Dear Diary: Monday Recognition

I am up, out of bed, my wife gets me up and makes me breakfast bless her.

I guess forgetting to eat for three days may have given the game away?

I am here, doing that thing I do, except. previously in my life, I had stuff I just had to or my life would have collapsed. You know, no house, nothing collapsed. Now the problem is, if I do nothing, nothing collapses.

Nothing would change if I did nothing, the bills paid, my wife would get the shopping and pick up every bit of slack, and wouldn’t hate me for it. In fact, the more I deteriorated, she would worry and look to get me help, and do more to help me get better, being left to rot, would be the very last thing that would happen.

So how do I cope, I have nothing to do, no job left, everyone survives well without me, but I know I am not causing anything to miss a beat either.

The world really wouldn’t change, it wouldn’t miss me because it already doesn’t.

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Thinking Out Loud: I used to try really hard

It seems a very long time ago that I downloaded a blog planner and I was reading pages and pages on how to create content that would engage readers and grow an audience.

I would be carefully timetabling days so I could create content, especially my Monday Night Reflection, which was so very dear to me, that would be valuable and well thought out. Monday Night Reflections were particularly special because I was letting the blogosphere into my thoughts and sharing genuinely hoping that I was helping create something that would be of value to someone.

I knew that staying anonymous would limit way in which I could grow, but I tried my best to use strategies that would create an audience and some organic traction because I wanted engagement, my heartfelt wish was that someone wouldn’t hurt like I did, or would see that, hurting was okay, and that there was through it to get to.

Thing’s changed, and I thought perhaps I could document overcoming the attacks of what are most likely hemiplegic migraine, perhaps documenting survival in a different way, the challenge of having my creative ability taken, robbed even and learning, relearning, sometime learning daily to do something that had been a joy and such a big part of my day would be something I could share.

I found sharing impossible, there was nothing to share, it was blank, you just write rubbish and bin it, till its not rubbish and you feel comfortable sharing what you have. My failed attempts are not something I keep, like falling of a cycle, not something you really need to post for the world to see, failed is failed.

Thing is, you have stats, good old Word Press, and there they are not changing, there I was dedicated as an author to my craft planning and working to create, and there I was dead in the water, lost at sea, struggling to express myself at all.

I care, of course I do, every one who creates cares, I want people to engage, everyone with a blog is really saying look at me, I am no exception, what I mean to say is, I am here creating, I hope you like it, I am sorry if its haphazard, random, without focus or purpose, that’s my life right now, that’s is me, that is my blog and my creativity, I gave the structure thing a go, I couldn’t hack it, it didn’t fit, I am too old, and just a little bit too grumpy to wear things I don’t like.

Thinking Out Loud: Staring at the Future

It has taken me a long time to face writing this: recently an infection put me back in hospital. Opposite someone with hemiplegic migraines.

They were under a regional specialist centre with a proper specialist consultant and were under a treatment team with multiple therapies. They were exactly where I am supposed to want to be, they followed the advice of every attack getting admitted.

It was horrific. The man was a shell, the ward was noisy and chaotic, and they had no idea how to treat him, worse, they were random and haphazard with his pain treatment, most of the time he curled facemask on, earphones in pain trying to make it through the day to his release.

He saw no treatment, he was pushing his family away as he failed to cope with the emotional effects of attacks, and each admission robbed him of days and weeks of his life, you could see him imprisoned by his “disease” and crippled by doing exactly what he was told to do. Exactly what I am supposed to do.
We spoke, he could not believe that my attacks were both longer and more debilitating, that I had no support in place, and that I was not being admitted like he was each attack. His disbelief crashed head first into the fact that, while we shared symptoms and experience, I had carried on doing life in direct defiance of medical advice and was doing well, and he, doing what he had been told, further down the road than me, was now virtually crippled and imprisoned by his condition.

We spoke only that afternoon, he left. I doubt he will change, he is embedded in being a patient and invested in the model where he would be saved by modern medicine. I don’t believe in white knights on unicorn’s, as a child I learned very early that it doesn’t matter how loud or how long you cry, how much it hurts, how bad it gets no one is coming to save you.

Perhaps then, out of the damage of those abuse years has come a useful toolkit for journey ahead

Thinking Out Loud: Monsters

The world of films is a misleading one, TV is not much better, even in true stories, we the audience are presented so much with a simple view. It is all neatly black and white, even when it is being presented as blur, we are in on the secret and the monster of the story never really steps out of that mould.

