Enough is Enough

This week has not been kind. I slept without my Fitbit last night because sometimes, you don’t wanna know. A 9.30 PT should, I hope, kick-start a day of solid exercise, followed by some good personal advancement. That’s all I can do: say it, do it, hope it works. Nothing else is in my hands, just my own progression. Do I learn the most important lesson of all, finally? Can mental blocks that continue to hamper be overcome?

Yes, they are.

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The greatest advantage of owning devices that track my health is not the data companies sell to other people an ability to clearly signpost progress. Now I’m in a position of strength, quite far down the road to wellness, those numbers become the glue that stick me together. I’ve noted previously that it was writing before that served that purpose: now the lifesaver’s become a profession, except, of course, there’s still an awful lot to learn.

The metric for writing success are woeful, absolutely dreadful. If I were using that as a means to stay mentally strong right now, it would have failed miserably. Fortunately, having found a new means by which progress can be bench-marked without it destroying my sanctity, there’s now breathing space to allow other stuff an opportunity to be approached and attacked with the same enthusiasm.

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I can’t stop time, nor would I want to. With exercise, I can reverse it however: adding sympathetic care returns a measure of flexibility and strength to both body and mind. This week’s writing revelations have been just that: massive insights into the way brain operates, how to stop demons attacking my work. In fact, embracing them this week presented work capable of reopening part of my brain that’s been closed since the 1990’s.

Going through this post now, carefully re-reading and editing as I go, is a new phenomena too. Before the obsession would be to just finish, get it done, not stop and think. Care has emerged in everything. It’s not like it didn’t exist before, far from it. What mattered back then was making the point. Now, considering why, how and even if I should come before a single word is written. This feels a better order to work in.

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Once upon a time there might also have been a desire to ramp up the drama. Nope, that’s not ever happening ever again. Other people can do that, there’s more important business to concern myself with than making the stupid stuff more apparent. For now, that means finishing up here, smashing that bonus Saturday PT of Win before letting Saturday sort itself out.

These are the best kind of days.

You’re Not Alone

Once upon a time, I would have sat and felt sorry for myself today. There would have been moping about, and sad moments, with wistful stares and quite possibly tears. However, I’m not the person I used to be. Last night there was a forceful moment of revelation: other people do not dictate your happiness anymore. If I am to truly evolve out of my old state and into the person I truly wish to become, there is a part of my life holding things back, which has done for far too long.

This morning, therefore, I took a walk into the unknown.

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The initial signs are encouraging, but I am aware of not getting my hopes up too high. However, the fact remains that I’ll never affect long-term, significant change in any aspect of my life without some pain and effort. Therefore, if it matters enough, it is time to start altering those portions of existence I am not happy with. After a month of my own content being very well received, it is time to put my social needs back into some kind of order.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Message

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Right then, Universe, you and I need to have a chat.

I entirely grasp that being a selfish, arrogant fucktrumpet is a bad thing. There is no issue understanding that you need to be accommodating and empathetic when engaging in Social media discourse. However, sometimes it needs to be stated, for the record, that you people don’t get the whole irony/sarcasm thing. It has happened a lot of late, and therefore probably requires a measure of explanation.


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happens a lot more than was ever the case before the Orange Twat became President or my country decided to fuck itself over Europe… or in many people’s minds, far less than makes them either feel comfortable or safe. The whole irony/sarcasm threshold as humour ‘thing’ has become almost impossible to use safely of late because somebody is inevitably going to take offence. Let’s face facts, you don’t need an excuse to explode at someone else right now, and there are people out there actively looking for reasons to do just that.

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In one part of my online existence, I’ve made the conscious decision to just take away the possibility of Drama to begin with, especially when it is becoming apparent that some people enjoy fucking with your brain for entertainment. Gaming is full of people whose sole task appears to be the organisation of their life in order to wind other people up in theirs. I suppose, on reflection, this is no different than pranking a work colleague and then laughing, before the reminder ‘well I found this funny, what’s your problem?’ The key advantage of doing this online is that you can laugh as much as you like afterwards, safe in the knowledge that no-one will notice.

