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.

Mr Blue Sky

header26Some days I do not understand myself at all. Then, when I take a step back, it all makes perfect sense. I know why I’m angry this morning, and if I’d not done something a while ago I could have prevented this whole set of negative feelings from even happening. A sensible woman would have avoided the whole situation. I am not her. I gave myself a chance to dream, but ultimately it kicked me in the arse, and really, it would have been better never to have gone there. The day as a child I registered that dreams don’t go the way you want or hope rather more often than you’ll be handed unicorns and happy endings? That was the day I learned to save myself.

It is no wonder I feel like I’m going backwards in some places whilst moving forward in others.

The biggest problem that has ever existed for me is balance: keeping everything in check, and making sure if I’m doing something in one space it is balanced out in others. Right now, as it stands, this is the best fist I’ve made of domestic vs work for a while but what is suffering are communications with other people. Having to think and tell the World what’s going on in my brain, frankly, is enormously difficult. Far easier right now is just to put my head down and get on with it, even though this often means over-stretching myself when others offer to help. I have things I will need help with too, and was reminded yesterday that there are people to ask, most of whom seem very willing to give me a hand.

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It’ll take a couple of days and my anger will pass. It doesn’t help that I have dentistry today, and even the six-monthly check-up fills me with utter dread. Once I get to Saturday and the last of my medical gubbins is over and done with I suspect there will be final relaxation, but until then the anger will serve as useful fuel. I’ll just rage in my head, and push on treadmills, through weights and around chores. I understand myself better than I realise, if I take the time to stand back and work out what is going on.

In that regard, I have learnt a very great deal in my time on the planet.

Running in the Family

I’ve not done Fitbit stats for a while, and there’s a reason I realised last night, looking at the numbers. Once upon a time, I was all about the steps. If I’d not done 12k a day I was somehow a failure. However last week, I only managed that total once in a week which was a triumph of hard work and genuine progression. To show you how well I did, I had to annotate a wee bit, which I hope you will forgive:

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Once upon a time, all I did was walk and use an elliptical trainer. Now, I have two 45 minute sessions of intense, sweat breaking Yoga, two focussed weightlifting sessions a week with a 30 minute brisk walk/run session built in and a day where I do just that on a treadmill and nothing else… and on Monday I have an hour of PT. Basically six days a week there is at least half an hour of exercise somewhere… and I would have exercised yesterday, had it not been Mother’s Day and I decided to take a rest. Even then I didn’t sit back and do nothing, or indeed even have a lie-in. I’m absolutely not the same person I was a year ago, and I really couldn’t be happier at the change.

#365photochallenge #photographer Hard Work Done ✅

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It isn’t just a mindset adjustment either: I’m simply more comfortable when there’s exercise happening. A lot of this is, I know, due to the endorphins that this creates, that I’m naturally happier when being active. However, there’s the confidence factor to build into all this: being able to Chaturanga Dandasana with intent, as I mentioned last week, was a massive step forward. What now needs to happen is for me to start using my Fitbit to better record what I’m doing, so that I can apply this to understanding what can be improved long term in training. I’ve had the thing since Christmas and it remains no more than a glorified pedometer. This morning therefore I’ve been looking at how that changes.

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The Blaze has a function to record activity paired with heart-rate: this is useful when I use it to give an idea of how hard I’m working, and to ensure I’m doing so and burning fat whilst I do, as weight loss is what I’d like above everything else. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the current goal to combine that with building muscle mass, and I’ve got some lovely graphs to demonstrate just that:

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Ideally all my exercise should now be like this: never going back to resting heartbeat, always working body and lungs. It was INCREDIBLY difficult as an asthmatic to do this when I began, but my fitness levels now mean I can maintain the up and down for a while. I don’t do this every day either, and there is now no need to. The balance of exercise types for me is perfect, and the yoga last week is the final piece of a puzzle I’ve been looking for. It means I drop off my daughter, come home and do 45 minutes of physical activity which focusses on mindfulness as well as the physical.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Mindfulness course has contributed significantly to my ability to push past the ‘I’m too tired, I won’t bother’ aspects of physical exercise that have been holding me back. Being able to imagine my body better and therefore feel how muscles are moving ad stretching has bought a completely new awareness to Yoga that simply did not exist before. The quiet determination therefore to build on these practices and to further develop the skills of stretching muscles is being balanced with learning how to not overstretch when weight training and to maintain good technique.

