Wide Open Space

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You ever had a day when you realised the fundamental problem in everything was you?

Once upon a time, when this used to happen (and it did quite often, coinciding with hormonal change before or during menstruation) I’d just go backwards. There’d be rows, recrimination and ultimately tears: yesterday all of those happened, but not in the way they had before. In fact, on reflection, Thursday ended up the best day of the week. Even with five hours sleep I know that yesterday was incredibly important. I’ll write about the literary consequences in the appropriate place but psychologically, we are breaking new ground. I’m pretty confident the meditation is what is helping (and I’ll be doing a practice later) but there are other, more subtle factors at play.

I find looking at myself intimidating, and yet next month am planning to start a video diary, mostly because of just that. Laying yourself bare is not an issue a lot of the current generation have, because they have grown up with the visual very much front and centre. For me, it is the last bastion of uncertainty. Now I am pretty comfortable with what I am, that there doesn’t need to be makeup or a particular type of ‘look’ to merit comfort, the time has come to start playing about with visuals. I’m also considering doing audio only readings of poetry with musical accompaniment for Patreon, so everything is coming together quite nicely.

What is at the core of all of this, inevitably, is familiarity with myself, which hasn’t happened for quite some years. This is due to a very particular set of circumstances which, one day, I will pluck up courage to share with the World. For now, the people who do know have been hugely supportive and understanding, and that’s probably all that is required as a result. I’ve also had enough of those people who come to read my stuff and are arrogant and self-centred enough to believe I’m talking about them. For the record, if you piss me off in the future, I’ll use names and make sure EVERYBODY knows what fucking tools you people are.

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The main reason I know things are getting better is because I’m still working on a domestic project I began on Sunday. I didn’t get bored, or lose interest, or think the whole thing wasn’t worthwhile. I’m still going, and today (after a second scheduled PT for the week) I’ll be carrying on. My personal sanity now depends not simply on internal factors, but the external too. If I can improve everything around me, not simply myself, the benefits are becoming immediately obvious.

The key here is to keep moving forward.

Enough is Enough

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This morning, I woke up itchy. I have 12 insect bites on the go currently, and my body is less than happy about the entire state of affairs. In fact, I’m nauseous, irritable and ready to sort the World out.

Frankly, I’ve had enough of those people whose sole purpose on Twitter is to say they’re successful when all they’re doing is using robots and ‘social engagement’ tools such as Crowdfire to build a perception of popularity. With the spectre of robot algorithms already dominating large portions of my daily life, I don’t need real people pretending they’re successful when really, its all cheating. I spent an hour flushing out everyone who isn’t participating, and once I can confirm the validity of these accounts they’ll either stay or go.

In case you’re wondering, I poke all new followers for real. The last time it happened and a human response came back, the guy running the ‘social media content’ account tried really hard in an attempt to get me to repost his stuff. I had to give him credit, news was targetted at me and showed he understood my interests. The fact remains however that his noise was just that: reposted articles, carefully curated with only one aim in mind, to further his follower numbers, building only a notional sense of reality. Social media is supposed to be personal as well as informative, after all.

It is no wonder many people are genuinely concerned at what AI is capable of doing, when it already allows a section of the population to pretend they are some kind of deity on the back of the most basic of use. I’ve decided that if you want me to consider a follow going forward, unless you’re willing to demonstrate your account’s as genuine as mine, I’m having nothing to do with you.

It might seem an irrelevant line in the sand to you, but for me this stuff matters.

Jilted John

header79At the start of July, I had a plan to lose weight. With two days to go until August 1st? Well, let’s see how that went:

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I’ve been beyond good. I’ve stuck to a strict calorie goal for the entire month, limited both carbs and sugar, never exceeded my totals once. Yesterday’s totals, according to My Fitness Pall, should have put me around the 11 stone, 5 pound mark (159 pounds.) Except My Fitness Pal does not understand how my body works:

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Now, I might have cause to be angry after four weeks of living so strictly, but these numbers are, as it happens, a step forward. That is the lowest fat percentage I’ve clocked in over a year. My BMI, for the first time in several years, exists in the 25 range (albeit not far but still.) However, if I was the kind of person who just looked at numbers and didn’t understand the fat exchange with muscle process that is going on? I could see myself being really upset.

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Here is where science, yet again, doesn’t serve someone like me very well. I do all of this work, put in a pretty superhuman effort to limit the two things that should affect my weight, and my digestive system just becomes more efficient at converting energy whilst continuing to ignore superfluous body mass. The physical changes to my body are so noticeable for it to now be inescapable, too: areas that never had muscle before now possess it, I’ve lost close to three inches off my waist… but I may not get close to my weight goal for some time, until the most stubborn and (currently immoveable) fat deposits start being eaten into. However, all is not yet lost. I still have things to do in order to make the scales move, and that means August is not only more exercise, but more protein.

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I’ve had a treat today, favourite chocolate bar that I’ll see again over the August Bank Holiday. Until then, all bread is off the menu. The carb content will be trimmed back further, replaced with more veg, chicken, fish and meat. I have options that will allow me to continue to train well, and hard, provide the calories I require but not the stuff that I think by body’s burning instead of taking my own fat. Carbohydrates will be eliminated as the potential source of the issue and if, by the end of August I’ve still not dropped some weight, we’ll go zero sugar.

