The Black Parade

I’m supposed to be taking a Social media break. It’s mostly working. Coming back properly on Friday, no issues, but in the interim, some things should be cleared up.

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Communication is becoming a significant obstacle for progress: once upon a time, it was okay for people to moan 24/7 in my timeline, I’d just mute them and move on. This is no longer an effective coping strategy. As I struggle to improve myself, that constant backwash of selfish muttering needs to be removed, and so I am. 

It doesn’t have to be 24/7 positivity either. What matters more than anything else is dialogue. More people will be engaged in conversation, less stuff retweeted if it doesn’t contribute to discussion. The days of long, rambling paragraphs are over, and everybody was very relieved as a result. It is time to engage Precision Mode.

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My long-form writing over the last decade undoubtedly exists as part of another complex (and often wildly self-indulgent) coping strategy. I’m not ready as yet to dive into all of those works and decide what needs to be salvaged. For now, there’s a new narrative beginning to form, timeline slowly illuminating. It’s already making me extremely happy.

That’s not a lie either. Part of the reason I’m taking the break is to be able to focus on buttoning down a timeline, working out what happens where, but most significantly to work on dialogue. Talking matters a lot in this new canon. That’s a surprise that’s taking a bit of getting used to, and it’s rather amazing.

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I’ve dispensed with a lot of distant past over the last few years: the other part of this puzzle is eliminating more recent detritus, deciding what needs to stay and go. With a long weekend coming up, this is a perfect opportunity to start attacking the last piles of stuff that lie untouched, and to re-define the space I’m a part of.

Deciding what matters has always been a continuous, articulate process of in and out. Reassuringly, there needs to be very little in, but a quite careful process of marking what stays and goes. I have plenty of ‘things’ in my life, really no need for anything else. What exists, undoubtedly, should be better used. That’s a goal going forward.

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This is a careful, considered progress through the recent past. It also acknowledges that however bad things are, there has to be some individual culpability in the mindset. If I’m not happy, complaining isn’t going to fix that. Asking for help will. Finding solutions is better than being fatalistic and not wanting to change.

Yes, this shit is incredibly, horribly hard. Nobody disputes that. Change is the hardest part of life. How you choose to approach it, or how that change is communicated, tells others a frighting amount of detail about what you are. I have no fear from sharing. What scares me most, right now, is going silent.

That’s not ever going to happen again.

Regeneration

This week had the potential to be tough going but here we are, at Wednesday, and surprisingly the plan’s been stuck to. I managed to get a cancellation for Blaze tonight, am booked up for next week’s two classes without concern, and the scheduling plan in place for writing is pretty much exactly on course. Is this me finally getting brain around the issues, or has this just been lucky? Would I be able to tell right now which is which?

Probably not.

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I will say this, my normal mid afternoon fatigue is beginning to vanish. It will have a lot to do with pushing hard (and getting) eight hours sleep more often. It will undoubtedly also be a bit to do with my (completely painful and stressful) slog back to lower body fitness (see yesterday’s blog) which I was dumb enough to let slip after Ride London last year and which will not happen again.

What’s making everything that bit worse right now is hormones, or rather the lack of them. Menopausal symptoms are back with a vengeance. Seriously, my body can fuck right off with knobs on: it’s especially horrible when a hot flush happens mid-exercise. If I wasn’t on fire before, I am after that. Fortunately, things seem to be calming down a bit after about five days full on, and now cold is the bigger issue. Once it was tops off and on every five minutes. Not right now.

Honestly, if men had been the child bearing sex I suspect life would be massively different for everybody.

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Instead, it’s a constant case of tip-toeing through the swathes of bruised male egos because somebody else had a better idea than they did, or that maybe they are the problem… and no, I didn’t come here today to get angry but that’s the way it goes. Normally, when something makes me cross before 10am the day is a bust, but not any more. Now, we use such emotions to create positive results, and that’s what is about to happen.

