Move On

Last night, I gave Blood. I’m not gonna bore you with trying to conjure an entire blog post on the thing many, many people do every day without either thanks or thought. The church hall was packed, yet I’m reliably informed it was a quiet night. There’s a bruise where they inserted a needle that itched the entire time it was set, an appointment in February 2017, and that’s that. I’ll do this every four months, assuming I’m able, from now until I’m 70, because this matters. Change dictates that you must push past obstacles to become better. Remaining ‘the same’ is no longer a state I wish to exist in.

For now, I’m going to suffer if things don’t keep moving.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who is supporting me in this shift out of many and various previously comfortable zones. It really helps to know that people are supporting your efforts, and in turn I’m doing my best to pay it forward. That means giving some cash to a friend who’s struggling because I have extra in my pocket this month. It is the conversation with my husband over e-mail that could have been a disaster but that ended up as a triumph. Most significantly, it’s my son understanding that finally he might have crossed a line that requires more than the minimum amount of effort to correct, and that this is the most encouraging sign of all in a week that I’ve not exercised in on medical advice thus far. I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with a pint less of blood in me, and on reflection I’m really glad I start my week on Wednesday. If I can do two walks this week I still will however, BECAUSE I CAN.

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Having lost a staggering two and half pounds overnight (and having woken up starving at 4am, presumably as a result of my body creating more blood) the temptation now is to eat everything in sight. Even the word BACON is enough to make me salivate.

I’m gonna be healthy, and we begin again with PT tomorrow.

Voodoo People

Today, I live streamed a video game to Facebook. As this is a sentence I never thought I would ever type in my adult lifetime, it probably deserves some explanation.

My PC is not old, but it’s hardly bleeding edge technology. It also refuses point blank to play with Windows 10, which I suspect may have something to do with the rather Heath Robinson manner of its construction. I’ve tried and failed on so many occasions to get Twitch to operate with it, and recording to video and editing is a process that I have neither time or patience to entertain. When Facebook Live was announced to work with World of Warcraft, I determined this was probably my best bet for giving streaming a try, because it did not involve real money to upgrade anything or any more technical knowledge than simply a few clicks of a mouse. However, the main reason I’m using a platform I detest is that, like it or not, I can ultimately control EXACTLY who watches, and that’s not possible anywhere else on the Internet.

This is my project, and my rules.
 

 
It’s not an attempt to be popular or special, or become an Internet celebrity (at peak, EIGHT PEOPLE WATCHED ME) it is just a way to chat for an hour a week to people and add content to my arsenal. It works well in lieu of Podcasting. It allows people to see how I play in game and what matters to me. Mostly, I can fuck about and enjoy myself and record this to become a history of what I’ve done. If it works with this platform I can use Facebook Live to do video diaries for other stuff. In the end, it shows willing to give a bit more of myself than I have before.

Mostly, it is rather enjoyable.

If I keep getting people interested? I’ll keep doing it.

Violently Happy

I thought today was gonna be the one when I gave up, went home and just crawled back into bed. Then, I surprised myself, pushed to the Gym, walked for an hour and upped all my weights in the process.

I am oddly sanguine about everything. Even the poached eggs tasted better this morning, green tea making my throat tingle. I got rice stuck in the windpipe last night during dinner. I think it’s all gone, I can exhale now without a wheeze.

I made a doctor’s appointment to see the Asthma nurse, to get my peak flow tested (that’s a science way of saying lung capacity.) I want to see if my muscles are improving there, too. I’m also really looking forward to having my back adjusted during sports massage. Lots of things hurt, but none enough to be an inconvenience.

I’m fighting tired. My husband calls my exhaustion a First World Problem. I suppose he’s right. I’m just annoyed I never worked on all of this sooner. I’m really pleased that it is in my hands however to change for good, that I’m not reliant on anybody else.

I’m slowly, gradually moving forward. But it’s still progress.

