Bad to the Bone

People don’t like being told they’re wrong. Speaking as ‘people’ as my own example, I’m terrible when I make mistakes. Traditionally my brain and mouth run at differing speeds when flustered or frustrated, and so typing gives me the vital time required to think before I ‘speak’ and that’s probably why I prefer this medium now to communicate over everything else. It is my own self-woven safety net. I’ve¬†learnt a lesson this week in how not only I use the words but on directing intent, and grasped that sometimes, like it or not, you’re just better off not talking to some people at all. You’d think I’d learn after each time I interact with certain individuals, they treat me like the shit they just scraped off their shoe. You hope that maybe it’s a bad day and perhaps they’ll be nicer, but nope, still a total twatcanoe. Then, I end up asking the same question.

Is it me that’s the problem here, or is it you?

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The reality, of course, is that it’s a bit of both, and unless parties involved are prepared to reconsider terms and engagement, it will always be this way.¬†I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and eventually a point is reached where if it matters enough to everyone involved, you will find a way.¬†That’s the key: however, the reality is more often that one party’s completely unaware of what a twat they are until someone informs them of this whom they trust.¬†Again, this is personal experience speaking, and I can be completely clueless sometimes. I’m therefore extremely grateful for everybody I know who chips in or points out I might have made a misstep along the way. Nobody said that communication was ever going to be simple or without potential misinterpretation.

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I’ll make an effort with difficult people, but there comes a point where I just stop listening.¬†This isn’t because I’m unwilling to communicate, anything but. It is inevitably because I feel that, like it or not, what I’m saying isn’t being given the respect I’m being careful to demonstrate with the other person. After a while you shouldn’t need to be formal, it should just be a relaxed and comfortable relationship where dispute or conflict is dealt with sympathetically. However, if the other person refuses to allow you that intimate access (and I mean that in terms of emotional trust, not physical closeness) there will never be the opportunity to forge a real and meaningful relationship. Ironically I’ve seen people claim that I’ve done this with them, that by the action of simply talking to them we are somehow fast friends.¬†That’s not how this works, guys.

It takes two people to build a friendship, especially on the Internet.

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As I become more political and less personable on Twitter, I have noticed people drifting away with whom I had decent bouts of communication in the past. These people showed me respect and understanding, but when it becomes apparent that my reaction to the Real World events at present is… well, volatile, they choose to step away, and I find myself amazed that this is a surprise. If you claim to know me as well as I suspect you believed was the case, this should not come as unexpected… yet it does, and ironically that lack of tolerance is the problem more people are having with social media. The ultimate tool to bring people together is in danger of disintegration because individuals are now realising that maybe they don’t want the whole World in their inbox.¬†Many can’t form meaningful relationships in real life, and ultimately that matters far more than your virtual accomplishments.

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I’m not alone in thinking this either: Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the BBC yesterday¬†and vocalised many of the concerns that the more open-minded of us hold that creating a global community is being threatened by xenophobia, fear and distrust of our fellow man:

There are people around the world that feel left behind by globalisation and the rapid changes that have happened, and there are movements as a result to withdraw from some of that global connection.

Getting high profile personalities to mention specifics is, of course, never going to happen because the moment you do, that’s all that anybody else talks about for months (you just need to look at the US President for ample demonstration of that.) When Zuckerberg refers to ‘movements’ I find myself thinking about the F-word. That’s fascism, people, but by thinking thus I¬†also excludes a whole spectrum of other extremist viewpoints, which are just as dangerous and exist on the far left of a political spectrum that doesn’t currently know it’s arse from a hole in the ground.¬†Wherever you pitch your tent, these are difficult times we live in, and being able to communicate successfully is absolutely crucial going forward. Pretending all this isn’t happening is a coping strategy, I’ll grant you, but not the one I’m going to work with.

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What bothers me most of all, at the end of all this, is people being honest. Not with me, although I’d love you to possess the balls to admit you left because I make too much noise, or that you don’t care, or that you think I’m wrong. That at least gives me an opportunity to say thank you, or argue to keep you around, or express disappointment that yet again, when presented with two options, you took the easy way.¬†With the chaos around us all, and considering this is only the Internet,¬†I don’t blame you for making a run for it, on reflection. The arsebiscuits have a reason for believing everybody is out to get them too, because in certain cases that’s spot on.¬†If it’s easier to deflect attention away from yourself by being rude, but you don’t want to rock the boat or cause too much trouble because you’ll be labelled difficult? Newsflash, you’ll get caught out eventually. When you do, it might be time to ask the question: is it always other people who are the problem, or am I contributing?