I like this new approach. Think we’ll keep at it as a result…

Behind Your Smile

No jokes today, because honestly I don’t have a sense of humour any more. It’s been lost somewhere: I’m sure eventually I’ll work out where it’s gone. Normally the first port of call would be behind my sofa. However, as I now sit there to work, it’s unlikely. Between you and me, there’s a lot of numb in the emotions department right now, mostly because so much other stuff is happening in the background.

In an attempt to fix this, it is time to go back to basics.

The main reason I changed my Twitter handle is to finally remove the association I have with being a Warcraft ‘commentator’: now, it is far more than just gaming. I’d like to talk about different topics, important stuff with significance in a larger scheme. Of course, nobody may give a flying fuck when I do, but until that’s done properly, there’s no real idea of how any of it might turn out. The only way to change, is to do. So this is me, dealing myself a new hand.

There is undoubtedly a renewed sense of purpose this week. It helps being planned ahead, that I’ve already knocked off one thing on the To Do list with clear air to spare, that what needs writing is somehow less stressful than it was before. I’m not sure how that’s worked, but maybe it has something to do with accepting my shortcomings a lot more readily. If something is written and I am proud of it, that is enough. All the polish in the world won’t change someone’s mind if that’s not what they’re looking for.

Eventually, this is the killer blow: I need someone to cut me a break who’s not got a precise idea of what it is they want from an award or a prize, who is willing to work on instinct and maybe take a chance on the unknown girl with the shortcomings. Most of the time, there is no brief. There’s the most basic of instructions. Write to the theme of ‘Banana’, present your very best work. Even if you do both of these, you may not even make it past sorting.

This is a horrible place to be sometimes, but it is undoubtedly part of the journey.

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If all else fails, of course, I can just make a cuppa and pretend everything is fine, like the good Brit I am. That’s got me through most of Brexit thus far, I have no doubt this will be no different. Whatever happens this week, at least it’s a step closer to Easter and some time with the family…

Polaris

Eventually, you break: as a person comes the understanding that fundamentally, deep down, summat isn’t the same any more. Most people won’t ever admit this, and there’s a sense many don’t know themselves well enough to register such changes in the first place. Inevitably, however, those differences manifest somehow. I remember the young man I knew in fandom who, one day, literally threw away everything genre-based he owned after it became apparent the girl he loved had gone off with his best mate.

I carry a lot of other people’s histories with me, when there’s the suspicion many would do their best to drop that baggage at the first opportunity. Maybe it is because I am a writer at heart: all stories are vibrant, vital threads stitching reality together. Perhaps it’s also because I can now spot lies from an awfully long way off. Those who claim to care but actually, really never gave a fuck in the first place. They’re not interested in you, and never were.

It is time to remove dead wood from around me allowing new shoots of productivity a chance to flourish.

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That means a freshen up of the Twitters (see above) and a subtle shift on the axis of who gets spoken to. The irony, of course, is that the people being ignored won’t even realise that’s the case, because they never do, and this proves the point (if it was actually needed) that other people’s priorities should only matter if they consider yours with equal importance. That’s the key: reciprocation. Don’t bother with those who don’t, focus on those who do.

There will be more thanking of people when they inspire work or thoughts. I cannot alter those whose minds will not listen or accept change, or insist on being morally superior, because that’s how their brand is supposed to function. There really is no point trying, either. It’s a waste of everybody’s energy, so you go back to feeling what you say really matters and I’ll be here, attempting to actually change the world with words. I get why you’ll not get the relevance, it’s fine. Part of that is my fault anyway.

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This is no longer about having an opinion, but dealing in facts. Facts are wonderfully intractable and inescapable. You can’t dislike facts without looking like a fucking idiot, and that’s the key. There’s a lot of people out there right now, especially in areas I’ve spent quite a long time frequenting, that ignore facts in preference to their own feelings, and that’s just plain wrong. If all you deal with is truth, lying becomes a pretty hard ask.

I have an important e-mail to write this morning, that I’ve been leaving alone for over a week now, that asks me if I’m ready to stand up and become part of something really have no interest in. My future, it is now apparent, lies down a different path, one I am about to embrace with some determination. However, without this moment of revelation, that shift in emphasis would never have manifested. Eventually, you break and in the pieces that remain there may be a chance of a new, unexpected redemption.