Life is cruel by comparison. When you are finally out of an abusive situation, free of the monster, you will soon come to ask why you did not see it, why you did not leave, and gradually over time you can come to see what imprisoned you, the poor patterns of thought and decision that got you where you were. You can trace conditioned responses, needs and perhaps look through a pattern that made the abuse appear normal and how life was done that extends into childhood. However, what can defy explanation and what can very well haunt you will not be the abuse, the cruelty, the consequences. What haunts me is the kindness, the love, the good times. These are the ones that did not end badly, where the gift was thoughtful, and you got to keep it without consequence or retribution, where they arranged something for you, and it was ace, you enjoyed it, and there was no price to pay for happiness. It can be the small intimate moment that was just that. It is all those memories that were precious, are precious, that you cannot explain, that do not fit neatly into the context and picture of control and abuse. They look like genuine love, and affection like you were important and mattered.

I know that you can see them as the carrot that goes with the stick, they are how they lure you in, but even when the glow and honeymoon are over, there will be something, something that you cannot explain away. Deep in the years of hurt, there looks to be a genuine moment of humanity. You see the monster treating others differently, and they tell you it’ because you earn it, you deserve it, it is you that is broken and faulty and needs to learn, be disciplined, needs the consequence to be a better person. You see the duplicity, you see them nice and loving to others, the very person that attracted you, but they never switch on them. You alone are the object of their ridicule, their anger, you are who they hurt, and that is something you get used to.

I am still baffled, even accepting that the kindness and love could have been manipulation and control, there are still happy times, happy memories, things I don’t know how to store because I don’t want to lose sight of happiness in those years. It feels like so much was lost, so much was broken, so many memories rewritten by time and the cold light of the reality or infidelity, that I am clinging to what happy memories I have and I am not even sure why. I laughed, and I smiled I have great times at the time; she robbed those years, somehow I don’t want to lose anymore. I want to believe that just once or at some time I actually mattered, that they felt something decent towards me; but I am not sure I can be that deluded either.

Thinking Out Loud : Swimming Gala

It is not that often I like to go back to my childhood and specific incidents within it. I feel that they are done with and that now I have largely accepted what was faulty with it and done my best to move on and be practical in dealing with the here and now. I am unlikely to end up in the same situation now I am an adult and so often there is limited information that I can directly apply.

However, the Butlins’ swimming gala is an event that maintains relevance in my adult life. As a kid I loved swimming, and looking back I was actually not that bad either, it is entirely possible I could have been quite good. I never found out because my mother never wanted what would have gone with my success. I swam at the Harrow and Wealdstone Club, but I never made it to the group which did competitions. Eventually unable to move up I quit. My parents let me, and I later found out, my mother had asked that I not be put up so I would not become eligible for full coaching with the early starts and travel to comps all over the country that could involve. They obliged. I was allowed to enter the club gala by way of the qualification process. You swam in your chosen stroke and distance and if you set a time you were in. Of course, it was all racing group kids. I had a go and I was in. On the night I arrived, got changed and sat and waited till my race. As an adult, I realise that all the competitors were warming up in a pool. They appeared and it was my heat; to go to the next round all I knew was that it was first 2 and then the fastest 2 losers after that. No idea what was going on, I got ready for the backstroke, I had practised a little on racing turns and dives, but I hadn’t had any coaching. In fact, it was a surprise that I was there.

I was third in my heat and I went home. I got changed alone, no one said a word, no one else in the place. I went home, no special tea. Nothing changed and I went to school the next day. The only recognition was the older kid who swam for the club saying didn’t expect to see you last night. Later I would find out I was the third fastest loser as well as 3rd in my heat, missing both by the usual fractions. This was years later and I had given up swimming by then. I was a loser, I didn’t get past the first round, I had been stupid to think any different. Of course as an adult I realise that I was 17th out of 56, and the only one who hadn’t been coached to race, and that it was quite possible that I had been faster than some of those had they been in slower heats as I had no idea of the standard of who I was against.

