Dear Diary: 19th July 17, At The Head of the Valley

Back from a weekend in Wales.

For many, this is a simple thing, for my Mouse this was a weekend of overcoming fears. Fear of the unknown, a trip to a new and unfamiliar place via new roads, to the countryside. No urban landscape, no hospital, no backup plan, no safety net, the very darkest of unknowns.

However, it was great. I walked up hills, found peace and solitude, walked in the woods and listened to the river whisper.

I cooked in a little cabin kitchen and connected back to myself.

The urban expanse brings neither comfort nor security, it feeds my fears and imprisons my minds, plays tricks on me and convinces me that outside is the enemy. It is people I fear, people are the cruel, random, violent, betrayers of trust.

Nature has no favourites, it is not cruel, nor kind, it is, it does not change, it seasons have always been and will always be, it is not capricious of malevolent, it does not plot or betray, it has no skeletons, no secret past, nature has not lied, nature does not rewrite the past.

Mr Mouse keeps on Moving, keeps in doing, good one Mr Mouse!

Advertisements

Monday Night Reflection: Darkness

 

I don’t want to reflect, I don’t want to create, I don’t want to be kind, I don’t want to be compassionate, I want nothing to do with people or the world, in fact, to echo Alfred’s characterisation of the Joker, I just want to watch the world burn.

This is not depression, this is darkness. This is the Mouse that would kneel down those who have wronged him put the gun to the head and look them dead in the eye as he pulls the trigger and feel nothing. This is the Mouse that was supposed to be buried away never to return. This is the Mouse that drugs and alcohol kept ssuppressed and others were happy to use, this is the Mouse that tells no stories, this is the Mouse that does not exist, the Mouse that has no past. This is the darkside of the Mouse, this Mouse is cold, this Mouse is detached. This Mouse loves those around him deeply and holds them close, this Mouse is deeply loyal, but to those not Family this Mouse feels nothing, to this Mouse you are nothing. This Mouse is a rat.

If Mouse is Dr Jekyll then right now I am very much closer to Mr Hyde than I have been in many years. I am angry, angry at the Dr’s who didn’t do their job professionally, angry at the abusive ward sister who tried to play her power game with me and who have me that same smug look my ex gave me for so many years when she knew I was powerless to retaliate or do anything back. Angry that I will get no atonement but that I will be expected to grant forgiveness. I want to put those people through the pain, the experience that they let me have without thought, let them know what it is to be the victim of whimsy and truly powerless for once and see how smug and satisfied they look. My foot still hurts from the reflex test 3 weeks ago my Dr friend, let me do the same to you and see how you feel abused by someone in a position of power and trust unable to even scream in pain when it happens or move your foot out the way.

It is more than just the recent experience, it is the culmination of a life of being on the wrong end, of being forced to trust, forced into victimhood by lack of alternatives, needing treatment or help and having my powerlessness used to abuse me. From the physical abuse as child, the mental and physical abuse that followed, to the various abuses of those I turned to for help over the years. I have not cultivated bitterness, I have tried my best to kill it, to cut it back, but today, the bitterness is winning, it is what I feel. Bitter anger, the desire for revenge, and frustration that I will not only get nothing but that I will get no treatment now or justice later. I will be left to rot and survive or die with no care which as usual by those paid to, and supposed to by profession care about my welfare.

I am building a future and I have great people around me, a loving wife building with me, but that is despite the frequent and many attempts to destroy and hurt me, the neglect and injury inflicted by those supposed to help, by people purporting to be friends; by those who betrayed my trust.

Today the world can burn.

Monday Night Reflection: Logan

Apologies to those who haven’t seen the film, this will no doubt have a spoiler in it. This is not a film review, instead, Logan, like other fictional works became a mirror in which I could see myself more clearly. Great writing, great story telling, whatever the medium talks intimately to its audience, the very best covertly seduces the audience by first entertaining, and by that means lowers their defences so that the piece can speak to those who are willing to listen.

Some films and works are overt in their message, there are self-consciously preaching and reaching for a reaction and response. Usually they achieve their goal of an Oscar nomination or two, or perhaps the equivalent “art-house” recognition that they were born to seek. However, in my mind, the greatest achievement is to talk and embed a thought in something covertly from the Christian allegory of Wall-E to the crushing grief and loss woven into the fabric of Rocky Balboa, such writing is able to stop us dead in our tracks and cut through all our defences precisely because it hides in plain sight while we sought distraction from our lives and struggles.

And so we meet Logan, the once indestructible Logan, the anti-hero for the ages, moody and broody, reluctant but the first into battle for the right cause, driving a Limo at a 4th rate stripper bar. This Logan has a limp, is clearly old and sick. Our Hero has fallen. When we met Logan he was drinking and fighting in a bar for money, running away, this Logan is working to support and care for his old friend Charles Xavier, drinking to hide from the past. The once brilliant mind now dying with dementia, and Caliban literally hiding from the light, like Logan seeking redemption that he cannot find.

