The Long Road Home

It could be far worse. That’s the take-out from yesterday’s physio meeting: there’s still a ton of damage in my elbow joint, and until that heals, I’m mostly off anything overly physical. I’ll be writing this and walking to the Gym again today to go and organise a Rehab plan with my PT: I can still cycle, and do core exercises, so that will be the plan going forward. I suspect resistance work will come into play too, and there’s a good chance if I can keep myself healing fast by sensible eating and lots of sleep, it could well be less than a month before mobility returns.

The last thing I want to do is be moping about, feeling sorry for myself.

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It’s also time to stop making this blog material. Assume I’m getting better, working hard and not dwelling on my own stupidity, and as of Friday, I’ll start writing about stuff that is far more self-centred, because that’s also what this needs.

The time for navel contemplation has passed.

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Today, my Blog is seven years old. I got up early, went to the Gym, and will ride 55km on my bike later. That’s the diary bit of this project done, now to the point.


Once upon a time, that was pretty much all I blogged about. Now, I have a life that is often worth sharing. There’s places to go and things to see. I have goals and dreams and things to attain, but most important of all there’s a self-awareness that simply did not exist before. Mentally and physically, 2011 is a world away. Make that several worlds.

This is the life I wanted when the Journey began, but now I have it there’s a realisation that it is not enough. There needs to be more work, and better planning, but most importantly a constant challenge to what counts as ‘enough.’ Pushing, challenging, questioning and reassessing… these were things that were too frightening or difficult. Not anymore, and that is brilliant. Long may this continue.

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There are other changes too. I’ve managed to persuade others to look at their lives in a different way. I can (and do) make people think. Slowly, surely, evolution is happening. It is seen and heard, and that is what gives each new day the impetus to be better than the one that came before. This is how real change can take place. This is not about having my name on a plinth or a legion of adoring fans. In fact, if you’re obsessing about me and what I do that’s the exact opposite of what should be happening. The plan remains to be anonymous but useful.

This is a Journey I’m enjoying, and I hope you’ll join me at some point to keep me company :D

I’ll be There for You

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Yesterday, my Husband sent me a text message, cheerfully informing me that he’d registered a WordPress domain. I will admit, there was a measure of surprise over this. I’ve been suggesting that, for about three years now, he might like to write about his passion for cycling: he creates a very good blog on company time, is my #1 Proof Reader of Awesome, and is the purveyor of good stories (although he does tend to ramble, but it is endearing.)

Then, things got serious.

The first batch of output last night was initially liked and then summarily rejected. A discussion was had over the brief, what this particular logo should really be like, and what it was my husband wanted to achieve from the exercise, and suddenly I was back at my first job, designing stuff for people. I’ve now sent him a selection of ‘new ‘ content, and am awaiting word on whether I’ll have to try again again. Between you and me, I think I like this one the most:

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(If you want to go see what’s going on, the blog is here.)

Normally, doing work for family would be a fraught, uncomfortable affair. This time around that is not the case: I’m even considering offering my writing services to Mr. Alt to talk about cycling from a ‘this is fucking scary’ PoV. Mostly, it is me pushing him to share some of the amazing stories he has gathered (especially when he went to Italy last month) and the frankly amazing work he’s done to restore a bunch of metal frames with wheels.

If you have a passion, I think it is your duty to share it with as many people as possible.

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

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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.