One

I watched this video yesterday on my phone. I NEVER watch anything that way, but yesterday I did. The phrase ‘How Bad Do You Want It’ has been rolling around my head ever since. A random search turned up the following video, and once I’d watched this a door opened in my head that was previously jammed shut.

This video was made in 2011. I have no backstory or information about the Seattle Seahawks player or the preacher, but it is largely irrelevant who I’m watching. There’s a procession of these inspirational tirades online (because that’s what they are) which will all claim to be the answer to finding success. However, this one has stuck, probably because of the reference to asthma. Do I want to breathe as much as I want to succeed with everything I do? No, I need to be able to do both. There must be air and space, ability and capability. This is why those ridiculous ‘get fucking buff in 30 days with 6 CD’s’ are no use to me. I require teaching, and then there needs to be personal dedication.

I’m sure as fuck not staying awake for three nights or forgetting to eat to get there.

I do now, however, grasp the importance of pushing myself through fatigue to get the job done. This does not mean listening to my body or being ridiculous with how much time I spend working on physical fitness… goals need to be reached, and planning not overlooked. My real focus is not how bad do I want it, but how well can I do it. It isn’t just me I have to consider in all of this either: I have a family and commitments that cannot simply be dropped to attain what is wished. Balance is the key, and as of right now there is the belief that this is the right path, and that the strength required to make it happen really does exist.

Last night, my daughter hugged me and pronounced I am thinner than was previously the case. Yesterday, someone unexpectedly called me kind in public. They are all small moments of perfection, tiny victories that are celebrated far more than my ability to lift a weight or complete a session on the bike. Except, this morning, lifting was better. I felt stronger. Last night, despite really not wanting to cycle, I did my 30km and not only beat my time for the same distance from the previous night, but I came close to being the overall Ladies Sprint jersey holder for what would have been the second time this week. Now I understand that they all count. Progress anywhere is still progress.

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I am getting not only physically, but mentally stronger. The events of this week tell me that, without the need for reinforcement by anyone except me. If you ask me how badly I want it? I’ve started cutting out even more bad food. I’m snacking at new levels of healthiness, and my food logging is becoming pretty well regimented. I worked so hard this morning my arms will ache tomorrow, and my legs too if I push for extra miles on the bike.

Yeah, I want it badly enough now to make it happen.

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Not nearly enough of my life has been lived on principle. Expediency is no longer something I feel comfortable entertaining. Occasionally, reality holds up signs that you cannot easily choose to ignore and, in my case, the last 72 hours have been filled with offline portents. Forget the disaster that’s been my online life for the moment: waking up to snow this morning and the realisation that I’ve managed to complete some significant real-world milestones, but that others are a long way from even being doable. Life is about choices and making the best of what you have.

That means that certain things need to change.

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The more sharp-eyed amongst you will notice that there are now a number of donation buttons on this site. These are here as stop-gaps as I readdress what it is I want to do with writing, as I wait to see what Patreon has to say as a result of the last 72 hours. There is a desire to provide people who want to offer support all possible options, and that’s why (even as a committed tea drinker) you can now buy me a coffee via Ko-fe. However, at the back of my mind, I am now reasonably settled in principle as to what will happen going forward. If you want to understand those thought processes, you need the Writing Blog.

This place will remain as fitness, ranting, geeking and an increasing interest in getting back to reading and crafting. All this will be the balance of what remains very much a career in writing, however I choose to make that happen. There are other desires hidden too, things that will eventually get to see the light of day once there’s enough time and space to allow the ideas to grow. For now, I’ll be sticking to what I’m good at.

If I keep doing that, it will all work out in the end.

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.

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.

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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.