The Pleasure Principle

There’s a blog post I could write this morning about how all of us have short memories and fixate on the things that often don’t need fixing at all. Instead of that, there’s a bit of writing, then it is high time some weights were lifted, some cardio undertaken and my own shortcomings taken care of.ย If we all took as much time correcting the faults in our own lives as was consumed by the critical assassination of others, the World would undoubtedly be a better place.

In fact, that’s what matters more than anything else. Fix myself, as well as is possible (and if that’s not attempt to find someone who can help) and when that’s done to a standard that is acceptable, then there’s the opportunity to consider something else.

Life is too short to obsess about things that are out of your hands.

Breathe

Lots of people aren’t coping with modern life. You don’t need to be a genius to understand why. With Mental Health Awareness Week upon us, yet again a well-meaning organisation attempts to get a population to listen who are already struggling to cope with the pace of change around them. You only need to look at the rise in hate crime, the drop in high street sales and a distinct apathy amongst those people who don’t have issues coping but are getting mightily fed up of being told it’s not enoughย to see that possibly, maybe, all this information’s becoming an overload.

Although I applaud this charity (without whom I’d not be as together right now as is undoubtedly the case) and the efforts being made, there’s a feeling that a lot of people will only be caring this week for what this can do for their own social media reach. Conversely, a bunch of opportunists will use this as a way to highlight their own agendas, fall deeper into depression or simply stop listening.ย I’ve seen it myself, from horribly subjective personal experience. After a while, your mental health issues can become a joke.ย Taking the piss out of people you care about it might make you feel big and clever, but it is neither, and yet that’s what happens.

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So, how do we deal with issues which many of us just want to ignore to begin with?ย The answer is so subjective that any large-scale campaign can only hope that we, as human beings, take initiative for ourselves. That’s how anything works best: understand what it that is wrong, find a solution that works for you. The problem comes with how to define your problem. Stress, as it stands, is a good starting point. Learning how to eliminate it may seem daunting, but that’s simply not true. Thanks to the Mental Health Foundation’s Mindfulness course, my life has transformed over the last year. When taken with exercise and better self care, the difference to every aspect of my existence is without exception. This is really the best it has ever been, even during the days when I go backwards.

What Mindfulness has done for me is separate self from the anxiety and fear that has nothing to do with World news, Social media drama or peer group pressure. It allows a detachment from the fear only I can create, within my own mind.ย Once able to function separately from such restrictions, and control self in an effective fashion, so much else became easier not only to cope with but grasp with objectivity. This technique may not work for you, but for me it has markedly improved anxiety, anger and depressive episodes: control is no longer out of my hands, but can be managed and bolstered when added to exercise and other forms of relaxation.

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If you’re feeling stressed reading this, I’d argue the best thing to do is stop being on the Internet and go outside. That works on most days, but for those when it doesn’t, the answer might be finding someone to talk to, especially if its an issue that you know won’t be going away any time soon. Mindfulness is only part of my complex puzzle.

Finding pieces that fit yours can be a stressful task too, but is more than worthwhile in the end.

Singularity

Yesterday was my first session with the new PT, and BOY was it a revelation. I’ve never used a Bosu for anything other than the odd exercise and yesterday, the whole thing evolved past being ‘just another piece of equipment’ and became… well, something quite transformative.

Hang on, you don’t know what a Bosu is?

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If I had said balance board you’ll have probably got the idea: two sides, either is capable of being used as a way of engaging more muscles than just arms or legs. In fact, use one of these to balance on (one leg only, please) and then add some light weights to the mix and BAM there is no need for intense workouts. My new trainer knows I do cardio on my own, without a need to be prompted. Weights are now not a frightening concept either, so what is needed in this new relationship is cerebral plus the effort.

The Bosu requires a level of concentration that I’d previously have struggled with, were it not for meditation via Mindfulness. However, now it is not only possibleย but incredibly satisfyingย to stand on the board for protracted periods of time and simply exist. I’ve always watched with awe the guys who use a full balance ball to weightlift on (there’s a rugby player at the Gym who makes it look effortless) but now there’s fledgeling understanding of how that can and would work for me.

Three guesses what I’m doing when I get to the Gym later.

I’m already looking forward to training, and it’s been a while since that happened :D

Better Days

Today is Physio Day. I’ll need to make this reasonably quick as a result as it’s still taking a while to get dressed. However, last night in bed, there was some movement in places where it has not existed since last week. Hair can now be put up (but its still painful) so in that regard, it is definite progress. However, I doubt I’ll be lifting anything for at least another week, possibly more. That means watching my diet like a hawk, doing extra cycling to keep the calories in check, and not getting depressed.

