Nothing

There has never been a better time to have an opinion than RIGHT NOW. Social media allows everybody the opportunity to not only hold a point of view but be able to express it, regardless of any ability to do so either well or politely. Once upon a time, if you disagreed with a review of a play or film, the only means to ensure that the writer was aware was a green pen and some A4 lined paper (if you were a certain type of complainant) or Basildon Bond and a fountain pen, at the other end of my cliched, stereotypical scale (for effect only.) Now, if you don’t like what’s been said, it is simply one click to make sure that your opinion is registered. If you’re lucky and that burst of righteous fervour catches the right wave of popular algorithmic indignation, you’ll be viral just before tea.

A lot has changed in a very short space of time, and language is struggling to keep pace with this evolution.

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It is apparent that the issues in most of these short lived, inflammatory discussions is how one person uses language and how that is subsequently interpreted by others. I am reminded of a fervent debate over quest text in my favourite MMO as a perfect example: one person saw casual racism, whilst I understood a historical reference that was based in definition from hundreds of years previously with no relevance to an insult. Then there was that time where I used the word ‘inclusion’ to someone who decided I meant their grasp of a related concept and not the strict dictionary definition… and the list goes on. It is one of the main reasons why the Internet of Words was born as a concept, that how we use language online is often vastly different to the manner in which we both communicate and exist in the Real World. When all you had before was paper and a pen, you had to make every word matter, and interpretation was perhaps even more of an issue.

Now you can delete your words, except the smart Internet users will happily inform you that never happens. This place remembers everything. If you don’t want your awful tirade to be remembered, never type it to begin with. In twenty years, a huge swathe of early internet content might have supposedly been lost to time, but you’ll be amazed what remains, or what others will keep ‘just in case.’ Then there’s the increasing trade in image manipulation, how a basic understanding of how webpage markup can be accessed and then altered can make it look like the President actually said that. The bigger irony, of course, is that certain people’s comments remain ridiculous and hugely ill-conceived regardless of the ability to paint them otherwise.

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There is a wonderfully simple answer to all of this, why suddenly the opportunity to have more than five seconds of fame matters so much to so many. The Internet is not a place to game or play, is so large as to make it virtually impossible to control outright. Many companies may like to think they can do just that, but the sheer nature of this beast means that anyone still can be the hero, or the overnight sensation. There is a chance for everybody, regardless of their sex, race or anything else to become the Next Big Thing. If you are to be remembered on your brief and often painful stay upon the Planet, this is as good a place as any to start. However, there’s no guarantee that it will work but at least while you are alive you’ll be known as the person who topped 10 million subs of You Tube or who condemned civilisation to robot servitude in the 22nd Century as the inventor of Facebook.

Mostly, you’re here for the validation. I totally understand that feeling.

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I have written my fair share of complaint blogs in my time, and I stand by pretty much every one of them. At that moment my indignation was enough to temper a response I wouldn’t have written if it didn’t matter. That’s my mantra for all of these things: if it’s important enough to spend time on a blog, then press send. There is an important caveat now to those rants, and that is if I cross a line drawn only recently, as a result of my adventures on Social media. I’ve learnt the important lesson of personal involvement only too well. You can never plan for the stalker, anybody has the potential to become that obsessive individual, but there are certainly means by which you can a) not make things worse or b) inflame already confrontational situations. Very rarely now will I get into discussions with total strangers on contentious subjects. Far easier to write a blog post on the subject and stay friends with everybody, than risk losing someone over a difference of opinion.

This is where people end up mattering more than principles.

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I need my opinions heard because it is the way I can judge whether what I think is worthwhile. I’m not here to be right, or to win. I’ll leave that to other people to control and dictate. For now, I’ll simply continue to say what I feel, without attempting to antagonise too many people, and see what happens. For the record, my complaint letter would have been created using a typewriter. I would have handwritten it several times first, then redrafted until I was happy, before the blue A4 paper would ever have been stuck in the machine. Because I wasn’t using white paper, correction fluid would have been a safety net I didn’t have. It would have taken HOURS, a letter at a time.

That’s probably why it’s taken me so long to find a public voice.

Simple Things

As today we start a new month and wonder where February went, it is time to make some proper steps forward. I have my writing plans well under control, and yesterday my mate @Broximar pointed me at something he was planning to do for March that immediately made me want to join in with. It is neither gimmicky or pointless either, in fact it is anything but. That means, of today, I’m beginning Spring Cleaning early with the 30 Day Minimalism Game.

