Lonely This Christmas

I get incredibly lonely, quite a lot. I feel very lonely in unfamiliar spaces, yet seldom get the feeling exercising solo in the Gym. In fact, people and me plus exercise is often an equation for discomfort and irritation. It all boils down to the level of comfort, plus the addition (or not) of unfamiliar people who may trigger anxiety. So, why would I willingly sit on an adult ‘Buddy Bench’ and be the friend to ‘play’ with?

A lot of it has to do with understanding what loneliness and anxiety can do to myself, and knowing this… why wouldn’t I want to be the person who helps you as another lonely playground user feel better? It would be a pleasure, and the enjoyment gained just by having a chat, or maybe a quick round or two of Tag while we’re at it would tire us both out quite nicely.

The truth however is that, as adults, it isn’t just being buddies that matters.

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Too often, I’ve started that process via Social media and the results… okay, let’s be brutally honest. I’ve now lost count (that is, it is more than ten) of the men who have attempted to initiate intimate relationships via online conversation using Twitter. Just Twitter, this doesn’t count email or Discord or proprietary gaming message apps. Then there are the stalkers, and the nutters who got upset when I stopped talking to them and so spent months (in at least one case) creating sock accounts to abuse me.

All I am interested in is friendship. Honestly. I’ve been happily married for over thirty years. I don’t want to have an online fling, or engage in soft-core role play. There is no interest in ANYTHING except friendship but even that has pitfalls. ‘Oh, I thought we were mates and then you unfollowed me’ is becoming a broken record as I remove those from my feed who have been selfish or racist, sexist or simply fucking dumb yet don’t even realise it has happened. This is the disadvantage, of course, on already sitting on a large number of other people’s Buddy Benches. 

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Conversations are copied into my timeline if other people I follow are on joint friends’ lists, and what often happens is that the reality of other people’s shortcomings becomes apparent almost by accident. A lot of time and effort is then expended on working out whether it is worth pursuing these conversations in public. In most cases, effort isn’t worth grief that results. Also, it can get quite perilous if you’re talking about someone else and someone you’d not considered might get upset sees themselves in the analogy you’ve posted, and immediately starts up their own, unrelated drama.

Nope, it’s not worth it.

What happens now is I pick and choose other people on benches to approach. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. If I feel comfortable enough, maybe one day it will okay to sit alone, but I suspect the chances of finding someone as a long-term friend will be quite small.

Maybe I might get lucky.

We Used to Be Friends

This is going to be quite hard to write, but it needs to be said.

I seem to outlast the people I care about. Right now, there are two lovely female friends who look after me, check on my welfare and health, and listen when things get tough. Without them, my life would be beyond miserable. There is my husband, of course, who remains my best friend by some way. After that, things get a bit murky and indistinct, because… well, I dunno, to be honest. 

A lot of the people I care passionately about have simply vanished.

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There’s effort, of course: trying to remember birthdays and Christmas, recalling the times when you were there because they needed someone, but ultimately they’ve gone. This year, of the dozens of lovely birthday greetings received, the most notably absent were those from those people I wished would remember, but never do. They did once upon a time, yet those moments are now history. Then it hit me.

I’ve moved on.

You have no obligation to anyone else unless it suits you. Finding real friends (especially male ones) is a particularly fraught exercise anyway right now, because of the obvious minefield of possibility that having someone you feel comfortable with presents. The thing is, male friends are what I yearn for the most. You can’t just conjure up trust and belief at a distance either. Asking for friendship is great, but only if the other person grasps what that really means.

I miss that a great deal indeed.

The truth of course is that this is the reason why it never works. All you single guys want to sleep with me, and when it becomes apparent that isn’t going to happen, all bets are off. The married ones can’t be friends with me because their wives will assume we’re having an affair. I’d love to not be some time in the last Century when it comes to all of this shit but it appears other people dictate those rules and not me.

It doesn’t help of course that the previous paragraph is bollocks, yet the same things happen over and over again. ‘You can talk to me about anything’ becomes convenient on their terms and not yours. If you give the ‘no, I really do just want to be mates’ speech a phenomenal number of blokes simply lose interest. I know this because of the last dozen or so male friendships I’ve attempted to instigate, every single one conforms to Billy Crystal’s assertion. 

Maybe it is time to stop looking and accept what I’m asking for doesn’t exist.

Last Train to Transcentral

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Today is certainly not the first to involve literary disappointment. By 5pm I will be sad, but that maudlin state undoubtedly will be short lived. That’s the problem when you enter contests and someone else wins. However much I could sit the night before and imagine myself as successful, the harsh reality of modern publishing is that inevitably you have to do an awful lot of work for little to no return. For all the sweat and angst  expended, there are thousands of people doing the same. If gambling has taught me anything, it is that odds are not worth knowing, because they won’t ever help in the end. What you need, like it or not, is the patience of a saint and the ability to keep bashing your head against a wall until you die.