Learning about yourself is the most important job you will ever do.

You’re So Vain

I’m live this morning, using the iPad and trusty keyboard (two trips to the US and multiple to Europe) to write between physio appointments. The last month has been a revelation in terms of personal fitness and injury recovery. Waking up, after a bad dream at 5.30am, I didn’t feel old any more. Today, I really am becoming physically younger, despite two exercise classes that have literally driven me into the ground. I could be 25 again: nothing hurts, physical increasingly less of a concern.

Mentally however, there is a long way to go.

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It’s a continuing source of amazement how other people view your life. The perceptions of others are a vital part of your own existence mechanisms, but only to a point. During conversations with both kids, the topic of ‘be yourself, not what other people want you to be’ is an almost daily occurrence. Developing that vital sense of self should be part and parcel of every individual’s healthy development, except more and more it is the approval of total strangers that seems to matter far more.

Lots has been written around the Instagram generation; the same pictures, taken at the same spots around the world become virtual badges of honour to waft at your peers. It’s not just Social media either: sitting here in a health club, there are achievements to be had here too. Do you chase them for more exposure and greater glory, or is it more important to plough a distinct, separate furrow?

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Depending on how long you spend online reading about other people is likely to affect your view of their world. However, like it or not, you will have absolutely no idea of how they process data, feel emotional responses to the same stimulus that you do. From time to time, you will be served circumstances that you will either learn from or ignore, based on how data is presented. When it happens, don’t ignore what takes place.

There are a remarkable amount of things I need to improve upon going forward. To be arrogant enough to think that somehow, because I made it through half a century largely intact, there is nothing that needs to change would be a spectacularly narrow-minded assumption. How I learn however is altering, where that takes place slowly shifting. In the end, that’s no bad thing either: to live in one place for too long can ultimately be harmful.

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Once upon a time, in a situation I felt uncomfortable with, the default action would be to just turn and leave. This is no longer a viable option, because there’s more to lose than gain by doing so. Therefore, you cope with circumstances as best as you can, and try your best to not screw anything up too badly. If people genuinely care about you, shortcomings will be accommodated. If it matters enough, you can fuck it up, apologise and move on.

The problem comes when you fail to learn from your mistakes.

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I am continually grateful for the people who really care, and their actions are apparent, when I am sensible enough to stop and listen. These are the people worth treating with respect that should be listened to. Working out who is listening used to be a tough ask, until the penny dropped. Now, it has, everything makes a lot more sense. There is a world of difference between saying something and actually doing it, and a universe of difference between outrage and personal offence.

If I can begin to learn that difference, then other people could too.

Making Your Mind Up

At no point in human existence has it been possible to talk to so many people simultaneously.

Once upon a time, if you were lucky, you knew everybody in your street, possibly around a few places in town. If you were smart enough you could go away to study and then, quite possibly, you’d know everybody in your class, and then everybody in the sports team you joined, and maybe the club or two that you’d spend the occasional evenings with.

You wouldn’t know the town (except for the famous people) or the University/College (yet for years afterwards you’d claim to.) In your lifetime you could meet thousands of people, but only the select few would ever be able to claim they interacted with more than a couple of handfuls. Ironically when you died, a funeral became the best measure of actual popularity whilst alive.

Now, millions of people can be your friends. You just have to get lucky, or design make-up, or be the leader of a country. Of course, you don’t know any of these people who follow you. It’s likely that, when all is said and done, you trust and care about fewer people than your ancestors ever did. Only royalty and religion got to be idolised in the old days, people didn’t care about anything else but their own communities.

In fact, I’m pretty confident that although thousands upon thousands of people will claim to know about certain personalities, it’s all a massive one sided fallacy. The truth, as America is digesting over their favourite pop-star son, is often a long way from what is presented. The actual circle of honest confidantes for famous people remains pretty small for a reason.

