct conflict with other players notion of what is acceptable application and what isn’t. The next two years for the UK and anyone who never asked to exit the EU will be, at certain points pretty difficult to live with but I’m sure as Hell not about to bury my head in the sand or in a game in order to pretend difficult things are happening. For some however, that’s the least of their issues, and although I’m prepared to accommodate all such opinion, that isn’t the place where I live.

Then comes the notion of whether making a noise is worthwhile.

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What bothered me most yesterday, and this doesn’t go away, is how entitlement has become a badge of honour for some when once it was selflessness and application that mattered more. The needs of the one constantly outweigh the many, and more and more people would rather play alone than participate in group activity because, they say, of the toxic nature of the random gaming player. However, playing alone is, especially in group-based content, the very definition of toxic behaviour. Most simply wish to avoid ‘drama’ online but honestly, it is often only through conflict that we discover the true meaning of peace. I really don’t use social media to start fights but honestly, sometimes, the arrogance and narrow mindedness of some people is staggering. It is as if, in effect, they are the only person that matters, and that’s just so wrong on so many levels that it beggars belief.

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I’ve seen a number of personalities of late tweet out messages from fans which ask them to stop talking politics and just go back to being mindless distractions from daily life, and a reassuring number reply that actually, that’s not going to happen. Before the world went to shit and all we had to argue about were cat memes, it was okay to not worry about all this stuff ‘in public’ but now, everything has changed. Those public figures who show me they can think outside of their basic needs are undoubtedly heroes. This is the mindset I feel everyone should aspire to, but then comes the reality check. No, I can’t fix everything and NO you can’t make some people understand, however hard you try. If everybody thought the same, life would not be as rich and varied as it undoubtedly is. Sure, I can teach my kids the value of dedication and application but it matters just as more understanding how to do nothing and to goof off.

Balance is where its at, and maybe yesterday I worried a bit too much about being ‘right’, which in its own way makes me as bad as the people I often belittle. In the end, even when Life the MMO requires you to interact, you do have to learn the value of solo play. Early morning, late night, on a treadmill or at a keyboard, I must be able to be a decent self-arbiter. These are the moments where what matters most is not to be right but open, to other people’s reactions and how that makes you feel, to decide what matters most without blindly sticking to your path. Nobody said this would be easy, either, but the analysis is well worth potential discomfort. Learning to be comfortable alone is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learnt, with being confident in my own judgement a pretty close second.

Both things however have been well worth the effort expended.