This Is the Day

No Blaze today, because tomorrow is Day One of my writing event in Leeds. I’ll do an adult job of covering it on the appropriate blog, of course, but you can expect non-specific, personal wibbling here. I used to go everywhere on my own up until the birth of my son, then lots of stuff changed forever. As a result this won’t be the first time I’ve visited Leeds, but that was over twenty years ago.

One of the many jobs today is to build a number of suitable playlists for the journey up there for the car. I have foodstuffs and tea to pack, plus the possibility of knocking up some leaflets about myself. There are already business cards printed, so in that regard I’m ahead of the game for a change. What needs to happen before anything else takes place is to read the booklet about the event itself.

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My biggest single worry is blowing it in conversation. All I can do is be myself, I suppose, and think before I speak. After that, everybody else is in exactly the same situation as I am. Sure, other people will know each other, but there will be those who, like me, have come here to start a dream, or continue their training. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll find some friends here.

This is only one of multiple takeaways potentially from the weekend. The plan to change the course of my existence is well on course. Now, it is entirely up to me: make a difference, change the outlooks, start learning how to write properly. Asking the right questions will make a big difference to the helpfulness of my experience. Having other work to share will help too.

This is the start of an exciting new part of existence.

No More Heroes

We present as part of Time To Talk’s national day of discussion about mental health (Feb 7th) a week’s worth of posts about how this 52 year old finally made a difference and started listening to herself and others, before determining to improve life for the better…

These views are mine alone, and absolutely 100% do not mesh with anybody else’s opinion on anything. WELCOME TO HOW BLOGS WORK.


Day 1: That moment when it becomes apparent that if you want any job done properly, you have to do it yourself:

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Occasionally, we all need a little help. Even the smartest person in the World can’t solve all the issues they face, at least without the occasional supportive ‘you got this!’ or a motivational picture of a cat in their timeline. However, there is a point where all the support and understanding in existence is pointless if you decide you won’t. It might not be a won’t, as it happens. You could say you can’t, or mustn’t, or maybe even that’s just impossible. How does anything change in your life as a result, if it is easier to provide excuses than solutions.

Excuses are easy. Solutions are hard, and that’s where I keep finding myself.

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I realise just how lucky my life is, at this point, that opportunity even exists for improvement. It is incredibly easy to say ‘sort yourself out’ and there will be those who (quite rightly) in many cases might consider this as victim blaming or shaming. So, to be clear: I’m not a victim. My life, which is the only thing I can reasonably talk about with confidence, is not underpinned by any kind of issue where being told to get better is somehow making matters worse.

What my life has been ruled by is fear. This is something that’s only recently become apparent, as it happens: a complex combination of factors, which (with other mental shortcomings that will hopefully be better defined after I’ve spoken to some professionals about them) made for a potent cocktail of restriction. I can’t do that because used to precede far too many conversations. Lungs won’t work, can’t interface with people, unable to combine the mental processes required. All my shortcomings.

Nobody to blame but me.

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I had to hit rock bottom for my reset. Considering suicide, wondering what the point really was if nothing ever seemed to work in my favour, came the realisation that actually, I was the problem. This is still something to remind myself of in moments where life throws me a curve, that often brain is working against body in order to hamstring progress for no other reason than it’s easier than making the effort. Undoubtedly, that adage that you get what you give / you give what you get is spot on.

Everybody’s answer is different, too, and that’s the problem with finding a mentor of becoming enamoured with a guru/influencer/snake oil salesperson who’ll offer an easy answer in exchange for your cash/follow/first born. I’ve followed so many people via Social media who think that selling their salvation is the solution: it’s never true, and so I unfollow and move on. This is the woman who read a ton of self-help books and nothing ever stuck, until the day I was willing to forgive myself and move forward.

Excuses are Easy, Solutions are Hard. Never forget this.

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The trick, it appears, is to pick the right metaphors for your journey. I am never going to win a beauty pageant, nor would I ever enter one… however, I can be strong. Telling me I’m beautiful will be met with short shrift, but praise my ability to think through problems or write a decent blog post and you’re on the right track. Seriously, that whole ‘you’re so beautiful’ stuff is creepy, however well intentioned or based on actual perception it might be. Tell someone they’re inspiring, or dedicated. Intelligent or capable is great. Leave the surface stuff for people who won’t look past appearances.

You can be the most beautiful person in the world on the outside, and a mess inside. Given the choice, I’d rather look a mess but have my internal shit under control, but to do that you gotta work out what needs fixing.

That’s Day 2’s conundrum.

Express Yourself

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Some days, I am incapable of communicating successfully.

When this happens, I force myself to go back to basics. Don’t tweet. Think before mouth is opened. Stop and take time to work out whether it is worth even starting a sentence. Only when all the criteria can be satisfied is it safe to go ahead and make your point. Believe it or not, this thought process happens with every blog post. Those who have been aggrieved therefore when they somehow decided I was chucking rocks at them? Just no. I don’t know how stupid you think I am, but if you’re dumb enough to take the piss out of someone in public, eventually it doesn’t matter how many locks and blocks are on your end of things, the truth gets out. 

That’s why you don’t do it, people.

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My bigger issue is making sure the point I want to highlight gets covered. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there, and I (again) have Mindfulness to thank for the step forward. The mantra ‘thoughts are not facts’ gets repeated quite a lot of late: just because it is in my brain does not make it some kind of insoluble truth. Searching for real meaning on the Internet is often a mug’s game, to begin with: I’ve had enough of being told what I should be thinking or be feeling to last several lifetimes. The only person who really understands what’s going on, in my head, is me and that needs to be communicated in far better terms than is currently the case.

That makes all this poetry and prose not simply entertainment, but education.