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Broximar clued me into The Minimalists, and they do exactly what they say in their bio: live life with less. Whereas I appear to live with three quite keen consumerists in this house, I want for very little in terms of material gain as I move on in life. There’s nothing I obsess over in Wishlists, I’m not staring lovingly at domestic items to make my life better. If I’m honest, there’s some music I’d like and a few t-shirts for my collection but after that? I’m happy to do the business of de-cluttering without issue. So, starting today, here’s how things go, as described by the boys themselves:

This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day.

My first item out of the door is a real no-brainer, but the Instagram doesn’t really explain why.

I’ve removed large parts of my past from mental memory, but physical remnants are still here, and this ring is one of them. As I type this it is trashed, removed and with it comes an optimism for beginning the house Spring Clean for the year. I took the liberty whilst I was at it of sorting everything out in my jewellery boxes, one of which hasn’t been touched for several years, but contains items which have a sentimental value that remain irreplaceable. For everything else, however, there is a new sense of determination that means that I am focused on recycling, reclaiming and reusing as much as I can whilst at the same time making space: not to fill with new stuff, but to simply reduce my footprint.

I’ll do a daily Instagram of my progress, but you can expect some rumination here, especially as the daffodils are out on the School Run.

Spring is in the air, and it is time to get busy with regeneration.

Size of a Cow

This is the story of how I FINALLY lost 10 pounds and moved my exercise journey forwards.

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This week, the scales shifted down for the first time in quite some weeks. Fitbit has only recently started registering and tracking weight loss, it never existed when I first signed up. However now, I can see how much has vanished since the new software kicked in. There’s a sad truth behind this 10 pounds that made me stop in my tracks. I didn’t grasp just how many times it has taken to get this far. The problem with apps is that they rarely lie, and that means that, at least for me, five pounds has been a millstone for quite a while.

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I was shocked at this statistic, and went to look at my weight measurements for confirmation. I’ve been trying to lose the same five pounds for close to a year.

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This belittles the work I’ve done to get this far as well, because it doesn’t show the level of effort or that muscle and fat have been swapped with a quite definite regularity. If all you see are the numbers and not physical change, the potential to go backwards is, I know, a fair deal stronger than it would be if all I had was weight loss as my objective. This journey’s become therefore a lot more about self-education: yes, I can read all the gumph in the world about eating to lose weight and what exercises work the best, but none of that is necessarily going to work for me. That’s the problem with the Internet: everybody is out there trying to sell you the best way to do things like they’re a) the only person doing so and b) their way is the optimal path for you, and that’s a bunch of wobbly dumdums. What is best for ME is when I understand WHY things are happening, and I can grasp the relationship between what I eat, how I exercise and how that affects my progress.

This is the new world I now find myself in, and it is amazing.

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I can tell you the key changes that have been made to improve my ability to lose weight: they include stopping with the Special Fried Rice on takeaway night, removing myself from temptation when hungry and not lying to my PT when she asks me if I did all my exercise promised from the week before. However, I hate to break it to you guys, but the #1 overriding reason why I’ve succeeded in losing weight is that I’ve worked myself into the fucking ground. That meant that yesterday, on the back of five hours sleep, I dragged myself out the door, walked to the Gym, ran for nearly an hour and did 30 minutes of weights, before walking home and promptly falling asleep. Yes, exercise is meant to give you energy and vitality, but in a menopausal 50-summat it was enough to destroy me yesterday almost completely.

That’s normally when you want to give up.

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When I look back at myself in pictures, from when I started the serious part of this journey, there’s now an inescapable difference between then and now. Once upon a time I couldn’t see it, and had I allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that nothing (apparently) was changing in my mind at the time, I’d be no further forward. All those years of trying and failing to lose weight had nothing whatsoever to do with how I did it or with whom. The biggest single issue, ultimately, was myself. That’s easier to write now than it has been at any other point in the past too, that there’s come the final grasping of a truth that underpins everything else that I do. When jokingly I’ll mention that ‘people are stupid’ to someone in conversation, I’m talking about myself. This inability to want to grasp the failings and shortcomings that have hindered progress for decades makes the current revelations all the more bittersweet.