The world has changed, Logan and his kind have become  irrelevant and forgotten, their lives passed into mythology and fairy-tales for children and disenchanted youth. Our protagonists are haunted by their failures, hurts and the death of those they loved, they no longer have a place and are simply waiting out their days till death will release them from their suffering. Logan self-medicating, Caliban obsessing and Charles losing his battle with demntia, needing to medicate himself to keep others safe.

If I were twenty, thirty even these would be characters and perhaps little more than back story giving depth to what is to come. I would perhaps focus on the emerging and the new, but I am forty-five. I have lost loved ones, I have made mistakes I cannot change and I carry regrets. Like Logan, I am no longer indestructible, my body has let me down and broken, my place in the world was taken and I am left slightly irrelevant without a place in a world I no longer really want to be part of. Like Logan, I want to pass peacefully, without incident or drama through the days and I am tempted to self-medicate away the pain both physical and emotional. I am not alone, this is the basis of the rather dismissed mid-life crisis, where you realise you have less years left (statistically) than you have lived, where people get sick, they die and you know why people wear sunglasses at winter funerals. And, while many are peaking in their career, many of us never peaked, never had much of a career and see that their time is passing, perhaps past.

It is not all gloomy and black, of course, there are things to celebrate in life, however, those are fragile. Many of us have had those stripped away through no fault of our own, hard work rewarded by being laid off because we were top of a pay grade. We have achieved what we were told was the best thing to achieve and it is nothing at all. The curse of self awareness. The Power-Rangers Movie or Cars 3,  I don’t get to take my children, while other parents will complain and see this a chore, we squander the gifts too easily, and when they are gone we regret we did not cherish them more.

And so Logan is a reflection of us, we see our lives in the characters or we see nothing. If you see nothing then I am slightly envious, because while there are only elements of crossover with these ultimately fictional characters, they are some of the most painful elements of my life. I have tried to hide away and drink, as well as drug my way through life because it hurt to much to face reality. I am keenly aware that as a choice these are on my shelf and while they are not “go-to” so much as they once were, they are preferred ingredients.

Part of me is happy to pass gently and relatively quickly to a state or irrelevance, I have lost faith in a world where I have never felt at home. I have never felt of a place, and the places I feel most connected to I have only visited a handful of times and never lived. I am disconnected completely from any sort of family and have never wanted any connection, when their lives crossed I felt no affinity or desire to foster relationship. Their concerns and focus alien, and their drama’s and big deals seemed irrelevant and trivial compared to what matters. The tie of blood no bond at all. And so it is with the world, I see hate and suspicion growing with an agenda with which I want no part. Not even discussion, because that assumes they are legitimately objects for consideration, and in my world they are not. #notmyworld perhaps?

I have to walk in this world, despite my intense desire to be apart and away. I find myself dragged in and helping others against my better instincts, and I am no hero. I hope simply that what has happened to me can stop someone going where I have gone and feeling what I have felt.

Leave the storehouse of regrets untouched and gathering dust.

Thinking Out Loud: Monsters

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.

Poetry Corner: Code

You sit there knowing, a consequence is due

The look, the touch, the phrase, you freeze

Exposed, vulnerable, out in the open

Panic, run, run with your heart pounding

Nowhere to go, no hiding place

Tell someone you would not dare

 

No one would believe you drummed in your head

Everyone knows you have the problems

People already know about you is what they said

So you breathe, an audience is safety

All too soon you will be alone, home alone

Secret shame only yourself to blame

Monday Night Reflection: Best Laid Plans

It is over halfway through February and I am still in the first week of January and I don’t just mean in terms of mental preparation. Anonymouse blogging isn’t always easy, I have given a massive hint in my reflections to who I am, however, anonymity is really about plausible denial rather than complete obscurity, and I believe that sometimes you have to share yourself to be honest and relevant to a situation. While there is that line to walk, what it does, is that it highlights how compartmentalised life can become in our minds when in reality is somewhat more of a jumbled mess.

I got myself a blog planner, and I got myself a Filofax and I was ready to be much more organised and intentional. On the one hand, my decision to be intentional at the end of last year has been a success, on the other, my planning has been somewhat lacklustre in some areas of my life. On the blogging front, I have been haphazard, on the business front I have had a train wreck with regard to planning, and in other areas, I have been on point as they say. A very mixed bag indeed. I am therefore looking for what has led to such a disjointed picture across the different hats that I wear.

