Games People Play

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Occasionally, there are days (like yesterday) when you have to accept loss. Like it or not, everybody screws up. Sitting crying in the Gym car park helps nobody: sure, it makes you feel better, but a logical mind can grasp that if you’re the one at least in part who started the fight, then you have a responsibility for the argument. As long as the days going backwards don’t exceed your forward momentum, everything is golden. That’s why I’m here to remind myself this morning, ahead of all the other stuff that has to happen, that how I conduct relationships is really important. This week, therefore, has been significant in terms of how that takes place online.

Everything I ever needed to know about life I learnt from James Bond.

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Okay, hang on a minute there Bald Eagle, how does the sexist, misogynist 007 start handing me life lessons, exactly? Well, quite apart from ensuring I don’t end up living my life in the manner of a Bond movie (with the inevitable big red reset button at the end) I find myself thinking about what James is good at, and how (amazingly) that provides lessons for me. He’s the best poker player in the British Secret Service, for starters, and that’s because he never plays his own hand, but always that of the person opposite. He’s also taught me how to deal with being poisoned and betrayed, but that’s not important right now. Let’s apply the Poker metaphor in a slightly different fashion, shall we?

When you move into new online relationships, the temptation is often to go overboard in explaining yourself: motivation, ideas, goals… all this in the first flush of ‘getting to know each other.’ I realised this week that this is not the most sensible approach, because it can often isolate people who are not easily comfortable with coming forward or opening up to strangers. It can make you look pushy and domineering. What I ought to be doing is letting the other person come forward first. In effect, I have to become them. Instead of playing my own ‘hand’, if I play the person’s I’m speaking to and effectively imagine what it must be like to be them, there’s a chance of better understanding and empathy from the word go.

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This has worked at least once in practice since the revelation hit, and going forward seems like a really logical means of finding a middle ground with relative strangers. When someone asks you how you are, don’t spend 15 minutes explaining the details. Summarise quickly, effectively and then ask about them. This is probably common sense to large proportions of the rest of the world, I realise, but I’m coming to the world of interpersonal relationships with strangers quite late in the game. If nobody bothers to take the time to explain this shit to you and you have to work it out on your own… well, here’s how it pans out.

Start new relationships by looking at other people first and not yourself.

It is a fine line we all tread in the modern World when it comes to interactions, especially when kids are being taught social niceties via YouTube. I realise now that it is all well and good to believe you have all the tools required to be a decent human being, but that is never always the truth. Every part of your personality needs constant reassessment and balance: you don’t have to do it daily, not even weekly, but every so often sitting down and asking yourself ‘am I doing enough?’ should be a prerequisite for every human being. My son might laugh at my attempts to reduce food waste in the house and increase recycling, because he can see no discernable change in the issues via a wider stage. However, if everybody does these things, the World can and will change. Believing you have no direct influence on the environment around you is a lie.

If you desire change enough, you can and will make it happen.

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My daughter will tell me that she hates my inspirational speeches, but I won’t stop giving them, because if even a scintilla of that belief gets through to her, it is progress. Nobody bothered with me, arrogance assuming that I’d just work it out for myself. Well, I didn’t, and after decades of nobody pointing this out finally, blissfully, people did. Only when other people cared enough to break the shell of my own ignorance, unwillingness and despair was I able to move forward. I entirely understand how horrendous and soul destroying depression remains, but in my case at least, it is my task to deal with and nobody else’s problem but mine. Learning to ask for help was the hardest thing of all, and it still is. However, now I get the formula that works. There’s understanding of what needs to be done. I stopped playing my own hand, and looked outside myself to move forward.

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Plus, any excuse for a bunch of Bond .GIFs is never a bad thing. Next time you start a conversation with a stranger? Ask them how they are, and be prepared to listen.

Learn about yourself by listening to others.

Magic Bus

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For the second day in a row, I’ve hit my step goal before lunchtime. There wasn’t a plan to do this per se, just the way by which life has worked out since the end of the Weekend. There’s a lot of real life going on right now too, because I’ve gotten to the point where self care needs to be more important than putting stuff off. That means hand cream, and teeth X Rays and eye tests in the next two weeks. It also means pushing myself in ways I’d not thought about for a while: an hour on the treadmill this morning was incredibly hard post Monday’s absolutely knackering PT, but I won. It all happened.

Inside, it is as if I have become someone new.