This could easily have happened a long time ago, but never did, because until fear was addressed and faced, everything was impossible. Shame and embarrassment are potent shackles in a mind that believes that what matters more than being free and happy is conforming to norms that were never placed on you to begin with, but end up being applied by everybody else. Once there’s the ability to look beyond the constraints of what the rest of humanity tells you is possible or acceptable? The only thing stopping progress, ultimately, is death. I write this sentence for a friend of mine who, right now, is going through the most difficult of circumstances as a reminder: every day is special, each moment to be appreciated and treasured as if it were the last, because that might well be the case. A life not lived well is not really a life at all.

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Now I’ve lost 10 pounds, the next goal is 15. These are hardly real world issues for you or anyone else but for me, this is a journey I am determined to complete. It has become a metaphor for an ability to do what is needed, to allow honestly to underpin everything, and to not be a lie. It is in effect, not clean living but honest living. I don’t need funky foods and stupid fads to be better, just myself and common sense. This then becomes a measure of how the two combine with current circumstances.

I believe I am capable of anything I now want to do.

Never Tear us Apart

When I started talking about mental health on Social media, I was messaged almost immediately by someone who wanted to make sure I was genuine. There were, I was informed, a lot of people on Twitter pretending to have mental issues to draw attention to themselves. This person also decided to inform me of who they considered ‘genuine’ in that department and who could be trusted. I will admit I read that first DM and laughed: then I knew this person had the potential to be quite serious trouble. I’d invaded their patch, as it were, and the first order of business was to come sniff my butt and then lay down terms.

As time has gone on, my suspicions have been confirmed. This person’s crossed swords with an awful lot of people to get to the point where their number of followers has somehow become a metaphor for how capable they are at maintaining this persona online. The stories I’ve seen play out, that people have kindly shared, often with a sense of genuine fear, each confirm that first interaction and subsequently solidifies my belief. Then, when people ask me why I still continue to interact? I have to laugh again: never at them or the incidents, but at the belief that somehow the only way life works is when you make a big thing of who the bad guys are.

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It helps being able to have a villain in order to place everyone in a basic context. It’s nether productive or safe however to start throwing around accusations that only come from other people. The only 100% safe means of burning somebody’s fakeness to the ground is when they directly challenge you and then you then push back with 110%’s worth of irrefutable evidence. Surmise and hearsay is never going to cut it, and once you’ve done that? Well, it’s then a case of how far you want to bury the body. When it comes to being accused of being a fake?  I have no axe to grind. I don’t need to prove to other people that I’m committed to them by burning bridges. Nobody’s forced a ‘it’s me or them’ standoff for some time.

When I think of the drama I’ve directly caused in the past, I don’t regret one iota of it. It wasn’t my mental issues that caused those problem, quite the opposite. It was my inability to make good on promises, or often general laziness. I will happily use these as a stick to beat myself with, but never anybody else. All the flashpoints have resulted from knowing that people stopped acting as decent human beings. They expected too much, or they assumed, or in at least one case took pretty much total advantage of a generous offer. If I were a perfect human being, I could easily hold these up as issues, but as I am so much less than perfect, you don’t start slinging mud. The reason why I am so vague and refuse to name names is that all of this is pointless to begin with. This isn’t REAL drama, and never will be.

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I know how many people matter to me in this virtual safe space. I am also aware that unless I choose it, these people never become anything more than simply at arms length. When they are allowed past the barriers, they know it has happened. It’s not imagined, or staged. I don’t fake friendships for the lulz or the views. I don’t give away shit to increase my followers. I do this stuff because I can, have the money to spare, and because other people derive pleasure from the process. I don’t need the attention, and I sure as fuck know people will survive long after I’ve gone. I’m not indispensable or unique. I’m the Girl who Might, and nothing else right now.

Yet still remains this issue, to be somehow quantified by others’ actions. I have to be honest, I can’t pretend to have a problem. Other people pursue these fruitless attempts to create distorted views of those who seem to oppose them. Everything is a game, and nobody is to be trusted and on some days I laugh when I see what passes for ‘help’ and ‘support.’ I shudder at what some people choose to share and wish they thought more about the consequences. I want to ask some to say more, that their wisdom and common sense is what this platform craves, but these people are the sensible ones who stay away. The clever people know that Social media is dangerous. They are the smart ones who already have a plan to leave.

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All of this often happens in a fifteen minute window, and I wonder why some days Twitter’s such a fucking destructive waste of my time.