Stop

Sometimes, it takes a moment of contention to highlight a point.

Once upon a time, it took weeks for news of disasters to reach a wider audience than those affected at ground zero. Now, with Twitter and Facebook I can know that Oklahoma City suffered a 5.8 magnitude earthquake this morning, as it unfolded ‘live’ on my social media feed. This is long before any major network reports the story, and probably several hours before it even hits the UK news providers. Mostly because (one hopes) it was just a lot of shaking, and no casualties, there will be a bit of WTF, seismologists will look for explanations, and hopefully that will be that. Except, some stories keep on going and going, and when I went and mentioned one such contentious topic this morning, I paid the price. I forgot that golden rule: don’t want a fight, don’t start one. Except at this point, I’m coming to a crossroads in how I look and deal with other people, and sometimes I’d just like to expand and consider contentious opinions without being made to feel either bad or wrong for doing so.

In every relationship, at some point there’s a decision to be made over belief.

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Once upon a time you couldn’t live with someone if they didn’t hold the same beliefs as you. Everybody had to tow the line and if you didn’t? Spanish Inquisition. Okay, that’s an extreme example but it proves the point quite successfully: if you wanted to NOT be Catholic, for a long time your faith choices were somewhat limited. Also, calling into question the possibility that the Earth was not the centre of the Universe was a dangerous call to make, and only now with science being able to categorically prove that LOOK SPACE OUT THERE still isn’t enough for those who see the World as a place where rules are subjective and opinions only matter if you can support them yourself. Free thinking has never been easy, and knowing you’ll get shunned/poked with soft cushions is often enough to stop most people at the door.

Except without free thinking, kids never dream. If you tie them to a set of ideals that mean that there’s only one way to study, or listen to music, or wear their trousers? At the age where they are at their most flexible there’s a greater than average chance they’ll simply just go the other way and rebel… except inevitably, ultimately everyone comes back to normality, right? Well, no. Having spent quite a long time being scared to actually be what I know I am, I’m making great strides in coming forward and proclaiming my beliefs, and whenever I do there’s always going to be resistance. When it happens, I have a choice. I can learn to communicate better. I can stop trying to make a point and move on. Or, as is now the case, I can stop and work out what the root cause is of my problem, and today that’s exactly what I did. I don’t really care about what other people define as ‘fun’ (their choice, nothing to do with me) and how they decide an MMO is enjoyable or not (flight/no flight.)

My bigger issue is how some people see discussion as the bigger problem, especially if you’re capable of suggesting their point of view might in the end possess less merit to you.

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You’re never going to agree with everything and with everybody. Suggesting that this is not just your fault can go a number of different ways, and if you’re lucky the person you’re talking to will be decent about it and you’ll get civility. However, the very nature of disagreement implies that there will be a point, somewhere down the line, where one or either of you just has to shut up and move on, unless you can amicably agree to differ. If this were religion or politics as the subject matter, you might matter a lot more. When it’s a video game or a TV show or a sports team? Not really as significant or earth shattering, and yet these get argued about perhaps more vociferously. The reason, it occurs to me, is that people prioritise differently depending on how emotionally invested they are in the subject to begin with. If you know it’s ‘just a game’ you’ll be far more capable of separating the issues than those who see the game as more than just a collection of pixels, and here’s the kicker.

Now I’ve pushed myself away from obsessing over gaming, I can’t allow a measure of immersion that I suspect others will. I’m far more engrossed with details as to how the game’s actually made, what the design briefs are and where the game is being projected, as a means to rationalise my thoughts and not get sucked in my the obviously addictive qualities. The step back, the forced move to objectivity, means I’m looking at situations in a far more reserved and almost emotionless manner. I forget other people don’t do this. More significantly, other people won’t take that objectivity on board, and will simply consider it as an attack on their position. However hard I attempt to justify my reasoning? Some will be just looking for a fight.