So I guess I was an okay swimmer really. My parents went to this holiday camp, I can remember it wasn’t much of a holiday, I was forced to do kids club stuff, which as the fat kid I hated, it was nothing I was good at. The highlight was getting a BMX for a morning (all my pocket money to hire it) and having a go on the ramps they had. Part of the week was swimming; I was looking forward to it because at least I could swim. The day came and as per usual we were split into teams, and then horror of horrors, I was given butterfly because I had made the mistake of saying I could do all the strokes. I was a backstroker, that was my only chance of not being embarrassed, I was in my trunks by the pool, the parents were there, I wanted to run, but I felt entirely trapped. It was only Wednesday, so I couldn’t run because there was the rest of the week to survive, and of course, I couldn’t embarrass my parents either, that wasn’t worth it.

The time came, we all trotted out for the one length butterfly race, completely exposed as the fat kid I looked around at the athletic bodies of every kid around me. I am sure they weren’t all athletic but they definitely were not fat like me. I guessed we would be gone in the water and I could sneak out while the winners got all the attention. I tried not to notice them limber up and did everything I could to try not to draw attention to myself. I just looked down my lane at the goal, the end, over, sneak off as there was a break after for lunch. I dived and I swam for my life, in the water all I could do was concentrate on my worst stroke, just absorbed in the movement until the wall, it was over. I immediately went to get out the pool fast, when I looked back. The lane either side of me was just over half way. In fact, no one was even close. I had beaten the entire field by the best part of 12.5meters or half a length of 25  metres in that pool. I got out, got a certificate, some stickers and my mum took a photo.

That was it, I went for lunch, the well done lasted from the pool to lunchtime and I put my certificate away and the stickers with it. The holiday continued. Nothing changed, it wasn’t mentioned, I got my well done, there was a photo, that was it. For many years I have looked at that photo of the beaming proud “fat kid” who had finally won something. I saw his top abdominal muscles, his shoulders developed from the thousands of lengths, his legs chunky from the miles cycling to and from the local pool to swim for hours in peace alone. I didn’t see a fat kid; I realise no one saw a fat kid, I realise the looks on those parents was not at the fat kid who was woefully out of his depth but at the swimmer who was about to win by a mile and disappoint their child. To me those stares were telling me I shouldn’t be there, and I was right, I had no right being in a holiday camp swimming gala, I looked like a competitive swimmer, I thought it was because I was the fat one.

My swimming life was instructive as a child because it taught me that I was a loser and that winning didn’t change anything. Success didn’t change life, I had a job, I had 2 jobs, I paid keep, I did well at school, so I should, I won something, it was a nothing event at nowhere, I failed at the Club competition, what did I expect? The looks of the parents confirmed that I was fat too. I hated school, swimming was not the way out, success in the world was not the route to happiness either. I grew up wanting to hear the words “well done”, wanting a bit of fuss and wanting my success to change something, even it that was just picking what I had for tea.

As an adult, I ended up in a relationship just like that of my childhood and so I never strove with everything I had to be a success because there would always be people better than me, and any temporary win would not change the fact that I was a loser and not a successful person. The belief that I was the person I had been told I was and was treated like informed how I made my way through life. At work, I would work hard and try to do well, and find myself sacked the first mistake I made. It did not take long for me to try and be in the middle unnoticed. At school I worked just hard enough to stay out of big trouble, I wanted to be somewhere else, the teachers made it clear I wasn’t good at school stuff and the odd time I poured all I had into something it came back with the same grades as when I didn’t. Leave fatty alone was my life. I had a great overhand right that helped with the latter.

As an adult I was, for so many years, that little boy trying to get by, trying to be happy without someone noticing it. Being happy only lasted till someone noticed and then it would be taken away. Success was something you kept to yourself, it was only yours, no one cared, no one even wanted to know. It wasn’t healthy. I know now how terribly debilitating it all was, it was no wonder I was plagued by crippling depression and that in an abusive relationship anxiety came to paralyse me. Now I preach that other people’s picture of you is only real if you make it that way, that you celebrate success and learn that you can succeed and to not accept external definitions or measures of what success is. You can set a world record and come third, see the achievement for what it is, not the definition someone else gives it.

So I look at those swimming Galas and learn; I did what was never expected of me, I was able to be the real deal when I had no encouragement, no coaching, no help and definite obstruction so why can I not be the real deal now. I may not be the best in the world, but someone will be and if I never aim to be I never stand a chance of being that someone. Most of all I look at that little boy and I realise that he was petrified, he was terrified, he felt like running away every second till that whistle blew to start those races, and that while he felt like he did not belong, that he was an alien in the land of others, that little boy stood there anyway. And more than that, that frightened little boy stepped up and did good, he did really good.