Admitting you’re wrong is often the first step towards redemption.

Reality

Last night, I had a dream about the nature of linear time. It involved two travellers, man and woman, and I suspect it had a lot to do with Tanith Lee’s The Silver Sky¬†being a seminal influence in my childhood. They key difference in this fiction¬†was that my travellers were slowly evolving themselves, that the further backwards and forwards they moved in time, the less reliant they were on bodies until the moment when they dispensed with them altogether and simply became energy. However, the most significant part of the dream came when I awoke and was, for quite a while, convinced I’d evolved myself.¬†Removing the pint of blood from my system had triggered a regenerative process I’d never experienced before, and suddenly there was no pain, or niggles from long-term injury. I was calmer than I’d ever been, and my body being forced to remake blood had somehow moved me forward to something not quite human.

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It was such a vivid set of circumstances I can still feel the calm even now. I was somehow different, better than I had experienced¬†before, and I suppose that’s not far off the actual truth. The last few months has seen an awful lot of personal change, and it makes logical sense that my brain will react to that. What this did spur me to do was push today, despite only managing six hours sleep. I am feeling it now, that much is unmistakable, but as I pulled my wobbly legs home after rescheduled PT, it was with a sense of clam and satisfaction that I don’t want to lose, and have hung onto all day, even as my ability to function’s been eroded by the fatigue.

I am evolving; becoming better than I was. It’s an amazing feeling, and I love it.

Learning to Breathe :: It’s Not the First Mile

The plan was simple after Monday’s benchmark 1k: it had to be beaten.¬†This was not about just saying I could do it and that is it. I have to get better or else there’s no point, after all, and as I exercised my way through last week there was an understanding that once my brain and chest stopped fighting about who knew better, shit would just happen. It did too, with a speed that I found amazing and joyful simultaneously. Suddenly, thanks to the advice my PT had given over running style, my feet at times would feel as if they didn’t even touch the pavement. To not put too fine a point on it, I’d be walking¬†on air.¬†This is probably perfectly normal for all you people who’ve never had to think about putting one foot in front of the other, but I’m still sitting here in a state of revelation over how incredibly easy it has been to just beat the mental block. That’s what it was, pure and simple: you can’t do this because you’ll have an asthma attack/your body will break/the World will end¬†has been a mantra for so long, but now it’s gone.

The fear has just evaporated.

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Next up, having taken the benchmark, it is time to start beating new paths to improvement. It’s about an hour and 20 minutes from the youngest’s school to here, and that time can be improved: not by running to begin with, but with¬†better walking as a starting point. Then, I’ll run sections. Wet roads and winter conditions are already a bit of a niggle in my brain, but we will get past that. What I’ve always done is approach my issues in stages: right now, morning energy levels are an issue. I can do 1k quickly and easily if I’m not worrying about anything else, but stamina remains an issue, so as long as I’m fuelling properly? I think I can take that time down quite a bit.¬†Once I know I’m at the limit of walking pace? Then the run sections can be added, and whilst that happens I’ll work on the ‘static’ mile time. Yesterday I did an evening walk and knew, had I felt like it, I could have run it with ease. To test this was the case, I went into the Gym this morning and did a mile pretty much cold.

I took TWENTY SECONDS off the time I posted a week ago, and it was as if I was a completely different person. No stress or worry, no concern over breathing, it all just happened with a comfort and grace I don’t think I’ve ever possessed before. I stopped worrying, and it all just happened.¬†I realise every day won’t be a PB (Personal Best) if I don’t feel I can push, but right now there’s the belief I’ve got a lot in the tank that could mean I’m shaving seconds off this for some time. That’s also a revelation: knowing my legs have the power and my chest is now capable of backing that up. It’s a feeling that will make me smile every time I recall the ease at which that kilometre was completed.¬†Everything connected in my brain. My body did the business. I sat and had celebratory poached eggs on toast with the full knowledge that the only way now is better and forward.

I’ve not been this happy for a VERY long time.

Learning to Breathe :: The First Mile

I’ve not said anything about this, but on Monday I hit the first major milestone in my new goal: running distance.

It had always been my PT’s intention to get me to do 1k as part of my ‘training’ this week, and I knew I had the potential inside, but having had an asthma attack on Sunday after stressing myself out? Brain was already trying to stop me before I began, and I was nervous. My PT hooked me up with her own heart rate monitor so she could check I was okay, and I began the run reasonably confident until I hit 600 meters and just wanted to stop. Then an important connection got made in my brain: I could keep failing forever, and really it wouldn’t matter.¬†Nobody dies if I don’t do this, nothing bad or wrong transpires. I just don’t push myself out of a comfort zone and move forward.¬†What made me finish the last 400 meters wasn’t my own desire to complete the task, but the realisation I’d let my PT down.¬†She knew I was capable, but that panic was setting in. Once the understanding became apparent? It was done. I did it.