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I’m going to start taking a notebook everywhere, which used to be what happened before I allowed gaming to overtake everything. Now that is back in its proper place, words happen a lot more organically than would ever use to be the case. It is, like anything, a result of constant training: my physical muscles grow from repetition, and so is the case with mental exertion. I’m becoming quite proud with not simply the poems, but the leaps of deductive reasoning and analysis that can be made. Discipline is allowing other talents to surface, and it is not simply fiction that benefits.

Today, however, I’m physically exhausted: PT was a slog, thanks to a body still struggling to recover from last week’s blood donation. Things are definitely better than this time on Saturday, so (body willing) I hope to be back to what passes for a normal routine before the week is out. What is left of birthday money will go to an extra session on Friday to make sure I’m recovering properly. This week, therefore, I’m back on the calorie counting, taking care of myself and trying to get early nights where possible.

This healthy living doesn’t organise itself, you know.

New Life

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I’m sitting here having breakfast, after seeing Mr Alt off on the inaugural Velo Birmingham. This is just another race to my husband, but for me it has become a powerful metaphor, and only this morning have I fully grasped the significance.

When Dave was diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes, it was a wake up call for him, instant incentive to get fitter and work harder to deal with a problem that was, to an extent, of his own creation. His father was diabetic, so historically the deck was already stacked, but I think we both know had he had made an effort to be healthier before, this diagnosis may not have happened at all. Now it has, it isn’t somebody else’s problem to deal with, it is ours. That doesn’t just mean him either: I have a duty of care as his wife. That’s why I’m here today, as support, and why I’m doing more to help as time goes on.

When that diagnosis was made, we could both have done nothing. He might have ignored the advice, still be overweight and not tried to be fitter. We could have blanked the problem and carried on as if nothing had changed, which would have been both ignorant and potentially dangerous. Instead, we are proactive and positive, sometimes when that’s hard to do. The key is acceptance: what is both possible and doable, what is worth focusing on. Wasting time on the pointless when it is out of our hands is counter productive, so we learn to both focus on the achievable and let go of shit beyond the remit.

Except sometimes, things are not as out of your hands as first appears.

Someone tweeted this into my timeline this morning, and it struck a chord, because as a piece of writing it can both be read and interpreted in so many different ways, and there is no real method in 140 characters to accurately interpret them all. This tweet was, I suppose, the final straw: after a weekend of self-reflection, and realising that I never want to try and discuss anything complicated on Twitter ever again, this message distilled what is the real problem: US. No, not the United States (though some may consider they started all this) but me, and Mr Alt, and everybody else who thinks that improving the World isn’t their task.

The World is our problem to solve and not to complain about because we can no longer have ‘fun’ any more.

Life, like it or not, has always been difficult and hard and ultimately painful. Thinking that somehow if you just ignore everything else that is going on and hoping/expecting/dictating that someone else will fix it is the Elephant in the room no-one can now afford to ignore. Sure we can all still have fun and enjoy life but not at the expense of other issues. More importantly, believing that your own opinion has merit and has to be justified, internally and externally, with every breath is simply not the case. Yes, it is tough and hard, but if you’re using Social media to pretend you’re part of the conversation, you cannot dictate what is said or expect to be allowed to pronounce without consequence.

Conversation is fluid and malleable: arguments should be passionate but never at the expense of learning a contrary point of view. If your standpoint is so inflexible as to exclude everybody else, expect to meet resistance. If you will not look outwards and grasp the possibility you are wrong, you will make things worse. In many cases, what one person thinks is kindness ultimately ends up as the most vicious of cruelties, and spite is all that results. Then is the moment when you’re convinced you know someone else’s motivations, and ultimately end up with the entirely wrong end of the stick… the problem isn’t the people, however.

Twitter has never been the medium in which to fight these battles.

Part of me hopes that 2017 will be the year that blogging undergoes a renaissance, that the long form of debate will replace petty name calling and mudslinging now favoured by the President of the United States. Needless to say, his ‘actions’ in the week have simply heaped more shame on an office that used to stand for all that was good about America, and has now come to symbolize the worst of individual xenophobia and arrogance. Ultimately, those of us who regularly use Twitter are now going to be tarred by the same brush, like it or not. That means it is time to start a reassessment of what the platform is good for, and what is ultimately detrimental.

After a really bad week of social media drama, I’d already taken the decision to not go to bed with an electronic device any more (starting on Monday) and if I want to read, to start buying books again for that purpose. The idea of taking written social media (Facebook, Twitter) off my phone is certainly attractive, and instead to only use Instagram for ‘reporting’ as that will automatically post to both platforms without the need for me to read. That’s the key here: getting sucked into other people’s arguments, when I should be out either a) enjoying myself right b) doing something constructive. That means social media is only for my ‘job’ or when I am working at my desk.

The other major change to my lifestyle, starting this morning, is what I pick to react to. If I’m going to choose a hill to die on then from now on Twitter is not the place to do it. If that means I lose people’s interest by refusing to take part in debates, then so be it, but if I have learnt anything from the last week it is that people will only hear what they want if they consider you’re attacking them. There is neither space, convenience or ability to have a clear discussion on Twitter. It is a place to profess clear, well thought out opinions or engage in quick, visually-enhanced point scoring. For everything else it is a fucking disaster, and yet people like me forget this, time and again. Well, not any more.

It is time to rediscover the value of silence. If you’d like to have a discussion with me, that’s what the comments section of this blog is for, and I’m looking forward to your responses. As of right now it is time to practice what I preach, and be the change other people keep hoping is going to happen. If you don’t like my idea of change, you have every right to step up and disagree.

Welcome to the next generation of Social media.