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I’ve been deeply affected by reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy… well, I’ve only just finished Book Two but honestly, mind is unbelievably blown. I love it when I end up with more questions than answers in fiction, and need to read the first two books again to make sure I know what really went on. As a result of this mental stimulation there have been some amazing dreams over the last few days, which have had some unexpected physical hangovers to reality. Considering I’m working on six hours sleep today brain should be dead, and yet I feel incredibly alive.

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Yesterday was hugely productive too: if I can knock off the four things on the To Do List today in good time I’ll be beyond pleased. I also treated myself to something at lunch I would not have dared eaten previously pre-gallbladder removal. If it sits happily in my digestive system, I’m taking this as a sign that I can eat a bit more than was previously the case (and off limits.)

Right then, lets go get all this other stuff knocked off so I can spend the evening dicking about online.

Underneath it All

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You cannot choose the people you inspire, or that will like you and most crucially of all, however hard you try, some people will never be your friends. I’ve learnt this lesson the hard way over the years: there’ll always be someone who you think you’d like to get to know better and then something will happen to ensure that never comes to pass. The last situation in which this transpired came back to haunt me at the weekend, a mutual tweeting someone who I reached out to but… on reflection, it wouldn’t have worked. They wouldn’t have been the problem, either. I would have ruined it.

The people that have helped chart the course over the last few years have been getting thank you’s this month (as I mentioned back at the start of November) and with the last four this week comes to pass an event that has made a lot of sense in the wider scope of what I’d like to happen going forward. You can give blanket thanks to people on Social media all day and night, knowing that many users simply read what they need or want into situations regardless of your desirers. Naming names is the way people understand how much they matter to you, pure and simple.

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Sometimes, people get disappointed. They put a lot more emphasis on you than is the case the other way. When I do a cursory account check of new people to follow, it is always with half an eye on who else they consider interesting. It means if you’re reading this and your Twitter friends list is full of female ‘online personalities’ and porn robots, I’m fairly confident we won’t have a lot in common. I’m pushing more and more for those people who understand that participation isn’t just complaining online about how unfair life is, those willing and prepared to give back more than they take out. Thinking needs to be the default these days, however tough that might be on a daily basis. That means not only considering what you say, but more crucially what you don’t.

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Having survived the early stage of Patreon, it is time to start raising the bar. Persuading people to give you money (especially in this day and age) is a tough ask. I have big plans starting this week, and need to get more people on board, who are prepared to take a chance on me and what I believe in. We don’t need to be friends for this to happen, either. However, that might happen, or it might not… a lot of it isn’t up to me to begin with. Life isn’t a predictable set of occurrences. If we get lucky, then so be it.

Sometimes, just inspiring people to be better is enough.

Bad Day

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There’s a trend of late, that disturbs me greatly. Someone who clearly has an axe to grind at the actions of someone else will post something via Social media to the effect of ‘oh my God this is terrible and WRONG and as a result I won’t buy/watch/take part in this thing any more.’ Let me give you an example that Duncan Jones tweeted into my timeline late yesterday evening:

Of course, all of this indignation hinges on your definition of wrong. As men have been kissing each other since Roman times, I see no problem with television showing the action. I also see no problem with people calling someone out who mistakenly has decided that allowing this in a sci-fi show is somehow appealing to a demographic, when that show has historically broken cultural barriers since debuting in the 1960’s. Some people have short memories, and many others need to understand that the wrong they’re seeing is not somebody else’s problem, but their own perception at fault.

More people need to admit they’re wrong in public.

The last month has seen a palpable sea change in the US over what counts as decent behaviour. There’s a realisation emerging that shallow, indistinct indignation is no longer enough to make the changes people want, and more and more individuals are taking matters into their own hands. Slowly, but surely, the swamp might yet begin to drain, but not perhaps in the way many Republicans expected. The acid test is whether telling other people someone is wrong works in the same way as that person admitting the fault themselves. In this case, silence seems only to confirm culpability, as has been the case for Weinstein and an increasing number of high profile celebrities.

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However, sometimes sorry is not enough. Sure, its great to be vindicated, and refreshing to be proven correct, but when apologies come from people you cannot believe understand the value of either contrition or remorse… it is a very human emotion to want justice, and to demand acceptance. However, nobody learns anything until the fundamentals are grasped with considerably more willingness. Teaching people it is weak to admit failure is bollocks. Knowing how to fail is a skill far more people need to learn and accept as part of life. The trick, as is the case with most things, is finding the balance. I can build myself up and knock myself down without anyone else involved. Sometimes, that’s essential to get the day done.