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What this means going forward, of course, is growing thicker skin, understanding that however hard you try you can’t get everyone to like you and to stop worrying. Having written the process out I’m of the opinion that if people really want to matter to me they’ll make the effort, which is what happened this lunchtime with everyone I spoke to. At no point did any of my thought processes directly attack or negate the individuals I spoke to. They may have considered my general comments as personal attacks, but that’s what happens on the Internet. People decide black is white because mostly, you assume it’s personal when 99/100 times it isn’t. Having been in that situation before I know that eventually, it goes one of two ways too. You either just get on, or there’s an explosion, and when the dust settles?

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That’s the Ball Game. If the person’s important enough, settle your differences and move on. Put away the comfy cushions, stop typing and get your arse to the Gym. You can be as clear as you like, as precise as your intellectual ability will allow but if someone decides to challenge you online over a fundamental difference of opinion?

There ain’t a fucking thing you can do about it if you started the discussion.

Sunrise

It occurred to me, driving back from dropping off my daughter at her first day of ‘Big’ School, there’s potentially seven years of this ahead of me. There’s not an ounce of concern or resentment in my body: I’ll run her anywhere, as I would her brother, and the time it takes will enrich my life going forward. There’s never any thought that the time spent with them isn’t anything other than precious and worth remembering. It makes me realise that although I’ve not wasted a lot of time in the last decade pursuing goals that ended up as being fruitless, there have been moments when I could have picked my directions better. However, the last year has more than made up for my previous shortcomings. I can comfortably attest that my body’s being well taken care of.

Now all I need to work on is my soul.

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New York will go a long way towards assuaging that issue, and should last for some time to come. It wasn’t just the notion of being in a place that I loved, but it had a lot to do with being able to deal with everything truly on my own terms. I am extremely lucky in my current situation, a fact I make sure to remind myself of every single day. This is a finite resource as well, that is all too apparent, and once it is gone, there will be no time like it again. Bearing that in mind, the choices I make in the next few months going forward will be significant, and I need to ensure that the direction I’m travelling is no longer littered with good intentions that aren’t acted on. That’s why I have plans in place for the next six weeks or so, none of which will include anything that’s hugely impractical. Even starting the running challenge yesterday was done slowly and in pieces. There’s no point in breaking myself at the start and then putting everything back weeks or months.

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There’s an awful lot to think about in the weeks going forward. The priority now is to make sure I’m using my time productively and not simply procrastination, which is often my default. That means a lot of words too, if I can get my brain around everything that needs saying. I also suspect it will involve some visits back to my past, if only to try and work out what parts of those experiences I’d like to bring with me. I’d also like to be able to eat without worrying so much, and to make that happen it might be time to bite the bullet and start cooking more from scratch and less from a packet. For now however, I’m counting the time before I have to go get the youngest from school, so I can work out relative journey times. I’ve already found my Car Park for Tuesday’s ‘Walk to and from School’ project, which I’m already looking forward to. I’ve go a plan for what’s the best route, a shopping stop along the way for Breakfast, and a reward when I’ve done both directions. I’m very much already anticipating completing this, and taking pictures as I go.

How things have changed in a year.

 

In Dreams

Yesterday, I had my first sports massage for about three weeks. My back and shoulders were a mess after two flights and ten days in a hard, uncomfortable bed. My masseuse, who is tiny and stunning, is a veritable miracle worker and as thanks for her efforts pre-holiday I bought her a gift back from the US. I wasn’t expecting the reaction it got, that she was genuinely pleased and hugged me with an enthusiasm that was a surprise. The woman then proceeded to do absolute wonders and I walked out feeling about half a stone lighter, after which I slept uninterrupted for eight hours. It’s odd, the notion of reward versus effort, that sometimes the smallest thing can mean the most to someone unexpected.

