Immigrant Song

Day 1 Proper of the Summer Break [TM] because we’re not counting the two and a bit days last week, for lots of reasons. I have a lot that needs fixing, not simply because it is August on Thursday. Nothing ever gets really better without some pain and real effort. I grasp this, always have, yet never really bring the business to the table: maybe now it is time to once and for all fix my shit.

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In a very particular order, here’s what is going to happen:

No Weigh Ins, Lots of Effort

I won’t weigh myself again until September 2nd. This isn’t so I can eat and not stress, it’s meant as a conscious decoupling from the scales and the way my life seems to constantly end up revolving around them. I am aware of what needs to be eaten more of, and what ought to happen less. There’s not been a real effort in that department since the start of the year. Time to finally make a change.

There’s a lot of body image stigma that needs addressing this Summer.

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A Realistic Workload

Last year, I tried to do everything, and wasn’t successful with most of it. There’s enough intelligence to realise that a lot of that was my fault, and that I really wasn’t mature enough as a writer with technical skill. That’s changed now: there’s a lot of good in my ability, as the last month has adequately proven. That means that picking and choosing what gets done becomes a priority going forward.

Therefore this week, as well as planning for August, I’ll be working out what is realistically possible with the portfolio of work that’s currently on the hard drive. Some only need a polish, others probably a re-write from scratch. It’ll take a while, but the effort will be worth it. Plus, today it’ll be time to get back to novel-ing. There are at least five days this week with potential for work to be done.

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Learning to Relax

As specified at the weekend, there’s a real deficiency here. I’ve got the Pokemons on the phone sorted, some cats on my tablet, and a to watch list longer than the Amazon (river not retail outlet) to watch. It can’t be impossible to do all this and still say sane, right? Course it isn’t, just gotta realise that there’s a balance in everything to be found and then maintained.

If I’m going to learn ANYTHING about myself in the next six weeks, this is the bullet point that matters most, which is why it’s last in the post.

Time to do the work.

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.

Standing in the Rain

This week is not normal, as far as that is ever possible. Wednesday morning, three of us head down to Somerset to cremate a woman whose influence on the community she was a part of is beyond significant. Then, on Thursday we come back and return to normal. Funerals will increasingly become part of my landscape, inescapable function of life itself. As you consider consequences, a lot is placed in proper perspective.

What matters more and more is reliable understanding.

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Two months ago, I couldn’t do a burpee. Brain couldn’t grasp the transition between horizontal and vertical. Lungs weren’t capable of the instantaneous breathing. Mostly, body wouldn’t play, and so it got broken down: slowly, learn each part. Put them together without fear. Repeat them until it became habit. Then add speed and intensity. A simple, easy to grasp, progression of non-pressured, non-judgemental effort.

Too much of life these days is based on the idea that somehow you’re not doing it right. Instagram says this way, Twitter is that way, Facebook is full of people arguing over the details. Why are you using other people as your benchmark when the only person reliably understood is yourself? Is that even true: how much do you grasp of your own motivation? Is what matters to you being taken care of in the first place?

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Effort is what matters most. Forget other people, they’re not you. Focus on what is 100% quantifiable, and if you’re not, there’s a place to start fixing. You don’t need a talking head or a famous author to make you realise what’s wrong, just the ability to be kind and non-judgemental to yourself. I still have a fairly serious sugar addiction. The six pack I’m working on will change the way my body looks forever. Brain needs to grasp the consequences of both.

Standing in a changing room on Saturday, looking at myself in a full length mirror, there was a vital and damning moment of realisation. I’m only doing half a job. Pretending other things don’t matter is a mugs’ game, because they probably are more important than the stuff that’s being addressed. Comfort in myself will never be found when I’m using a crutch for support. Maybe now is the time to finally stand confident and unaided.