Thinking Out Loud: Not Working – It’s Hard to Say

One of the disadvantages of having to stay an anonymous Mouse is when I talk about my life I have to be careful that I am not giving a precise description because I need to know that you could know me in a casual sense and not know this blog was mine

I realised that if you were close, then you would see the giveaway details. The reason you see them is because you know me well enough to know what they are, while to anyone just a little bit further away would not know they were there. Rather like in-jokes.

In this instance, it trips me up because the opportunities in my non-working life are massive. The sort of level where the achievement is as permanently recorded as it gets, like National or International sporting records. Which is why I have decided to devote extra time and effort, time is passing and the opportunity to go chase a dream do not last forever, so here I am, chasing it.

Creatively, loving the opportunity to develop and practice my writing skills, even if not everything ends up going anywhere or being put on this blog – I am plucking up the courage to publish the less finished, the more raw work, like the hearts. A part of the raison-d’etre of this blog is to document the journey in a genuine and authentic way. I want my work to be crafted but not so polished it loses authenticity.

Thinking Out Loud: Not Working?

Am I not working anymore? I’ve been ill for 5 months, and without really paying it attention my paid employment stopped, I am no longer on volunteer rosters, my earnings and my contribution are gone.

On the one hand, I have my new business venture, which has a small amount of money in the bank that it earned, I have ideas for how it can develop that are building on the lessons learned so far, and I have a concept of what is next in the intermediate future. The issue is that my skill strengths and the businesses easiest directions generate very poor revenues. Or as proved with one item, no revenue at all. This is a creative business, it sells what I create (sold some cranberry apricot, raspberry and cassis sauce at Christmas for example), or items I get in new (like some children’s books that are moving too slowly). It an outlet not for buying and selling per-se but to try and monetise what I love to do.

It’s a follow your passion enterprise and the money will follow venture. The slow start is, therefore, in part because I am way less than 100%. However, the truth is creating things people want to buy is harder than it looks when it never even looked easy.

I am at sea, the area that has been 18 years of my life I have effectively walked away from. In a deliberate sense now, but also in recent years as I have let the profession and industry move and I have no longer decided to move with it. As with anything people want the latest and loudest, the newest methods and jargon, while I have stuck with what works, what is proven and have insisted on testing out new methodologies for effectiveness before widespread deployment on any sort of scale. I am also not young and have experience, not an armful of “qualifications” which while educational are not always indicators of ability, theory and practice are somewhat different to what you learn in a classroom.

I thought about entering the journalistic side of the game, but I have no credentials there and to move sideways to different aspect is a lot of work to stay in a business that I no longer want to be part of because of what has happened and how it has changed. It is rather like starting off playing 5-a-side and ending up playing beach volleyball, it doesn’t feel like the same game.

Which is a development I saw coming, the trend year on year was not encouraging, and money was leaving, sadly reskilling and moving was not something I was able to do, and I am not even sure what I would reskill as. I have skills, I have toolkit skills, deployable skills that are cross-sectorial too. I am always learning, and love to learn, I am learning things I enjoy and what I enjoy and have gotten good at ha hard to turn into an income without me being a different person to who I am, and doing business in a way I am not happy with. It was always going to be time to walk away, and I am very happy with that.

The question is what next? The answer is, I have no idea. My business was never intended to be a big income generator, more of a supportive trickle to allow me to create and have the time to do it. Getting ill changed the landscape.

I am self-employed, and an expert at something I no longer want to do and I am unhappy doing as it is now. Looking to move I find no qualifications and no experience, it is worse than when I started because after getting a job at 13 I had experience in what I was getting a job in or had a qualification that showed I could do the job I was after. Sometimes even both. The answer to the question, what I have I done lately is, apart from what I don’t want to do, nothing much in a formal sense, nothing much at all.