This is an odd period for me: I realise that I could be successful without ever needing a single follower on social media, by just doing what I already am. There is absolutely no requirement to equate success with followers, and yet this is what people continue to do, day in and out. Not everyone who appears in your life is there to steal your stuff and make life difficult, so maybe next time someone appears the default setting should not be ‘Threat.’ However, undoubtedly, there are those who must be undisputed owners of whatever spot they find themselves shoved into. I’ve never felt the need to be in charge, yet that’s where I often end up from necessity, because nobody else is prepared to do the work.

Mental illness is a constant and often precarious balancing act. To keep yourself sane, so much else must be weighed and considered. Sometimes, if other people decide they know you better than you do, there’s a temptation to let them do the work, but it will always end in tears. You are the ONLY person who understands your brain. Other people simply live a version of your reality. However, there is no doubt that existing alone is a sure fire method to madness. Ask all the questions, and don’t take the first answer you get as gospel. Be confident in your own mind, and don’t let other people tell you who’s the bad guy.

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Make these decisions for yourself.

Dark Days

This wasn’t how this entry started: that version of events was far more staid, even boring. That’s the biggest problem with a daily blog: at some point, the mundane begins to show. It stops being compelling and becomes your diary of events and consequences. That’s all well and good once in a while, until a shit day happens, or something transpires you don’t want recorded. Then you’re forced to reassess priorities. I’m four days into January and already looking forward to the Weekend. Those are the places where I do at least get a chance to stop and reflect more, and that’s the time I now value the most amongst everything else. On grey weekdays, when you wake to darkness outside, motivation can be hard to generate, and that was undoubtedly the case this morning.

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I crave bright, sunny January days. Those mornings when you freeze with the sun on your face, extremities suffer but heart warms to the knowledge that the longer days are already coming. It won’t be long before empty branches are full, leaves new and brilliant greens. That’s where I’m already imagining the walks to and from the Gym, or just around this place under the excuse I should be out, and never substituting treadmill for reality. The rain patters on the roof above me and has stopped being soothing, now it’s the sound that reminds that I can’t walk without an extra layer, added protection. I don’t mind the rain, however, but not when it’s close to falling as snow. Tomorrow’s already looking up, even if the temperature’s going down.

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I’ve also remembered that I’m not just doing this out of obligation. There can be a plan in place to ensure that words are working, even in my personal spaces. It may yet be necessary in fiction to just write a scene to get it done and dusted, but the same is not true for personal reporting. I can look back at my years of game blogging and tell you the days when I was just here because there was a misplaced belief that I should do so. Those posts never remain memorable, nor do they teach either me or you anything we didn’t already know. The best work, I am now grasping, is when you walk the extra mile or, even more significantly, when someone directly challenges an assertion made in public. That’s what’s been happening all this week and as more people have poked, instead of just reacting with a knee-jerk, there’s been consideration and genuine thought.

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The limit for daily rambling’s now placed at 500 words, but that’s never set in stone, just a guide for what looks like a decent attempt at adult communication. Some days a 140 character tweet might well be enough, but as yet nothing earth-shattering’s ruined my concerted push forward into the New Year. I’ll grant that today’s been the first real struggle for motivation, but that’s far more to do with my body realising that if it wants energy, processed sugars are no longer in stock. Once that memo is actually processed by my brain? There will be progress. I was stuck here waiting for a delivery: now it has arrived, I’m free and untethered by responsibility.

Time to go hunting and gathering.

Another Way to Die

This year may not been kind, but if I’m going to survive going forward then it is high time to be realistic. 2016, for me personally, has not been a bad year. It has, all told, been FUCKING AWESOME, and maybe I would be better served not pretending I’ve become a shadow of my former self, because that’s so utterly not true. So the meme above is actually as accurate as I think it is possible to be. I’ve gone from a fairly staid and uptight woman of the 1970’s to a pretty chill and sexually comfortable person of the early 21st Century. I look far better in the armour, I never liked the bright colours anyway, and now I can embrace all the shit that comes with my baggage?

2017 is looking pretty damn amazeballs.

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There will be a pre-Christmas meeting with my Trainer to establish what is required to shift the last of my extraneous fat, and so committed am I to this task that I am fully prepared to go the whole shakes and brutal exercise route to make it a reality. It’s not that I’m trying to become something I’m not any more. This is what I’ve always wanted to be deep down. I never had the confidence or belief in myself to make it a reality until now. It’s got an awful lot to do with the understanding that if you listen to your own internal voices that will convince you that failure’s just easier and less stressful, this is what happens. Inertia, inability and a lifetime of belief that you’ll never be good enough.