Let’s see this week if we can’t alter course just a little bit…

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Personal circumstances, once upon a time, would have been ignored in an attempt to simply plough on through progress unaffected. That can’t happen any more. My mum’s due to go in for surgery next week and as she is in her 70’s, it is not wise to commit myself to anything at all with previous knowledge of how my family deal with this sort of stuff. As a result, everything needs a re-arrange. It’s not the end of the world.

I got on the scales this morning, expecting a weight gain, and was not disappointed. However, this is the most satisfactory period of energy and recovery post blood donation since I started, so lessons have been learnt. Therefore, as we have a nice, long period before Christmas, it is time to see if all this stuff that’s been learnt about metabolism and exercise has stuck or whether it is all just a fallacy.

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As a result, I need to be in the Gym this morning, and then I need to be back here rearranging the October planning. So, if you’ll excuse me…

Strange Days

Yesterday I acted as chaperone to my daughter and her best mate. We travelled to London in order to see two blokes called Dan and Phil spend a couple of hours on stage doing stuff that their audience absolutely loved. I’m not gonna lie here, it was a bit bemusing at times, but considering how much everybody else enjoyed themselves, it was clearly an amazingly brilliant night. Both girls cried. There were Beatles levels of screaming. I did genuinely laugh a few times, and there were enough gags to make it entertaining even for the person with no clue what ANY of the references meant.

It was, at times, oddly surreal. Queues for the ladies were at new levels. Everybody was SUPER polite, and when Phil’s brother was spotted in the ViP seating area closest to us, some quite amazing outbreaks of fangirl vapours were experienced at first hand. My husband was kind enough to come get us afterwards, which resulted in an amazing one hour’s worth of rabid Pokemon Go catching and bag filling. I was even able to earn some coins by shoving my collection into various Gyms. All in all, it was a satisfying evening’s work.

That was yesterday. Now, I’m off to a Garden Centre in Gym kit before walking lots of places and exercising arms that can now start building strength again.

It’s gonna be a good weekend.

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.

Airbag

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Here’s a thing: yesterday evening, I went to the chip shop, as both kids requested a takeaway. I’d already eaten my calorie limit for the day, and sat waiting whilst the smell of frying potato made me salivate. Chips are a major weakness, always have been. This I attribute to one of the earliest memories I possess: the small of frying onions from a burger van, back in the days before that item was a staple on British high streets. Long before McDonalds even arrived in the UK; on the seafront of the town which is now our home, my parents used to drive here and reminisce of their courtship. I came home with the meals, stuck them on plates, and didn’t eat anything at all.

Yesterday was a tough Gym session: lots of HIIT, not many steps, and to make up the shortfall I walked around the block a couple of times. Today, the fatigue in my entire body is more noticeable than it has been for weeks, and I know that if I go throw myself at anything high impact it will make things worse. Today is a day for a walk: to the supermarket to buy high protein items with absolutely no sugar in them at all, and to start working on building muscle mass and provide true, lasting strength. Now it is becoming obvious just how much my body relies on empty carbs to function, I need to go and rethink a lot of my principles from scratch.

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I suck at willpower. It is my absolute biggest failing, by a long way. I also bounce from one state to another quite fast, or at least I did, and I am beginning to grasp that hormones have been to blame for a great deal more than just lower backache and upset stomachs. As I walk away from decades of being a fucking monster for three days a month, often longer, comes the relief of being able to dictate and control exactly how I am, without being at the beck and call of a body that often felt as if it didn’t belong to me at all. In fact, with the introduction of regular exercise and a diet that appears to help and not hinder mental progress, things are most definitely looking up.

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I predict a lot of fish and vegetables over the Summer months, and very little potato or bread, even though I will miss my sandwiches so very much. If 11st 5lbs is achievable by August 1st on this level of input, I can re-introduce the stuff I love as treats without fear. The first part of this process however has to be getting to the point where I know what is and isn’t doable, and right now this plan is the right path to tread.

Time to suck it up and get moving.