I am thinking, what next for Mr Mouse. In the immediate term Mr Mouse here is going to keep on creating, keep on mastering the craft and skill of things he wants to do, learn new things that he is interested in. This is back to my youth where I would plug away at what I was doing until things opened up, time brings a small change, working at something is still slowly moving me forward. Plus outside the formal work and even the creative stuff I do, I have a hobby life, and in that, I have decided that 2017 I will pour the time (and effort plus) I am not using up doing the paid stuff into that. The reward of this, while not money, will be experience, travel and lasting achievement and those I value highly.

Thinking Out Loud: Just in Tyne

I have been looking forward to seeing old friends in Newcastle since the day we finalised it. Sadly, they are just far enough away to preclude a practical day trip and weekends for us both are somewhat hard to co-ordinate. However, the school holidays and a little alignment from the Stars meant 2 days together.

Looking back at my time in Newcastle, hindsight is the problem. When I left, I thought a particular set of things was true, that my time had been life’s normal ebb and flow of ups and downs. Stopping at Wetherby services on the way up is similarly laced with memories. It is where I bought my Wife a soft toy to cheer up when she had gotten lost following me home after picking up a car I bought, and the smiles walking back to my car somewhat worried where she was. On the other hand, I had stood there and can remember that hours after standing in that spot my life would change forever, and overwhelmingly that would be for the worst.

Yet, I am going to see two people who stood beside me, who felt frustrated by the physical distance but who offered me a sanctuary should I need one. If I had walked away and left it all with just what I could have carried, they would have put me up and helped me back on my feet again. They knew the truth and endured until I saw it too. Because I literally had no idea that my life wasn’t normal. Marriage ran like my childhood, so it was all I ever knew. Hindsight tells me the truth. They didn’t only not believe the lies, they said they were lies. Of course one was my best man, of course, we stay in regular contact, and I miss them sorely. Travelling up reminds me of the great times I had with them, the other friend I am visiting and the supporting cast genuine caring people who made the good times.

The saving grace of the situation is that I was able to enjoy the great that I had while I had it, which maybe is why the loss hit so hard. Being a full-time parent and part-time everything else was a blessing and a privilege. An amazing gift I got to do not had to do. The downside was other people’s attitudes towards me, from the, it’s your day off/ time with assumptions, to the, you must play Xbox all day assumptions and the general feeling that I did nothing, had no job and merely grudgingly did minimal necessary babysitting duties when I had to. I was proud of how I kept my little council house, proud that the family was fed, clothed, warm and looked after even when 10 days before pay day I had 2.50p to do it with. Proud of my hustle that kept an extra income coming in without stopping me being the best Dad I could be. 9 pm to 12 pm or beyond working and up at 6 am. Our house was tidy, clean and welcoming, clothes were clean and ironed, I laugh at how I used to spray my wife’s clothes with a little fragrance, so her drawers and cupboards smelled sweet. Even if she never noticed or said, I knew. My son I spent hours together, he would watch me do the house stuff, cook meals, clean, but then we would always have our playtime, be it our soft play date every Wednesday. Or going to the park before picking mum up from work, he helped pick shopping and sort clothes, we watched the shiny show before the evening work run, and when I was at college, we sat and ate breakfast at McDonald’s before we went as his treat. Philadelphia Bagel with milk, and because we had over an hour to kill, all the time he wanted in the world to eat it or get it on his cheeks. I would learn he would play.

I was not Xbox dad, and I am still proud of that, and still treasure the times we had. Divorce has rewritten that, of course, the lies obscure, I will always hold the truth in fond regard. And so I drive on familiar roads, to show off my new life and catch up on the year.

When I sit in their lounge, my sadness is that I have not sat there more. Their boys have grown up just as mine are too. The welcome is warm and authentic, I could have been away a day or a year or ten, nothing has changed much, the bond the same. I am keen to share my happiness, and they share theirs, all along I am aware that the details have been washed away by the tide of time, the smiles and laughter of my everyday just a single jest in a story. Much of the time we sit and talk, indeed, we sit and talk until it is late. We depart, warm and full to our hotel, their house already full. The next day they joined us to see my favourite place the Baltic Mill Contemporary Art Gallery, then coffee and lunch at a little café on a street rich in memories of mornings with my eldest son when he was my only son, breakfast and motorcycle shops on Westgate Hill.

The morning goes too fast, and it is time to catch one more friend before we leave. All the while of this trip I have commentated on the places we go, putting them in the context of my life and why they are so dear to my heart, or not, of course. Our time together so short, I leave and sit in my car, small tears refusing to be held. We say nothing, departing on a familiar journey, my heart sadder each time I do. One time I left here full of optimism and hope, twenty-four hours later I would be holding my mother’s hand in ICU.