Really, I could not be happier right now with where I am in terms of progress. I’ll be packing my Gym bag now to walk for my weekly PT, and am looking forward to whatever I have in store.

Sunrise

I dropped my daughter off at school early this morning, and was back home at 8.30 am. This allowed me to get a 50 minute Yoga session completed before 10am. It’s only the second I’ve done since I started my weight/stamina training, but the improvement in strength and ability is now very obvious.

Previously Chaturanga Dandasana has been something I simply did not possess the upper body strength to pull off. I vaguely remember being able to manage the position when I began practising Yoga alone, but certainly not in the sixteen years since my son was born. I use an ancient DvD of Ashtanga variants (from of all people MTV because its performed with a dance music accompaniment) which isn’t actually complete and misses out a key repetition which I have now added in myself out of habit. It’s a sequence of key stretches, classic poses and not nearly enough relaxation at the end, but I have now come to really enjoy the synergy of the experience. This morning I also managed Warrior Three in its most difficult form, and the joy from that’s going to keep me going for the rest of the day.

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Yoga isn’t just exercise, in fact it is more about the way you breathe your way through the poses, how you listen to your body in the process that really matters more. The spiritual side of the journey isn’t lost on me, but I’d be lying if I said this mattered more than the exercise. I grasp the significance for those who seek solace inside the practice, and being able to focus solely on inner self should never be ignored. I’ll feely admit that I do a ten minute de-stress and brain clear before my PT session, just so I’m more focussed on what I have to do. I’m going to complete my first part of the Mindfulness course today, and hopefully that too will then find a spot to exist with everything else. All of this then forms a complete daily routine, it is just the means by which I co-ordinate everything that will matter more long term.

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Then, quite possibly, we can start trying to push that envelope too. However, right now is a period for refining and consolidating technique. I have a habit of not keeping back and shoulders solid when I lift certain weights, and yesterday’s PT was the basis of relearning a couple of basic principles. Because I have hypermobility in my wrists and elbows I’m having trouble maintaining good positions in certain lifts and pulls. It is also why Chaturanga Dandasana has been proving so problematic but now I can place and position correctly, that issue appears to be largely academic. It is a reminder that every day is a School day and even the most experienced will always want to be refining and reconsidering their positions and technique over time.

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I’ve left the mat up in the front room, and I’ll be going back through the day to think about and focus on getting my body in the right places: also, it is a nice change of position from sitting down and working. I’m expecting a delivery of new blackout blinds for the bedroom: once they arrive there’ll be a walk to buy some lunch.

The plan right now is to just keep getting stronger.

One Life Stand

I have had enough.

I’ve been quietly removing increasing numbers of items out of the house via the Minimalism Game’s T&C’s: getting to 18 things today was a bit of an epiphany moment. There is so much in this house that is not mine to claim ownership over, after all. I am but one quarter of a family. However what I now realise is that I could remove so much of all of our lives from this house and have no noticeable affect on the way current life operates: if you work on the theory that if you’ve not worn anything for 90 days, all of my summer wardrobe would be fit for disposal. The fact that much of it does not fit me any more is a different story altogether, and tomorrow is D-Day. I am going to sort and shift everything that I’m holding onto, I suspect in the fear I go backwards and end up getting overweight again.

It is not going to happen, and things are going to change for the better.

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Tomorrow EVERYBODY gets to have a clear out. My desk is once-overed and EVERYTHING not being used is gonna be trashed. I’m making a proper, sensible list of what is going to be removed from each room of the house, before THE WHOLE LOT gets cleaned. The filing cabinet will finally be filled, and the front room dresser cleared. I’m going to set up the old flatscreen PC as an Amazon Fire portal plus a SSD for streaming. The covers come off the sofa and if I can shove it in the washing machine, it will get washed. Too long have I just lived in this house and not taken care of it, and that is going to change.