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Except, after a while, laughing just with yourself stops being enough, and you have to make a larger point, and lo the subtweet was born. This is not revolution, but a way for stupid people to make everybody else think you’re talking about them and instil a sense of guilt and shame to individual actions. These things float so close to the irony/sarcasm border as to be an instant provocation to a) anyone with even a scintilla of a guilty conscience and b) anybody who’s looking for a fight at that moment. However, you can tell more about a person by their subtweets than is ever possible (sometimes) from months of interaction. If you pay attention, it is amazing what gets revealed… and yes, I’d absolutely count myself in that number. That’s why subtweeting has become a thing of the past.

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Blogging is now my tool of revolution. If you can be bothered to read, all you need to know is here, sometimes wrapped up with the bare minimum of effort. There doesn’t need to be hand-wringing and wailing via Twitter: if I want to change the world, this is the best place to begin. If you refuse to provide the fuel for roasting and instead produce fireproof arguments, then everybody wins. I become a better writer plus the people who choose to follow me on Social media get 100% less Drama per day. In a world where there is quite enough of that, to begin with, I should definitely not be adding any more.

Words matter, and should be chosen with care.

Words

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It’s been some time since a movie stopped me in my tracks, but last night (as our kids were with their Gran and Grandad) Mr Alt and I ‘rented’ Arrival. It’s probably the best six quid I’ve spent on a film for quite some time, and although it was almost frustratingly slow to start, on reflection the pacing was spot on. It’s also a VERY clever film in terms of its use of a Chinese character (who has a key and pivotal significance to the narrative) as has become the fashion of late for Hollywood. I won’t spoil it for you, because I really urge a watch if you’ve not done so: I guessed the ‘plot’ quite early on, and the signs on the roadmap to final understanding were subtle enough to make this hugely satisfying. My only objection is Renner’s casting as a physicist when all I can see him doing is firing arrows, but that’s my problem to fix and not anyone else’s.

What Arrival has now prompted in my mind is the understanding that language is a hugely subjective tool. There’s a key point in the narrative (which is referenced in the trailer and so won’t spoil you) where, in interpreting the Heptapod’s incredibly complicated, 3D written language, the word ‘weapon’ is used by the aliens with immediate and devastating effect. Crucially, it is immediately understood by Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as a potential mistake: we are teaching aliens our language, and by doing so there is always the possibility that a word can be misinterpreted because of the way we misuse them ourselves. There’s a brilliant scene in the narrative that foreshadows this too: Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) is amazed that the first words that Banks will ‘teach’ are, in his mind ‘grade school’ and only when Louise explains exactly why it has to happen that way is it clear that learning to communicate without misinterpretation is one of the most complicated things we will ever do.

Social media, on any given day, is a perfect example of how that process can get mangled.

Language is a constantly evolving concept: words change meaning from generation to generation. What someone can consider a grievous insult others will laugh at as a clever pun, or an adroit use of definition, and the problem remains the interpretation of the individual. On social media however, there are other issues to consider. If, as has been the case in the past, I’m discussing something in one place with someone who’s reading about other people’s views in two other places, their frame of reference to mine is different, making their interpretation of the key issue inherently different. If all you did on Social media was have one to one conversations, an awful lot of miscommunication and offence would automatically vanish, but often several conversations will go on at once and in amongst this people are asked to make judgements, sometimes based on only a portion of the total facts available. When the definition of those words get mangled, then it can all go to hell very fast, and pretty much always does.

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There is a great deal you can learn from discussion and debate, so much so your kids will be encouraged in school to do just that. My son has been incredibly brave in his admissions, my daughter is just beginning to find a voice which I hope one day will allow her to feel confident in her chosen career. Being comfortable enough to argue is great, but I’ll be the first one to admit that doing so in certain online spaces is a waste of both time and sanity. Even the most erudite of speakers, the most intellectual of human beings has the capacity to become a total imbecile when given half the chance, or the right poke from a Troll. On the flip side, branding a whole group of people as ‘deplorable’ doesn’t do wonders for your PR either. This is where the adage that ‘it takes two to start an argument’ is the mantra to repeat, and the Monty Python sketch on Arguments should be taught to every person who’s never heard it:

M: I came here for a good argument!

O: AH, no you didn’t, you came here for an argument!

M: An argument isn’t just contradiction.

O: Well! it CAN be!

M: No it can’t!

M: An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

O: No it isn’t!

M: Yes it is! ’tisn’t just contradiction.

O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!

M: Yes but it isn’t just saying ‘no it isn’t’.

O: Yes it is!

M: No it isn’t!

O: Yes it is!

M: No it isn’t!

