Dear Diary – It’s​ All About Where You Look

If you look at my blog then I really haven’t been up to much at all. And, in a way I haven’t.

The truth is I have made a conscious effort to stay away from computers and technology much more. Although I confess to being an Instagram and Spotify person, those two I really like and are great unwinding tools for me, the rest I have tried to just leave alone. I have been successful, pretty much too.

I went away to Wales, and took some pictures which I will edit and share because it a beautiful place, but it reminded me that there is the world outside, and getting sick and all that involved, did eventually, lead to me making adjustments to how I am living life and what is taking priority. As I mentioned, this summer is an opportunity in my competitive life, which this blog, and, in fact, no blog, is about, that may never come round again, and I am lucky to have the opportunity to devote a lot of time, effort and energy to that. Right, now, somehow, it is entirely possible, and this shocks me to contemplate, I am actually one of the better competitors, in my category, in the country.

It really depends where you look, creatively, my office is still very much a declutter and dejunk project. I really have too much in too small a space, and I could not effectively do what I wanted to do in the space I had, and it was really not working. So I am committed to finally, sorting that aspect of my creative life out, and using what is a big space effectively towards a goal, and yes I do have a goal. But that is taking time because it is not a priority.

Also, I am learning skills and losing some of the fears that my “illness”/neurological issues have created and am getting the confidence to slowly embark on ventures and ideas again, but I know this is going to be a very very slow process, both because its not something I can put in number one spot immediately, and because I just do not have the energy levels I had before to devote to anything. And, also wisdom as taught me that cakes bake better on the right heat for the right time, and rushing never makes for a good final product.

So, unlike other Dear Diary’s this more of an update, check in, where i am, which is here, doing my thing, trying to do life and tackle the challenges this blog has talked about, and which are still very real and present, while focussing on the opportunity I have in my competitive life, and yearning a little for my creative Mouse to get out and scurry soon

Advertisements

Monday Night Reflection: Nothing To See Here

It is difficult to reflect on a week, where, to my mind, very little of what happened is Mouse related. Mr Mouse, it would appear has not been busy. Where Mr Mouse was once busy sorting out and tidying around making sense of my world and doing a great job in the background of getting things done for me there is now space. Worse, a slightly sticky space bar is hindering my efforts, which is perhaps the problem.

At the moment all my sense are turned way up, sounds hurt, touches, tastes, they all cause physical pain at very low intensities, on a certain level, I am guessing this is what autism must feel like because input, is generally, not a pleasant thing. And life is all about input, sleep isn’t restful and tired, sick, nausea and generally feeling in pain in some way is what it’s all about. Creatively everything is dry, projects are dry, work is gone, nothing to do, no inclination to do it, and recovery has hit a wall with even physical progress coming and going. It has been another tough week after a tough week. So while the stats people could say the trend on the graph is positive, it is positive trend on trend, its a very slow trend and the negatives are big, the downs are big, the relapses are huge and the experience is anything but what someone would call fun.

It would be accurate to say, at least some, if not some large chunks of the time, I have started to feel more than just a little sorry for myself. Because, I am not going anywhere or getting anything done, and if I am making a little progress, one I can’t share it and two it is only back to a level far below the level I was at anyway before all of this started back in March. Imagine playing in an orchestra and then having to back and start grade levels, that is the equivalent. At the same time, the physical pain is intense and debilitating, my mind is working at a physically tiring level, so writing this is the mental equivalent of a workout when once it was easy to write and introspect. In fact, not only was it easy, it was a fun and helpful, now just writing an email to a friend is taxing and difficult as a task.

It is difficult because, I have to recognise that is, really, very early days. I don’t have a cast to see or a wound to see healing, which is a huge part of the problem, it is all happening in my head and inside where no one can see what is going on, and it is messing with my emotional and coping capacities as well as impacting on my personality. The impact is on how I see and feel about myself, there are suicidal thoughts and my self-talk is very negative, you could say I am depressed, but at the same time, I am not depressed in how I have experienced depression in my life previously. This is a complex awareness that I am two people existing in the same space at the same time failing to cope with the existence of each other. This is the stuff my Mouse used to handle for me, this is what I let my mind sort out in the background my focusing on positive goals and helping others. Those things do not work, I am tired, my concentration has gone and my memory awful, but of course I have not given up. The two, the depths of despair and abandonment alongside hope and optimism are together interwoven bound in single thoughts.

The past is the past, and this has happened, the future I thought I had, it is not the same, and where I had a plan, I do not even have a plan about how to plan anymore. I would say I am fighting, but I am, it feels, more trying to work out who the opponent is, before I start fighting back. So far it seems the opponent is me, or more precisely a me that has started to malfunction and is apparently going to start working again spontaneously. There is no fight, just waiting, which is perhaps, ultimately, why I cannot cope. Previously I have a process, a fight, something to do, and this time, all I can find is, wait and time does the job. Great, if you are on the express train, not so great for those on the slow boat. I think I didn’t get off the harbour here.