It was the same when my trainer saw me on Monday and remarked how much thinner I looked. My husband made the comment that maybe she has a vested interest in keeping me ‘sweet’ and might be over-inflating my progress, but I know this is not the case. I have made decent progress, areas of fat are beginning to shrink, and cellulite/stretch marks are becoming far less pronounced than they ever were. I’m not too fussed about the details of the physical change, and once I get to target weight I’ll worry about aesthetics.I understand how things have improved, and that the areas I want to shrink fastest will probably be the last places to go. I’m also aware of just how hard I’m working.

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Being told I’m doing well is great, but I don’t need the carrots any more. My life now has altered so fundamentally that I cannot actually see a position where I’d return to being the person who would rather sit than stand, or drive instead of walk. Given the chance, I’m now always going to default to exercise. I’ll admit I do like my lie ins still, but not at the expense of bad mental health. I’ve also reconciled the understanding that it is never a given to expect a compliment for work done, or if I beat/write summat that’s accepted as ‘good.’ I know how much of the output I create that is decent, consistent and of a good standard. Occasionally, I will hit brilliant, and when that happens I know about it long before anyone else mentions it: not because I’m some kind of narcissist. I just get now what is good for me and what isn’t.

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Perfection is so horribly subjective to begin with that often being told you’re great isn’t actually a true indicator of attainment. I’ve had people overly compliment as a means to draw attention, and I see it happen more and more in social media circles where people are clearly desperate to not offend. I’d love honesty, every time: fortunately the people I count as friends are getting quite proficient at telling me the truth. If it sucks, I get the feedback. What this means is that often I forget what a powerful motivator the random compliment can be, and I’m now actively attempting to give them whenever I think it would be appropriate. This is quite hard work for me. Anyone who can do this well, naturally and with any measure of conviction? You’re a hero.

Making a compliment sound genuine and sincere is a skill I need a lot of work at grasping.

Requiem for a Tower

I had a big plan today, lots of words on communication and self-absorption, but after six hours sleep and having to deal with two banks plus a credit card company? It has all just shrunk to the angsty whine I suspect it was always going to be. That’s the thing about proportion: you need something else to stick yourself beside to make it matter. Once I’m forced to go look up account balances and check transactions whilst grasping I could do with more income to protect against the unexpected? Everything else becomes pretty much irrelevant. It is easy to understand why the Renaissance guys never got around to making the big speeches and discovering the mysteries of the Universe when they had early death and hunger to consider first. Once you’re comfortable, then comes the life changing shit, and not before.

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I’ve realised too that because for many people social media is a far too accurate representation of their real self, that suggesting contentious issues as the basis of discussion means I’m opening my self to perhaps more abuse than I ever need to garner. I could quite simply pretend I don’t care about these bigger issues and stay silent, but some days it is satisfying to shake the can of Coke and put it back in the fridge, for the unsuspecting co-worker to come open and get a surprise from. You don’t do it every day because that’s cruel and unusual, but the occasional wake-up call has merit. Trying to reason however with people who have decided that nothing is fair unless everybody wins and nobody loses is, at best, unrealistic in an environment where the exact opposite is proven to be the case. At some point, inevitably, one has to deal with disappointment, and if you can’t? Things get messy.

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The salutatory lesson at the end of this is very simple: if you don’t want people to call you out? Keep your mouth shut. If you don’t want the grief? Don’t write the words and press ‘Send’ ^^ The moment you pop up and engage a random stranger in conversation, anything can and will happen, so unless you are prepared for consequence? Don’t start.

If you do this shit for a living and still get grief?

Learn to communicate betterer.

Finally

Before I started here, I wrote an e-mail to a very dear friend in which I apologised for starting something I now no longer wish to pursue. It’s nothing at all to do with him, in essence, and absolutely everything to do with me. Another good, dear friend made a point, before I started Podcasting, that it had the potential to derail me from a greater task. I now understand he was right, but without the confidence and insight that period of my life afforded me, I would not have progressed this far to begin with. Sometimes, certain decisions are necessary in order for us to move forward, but when they become a hindrance? You need to make harsh choices based on what matters most.

