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.

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.

Pray

Now I have committed myself to a path where writing is more important than it has been before, I have to find a way to fit that into my life. Right now that’s simple, because the kids are on holiday and nobody else really needs to stress about organisation, stuff just happens eventually. A week today the youngest returns to school, son the following Monday, and after that I will have a schedule to fit around. That will start with a 7.45 am commute to school and a 3.30pm pickup, meaning I will lose a significant portion of my day to roads. I’m already half thinking about parking my car at the youngest’s school at least twice a week and walking to and from there to give me exercise. It’s a six mile one way trip, which is more than possible on my current level of fitness: 12 miles a day is equivalent to about 24k steps, which is easily manageable.

I’ll still have PT once a week, plus two additional Gym trips, and shoving an extra 24 miles into that should really not be a push. The killer, of course, will be time ‘wasted’ whilst walking, and so I’ll need to put that to good use. My husband’s been pushing me for a long time to listen to more than music on my iPod, and so I will be investing in some audio books plus podcasts to listen to on the journey. I’ve also wanted to start appreciating Ian McMillan’s ‘The Verb’ Series on Radio Three, and hope that the BBC iPlayer App will allow this to happen. What it will mean is more planning to maintain a seamless transition from one schedule to another, but if I can spend time walking and keeping fit whilst avoiding the amount of time I spend in a car? So much the better.

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That means, all things being equal, it will work like this:

MON: PT
TUE: Walk
WED: GYM
THU: Walk
FRI: Rest
SAT: GYM
SUN: Rest

I will need to factor in more rest, too, especially as there’ll be earlier starts and I do NOT function well under limited sleep. I’ve already filled a Moleskine notebook across the Summer with ideas and plans, and I’m genuinely exited going forward as to what I can and will be able to achieve. What I want to avoid, more than anything else, is just sitting for hours and losing momentum. As a friend pointed out, the exercise is granting a clarity and focus I need to not only grasp but use as fuel. On that front, once I’ve done here there’s chores and then I’ll walk to Town to get the kids a set of keys each for the house, just in case all the grand planning goes awry.

However good you think you are, the unexpected just happens.

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This however does not tell me when the writing can happen, but that it will around the framework I’ve created. I’ve been amazingly productive on gym walks in the last few days, watching existing ideas morph in differing directions, and I may well start taking my tablet in my Gym bag to edit and write whilst I eat lunch. I’m still toying with the idea of a laptop, but it is early days and the iPad plus keyboard is actually surprisingly robust once you look past the shortcomings. I’d rather not spend money when there’s a perfectly acceptable alternative available. Until it becomes a massive inconvenience? There’s more than enough space for a tablet and boxing gloves in the same bag.

Getting fit really was the best thing I ever did for my entire life.

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.

(I Love You) Miss Robot

If you ever listened to The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you will be aware of the the Total Perspective Vortex. This was a torture chamber that worked on a simple theory: as every atom is connected to every other atom, it is possible to extrapolate an entire version of the Universe using something as simple as a piece of fairy cake. Stick your hapless victim inside it and the enormity of creation (plus a small sign saying ‘You are Here’) will inevitably destroy their soul. Yesterday, I discovered the American Museum of Natural History didn’t need fairy cake to produce roughly the same effect. They just built the Hayden Planetarium, and got Neil Degrasse Tyson to do a film about Dark Matter.

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My brain’s still reeling after yesterday’s trip: I cried pretty much from the moment the film started until the moment I left the theatre. It wasn’t just the enormity of scale either, but the understanding of a true and intractable interconnectivity of everything to everything else. The Museum itself is a mass of contradictions: the traditional taxidermy makes me physically uncomfortable, and is starkly inappropriate when placed next to the joy of the Universe. This place, as my husband very astutely pointed out, has to work very hard to engage in a country where many people still staunchly believe that evolution is a myth. In fact, when you stick the vastness of the Universe next to the belief that the Planet was created in a week? Stories have their place in the world, but not at the expense of reality and truth. Sometimes, you need to understand where one ends and the others begin.

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For me undoubtedly the highlight of the Museum was the Gemstone Hall: so many pictures have been taken (I’ve stuck them all on Flickr, for what it’s worth) and will be integrated as Blog headers on my return. Then it was just so hot out we went home, and spent the evening watching British athletes win Olympic medals, with chicken pasta and vegetables for tea. All told it was one of the most relaxing evenings I can remember for a VERY long time. Husband’s gone for a walk this morning because he, like me, would actually be liking to do more exercise but the weather’s causing that to be a fairly big ask. I’ll salute the people I saw running in New York yesterday, your lungs are far stronger than mine: it has been so bad I actually had to pull an Inhaler out yesterday for relief.

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Today I am reliably informed should be the last day of insufferably hot weather, but that’s now not really an issue as we can pick places with superb AC and wireless to keep the kids occupied should the content around them fail to engage. I think that means  we’ll be heading for Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but that is going to be dictated by what time husband comes back from a walk/run (I thought I was bad with needing the exercise, but he’s beginning to feel it too) and when the kids finally choose to surface. That should give me plenty of time therefore to catch up on words in various places, and maybe even get to schedule some stuff on the side. I don’t really care where in the World I am now: as long as I have the means to write?

Everything is great.