Poetry Corner: Me

I’m lost in darkness
I’m walking tall
I’m talking fast
I’m saying nothing at all

My smile is real
My smile is fake
My concern is real
My indifference is fake

My pain too much
My relief too fleeting
My goal is distant
My dream too precious

I’m making sense
I’m blank
I’m riding the wave
I’m crashing down

I’ve lost my voice
I’ve shouted loud
I’ve achieved a bit
I’ve lots to do

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Poetry Corner: Screen


With you for hours upon end

You see my darkest hours

Watch my deepest thoughts

Neither mock when I fail

Nor cheer when I succeed

That makes you my friend.


 

Monday Night Reflection: How to Hate Me.

I am tired, if I spend too long writing this, it will be a Tuesday morning reflection. However, it has been a very busy Monday, and I have to admit, I have become a Christmas tree up before December person this year. I would love to have a deep, meaningful reason for this; the reality is I was excited for no particular reason to put the tree up; which became trees. Yep the lounge got a tree and the kitchen dining room also got its own tree with lights that flash in multiple ways, which has made me somewhat more giddy than my age would suggest.

Life happened and rather a lot of it stood up, and although some of it was spent in a far more crowded place than I would like, Monday was a success, even if the gluten free lasagne sheets completely let me down dinner tasted great anyway. If Monday has been a success it comes at the end of what was, on reflection, a successful week.

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Photo Credit: Anonymouse The Third (Me)

My daughter had her 21st Birthday party which, while making me feel very old indeed, was a complete success, including four flavours of jelly on the party buffet (the children’s menu) and kids party games, thanks to my friend who just happens to be a professional DJ of fourteen years and children entertainer of even longer. There were some, shall we say, interesting interpretations of the dress to impress suggestion on the invites. The girls of the night smashed it out of the park, the boys, oh dear …. I guess with some I should be glad I couldn’t smell them at twenty paces.

Did I mention, I have debilitating social anxiety, which begs the question, “how did I negotiate a 21st birthday party?” The answer lies in how I cope with my anxiety generally, I avoid facing new situations alone, I always have an escape plan when possible, and I make the situation as familiar as possible. This week I was talking to a fellow traveller on the anxiety road. We talked a lot about how you end up isolated and fearful, sharing the negotiations that happen just to get past the front door. The variable nature, the seeming lack of any need for trigger, but I was able to share how I am able to do things which terrify me, and would, given any chance paralyse me. The first thing I do is reduce uncertainty, my life is dominated by travelling to places I know well. If the place is new I go with someone I trust, my wife being the obvious choice. Even before then I may drive to the place, look at it from outside, if that is not possible google street view and maps, with the sat-nav programmed. If it is a situation that causes severe anxiety then I will have a get out plan. Being know to be less than 100% health at the moment has made that easier, but in the past I have had “alarm activation” call outs, and of course travelled in a separate car so I am not needed for lift duty, if that was possible. I use Premier Inn, a chain where the rooms at every hotel are almost identical; it is all about familiarity and being able to keep the unknown elements to a minimum.

Being able to share my strategies for coping with my anxiety, and we did have many similar elements and feelings, and sharing that I fake it, in that I identify what the behaviour of a confident person would be and copy it. Taken from Tony Robbins, most people cannot tell the difference, and this person was one. They were astounded that I could spend ten minutes debating with myself before getting out the house. And, the fact that I could manage the sheer terror of new situations, in the ways I spoke about, was an extremely helpful revelation. I felt honoured and humbled that this person had chosen to spend what was a not insignificant amount of time with me opening up about their challenges, feelings, emotions and difficulties, the fears, the paralysis of depression and anxiety. This is a real privilege to me, and something that disarms me because I cannot really understand how I engender that trust in someone who at the start of the conversation had only really seen me about. It is also incredibly therapeutic to be able to share my own challenges, my feelings, and alongside compare and share strategies for coping with this debilitating internal struggle and incessant negative dialogue. I could not even lay claim to having an answer, and I still have days where making it out of bed is a massive achievement, and while my strategies can make me appear normal. Appearance is all it is, in reality, I have been in the anxiety management game so long that my life is very well set up in how it minimises source of possible terror by its very nature and structure.

Thinking about how often I have had the opportunity and privilege of talking to people, who are essentially still strangers when we start, about their innermost fears, feelings and challenges actually left me baffled. On the one hand, I have the undeniable fact that my appearance is designed to give me a quiet life, in so far as it discourages random interaction. Parents regularly shoo and usher their fascinated children away as if I were some Gruffalo incarnate. Which is cool, and kids staring in wonder is one of the cutest things there is. If you choose to look a certain way, which I have, then you have to accept the reaction that your appearance creates, and that is exactly why I have chosen it.

Take the time to talk to me, and of course, appearance and persona quickly reveal themselves as nothing more than social camouflage. And, not even particularly good or sophisticated serving only as a basic filter for interaction. If you fall for them then that saves me having to engage with you, if you see through them then it is significantly more likely that you are someone I can engage with and your sentences will not start with “did you see …” with reference to some celebrity or soap based TV program or ” did you hear about …” in relation to some Z-list famous for being famous so-called celebrity, over paid sports person or musically illiterate pop sensation, which is what I am looking for.