My biggest concern is that my arm still won’t fully straighten: it’s definitely more mobile, but until I can lock my elbow without pain, a lot of exercises simply aren’t doable. My wrist is also being problematic so I might have to fork out for a full hour today to get everything looked at. I should probably get in a bit earlier regardless to see if I can locate my PT, and see if she’d like a coffee tomorrow so we can start planning some kind of rehab programme.

See you in a bit.

Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick

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Things that I have learnt from the last week include the following:

  • White bread is now The Enemy.ย No more sneaky nicking a pretzel anymore for lunch. If I want poached eggs, granary only. I don’t care if your brain screams nostalgia, having lost my gallbladder now means body bloats like it is a balloon full of helium. Just don’t. There is other stuff too. Just eat better. You know what the benefits are when that happens, so why won’t you fully commit?
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  • My body is not happy for at least 120 hours after giving blood.ย That means next time there’ll need to be a full week of light exercise, building back to normal. 72 hours is not enough. As I’ve crashed three times now at the same point each time, under the exact same conditions, this is a decent sign to accept that for a sacrifice, there are consequences. I feel pretty good this morning though, so that’s good.
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  • My personal life is a fucking mess. I spent an hour this morning sorting portions of that out, and once I’ve done the writing here there’ll be some effort to alter some more. Professionally, however, it’s looking decent. Maybe everything is impossible, but until it is tried, how will I know?
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  • It is time for a Minimalism purge. Schedule a day to clear the PC. Time to unsubscribe from a bunch of mailing lists too. Make everything simpler. You do not need the clutter. You do not need all of this stuff, it’s a crutch you should be running without.
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No more fucking about. Let’s get to it.

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I have an infection. It is quite possibly viral, sitting in throat and lymph nodes. I am often guilty of overthinking illness, and in previous years would have dismissed all forms of exercise until I knew things were ‘better.’ Yesterday, I did a session of PT and the most productive hour on a bike I can remember since I started using Zwift.

Exercise is now becoming relaxation:ย once upon a time, I would have slept through yesterday. Now, I’ll freely admit this is will what will happen (but only for a while) after I’ve finished writing here today. I needed yesterday as proof that I am physically in a better place than was previously the case. Having proved this to myself I can relax. All of this is, I now realise, as much a test of stamina and endurance as anything else. The numbers exist as evidence to other people that I’m doing the work. After that, the only person I’m really doing all this shit for is myself.

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I’m also finding drawing my three panel cartoon surprisingly fruitful. There’s a plan in place for the first month or so, leading up to February 1st which is Time to Talk day. I’m planning to spend some time visualising what Depression looks like to me. This is a fairly ambitious plan for someone with no real skills (as yet) in that department but aiming big’s worked in the past. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?

If I need to be reminded how much has changed since this time last year, I’m currently on a three week uninterrupted exercise streak. It won’t be the end of the World either if that finishes today. Life now is about understanding that even with obstacles to health, you can remain so with enough enthusiasm.

There is certainly motivation to spare at present.

Won’t get Fooled Again

I’ve dropped the youngest off at school, and have popped into the closest supermarket for some milk and apples. I’ve picked up a couple of rolls of wrapping paper for gifts, and am in the queue to pay. Behind me, a guy empties his basket onto the conveyor belt: three bottles of expensive looking Prosecco and a copy of the Daily Mail. I look at him and almost instantly he replies: ‘I know what this looks like, but there’s a good reason for both.’

It’s 8.50am, and already the day is interesting.

He goes on to explain he only buys the paper for the crossword, that his kids abuse him but it’s a habit. Someone then told him the night before at a Christmas event just how good the wine was and that it always sold out and so he’d come to get a bottle for Christmas Day, one for a gift and one ‘to try’ to check the person who told him wasn’t lying.ย  I then realise, as the guy shows me his Guardian app on the latest Android phone as some kind of justification for his own embarrassment that I’ve encountered a beautiful metaphor for affluent modern life.

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I know many people who insist they still buy reprehensible right wing scumbag newspapers from force of habit. They’ve gotten used to this being their daily purchase, for whatever reason: maybe their parents bought it, or they are addicted to a part of the paper that is nothing to do with news output. The fact remains, these habits keep papers like the Sun and the Mail in business. If people stopped assuaging their need to feel safe in familiarity, a lot of these ‘institutions’ could vanish overnight. Except that’s too hard.