Welcome to the World where everybody knows better than you what life means.

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In a world where an actress gets to be a princess, anything is possible, after all. This is a space for some however where you have to be either red or blue, right or left, straight or gay.  No shades of colour, just one or the other. Extremists only exist on one side, not on both and blinkers are the must-own fashion accessory nobody admits they wear.

We may have LGBTQ rights but heaven help you if you won’t fit a specific label, plus you are so utterly fucked if there’s a mental or physical disability to factor in. I can agree with someone’s point of view on most things and still get into a fight, because of subtlety. It’s a very small list with actual zero/one outcomes, yet that’s all anyone ever wants to contest.

It’s getting to the point where silence becomes considerably easier than trying to engage anybody when you see them assume that because they know the facts, that’s the ballgame. The problem is, you’re as boring as fuck as a person if all you do is sit there maligning other people’s life choices because they’re wrong and because this is your feed you own the moral high ground.

It’s even worse when you know good people are just pointing at people who look dumb just to say ‘hey this person is dumb, look at them’ without explaining why. The drive-by quote tweet highlighting and then summarily condemning somebody else’s stupid has become the ultimate damnation, effectively dehumanising the victim with savage force. I’ve had enough of this, and am making it my business to stop doing it myself.

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You’re starting a fire in your own home just to prove you know how matches work.

Pointing fingers at people who are ignorant just makes you look cruel and mean. Arguing with people ends up as the thing you can use as a discussion topic at work on Monday… ‘somebody was wrong on the Internet, again…’ a self perpetuating never-ending massive wank-fest where nobody actually gets anywhere.

Those people who possess subtle grey-scale opinions that are worth hearing simply shut up and walk away, and you will have seen this play out across multiple platforms. Taking a Twitter Break and never coming back. Deleting all your game characters and simply vanishing. Losing the best people always hurts, and undoubtedly they’re the one’s capable of affecting significant change.

Why keep bothering to challenge others? Why risk an inevitable backlash when someone says something I know isn’t how I feel? Well, there’s the thing. It’s a genuinely tough ask to turn to a virtual stranger and suggest that even if we are roughly of the same mindset there are inevitably moments when both sides of a debate have merit. It’s even more frightening to watch them react as that point isn’t grasped.

Opinions are not facts. Some people don’t work well in text. Everybody can be wrong.

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Here’s the point, sorry it took nearly 600 words to here. Asking why someone believes in God and then dismissing that faith as irrelevant is the most arrogant thing you will ever do, and yet people happily dismiss people’s beliefs on so much other stuff without a second thought. Respecting humanity is what should matter here, and increasingly it doesn’t

Some of these concepts are, it has to be said frankly dangerous: the Earth is not flatThere were moon landings, essential oils will not cure cancer… and the list goes on. There is a world of difference between this and a reality where people can believe as they wish, and you should respect those decisions. You wouldn’t be so rude to someone in public, so why is it acceptable when they’re an anonymous avatar?

It’s why I get increasingly frustrated when vegans go after those of us who are mostly vegetarian but still like their odd bit of meat and fish. It’s why the hate against any transgender person is so utterly, totally soul destroying. There’s a line you cross, subconsciously or otherwise, when you judge people’s decisions based on sex or race… and other key subjects, and maybe there’s a better way than the instant shut-down.

What you eat. How you worship. Your attitude towards parenting. The key tenets of what builds society are close to being utterly destroyed, whilst we’re out here arguing semantics because nobody has the power to affect the change we all so desire to happen yesterday. That’s the key: yes, we need things to alter, as a human race, and it has to happen as fast as I can send this message. Except I can’t affect that change alone…

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OF COURSE YOU CAN AFFECT CHANGE. Yet, we arbitrarily judge anybody not known  by an increasingly ridiculously worthy set of criteria: nobody is ever going reach the standard of acceptable, and yet that’s what is decided every time Person X is friended and Person Y unfriended based on absolutely no facts about how that person really thinks or feels. It’s always about us. We need to start thinking bigger.