I’m going to crack this bloody puzzle by process of elimination.

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I’ve also completely reset My Fitness Pal to take into account all the changes, setting a desire to lose weight in a measured and graduated fashion. It will mean having to avoid a lot of stuff that I’d normally live on, and making meals for myself, but I think that’s entirely doable under the current mindset. Then, it’s all about getting my arse properly in gear and doing the work. That doesn’t scare me any more either.

Time to make things happen.

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Life is a constantly evolving learning process. This fact is lost on so many people that it staggers me: no two days will be the same. Of course, the biggest single problem for most people is being able to see life with enough objectivity to understand what is going on around them to begin with. In my 20’s, the undoubted problem was a basic inability to escape from that understanding. In my 30’s only the introduction of another life allowed that process to begin. It was my 40’s that truly broke the fourth wall of insularity, taking a good decade to put pieces of my disparate puzzle together. Depression and anxiety crippled me for a long time until I was able to identify the triggers that began those downward spirals.

I’m never going to be cured but I’ve become supremely good at crisis management.

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When your life is dictated by everything at once and you’re unable to filter the chaos from meaningful, there comes a point where the only thing left is complete withdrawal. Yesterday, I’ll happily admit that the Internet became too much to even read, let alone participate in and so the standard disassociation tactic was employed: headphones on, music as distraction, be somewhere else. As I worked to clear out stuff from the front room, something interesting happened. Answers to questions appeared without prompting. The issues I had were resolved far faster than I ever remember previously, but more importantly the residual guilt I normally feel wasn’t present. It is okay to be myself. That feeling hasn’t gone away, whereas on previous occasions in stressful situations my self doubt has always returned. Somewhere between Christmas and now, something fundamental truly has changed.

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It’s also meant that I’ve stopped obsessing about weight, in fact I don’t remember the last time that I’d got hooked up on loss. I’ve become more concerned with shape and tone, that my back no longer hurts and that my arms are adjusting to an improvement in technique. I’m now approaching food with more realism too, so I can eat more of what I enjoy yet not beat myself up over those same choices. This is undoubtedly both the strongest and fittest I have ever been, and the journey now is to integrate those achievements into a lifestyle that allows me to reward myself without excess. Therefore today, after I’ve written this, I’m going to my favourite chocolate seller’s website and ordering an Easter egg. I’ve already ordered a new teapot and loose leaf tea. As my husband said to me on Saturday, I am incredibly simple to please: cuppa, chocolate and to be loved is all that is required. That’s the truth, too. Everything else, frankly, seems excessive and often pointless.

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Yesterday therefore was something of a revelation, and as a result my brain’s creativity unlocked as thanks, and I wrote fiction. Now what needs to happen is for me to not allow distraction and my own failings to get in the way of what needs to be done. This matters enough for me to give 110% to the cause, and so I shall. I have non fiction completely sorted now, and a routine that works for me. The next step is to insert the stuff I love most into this mix and them make everything work to my advantage. I’ve also got some interesting projects in mind for when I begin my Patreon, which I’ve decided will begin in late June. Most importantly of all I’ve opened my mind to collaboration. I won’t say anything more than that right now, but these are exciting times ahead, and I have an awful lot I want to say.

Without further ado, let’s get working.

The Big Sky

It was ‘Back to Work’ Day for me at the Gym this morning, and I walked both to and from the site despite slippery pavements and just above freezing temperatures. Once upon a time I could use a footbridge across the main road I need to cross but the Council in their wisdom have taken it away and now it’s dodge the traffic time, which makes me decidedly nervous. However, it is what it is, and so I will get used to the change. An hour’s worth of pretty brutal PT later? MANY things have changed for the better.

  • Running is no longer a chore. Spending two weeks making myself do the work has taken most of the fear away.
  • Recovery times are very much up and I can speak a lot sooner after being pushed.
  • I’m lifting more weight, and doing it consistently better.

However, there is a limit now to what my lung capacity can provide which means burst exercise (for want of a better phrase) is still really tough. The trick now is to measure my effort, and to try and not go full out at the start of sets and instead take a more long term approach to what needs to be done. However, I can row 250 metres in a minute flat out. Don’t ask me to do much after that, mind, but there’s another benchmark to add to the rapidly increasing pile. I’m leg pressing 50KG and feel confident enough to go up to 60, and generally speaking this is a pretty perfect place to start the year in.

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The next piece in the puzzle therefore is food. I’ve used My Fitness Pal to log my intake for a while, but it’s never really been taken that seriously. That changes today, and I will ensure that, for as long as possible, everything that’s eaten is recorded. It is often a thankless task, and if I snack this just makes things worse. This will be the hardest task of all in the next four weeks, without a shadow of a doubt, because I know only too well the temptation to go ‘oh I won’t log that, it’s only x calories.’ The only way this works is if I play by the rules, however annoying and frustrating they may become.

After that, it is a very simple equation: if I want to lose weight, the amount I eat in calories must, every day, be less than the number of calories I burn doing exercise. That means, I’ll be off to the shops on foot shortly to add to my daily step total. I’ll be in the Gym every day this week, either running or exercising generally. My PT is going to help me create a new exercise plan to start working more than just my core muscle groups. After that, I just have to hope the changes to diet and lifestyle finally have the required effect.

In the end, that is all I can ever do.