As I look at the Tyne, I have no idea what to feel, as I tour, I am talking about the great and the good times of the places I pick out. I feel the contrast with the tour of where I spent my childhood. Perhaps my friends Toon pride is infectious, but this is deeper, I want to remember Newcastle fondly. Growing up, I cannot bring myself to see it as anything but how it was, a place to escape. Yet, I was glad to leave Newcastle, I never wanted to live there, mostly, I believed, because I keenly felt the fact I was an outsider. With the life I have now, it really doesn’t matter, but then, with a son and the necessities of my life as it was, it made me restless. I was longing for a home when I was in a place where I was also feeling the most at home.

Of course, while I was and always would be an outsider, and in any place that makes you unwelcome to some, I was welcomed and accepted. People went out of their way to draw me in and include me, to prevent my isolation (which didn’t go down well). My longing to be home was not the place, I had no idea what home felt like yet, and it would be years after leaving Newcastle that I would finally feel at home on my own in a little house.

Driving home from the past, another stop, at a too familiar service station, not so fond, I got food poisoning of a sandwich from here one time, and then home. Yes, home, to reminisce about what could have been, never was, and what is. I look back and my time could have been so much more of the good, but really that is a lie. Without the circumstances that got me there, I would never have been there or met the people I did in the places I went. The good and bad happened because of each other. That hurts, I desperately wish that was not true. I want the good of that time to be cut out from the past in which it is embedded.

Sadly, this applies to so much of my life. The good times are so much clouded with the shadow of the other, the bad things. This sadness, is one I cannot escape, that looking back, so much will be seen not only in the light of hindsight which is harsh itself, but the long shadow of emotional control and abuse, and the knowledge that what made times good was ignorance as well as circumstance.

 

 

Thinking Out Loud: Don’t give up the day job!

In my non-writing life, I took a little step today, I put my first item in the Etsy shop I created months ago. I would like to say I opened a business bank account and linked it all together enthusiastically, but I would be lying and I don’t lie here.

The truth is I have been nervous all along. It is not an attempt to make a fortune, instead, it is a way of selling on things that will hopefully make people smile and give a little bit of happiness. In a way, just an extension of my poetry project and the therapy aims of blogging.

Being ill has given me plenty of excuses to delay making something for the shop and moving forward. The real reason was fear of being laughed at. Despite encouragement, I find it hard to shake the feeling that I am, and what I do is, a joke and that people are, behind my back laughing at me. I am not sure where I picked up this belief, there has been plenty of opportunity for sure, but regardless it is there.

So today I plucked up the courage not only to list the one small thing I feel I can do while ill, but also to announce it on my personal Facebook page. The comment came in “don’t give up the day job”. Of course this was intended as good humour, but in reality, I was crushed. I wouldn’t expect that person to be artistically inclined or into what I do in anyway, and that sort of banter is completely in character, but I wanted to cry. In fact, this few minutes later, right now, I am biting back.

It was in that moment a confirmation of all that I had told myself was not true, I am a laughing stock. I have lived with the “knowledge” in reality I am a joke to people but I have isolated and insulated myself from having to face that. Every so often, though, there it is, confirmed.

I deleted it, but I wanted to say I know, you don’t have to tell me, it is okay, I am aware that I what I do is hilarious, that I am a joke. Sadly, I am not “special” in the right way that I don’t see it or realise it, I am actually aware of how I look to the world. I have what I have because it has been given to me, I didn’t earn it, everything I worked for failed. I know. I know it all, I just wanted to pretend it wasn’t true.

It won’t change much, I will carry on making things to sell in the hope that people will buy them and smile, as gifts, they will bring a bit of happiness to someone because I have to. I will know that I am a joke, I always have, I always did


 

(Just after writing this post I went back and deleted the entire Facebook post)

Thinking Out Loud: all new

 

Everything in this blog is new. I don’t have an archive, so when I post, it is all new. I do schedule posts, but you can guarantee anything I put up is less than 7 days old. Mostly I sit on things to check them over and edit.

The exception to this is my Monday Night Reflection which is to leave the material as raw as possible, to edit as little as possible and post immediately.