O: Yes it is!

M: No it ISN’T! Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

This week therefore I’ll be doing my utmost to improve communication skills in places where I know they’re lacking. I’ll also remember that it matters just as much who I’m speaking to as what I say, and that a wise woman remembers this and plans accordingly.

Some days, the best thing to do is never to speak to begin with.

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I was reading in the week that someone in my Twitter feed was celebrating the advantages of Discord as a networking tool. If you’re not aware, this is the programme designed for gamers which urges you to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak (both used as popular means of establishing voice communication in Warcraft, amongst other titles) and promotes ‘virtual’ communities centred around particular subjects, in game goals or even streaming ‘personalities.’ It can sit in your web browser, allowing instant communication using the Internet as a carrier. It sounds like a brilliant way of breaking barriers and encouraging friendship, and I suspect if you’re the type of person who enjoys sitting at a screen all day that would be a bonus… but for me, its the equivalent of a slow, debilitating form of poison.
If you really believe virtual voice networking is the future, I have some issues you may wish to consider first.

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I’ve spent many years online using various iterations of text based clients, and it is still a better format for me to work in than speech will ever be. Text gives a vital chance to think, to consider stuff before I dive into conversation. Voice has gotten me into so much trouble over the years, because I thought only after I spoke. It took a very long time to get comfortable with live podcasting as a result of this, but a lot of what I said would be in some way scripted to ensure I wouldn’t wander off topic, as knowing what to say really does matter rather a lot. When it’s you that’s the issue and not others, you tend to get rather adept at placing space between the question and any response, so there’s the much needed thinking time factored in. What any speech based client expects from an individual is permission to allow a large number of random people into your personal space, regardless of whether you know them or not. That’s where the real issues begin.

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A large part of my discomfort, as a woman, is that I know how certain scenarios play out when people ‘meet’ me for the first time. If I were eminently capable of dealing well with strangers in these places, of course, all of this would be unnecessary. There’s also the assumption by many people that, if they can easily and comfortably use such systems, I must be somehow at fault. That means that, if people are unprepared to be empathetic and meet me halfway, I’ll always feel on the back foot. After years of being told ‘well it is clearly you that’s the problem’ I’ve decided that really, it is just simpler not to take part. Nobody loses out, and the people who are genuinely caring and understanding will simply accept the limitation. If you want to initially communicate with me, then it starts on my terms and when I’m comfortable I’ll be far more capable of doing the same in return.

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I’m the gregarious and fearless person when she can edit before posting who can’t manage voice because of that time in a Warcraft Karazhan raid she forgot she was holding down the Push to talk button and trashed someone’s performance. She can’t escape each one of the runs she did with other Guilds whilst trying to set up alliances where she listened in other people’s voice channels and heard guys treating girls like dirt and passing it off as ‘just what happens online.’ She can’t let go of the player after player (of both sexes) who’d swear and abuse a GM for not letting them raid, or screamed in anger when they lost an item of gear. If I didn’t remember absolutely everything, it would be fine and maybe I’d move on, but I know what a rude, viscous and sanctimonious twat even the nicest person ends up when playing this particular MMO ruins their best laid plans.

When I then have to factor my own thoughts and actions on top of all this? If you know you’re mentally just not capable of the speed of reaction that others have as standard, and understand only too well the darkness that can sit in people’s hearts, you avoid situations where you’ll have a problem. If communication matters enough, people will make the effort and they’ll understand. What becomes increasingly apparent is that maybe all those people who said they meant well at the start weren’t all being totally honest. I’m not playing the game any more of just throwing myself into situations and hoping it all works out. If caution results in less drama, yes I’m completely going for that over being in everybody’s faces for popularity.

The trend of Discord for Everything might not be that popular in a years time however, especially in the US if this new law is as damning as I believe it will be. Information is becoming a more valuable currency than the dollar, personal details the key for advertisers to sell you everything online. I think maybe in the future I wouldn’t want to be spending my time chatting in places that I believe are safe but could end up as anything but, and that Virtual Private Networks will become far more significant as places to talk and play in the future. If it matters enough I can use these services: I have Slack open permanently for my current paid writing gig, after all. The fact that I’ll always choose text over voice chat, that I’d rather write a letter than take a phone call, is that I’m scared of fucking it up. Words at my speed allow the chance for the best form of communication I possess, that’s all.

I hope that never changes.

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.