I am good enough. I’m better than that. I can produce an entire story from nothing, start to finish, that doesn’t only make sense but which is compelling and brilliant. I’m capable of lifting my own body weight with assistance. I’m becoming more and more adventurous with so many things that previously would have sent me away screaming in terror. Nobody made me better, I have no book to recommend or guru to thank. I did this. Little old me with the inhalers and the body confidence issues and the darkness that sometimes obscures everything around me. I found a voice, and a direction. I made things better for myself, and now I’m going to start doing it for other people too.

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This weekend I’m going to spend half a day on Social media using my powers for good and hoping I can get people to donate money to a mental health charity in a period where cash for many is tighter than at any other time of the year. There are so many more worthy causes at this time of year, I know, but MIND does so much sterling work for a group of people who often cannot find a voice. I know, because I’ve been there. I’ve cancelled all plans, am getting my husband to take the kids to see Grandma this year alone so I can be here and do this, and try and make more than just a passing donation to a good cause. I need to make this matter. With all the terror and chaos currently surrounding us, at home and abroad, it might seem selfish to think of myself, but that’s what happens whenever I realise just how important charities like MIND are to those who cannot cope with what life throws at them.

That was me, not so long ago. I was there and didn’t know how to help myself and now I do, I want to make sure that awareness is raised, that others don’t have to feel alone and helpless at a time of year when often family are the most difficult group of people to talk to. This is only the first step in giving back, there will be many others, and by the time I’ve done I hope I really can make a tangible difference to people’s lives. That’s what others have done for me and I’d like to thank them all, and so I will, but not here. That’s my task to complete and I’m getting there, slowly but surely. For now, I hope I’ll see you at Midday on Saturday for 12 hours of .GIF related awesome.

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Life on Mars

By rights, today should already have been declared a bust. However, that’s the old me talking. Once upon a time I would have crawled back into bed, and shivered myself into sleep. I get really cold when I’m tired, and with age that has translated into aches in my bones that are increasingly uncomfortable. Except today I’m writing this, then wrapping myself up against the cold and going to the Gym. I’ll reward myself with poached eggs when I’m done, but it’s about finding strength today that my body didn’t have at 7am. The way this all really moves forward is those moments when you’d rather not be pushing, that’s exactly what happens.

That’s when the ordinary becomes something else.

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It’s almost two weeks to my birthday. Sixteen days. 50 was supposed to be frighting, instead has become liberation disguised as progress. I am moving faster than was ever thought possible, finding fluidity where before was only static. It is a reassurance that I’m not the intractable, and that from this point comes the capacity to blossom and never wither. I looked at myself last night in the mirror and the changes to my body are now permanent, irreversible, and that makes me happier than I ever thought would be possible. Now, it is all about keeping on the path and to the plan. Hanging for thirty seconds. Working on my mile until it’s good enough to improve upon. Understanding what goes into my body is as important as how I treat it externally. Not worrying about looks, but always considering what I touch.

I’d be there now but I need to charge the Bluetooth headphones my husband bought me for my birthday last year. Adopting change early sometimes has it’s advantages, but its knowing all the facts that matters more. Then you can make informed decisions, and ignorance never wins the day. There are people in the US that think the hurricane bearing down on their east coast is a fiction: fantasy invented by liberal agitators to ensure that the public is sent into panic. If you are so frightened of the future that you’d prefer to imagine it as someone else’s illusion and not the truth you can see for yourself? You’re on your own. Ironically, you could have sold Hurricane Matthew as an Act of God with far more confidence, but Old Testament wrath is just a little close to the truth for some right now. The whole World’s gone mad. Wouldn’t it just be easier to give up and accept your fate?

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It is NEVER the answer to acquiesce when your life’s the price. I know that place and I will never, EVER return there, even though in recent memory I’ve had those thoughts anew. This is not the way forward. I affirm my existence with every mile travelled, every step taken. I celebrate the brilliance of those who inspire me by trying to do the same in kind. This week I hope I’ve made some people happy, but you can’t please them all. Those are the moments when it’s time to read fortunes, and uncover unpleasant truths that many would simply ignore and walk from. I run to them with flares and giant neon arrows and make people look, force them to grasp that Reality is your task to create and shape, not others. Be the change.

Make the difference with every breath you take.