Mostly, if you could stop thinking that what two blokes do on screen is corrupting your society that seems happy to attack women, ostracise anyone who’s not white and condemn other religions that aren’t Christianity? That might be a start. However, please don’t go too far the other way. Listening to people on my Social media feed publicly blaming other people for their own inability to self-help, self-care or make the best of what are incredibly privileged situations to begin with seems to be flavour of the month. Maybe the answer isn’t to sit there feeling sorry for yourself but start effecting long term change. I began with 30 minutes around the block every day. The first step is the hardest, but the benefits (trust me) are enormous.

After that, if you’re happier pretending everybody else is wrong but you, you’re probably on your own.

Today

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Look, I don’t want to jinx this, but this week’s going remarkably well. The whole ‘upping the step count’ thing’s moving amazingly to plan, there’s gonna be two sessions of PT instead of one, and it’s only taken me until Wednesday to sort about 80% of the To Do list. I keep looking over my shoulder, expecting summat rubbish to transpire, but it has as yet failed to materialise. I know what is driving the push to get stuff done, however, the reminder from various quarters this week that we are only visitors to this existence. Each day needs to be lived well, and with a passion.

That is certainly how things are coming to pass this week.

Also, this week I have given my daughter something that, a decade ago, probably wouldn’t have existed. I’ll be chaperoning her and a friend to see Dan and Phil, Internet superstars, on their 2018 World Tour. If the levels of squee in this house yesterday were any indicator, I’m going to need to invest in earplugs for the night. Fortunately, this is taking place at my favourite London venue, the Eventim Apollo, where I’ve seen both Elbow and Kate Bush… at least it’ll be familiar surroundings. Maybe I can watch some videos before I go, so I don’t look like an utter n00b when I get there…

Right, just enough time to get another load of laundry on before I have to walk to the Gym :D

Sit Down

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This is new.

I am, this morning, in what is a robust amount of pain. However, there is no alarm or concern within that, because I know full well how my muscles now react when being conditioned. This is why the poking and prodding of physios and masseurs no longer hold fear for me. I am able to distinguish what is bad pain and what is good, and you can absolutely have good pain, people. Today is all about posture, and the fact my lower back is being asked to do things that, in 50 plus years, were never considered normal up until now.

It is, however, also a body’s request to rest, and I will be doing so for the day: not too long at the screen, lots of regular breaks, and much stretching of my lower back to ensure that the strength that’s being built is not ruined by poor posture. This is the biggest revelation of all: my body now will not let me slouch. Once upon a time, I could sit badly and not realise the damage being done, now all of the muscles in my core not only work properly but engage as a unit, there’s no way I can do so without being told as much. That’s a bad pain, and if I’m doing stuff properly, it doesn’t happen.

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Knowing this, and now grasping I want a full day’s rest a week, it is time to up my step count to compensate. I’d like to keep 84k steps a week as my benchmark: that would be 12k a day but as I’m effectively skipping Sundays now it needs to increase to 14k daily. That is easily done however by extending walk to and from the Gym, and better organising myself so that exercise gets done early in the day and not later. Therefore I have planned next week with a bit more care and won’t allow pixels to distract today, simply focussing on getting done everything I need to be to make this happen.

There also has to be a bit of thought given to Christmas, because if everything is going to be made that has to be, I’ll need to get started sooner rather than later…

Toast

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Because I’m stupid, I forget just how much better everything is on a decent night’s kip. Last night’s nine hours plus is a case in point: it means breakfast preparation isn’t a slog, the tea tastes better and there is less of a desire to blow all my good work for the week by sitting and procrastinating. Therefore, today, there will be a To Do list BEFORE the Gym, some running for the first time (due to blood donation) and then some afternoon gaming. I’ve broken 10k on NaNo but need to go back and check my work. I know that’s not supposed to be the point but as I’m ahead, I want to make sure it all makes sense. Then the next goal is 15k before I go to bed tonight.

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That means being super organised on next week’s work, but a lot of that is already completed (YAY PLANNING.) However, the only way to continue that is BY MOAR PLANNING and so there needs to be the brain in gear and eyes on the ball. Every week, this dance gets easier (even if the metaphors remain sadly contrived) and once one thing is a habit, I can start working on the other things.

Who knows, there might even be some thoughts provoked next week.

[PS: Made it to 13k, never made the Gym but I’m BACK AT IT TOMORROW.]