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It’s just another part of the regenerative process, when all is said and done.

Sometimes, it is as much about the place you live in as the work you do.

Afraid of the Dark


I’m not talking to you when I write a blog
. You, reading this now and then assuming that we have this glorious and intimate relationship via the Internet, do not understand how language works.

My biggest issue, without doubt in the last couple of years, has arisen when some bloke who found me attractive then concluded that my blog posts were some kind of bizarre confirmation of their desire being reciprocated.

This has played out more than once, and I have found myself wondering each time the scenario unfolded, why on earth my combination of letters and spaces would be enough to make someone form an unhealthy attachment, under the assumption that this was somehow acceptance of their misguided belief.

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The problem when you write a Blog, undoubtedly, is how to get people to read and remain past the first paragraph. That’s why SEO (how spider robots stick your posts at the top of Google search engines for maximum visibility) has become de rigeur: the start of each article I write ought to look like the one above to let people take in a sentence at a time. The problem for me however is when I give into this and accept I’m just here to get the views, the entire point of my personal mantra effectively disintegrates. I WRITE FOR MYSELF. Everybody is out here, shuffling and hustling their own particular ‘version’ of blogged reality and sadly, most involve you never getting past 600 words or having to think for more than three minutes tops. If that’s you, I’ve already disappointed so maybe it’s time to start attacking me for not being honest.

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Words are clever; rigid yet tactile. I’ve learnt the lesson now not to promise too much, I won’t publish if something’s not good enough, and if I need more time it will be taken and not simply rushed out. These are my rules, and I refuse to allow other people to dictate what is done or not. As I learn the process better it becomes less about how you do something but why, and the messages I send need to use words in the optimum manner. Swearing is not abusive to anyone else if all you do is use it chastise yourself. The problem undoubtedly arises when a person arbitrarily decides that you are a problem because you refuse to play by the same ‘rules’ they do. Then, I’ll tell you to fuck off, and be perfectly justified in using swearing to reinforce a point. Nobody asked you to turn up and police me, thanks very much. Go find somebody else to vilify.

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The problems inevitably arise when you threaten people, or attack by name. If you’re stupid enough to do that in a public forum and the person upset is smart enough to know what they’ve seen is libellous… well, we all know how that story ends. You might think I’m talking about you or someone you know but without names, that’s all you have, a might. Some stories will never get discussed. What you consider important I might look at as irrelevance. That’s the great thing about words. They can do whatever you want, assuming you have the correct mastery over them. You thought grinding in gaming was hard? Try 50 years of attempting to get words to do what you want.

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What this all boils down to is incredibly simple: freedom. While I still hold breath in my lungs and have the ability to put fingers on keys, I am here to speak freely. Some of it will be self indulgent, but hopefully not to much. Maybe I’ll get lucky once in a while and hit all the right letters and spaces to produce things that are worthwhile. I certainly intend to try and help people more going forward, and make sure that I don’t allow injustice or stupidity any place in proceedings. In the end, all I can do is what I’m best at, and that remains the ability to string words into sentences. Everything else is an uphill struggle. If I practice every day, maybe by the time I hit 51, I will have finally begun to live a dream I  was too stupid to ever start working on in my 20’s.

The only way to find out is to try.

Burning Heart

I am not an Expert.

I’ll grant you, sometimes I probably sound like I’m trying to be one. For the record, this is ABSOLUTELY NOT the intention. If you asked me what I’m really good at, I’d struggle to give you a representative answer. I can do a decent fist of writing, if the wind’s in my favour. I take an okay photograph. I’m awful at domestic chores, fail consistently at being both prompt and in remembering significant dates, and my cookery skills remain woeful at best (MUST FIX THAT.) I also fail at being empathetic, sympathetic, understanding and generally spend a lot of time fighting emotional states to maintain a decent illusion of coping. I am singularly, definitely, positively NOT an expert at ANYTHING.