I want to listen more than I want to talk, although I have stock, what I call public domain stories I can share to create a feeling of familiarity and comfort, that I rehearsed with a friend many years ago, and have information, which while personal, is nothing that hasn’t been on the internet at some point as so is available to a few million at least, that I can share so you can get to know me a little better. I want to listen because I am interested, I want to know the person I am talking to, the real them, and I want to build friendships, not vague acquaintances. I am very lucky that I have gradually built trusting relationships with a few people. This is because I have stages of friendship. You start furthest away and through actions can move inwards, you can also move out, and it is a very rare individual that can move to the innermost level of trust at any sort of speed. That innermost level is the level at which I can genuinely be hurt by someone. The sort of hurt that causes grief, I have made the mistake of granting admission too soon, so I am, now, even more guarded than I used to be. There are actions, like stopping me committing suicide that will get you in close in a hurry. There are possibly five people in that innermost circle, but that may actually be four.

Despite the fact that I guard my closest level of friendship closely, I am a friendly person and have a friendship network, many of whom have been tremendously supportive through my life journey. Their non-admission to the inner most level is a reflection of my own trust issues, not any quality they do or do not possess. I am terrified of being hurt, and so have always sought to keep the number of people who can really hurt me and cause me emotional harm to a minimum. Which probably sounds odd coming from someone who was abused. Perhaps, being abused by someone who had gained admission to that innermost level is why it is guarded, and perhaps it was they who made sure it was not populated so they could maintain control. I have no idea whether I was guarding, they were, guarding or that it is just a sensible way to be, it is how I am.

The thing is, I want people to know who I am. When you meet me, I want you to assess me, and because I realise that not everyone can like everyone and because I realise that this means I may not be someone’s cup of tea, I want anyone who doesn’t like me to actually dislike the real me. What saddens me about my past is that there are people who dislike, and actually more than that, will hate me, because of the stories told about me. I know my appearance and persona will cause people to dislike me, however,if you are shallow enough to dislike me for my appearance then my life is richer for your absence, and perhaps maybe the planet would be better without you too. I have no space, time, need or desire for people who are judgemental, bigoted and what I call “…ists”.

My experience of people whose self-description ends with “… ist”  has not been overwhelmingly positive, from racists, sexists, feminists, to psychologists and scientists, personally and professionally it puts me on red alert. Prefix your “…ist” with fundamentalist and it’s a long way back for you. I will be civil, I may engage with you, we can be on great terms and even a sort of friend (depending on your … ist, of course) with who I share and get on great. However, as a self-identifying …ist, you have set a level limit.

While I am aware that we make sense of the world and people using stereotypes as crude, rapidly deployed frameworks, I fully expect them to be developed and adjust in the light of reality.

On the friendship level it has been a fulfilling and rewarding week, being an ear let alone being able to have a dialogue about coping strategies and ideas, is a huge privilege Talking with friends about being disliked all the way up to hated for who you are, what you actually stand for, and judged on your words, your actions and the consistency of the two; opposed to stories is something important that I had not realised was as significant to me as it actually is.

While I have told my self I do not care what people thing of me, clearly I care a lot about what people think about me in so much as I want them to be thinking and judging the real me and not a story version. Sometimes I really wish I could be like the autistic lad I knew who did not, not care about what people thought of him. He could not comprehend why anyone would think about him, let alone go so far as to have an opinion about him. He was very much his own person, very functional, as well as bright (brains to burn was the phrase), and of course without the prison of expectations and the inner need to control what people thought about him, was very free in his choices through every portion of his life. His jam and Dairylea sandwich was a particularly tasty invention that came from the fact he ate what he wanted,  how he wanted, when he wanted it.

My successful week continued creatively. My poem: To Carry On was a highlight for me and I am very happy to even proud of that piece. I have also been able to experiment a little, and while no profession photographer I have enjoyed sharing photographs and am looking forward to learning a little on how to manipulate. This also gives me options to travel outside, which whole being terrifying and tiring, is also very rewarding and great for my mental and physical health. The more I can break out of the prison my anxiety would make for me the better I feel. It was enormous fun to work with paint and create the picture frame, I am considering editing a picture of the final product to remove anything that can be used to identify me or the recipient, so I may just leave that where it is.

I am feeling a desire, or perhaps internal pressure to summarise or conclude this reflection. The summary is that this week I have been able to focus on the silver lining more than the cloud. Slowing down due to the pain and illness has allowed me some opportunities that business would preclude, and removal of the pressure put on me by me to be “productive” in that rigid sense I had constructed as meant I have felt better about reducing measurable outputs and doing other intangible things instead.

I also got my cooking mojo back – I may not want to eat it, but I am enjoying cooking again, although I will leave the innumerable food photos to my istagram as their creative merit is not high, and my dishes while tasty are definitely not art.