Then there’s the wine recommendation, another way to soften the blow of bad news and coping with life. The fact he took this on spec and bought three bottles before breakfast says a lot of the persuasive selling abilities of the woman the night before. One assumes if he hates it they’ll gift two bottles instead of one, but this kind of impulse consumerism is what got the oceans in the fucking state they are now. The fact remains, social networks like this (and I’ll include Twitter and Facebook in the condemnation) are the means by which too many people define their lives, based on what other people say and think and not on their own choice.

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Yesterday I encountered this attitude in spades, and the even more galling belief by many that you shouldn’t complain when companies make money off their own success, regardless of whether it hurts anyone in the process. I’m not going on about the Patreon bombsite any more: it is apparent from the publicly available news regarding their efforts to raise venture capital that nobody cares about little people any more. All that matters is those users prepared to make money that in turn makes the company look successful. With no consultation over change and Patrons being told they need to push people to pay them more money to cover the charges… I get it.

What this means for me is that it is time to give people alternate means by which they can fund me. It is the opportunity I required to ensure stuff doesn’t become habit, and that I am thinking independently, based on what matters most to me.ย I know I shouldn’t start my day making snap judgements of random strangers, but when that stranger feels the need to apologise to someone that they don’t know over the suspect nature of their life choices? Who’s the one with the issue here, exactly.

Changing long term destructive habits is not hard. Have the balls to start today.

Secret Messages

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Yesterday, I wrote a poem.

Not gonna lie here: I think it is the best poem I’ve ever written.ย Weeks of mucking around with stanza and enclosed space has begun to bear unexpectedly appetising fruit. I took what wasn’t either rhyme or rhythm and made both happen in a manner that, in the end, had me grinning from ear to ear. There is a delicate line to balance between editing and immediacy, and I know with fiction that time is the best editor I will ever find. Better ideas spring from deeper understanding, and with thought come the best answers. However, poetry is different. The immediacy of lyric, moment captured as it happened. That’s what I did yesterday.

I made something uniquely personal.

I can’t say anything more about it right now, but there is now a week in August that has become very important indeed to my journey. It doesn’t matter however if nothing happens in that seven days, because I am happier about my work now that I have ever been at any point in my life.ย  I still struggle with dark days. This shit does not go away, and there is never a moment to forget that for every high you’re going to get a low. Right now however, at this moment /points I’m great. It’s better than awesome. This is the madness of the moment, of possibility in chaos, that maybe I hit the jackpot with a series of linked sentences.

Now all I have to do is wait and see.

Carry on about your business. There’s nothing here of interest.

Accidents will Happen

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I dropped my Son off at his NCS placement yesterday, and driving back from the car park was rear ended by a young man in a hire vehicle. I would have written off the damage and not claimed, had he not mentioned that exchanging details was like ‘going on a date’ whilst failing to maintain eye contact. In shock news, if I’m stationary and you run into the back of me, of course its not my fault. I’d like to thank the lovely insurance lady for allowing me a rant on that, and now it is somebody else’s problem. I need to go get neck looked at by the physios anyway at the Gym…

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Yesterday’s PT has broken me, literally. I cannot squat, bend down or even walk properly. This says to me that muscles that have not been previously used are working, and that I need to remember to stretch post exercise. Mostly it is the brilliant fallout that, after nearly two months off, I not only have lifting form down in my head, but that I can still lift my post-Operation weights. That’s the biggest takeaway from this, and enough to have me grinning most of yesterday until fatigue caught up with me and I passed out, face down on the sofa. Utterly worth it, for the record. All of this is brilliant, especially the weight loss. It may be glacially slow right now, but there is no denying it is happening.

Normally, the deal is simple: I work hard all week, then get to the weekend, and everything gets blown and it is back to stage one on Monday. Not so since the beginning of July. I lose stuff, stop for a bit, then lose some more, and so it continues. In this case, I can use the Gym’s Boditrax system to show me why actual weight loss is so slow. It is the efficient and consistent exchange of fat for muscle.

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So, I’ve lost three kilos of fat, and replaced it with three kilos of muscle, more or less. Just to remind you:

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My body is a triumph of efficiency. All that remains now is the fat that can’t be muscle, and as that is worked away (and it is) it is as if I am an onion: layers are shed, slowly but surely. The fat on my stomach is moving, literally melting away. Stretch marks begin to fade, translucent under the skin, marking each cardio session and rewarding every day without breaking the calorie total. I am immensely proud of my willpower and focus right now. It does work, all of this, and the results are becoming more apparent with each passing day. Once I’m done working here and when the legs are more compliant, I’ll even stick myself back in the Gym for a cardio session.

It’s stopped becoming a chore and now is fun. WHO KNEW.

PS: This is also brilliant:

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