I’ve also discovered it helps if you’re rich too: the poem I submitted yesterday (for a contest I’ll hear the results of in December) politely asked for an entry fee before I could enter. The next mentorship I’m considering asks the same for each poem submitted, up to a maximum of six. In this case it’s a sure fire means of raising cash to pay for the mentoring, but I can’t help but feel that somewhere, something is not right. I haven’t really investigated the world of novel submission yet, but even the thought of this currently is enough to give me the vapours. Now I’m serious and capable of a finished manuscript, it will be 2018’s task to get that bandwagon finally rolling.

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Of course, all of this is simply sauce for a metaphorical goose. I don’t need to expound on the health benefits of writing and that the significance of doing so is continuing to outweigh the desire for critical acknowledgement, but these bills won’t pay themselves. So, whilst I write blogs and essays, poems and fiction need to start pulling their weight considerably more than is currently the case. Throwing work at contests and mentorship chances could end up driving a lesser woman to madness is all I ever get as feedback is silence: ‘no correspondence will be entered into’ is the equivalent of a door slammed unceremoniously in your face, multiple times.

Yet, I know only too well that to be successful, that failure is essential. You must learn from every poem, grasp the significance of each unsuccessful attempt, and hope exasperation can be kept to a minimum. The belief must be that if you are truly good enough, eventually, someone will notice. However, would I be more attractive as a writer  if I paid to submit six poems to my mentorship scheme as opposed to, say, only three? Do I have to ensure I hit a specific word count for a story to show I ‘understand my genre’ or can I just write from sheer love of the task? A lot is expected from authors in the modern world. Knowing how to social media successfully is probably quite a way down that list.

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What is becoming apparent, at least from behind the screens I now inhabit, is that failure is relative. I’m never lost for things to do of late. There’s never a day where I ponder what there is to be done. Boredom has become utterly non-existent. As I sat yesterday afternoon between two guys at the Gym, both of whom were using lighter weights than I was, it became apparent that success isn’t just relative but increasingly subjective. I can’t confidently handle a mountain bike, yet doing upright rows with 16kg weights is second nature. Everybody has to start somewhere. Not stressing about outcome allows process to become habit, and fear to no longer hamstring your progress.

Yesterday’s poem was possibly the most personal thing I have ever written, and by doing so an important mental block has shifted. I am no longer afraid of allowing genuine, unfettered emotion a release through my work. This ultimately will never be anything other than a Good Thing [TM] and knowing this means that in the next few weeks, nothing and nobody is safe in terms of subject matter.

I am ready to deal with disappointment, however it decides to manifest.

Sabotage

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The Internet is a great place, we all know this. However, like any massive playground where mob rule will undoubtedly apply if you screw up, there is NEVER a guarantee that people will play nicely, follow rules or indeed do what you want them to. That means that, if you’re trying to exploit any section within that playground, you need to do your homework REALLY carefully. Twitter’s been making new strides into ‘selling’ their marketplace this year, after disappointing previous attempts to find consistent ways of making money from the platform. Their latest adventure, on paper, looked like it might have some merit.

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For most ‘normal’ users, bots are annoying and frustrating things in your timeline, but now they’ve being used to ‘sell’ products through the wonders of interactivity. The concept’s sound enough: create a personal enough experience and people will engage with your campaign, and might end up buying the product as a result. What’s far more likely however, is that people will find a way to exploit your bot and make the company (and your lack of thought plus understanding of the marketplace) appear enormously stupid. This is exactly what happened to a multinational last week. On reflection, they really should have seen the issue coming.

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Sabotage is not the right word here, NetImperative. I really doubt this was individuals approaching a promotion with the agenda of conscious destruction. Walkers allowed people to upload photographs, assuming people would only want to use their own image as a ‘selfie.’ There were no checks and balances that pictures being provided were suitable. Using images of convicted criminals is what will happen when people grasp you didn’t think through the consequences as a company, and the Internet decides to show up your stupidity.

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I find it increasingly frustrating how the Internet is portrayed as the enemy by people who don’t grasp the first clue about how it works. Politicians assuming that this is where extremism happens don’t grasp that terrorism isn’t just undertaken by one easily identifiable group of individuals. If all you see is isolated, unrelated problems having single solutions, that the only way to fight to be right is to defeat those that are wrong… it is like the arguments I have with my kids. They don’t do subtle: I either told them to do it or I didn’t, asking them to consider subtlety is largely lost. However, on platforms such as the Internet, reality is no longer about one thing at a time. If you can’t multi-task, or consider that some people will be doing four or five things simultaneously whilst at the same time looking for ways to exploit your lack of foresight? You’re going to get burnt, just like Walkers.

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Ironically, talking to friends on Twitter, we saw this coming. Maybe there is money to be made in the future being a Freelance Provocatrix, driving my three wheeled tricycle from company to organisation, warning them of the dangers of not thinking your marketing strategy through online. However well you think you know the Internet?

They’ll always have the capacity to surprise you.