I’m brilliant however at reacting: someone yesterday called me a ‘take no prisoners’ kind of personality and yeah, I will often not really care about how you feel if I think you’re being a Class A Twatface, I’ll just point out the stupid and move on.  However, because I know that empathy is often one of my failings (unless we know each other, then you get double) I do now attempt not to sound like anything at all when I see someone on Social media struggling with a bad time. Then, I watch other people pile in with ‘expertise’ that often makes me want to throw pot plants at them, because in my mind there is NOTHING WORSE than when you say summat like this for a bunch of people to pile in with their own ‘interpretation’ of what appears to have transpired.

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This is the virtual equivalent of ‘if you don’t have anything useful to say, don’t say anything at all.’ I know my Grandma used to replace ‘useful’ with ‘nice’ but in the Modern world, that’s not happening on the Internet to begin with. When I watch someone say summat on their feed which is clearly meant as a explanation of their actions and nothing else, to watch other people dive in to ‘interpret’ that is, I have to say, depressing beyond belief. This, for me, is where the GIF has become a way of me being able to show interest, but not dig a hole for myself, which would often happen previously when I’d have only words to fall back on. That whole adage of ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is absolutely spot on: that’s why, when I’m done here, I should go find more hug GIFs because that’s what I and others need most right now. That and artistically-photographed cake, beverages, lovely serene landscapes and Mini Dogs. Lots of lovely, fluffy and perky canines to keep me sane when it all goes Pete Tong on my feed.

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I also sense, behind a number of Avatars, a slow realisation that appearing not to care about anything but your own agenda is part of a larger issue that will start affecting more people than just Governments and large corporations. I may appear to operate a fairly 1/0 approach to caring about Randoms on certain days, but I can guarantee that’s not the case. I am passionate about everything, to the point where some days it is mentally exhausting. I’m now reining in the urge to go HAM on your Feed because I can see the difference between something that needs to be commented on and summat the person just needed to say for their own sanity. Just because someone says summat on Social media does not mean you need to respond, and just because nobody answers you does not mean nobody is listening. This vital point has somewhere been lost, and everybody is an expert at everything.

Oh, and as a reminder I’m not claiming to be an expert here.

I’m just pointing out the fucking obvious.

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Because everybody is watching everybody else, all the time, potentially nothing is missed, but we all know the truth is a long way from that reality. Some of you will get hugely aggrieved that there’s no response to what you want to talk about, or that when you need help there’s ‘nobody around’ when in reality that often equates to a few people or even a single person of interest. It is the ‘Notice me Senpai’ approach to life that assumes that at any given time, like it or not, you are the centre of the Universe. Well, of course you are, because that’s how Social media works. You make a space, you carve out a niche, and then you sell it (if you’re wanting to make a name) or you find a soapbox and stand on it (if you’re orating to the crowd) and so on, ad infinitum with all the things this platform can be used for. However, how you perceive that space is far more important than the area itself. Unless you clearly define that to other people, or make that obvious via your own actions? You will only have yourself to blame if the wheels come off, and they always will when there’s not an acceptance that definition could ever be an issue.

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You need to be made of strong stuff to stand ‘in public’, when all is said and done. As you get older, vanity and substance should give way to acceptance and understanding, but more often than not you just get more sensitive and less capable. If I am to become an expert at anything in my life, it should be to just being what I am without allowing anyone else to dictate those limits to me. If you don’t like my attitude at first glance, maybe it isn’t just my problem to address but ours to jointly negotiate. Everybody doesn’t need to come down to your level or act as you see fit. Put the expertise on hold for a minute and don’t just think you’re capable of solving all the issues in the World, because you can’t and won’t. If someone refuses to listen? Don’t take it as an insult, and try and understand why. That’s what’s missing more than anything else right now, from every aspect of my life. People don’t want to, or they’re too tired to, or it isn’t what matters any more. That’s a big fat fucking lie.

Understanding is EVERYTHING.

Stop pretending you’re an expert, because you’re not.