Therefore, there will be no more Gaming Podcasting for me in the future.

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It is not a decision I’ve taken lightly, but as it transpires I don’t want to pursue a career in that form of work, and I never will. Yes, the gaming is great and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t owe it a great deal (and still do) but ambition, ultimately, is having the confidence in my own words and ideas. To do that, there has to be more effort in that direction. I already have work ready, websites primed, all that is required now is the conscious shift away from the focus of pixels. That’s been happening for a while now anyway, but this way if I say that there’s a push forward and gaming is a *part* of my life but not what matters most? I can actually be honest with everybody for a change.

I think that’s going to matter a lot moving forward.

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My holiday was, like it or not, a life-changing experience. Giving a sense of scale to what you do is really very important. Understanding your significance in larger spheres, for starters, is summat that is beginning to have some tangible consequences. Watching how others deal with your opinions, that having them can often be tantamount to condemnation in the eyes of those who only see their own goals as mattering… I’m not here to crush competitors underfoot and smear other writers in a focused march to domination. My gaming experience has served as a good barometer of what to expect when I deal with other ‘players’ in the game of Real Life. Some people are only happy when you agree with them, and get the right hump when it is apparent than not only have you ideas, but aren’t afraid to wield them. I learn that salutatory lesson every day: if you choose to interact with someone, and then don’t like what they say or disagree… how do you react?

Words, never forget, are more powerful weapons than any hard earned quest reward.

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Choices are crossroads, quandaries before new and interesting directions. I came to grasp while I was away just how much I have been shaped not simply by the games, but the people I know who play and follow me, not simply on social media but beyond. Without Duncan, Mike, David, Allison, Liz, Julia, Ben, Hannah, Myles and all the other people that sprang forth from the wellspring of Computer Gaming acquaintances to become friends, confidantes and supporters, I’d simply not be here. Then there are those I only know by a user name or Twitter handle, or the random nature of a set of e-mail exchanges. The woman who found my blog and used it to keep her sane whilst her mother was in the Hospital, being treated for cancer. The guy who read every post and thanked me for the time and effort put into every one. Everyone has become a part of my whole and helped me forward, and I will remember them all, even if I don’t have the ability to recall them all.

More importantly, those who have hated on me and abused my choices and criticised my decisions? You make me stronger. I listen and learn. You may not wish that your words actually make me more determined to succeed, but they do. If I am confident the criticism is justified, it does get acted on. You didn’t expect that, now did you, but I have a great deal to thank Podcasting for. Mostly it made me realise that unless the output is something I’m proud of putting my name to? It isn’t worth the pain of criticism to begin with. In the end, I’ve had a really good run of content, I learnt a lot about myself in the process, but most importantly of all I now grasp that to move forward, I need to hold and wield the confidence of my own projects alone.

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All of this therefore points to a direction where, like it or not, people will lose interest with me once it becomes apparent I’m here for an ambition that doesn’t start and end with an MMO. That’s absolutely fine, and I’m prepared to accept that if people only want a single focus, then they’re entitled to come and go as they please. The fact remains, what I am is so tightly wound around gaming I’d find it impossible to separate writing from that anyway. It is what I am, and have always been. The only difference now, is that I am a gamer who wants to publish a novel. Probably quite a few.

Time to get started on that as a matter of urgency.

The Test

I’m behind today, but not so far that this will cause issue. I should be doing stuff in a different order too, but for now I’m playing fast and loose with responsibility, because I can and it’s a lovely position to be in. Today, therefore, I’d like to talk about realistic expectations, because I’m terrible at them and keep giving myself more work to do when what I should be doing is concentrating on getting my own shit done first.