I can run 1000m in seven minutes and fifty seconds.

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The biggest problem I have now is my feet, which are suffering more than any other part of my body and I think this means I’ll be trying to pick up some better cushioned footwear as a matter of urgency. That’s not a problem on a treadmill, by the way, but for the extra miles I’m sticking in on the pavements: I did another 4.7 miles today to and from school and the last mile and a half was painful, especially for ankles. However, the changes to my body are now inescapable, and I’m beyond happy. In fact, I don’t think there would have been a point in my entire life where I’d have gone out simply wearing a sports vest top with support on the upper half of my body and nothing else. It is so hot here today I still sweated buckets, but this is an all-time high for body confidence.

That alone makes those last 400 metres worthwhile, because an important threshold has been crossed.

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I’m also managing to maintain the attack on domestic chores, the removal of unwanted crap and getting everybody else in the house to help out more, and the results are beyond satisfying. WHO KNEW that if you showed willing, people would help you?¬†The downside to this however is where before I’d spend time talking to people and ‘online’ or via social media, there is no longer this luxury and inevitably,¬†I sense some people have felt as if they’re being left out. Again, this boils down to the definition of friendship and how you conduct yourself in the Modern World. The people that matter I’ll always have time for, but I won’t allow negativity to bring me down as it has so often in the past. I can’t afford to go backwards at what is, at least for me, a very crucial stage of my journey. If people want to be a part of this that’s brilliant, but to make it work there will have to be give and take. Inevitably, I realise, there will be casualties. I just hope that in the end everyone can be happy for me,¬†but if they want to be with me? This is the path.

Get some good running shoes and come make the journey with me.

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I realise this first kilometre¬†is significant, but what will matter more is when I¬†go to the Gym tomorrow and do it again, and the one after that and when I stop thinking about them as benchmarks and simply numbers, then we will have made progress.¬†For now, like everything else, this is a line in the sand. I need to learn to do less moving with upper body to not stress out my chest muscles. My stride needs to be lighter and less compressed. There is a lot of technique to learn and yet none of that matters if I can’t keep doing that benchmark until it becomes routine. I’m going to buy my PT a gift and when I see her next it will be presented with a Thank You card to make sure she understands just how grateful I am she was there, and that finally I stopped being scared of myself and¬†made actual proper progress.

That alone makes Monday’s achievement that much more special.

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.

 

Running Scared

Those of you paying attention will notice a new page has appeared in my menu bar, and that there’s two new writing projects on the table under ‘Non Fiction’ in the Work in Progress area. I’ve never really considered working on projects outside the comfort zone of gaming before, and whilst you’ll see everyone and his bro opening up their gaming portal or starting a You Tube channel dedicated to some aspect of gaming or geek culture? I realised over the summer my underlying strength is the words, not the pixels. I may really love playing this stuff, but I now enjoy writing more, and that’s what is guiding my thinking going forward.

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‘Learning to Breathe’¬†will, I hope, help anyone who’s looked at the road to physical fitness and been unable to feel confident they can make it. It won’t just detail where I am with my own journey but is now going to cover the process I’ve begun, to learn to run successfully as an asthmatic. I know that a lot of my issues have nothing to do with my own level of fitness and everything to do with the voice in my head that says I’m not capable. I make no bones over the intensely personal nature of the journey either, but what I am now, like it or not, is tied into my level of physical fitness. I hope to make strides everywhere (no pun intended) and all the relevant posts will be stuck in a dedicated area for your perusing pleasure.

‘Letters to My Heroes’ isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, and you’ll find that on the dedicated writing site. I have, in my head, at least a basic list of those people, living and dead, who I’d like to ‘talk’ to as time goes on, to explain why they ended up positively impacting my life over the last 50 years. I’m sure some of you can guess the identities of a few of the early recipients, but when I start thinking about the business of heroism… well, there’s a lot here to cover and not simply the initial planned first set of twelve¬†letters. I’m not trying to sound mysterious, but there are reasons, and they will be revealed as time goes on.

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I still want to spend a bit of time documenting my t-shirt collection, and that’s gonna appear under the ‘Favourite Shirts’ banner as I get around to pulling together pictures. At some point I’d also like to review all 24 Bond films too… and as I sense there may be a Bond 25 announcement on the cards sooner rather than later? It’s all content for the future.¬†

For now, there’s plenty planned, and I hope I can cover it all.