The purpose of reflection is to do, and that is where I am coming up blank each and every time, I have no do. So far, it’s do what I can still do, setbacks like getting food poisoning included, and keep looking for new opportunities and avenues to make progress, even if, so far, they have not opened up or become apparent.

Dear Diary: 20th February 2017

Don’t stroke the Mouse!

Mouse was rushed into hospital last Tuesday with a suspected stroke.

Nearly a week later all we can say for definite is that Thursday night his brain showed no sign of damage.

20 stroke like episodes later Mouse can barely move his left side or speak.

His NHS experience is far from positive but with every reason to be down my brave Mouse is still upbeat and planning new projects for when he finally comes home.

Mrs Mouse

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.

Monday Night Reflection: Prison of My Mind Revisited

I remembered this last week thanks to a Facebook posting by hypnotist Elliot Wald, and reading my initial thoughts I felt that the subject needed another thought.

Initially, I felt that the prison of my mind had developed almost exclusively as a defensive response to real situations. Over time I have seen that there is actually a more complex interplay between the real and experienced, the feared and anticipated. I cannot separate the two, and perhaps they have a shared root and are why coercive abusive control is so effective. You experience consequences of behaviour, consequences are threatened and become implied, so you start to fear and anticipate based on the real experience using the evidence of a limited number of sufficiently traumatic incidents. It’s not worth the beating you got last time you did it, or even its not worth the beating you got last time you got caught thinking about it. This is clearly a less than unique situation statistically, but is a distinctly different class of anxiety and imprisonment.walls-of-your-mind

When that relationship ended, it was the equivalent of the doors being unlocked and the place being shut – with all the power and supplies left on. Necessity forced me to leave the confines of what had been my life; for some things this was a welcome and much-wanted release, for others, it was a terrifying venture into darkness. The most common feature of this transitional period was fear. Fear because of the behaviours that had previously led to consequences and because I was conditioned to expect them, but also fear because when she found out what I was doing she retaliated and brought consequences. She did not want to relinquish control. I have said before her intention was to drive me to self-destruction and I firmly believe she thought she could drive me to suicide.

The reality was it took me a fair while to realise that I was in a prison, the early days were about coming to terms not just with what happened, while dealing, in a very practical sense, with what was happening, and then processing the implications this had about my past. Recognising that the marriage was abusive was difficult not only because it was 13 years of my life, it was because my marriage was no different to my childhood. I simply refused to believe.

However, once I began to accept that my behaviours had been conditioned over a lifetime of “consequence” avoidance when in reality the consequences were not entirely or sometimes even remotely predictable, I then was able to understand how I had imprisoned myself as a protective measure. Which is how abuse works, you do what you are told to avoid the consequences and to stay safe, however, over time what is safe changes and becomes more and more restrictive and the conditions that qualify you for safety increasingly unattainable. It becomes predictably random, you know when a consequence is overdue. Sometimes you even provoke a little to get a smaller consequence because you feel a big one is looming and you are in no fit state to take the onslaught.

Reading that back, it seems so simple, but in reality, it is crushingly complex. When you realise that you have a life full of conditioned behaviours and that you have predicated your choices on survival that realisation leads to a void of certainty and a sea of questions. Mostly these are things like, what do I really like to watch, what do I really like to do, where do really like to go, but they also include questions like who am I, what am I about. For me, when my marriage ended I lost what were core elements of my identity, husband and father. With those went the associated responsibilities of those roles. They were stripped away while my past was rewritten. So not only did I lose those identities, my legacy was erased as well. All I had done to that point in my marriage (and life) was recast and retold to fit the story that was being peddled and the identity I was being given.

Saying this was difficult is to seriously under report the extent of the effect this had. I was one text message from suicide. I felt I had nothing, my parents had passed away, I had no relations and friends were keeping a safe distance while my abusive ex lashed out at anyone associated with me with the fullest destructive force she could muster. Some were arrested, others nearly lost jobs, and real life damage was done in way that goes beyond he said, she said. This involved Police, Social Services, and agencies that were legally obliged to act on what she was saying on the possibility that it was true. Knowing all along that mud sticks and that damage could be permanent. I was physically lonely, and it was the internet that allowed some people to be supportive and miss a lot of backlash.