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Guilt is a powerful motivator. However there comes a point where you grasp that effort is never going to realistically match up to reward. When this happens, that’s normally the moment to be tough with yourself: what is worth more? Are you here to impress other people with your l33t skillz or is it more about a sense of satisfaction with the stuff you produce? I find myself now realising that the temptation is to just keep chucking myself into project after project because it seems like the right thing to do, when actually what would be more sensible is to step back for a bit and do nothing. One of my biggest issues in the past couple of years was the grief I got when I committed to a project that was never completed (and remains so, as it happens) because it ended up being far more than I could personally cope with. Now I am beginning to grasp the significance of committing myself to endeavours that simply cannot be done alongside everything else.

In fact, I’m sitting here now, looking at the time leading up to Christmas, and realising that if I want to move forward, stuff is already going to have to be sacrificed.

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Once upon a time I think this would have been a lot harder for me because I don’t know sometimes how to say no to other people, or indeed myself. However the benefit of age and experience is definitely beginning to tell. This time around, I will head myself off at the pass. The people I need to speak to I think will understand my reasoning better, mostly because I will make sure I explain it to them sufficiently and clearly. The only way I break out of my own prison of failure is to address the mistakes that are made, time and again, and put each one to rest. This one is a biggie: I need to stop creating unrealistic expectation for myself.

What matters most, right now, is a correct sense of proportion.

Quiet Life

There wasn’t really a plan yesterday, and so that meant a fair bit of wandering about, but as it transpires it ended up as one of the best days of the holiday. We again set the task for the oldest to find us a restaurant to eat in for the main meal of the day, and he picked what I thought by name might be a problematic suggestion. However, I should have more confidence in my son’s choices. The Times Square Bar and Grill was a triumph of 1970’s design, and served possibly the most amazing Vegetable Quesadilla I have ever tasted. In fact, I’ll freely admit I’ve been searching out recipes to try and repeat this when I get home.

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Design wise, I’d love to know who was responsible for the construction of this place. It was so 1970’s but utterly beautiful despite that. That made eating a pleasure and people watching even more so, and the place was far enough off the beaten track to mean we were able to eat quietly and not worry about the excessive tourism that Times Square produces. Of all the places we’ve visited this holiday, that’s one I will not miss one iota when we return home. It’s the most touristy of traps, packed with people and ways to separate you from your cash. It was horrible, and I hated every minute we were there. So, while Mr Alt went to buy a guitar, the kids and I went to Battery Park, which has free wifi and therefore became a couple of hours of hardened gaming in the sunshine.

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All told, being able to ‘play’ outside was fantastic. I’m close to L20, have a spare Americas-only Pokemon to trade with once they open that ability, and have been able to watch my kids have a great time doing something they enjoy in a completely different environment. To be honest, the app’s been a godsend when both youngest and oldest have bored of us dragging them about, and for me yesterday it was hugely satisfying to be able to complete evolutions and get XP, and at the same time sit and watch Battery Park move past. More importantly, a remarkable number of other people were playing, across a vast age range. It was a revelation for my husband, who finally grasps just how significant this phenomena has become.

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Then, as the sun went down over New York, we found ourselves at Ground Zero,and the Twin Towers Memorial. Seeing it at twilight was all the more sobering, and as I watched people taking selfies at the monument, I couldn’t help but think this was inappropriate. I understand the need to record holiday memories, but not like that. My son asked me where I was the day it happened: I told him I was with him, ironing in the front room of our house with him in his baby chair, when I saw the first plane hit. There were a lot of tears, especially when it became apparent that white roses are left in the names of each victim on the day of their birthdays. It is a very sympathetic and moving monument, and I’m extremely glad we went. Then we made our way home, via the new Westfield Shopping Centre built next to the site. It is a stunning building, which from the outside looks like the wings of a dove.

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I’m also not 100% comfortable with the Twin Towers site becoming a centre of mass consumption, but as has been established I am not the target audience for such things to begin with. There’s no argument however, America does large and showy better than just about anyone else: whether it is Times Square or shopping complexes, you’ll be hard pressed to better them.