I am wary and reluctant to say “I was ill”, but I was ill and that has had a massive impact on my output capabilities. I am not physically or mentally able to sustain levels of productivity and output that I was capable of before getting ill. At the same time I am transitioning from what I was doing and had trained to do while accumulating years of practical experience to something where I am learning from the very start. I know that things are always bigger than they look in terms of learning new skills and new business ventures; but holy moley it’s a steep hill, and it looked steep before I got on it. So I am facing a challenge which while super exciting is more than I thought while approaching it with a reduced capacity, and that is something I had not adequately considered at the start of the year.

However, within the context of the super exciting and difficult challenge the switch to pen and paper has completely remodelled the landscape of my planning. Electronically my todo list would be part what I had to do immediately, the get milk and post the parcel of life, the put up shelves combined with the seal the garage roof ready for next winter type projects. A hodge-podge of here and now and projects. What going to pen and paper has done is clear my diary and to-do list of everything but firm commitments. If it hasn’t got a date or a deadline, doesn’t have set parameters and a what done looks like, then chances are I am going to not write it down or give it space in my head. Now, I don’t mean a task has to have all of those but at least one. Within that tasks are moved out into their projects rather than standing alone, so unless it’s time for that project I don’t see them. The upshot is things look really empty where once they looked crammed and I am even more relaxed about what needs to be done.

Working with pen and paper has made me consider more, filter more, assess and prioritise more effectively, slowed me down and forced be to be intentional about my planning. I also spend a lot less time unproductively working on the planning task because I haven’t got software to be playing with. There are some downsides in the practicality of adjusting on the fly because I have to rewrite things, but again that repetition does embed things in my memory better.

Assuming I got as far as planning. Creatively, I have failed to plan, maybe at all and definitely in a way that I can call effective. The point of my reflection, both this one I share and my private ones, is change. Either identify a change and recognise the positive development or identify something to change and how to change it. In this case what do I need to be changing. Very practically my time management needs to take account of my reduced work capacity. I do not like doing this, not one bit, however, revising my estimate of what I can achieve per set unit of time absolutely has to happen. Secondly, part of revising my capacity expectations is recognising the time to recover from what is going on. I have had physiotherapy, it has left me sore and exhausted for 3 days, the pain has disrupted my sleep too. My output ability has been lowered, and yesterday on Sunday the afternoon became a nap time, where I dozed on and off through a whole afternoon and early evening. I had to account for, accept that I was exhausted and that my physical exhaustion was also combined with a mental exhaustion from the situation and the activity from Thursday morning onwards.

Rather than being disappointed at the things I haven’t done, I am taking pride in what I have done, what I have managed to put in place ready and how I have managed to do little parts of projects and things. I had planned to do more, I had to write more, do some painting practice and I had planned to have more blog posts, sit down and let some ideas flow for future poems or short stories. However, that didn’t happen, I did spend great family time, connect with friends and keep putting the work for my biggest life goals for 17; my priorities. The hustle and flow of life, paying bills, eating shopping, they are not hindering me, they are essential to everything I do, creatively, professionally and socially. Which why when I went out on Friday Night I wore different shoes, and it is why I am really encouraged with how intentional life is working for me.

I am accepting for myself what I tell others, perfection is not possible. I also promised myself that my last reflection was too long and that I need to shorten them down for my own good as well as for the good of anyone reading.

It is mid-February and not everything is done yet, not everything is started yet, but progress is being made and I am not using those goals and intentions as sticks to beat myself up with. They are starting points and intentions that get to be reviewed and reformulated, they are not commandments set in stone. Perhaps, this is where I have made the most progress, and I cannot take full credit for that. I live in an environment where those around me no longer look to beat me down and remind me that I am a failure, a looser and a burden. Being out of a toxic relationship is not just about the removal of the abuse, it is about how you can get space and time to be kind and loving towards yourself because you can discover what kind and loving really means.  In an abusive relationship, being unkind, putting you down and delivering consequence is what constitutes love, and you do end up being like that with yourself. You end up complicit in your own abuse and actually self-harm because that is what you think life is and how it works.

So while my best-laid plans may not be coming together quite how I would have intended. The overall goal is to be intentional, to have goals and chase them, and to flexible and adaptable to what happens on the journey. And to even revise goals if that is what needs to happen, rather than falling for the false meme stubbornness that never quits even when it’s obvious continuing has become a very bad idea (thanks to Seth Godin – the Dip for that advice). In pursuit of that bigger life goal of intentional living, I am pleased with my progress, in terms of my bigger goals, I am similarly pleased with my progress. For once I am deliberately, or intentionally, should I say, stopping to appreciate the successes and progress made and not look at what hasn’t happened yet and look for sticks to beat myself down, but to build myself up. Plans change, life happens, even with a good map the road is still unknown till you travel it and has bumps and turns you can’t see.

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.