Friendship takes YEARS to foster, and yet if you’re on my list of people who I decided I liked, all that is forgotten. Suddenly it’s okay to go off into intellectual flights of fancy without a care… and if your friends won’t call you out or explain there’s another way, how will you ever know there is? Ask yourself a question: honestly, how well do you really know the people you call friends to begin with?

The one solid thing I’ve learnt over the last two weeks is that you don’t know anybody, even the people who claim they are. The future should not be automatically starting arguments when someone disagrees with you. It’s asking why they did, letting them explain and then choosing to believe that or not, and if you don’t, not to spend the next six hours online frantically attempting to prove you’re right. Accept people’s differences, agree to differ, maybe go away and actually think about what’s been said.

Twitter does not require you to instantly be right, and neither does reality.

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You are allowed to post stuff and not be ridiculed, but if it’s in public, that’s always a possibility. You can enjoy stuff other people don’t, until someone turns up to challenge it. Go pick heroes of whatever racial or sexual flavour you wish, and don’t worry about the consequences. When the Semantics Police come knocking at your door, ask them for the true meaning of their cold-call.

If you really don’t want the grief, vet your friends and curate your feeds and in time, you’ll never see a crossed word… which is also a massive lie. People like to make themselves look good: the meaning behind their post may not be the one you read. Who’s wrong in that situation? Nobody. Except, for some people, if only facts are what matters most and there’s clearly a right answer…

These days, my battles are picked very carefully. Not because I’m here to win, anything but. What matters far more in this world of instant response are the people who leave silences between their posts. The ones who aren’t checking religiously every ten minutes.  The ones I’ve read and watched over months and who get the bigger issues, and like us all will occasionally make mistakes.

Most crucially, those who will accept that more than one version of the same basic opinion can happily co-exist simultaneously are the ones who are worth holding onto, because if you’re prepared to accept in public you made a mistake that’s a sign of true humanity. If you back that up with factual evidence, you’re absolutely a person worth holding onto.

That’s what’s missing from so much of current communication at present.

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From presidents to paupers, there are points in existence where things don’t go your way. Those of us who don’t have the ability to make people do what is required to maintain sanity, however questionable in legality that might be, are forced to deal with consequences. This can be a particularly tough ask. Who am I kidding, it’s incredibly stressful and difficult. Being asked to act completely contrary to character because circumstances dictate might well appear selfless, sure, but the potential for destruction is strong.

It has been a tough week for lots of people, as uncertain future beckons for many.

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What can you do to help other people? Well, the number one thing NOT to do is to make their trauma all about you, which is what a number of Social media commentators have managed to demonstrate very successfully across the week. Sensibly a lot of people haven’t done Twitter at all, and all power to them for sensibly getting on with the task in hand of healing themselves before trying to take on the World. Learning when to walk away from contentious situations is half the battle to beating them.

What has happened this week is an awful lot of other people stepping back from themselves, to reassess what they do and how it happens. This is, all told, a really good way to help other people too, because there’s the space and ability to ensure your responses and support is the right kind of words and deeds and not fuelled by ideas or concepts that don’t fit the particular situation. For those of us who are very emotional however, this is the worst time of all.

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You want to go and help, but know if you do that emotional instability is far more likely to make things worse, so you are forced to sit on the sidelines and bottle everything up until it becomes possible for you to not react in a manner that is hugely counter-productive for everybody. This is where meditation, mindfulness and objectivity come into their own, and why sometimes someone like me just won’t take part in your discussions. If you’re hoping I do and it doesn’t happen, you’re not being ignored.

This is knowing you’re no use as help when you can’t help yourself first.

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It’s why I’m eternally grateful to people like @SwearTrek for giving me the means to express incredibly complex forms of upset and anger in simple, colourful animated pictures, because the rest of my life does not have such simple means to do so. It’s become the ability by which sanity can be maintained when everything around me is in tatters. Being unable to express yourself is incredibly frustrating. Knowing what the problem is and being unable to solve it is even more soul destroying.

These are grown up problems, and have been left unsolved for far too long.