The upshot of the turmoil and change was that my prison had protective utility long after I could have left. I felt tremendously vulnerable, to the point I locked myself in. I felt unsafe, even in my own house, being arrested at 5am, having my door window smashed by her, and the threats made me feel vulnerable and seeing children playing reduced me to tears. My sanctuary was no fortress and I knew it. Still, I hid, literally and figuratively.

The prison of my mind was still intact. Life happened I moved away, but still she was there trying to destroy that chance. Of course, those efforts ultimately served to achieve nothing, and to those that engaged with them they simply reinforced my version of events. Reassuring as this came to be, I was stuck with a whole bunch of behaviours that were conditioned responses. The task is still working out what those conditioned responses are and then breaking them and engaging in what I call intentional behaviour.

2017 is my year of recognising, possibly more explicitly than ever before, that I need to make conscious choices about habits, and things that people probably don’t spend any time thinking about. Things like wearing different shoes, or what shoes I pick for which occasion. It is listening to music and reading books not worrying about any judgement of my choice, it is about watching a show I used to watch with her because I do like it and separating out the context from the thing as much as possible. I spend time wondering about places, like Sherwood Forest, on the one hand, I love it, but it is the place my children with her all went for their first holidays, and I went there with her. I have no desire to relive the past, and I want to build new memories. For now, I have decided that places are decided upon case by case. In this case, Sherwood is, very sadly, off limits, rather like the organiser she gave me for starting my first job. Whatever merits there are and utility there may be, it is not something to carry around every day. My future lies somewhere else, time to find a different forest and build from that place of peace, not an old one. The Baltic represents the opposite, we did not share that place, even though I went there with her, it was not our place at all. The Baltic was me and my son’s place, we shared the hours there and so it was okay to bring it into my new life because those memories are unsullied. My smiles real, no context other than loving time with my boy smiling enjoying himself. And, of course, the hindsight that I was giving him a unique life experience that will weave itself through his life. Just as he has woven himself into mine.

I have written about pictures and light switches, and how these are indicators of a peace, and of how my conditioned behaviours are changing over time. It is these changes that are driving my deliberate move to be intentional. I have managed, not out of any conscious move, to realise where I was and contrast that with where I am. This consciousness has brought with it the awareness that I am still carrying around habits and responses that were learned as protection from consequences.

This is most evident when I am placed under stress or duress, where of course, highly conditioned quick automatic protective responses are exactly what I needed. The ability to quickly move into a position or minimum harm and maximum defence with the least exposure to permanent damage is an essential that I no longer need. Rather like taking your hand off something burning hot, it is very difficult to unlearn what has been a very useful behaviour up until now.

So what of the Prison of My Mind? It is certainly not what it used to be, and becomes more derelict by the day. The truth is I still visit, and I stay a while, sometimes I stay too long, other times I wander into forgotten corners, however, for the most part, my visits are brief. Habits are changing, importantly I am settling into who I am, recognising what is the cowering protective me, and what is the living life me, and being the living life person deliberately until that becomes my habit.

In other ways I have to recognise, anxiety and the default to protective ritual, my fear of the unknown and my management strategies, are things that while intertwined with the protective learned behaviours have also established themselves independently. I have to assess whether or not I need to change these behaviours. Whether change is productive, useful or health and having decided what needs changing I have to work out what the replacement is going to be if a replacement is needed.

One day the prison will be a memory, I have a feeling it will always be a memory tinged with fondness and framed with a wry smile.

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.

 

 

Photography: Just in Tyne

December view of the River Tyne from The Baltic Viewing Terrace

The top 2 photos are the raw shots and the bottom one has been edited so the beautiful City and River Can look their best.

Poetry Corner: Certificate

It just says November, a time now far away,
Not a date, no mention of a day,
I never went, no pictures or gown,
No handshake from a relative of the crown,

On a weekday I will have gone to work,
No excuses about missing Church,
No proud parents or friends I made,
Another workday with tempers frayed,

I said it didn’t matter to me then,
Looking back, I get sad again,
Nothing changed, perhaps it should,
No one said, the boy done good,

Hidden away in the darkest nook,
Torture just to take one look,
I changed your frame in hope,
That happiness would interlope,

Proof of achievement some would say,
It matters not then, not today,
Never walking proudly or standing tall,
If you never rise, you never fall,

I have no recollection, no story to tell,
My pride is broken, nothing to swell,
I had written my dissertation tome,
And the doors closed on my home,

My time was done, I was cast out,
Not one of them, no longer devout,
I had stayed the course, I had success,
Already broken, of that, I confess,

I sit your new frame, new place, new wall,
Grew just in recent years, new to standing tall,
Of you, I should be so very very proud,
What I had done proclaimed, my voice rather loud,

Just sitting there and gazing at the light,
Me, right there with you, fearing the night,
Resting on my desk somewhat benign,
You are nothing, the significance is mine