 

Poetry Corner: Me But Not Me

Who wasn’t I, trying to hide,
Show the world a respectable face,
Shop in Next, wear brogues and a tie,
Put on a jacket, a blazer, try and look smart.

Wearing fancy dress every day was no fun,
I never looked right, never looked the part,
Inside a little, each day part of me was dying,
I put on a smile, never fitted in, who was I kidding?

A slave to expectations, shackled to what people thought,
So lonely, slacks and a biscuit, afraid a conversation would start,
Then my life completely fell apart,
I was no one, with nothing a new beginning.

No slacks, no tie, no brown brogues, no looking “smart”,
My hair has grown, my beard is wizard, it’s a midlife crisis,
I have tattoos and even got myself pierced,
Not just clothes I burned that night.

I talk more now, my conversation lively, the laughter daily,
A dear friend, wise counsel, trusted I listen closely,
No longer fake, my time with people I now take,
I am not smart, I don’t shop in Next, or own a tie,

I have Converse over 32 pairs,
My jeans made in prison, hats that belong at fairs,
No dream I could dare would picture me laid bare,
Gave it a shot, wasted all those years, cried too many tears.

No more, no more, than man is gone,
Limping tall, battle leaves its mark,
I am not fake, I have not failed,
Do not believe all those tales.

Monday Night Reflection: Productivity and Sickness

Statistics can be an awful task master. My last posting was my last Monday Night reflection. I am wondering, where did the creativity go, and what is my measure of productivity.

Last week I hurt, Monday was a euphoric good news day. The reality was somewhat mixed, while I found out I don’t have cancer, which is good news. The fact is, the cells in the biopsy are pre-cancerous, and that means monitoring for changes, more biopsies and more waiting for results in the future. In addition, the pain that led to two hospital stays came back. Life slows down, I am tired quicker, I need to sleep more, and sleep is more disturbed, and I am slower. Everything takes longer when I hurt, and mentally the sharpness goes. The spring of creativity can become a plod, to a trudge, to nothing. Last week, it became nothing. Prompts lost their attraction, I was feeling that I was relying on prompts far too heavily, old material looked like spent ammunition, not many recycling options, and for new material I wanted to look at different inspirations, expand a horizon or two. I got bogged down, I read, I read my usual mix of relevant and useless material, but ducked things I knew would be really relevant.I spent a lot of time on Facebook. I had no desire to create, no desire to consume, no desire to engage, I didn’t even want to want. I wanted my life back, where at the very least I have some desire to create or produce something.

I felt that my week had been unproductive, that I had accomplished nothing because I had not posted on my blog. I was disappointed that I had created nothing and that I had let myself down. I suppose, luckily, I sat and did a little bit of wallowing in that feeling. I quickly started to realise, that my blog is not a stick, it exists and an outlet and medium for one aspect of my creative self and as a safe place for the Mouse, that part of me that deals with past trauma and experience. My squeeks are my own, and they exist because I made them exist to serve me and my purposes, I was by feeling guilty and beating myself up over non-production in a very bad place and creating the very negative relationship with my blog that I had consciously moved away from not so long ago.

I also realised that not only was I slipping into a negative relationship with my blog, but this was a negative relationship with my creative self. I had literally forgotten that I could create something other than poetry and that, in fact, exploring creativity outside poetry was really exciting. I had made space to write poems, not space to write anything else, read anything else, do anything else. There are things I wanted to do that I had suspended completely. It also became clear that while I had been cultivating a negative relationship with my creativity, I had also developed a negative and unhealthy relationship to productivity. My todo list had gone from a mixture of things I had to do, usually one or two, and things I get to do and things I would like to do (often too numerous to be realistic) and had become a checklist of things I had to get done to feel like I had earned my place in the world that day.

The problem being that I was still writing my list as a mixture of have to do’s and would like to do’s. My list of would like to do’s can be impossibly long and serve only as a reminder of a wish or thought. Even the reinstitution of my ideas pad, quite simply a ring bound A4 pad where I write things down, from usernames, id numbers, booking references to ideas, thoughts, and things I would like to remember. It is ring bound so that I can go back over it and nothing is thrown away until its time is done. I use pages facing up, then when I get to the end turn it over and use the backs going the other way, that somehow makes it easier to use. In the same way having 2 screens reduces distractions because I can have what I am using up on both. For example, I could be writing this on one screen and have some picture research on the other and I can switch as my attention span wanes. I have a tangle to help my fidgeting when I am listening and trying to concentrate. I realised that I had slipped into a one-dimensional productivity mindset. Done and done within a rigid framework, had become the measure of whether that day was good or bad. This is a terrible idea, when anyone is ill their productivity will change, and their ability to do certain tasks, maybe even all tasks, is diminished, combining this with an impossible to-do list is setting myself up for disaster and negativity.

However, this negativity trap was not the only problem, my view of what was productive had become narrow. If it was not my blog or something that increased revenue directly, it had lost value. The problem is, that driving income and revenue is not my goal, my business project that had stalled while being ill is not about generating an income, it is about being positive, spreading positivity, and making people happy. My belief is that by following what is important to me that enough income will follow. I have done this before and while the enterprise was not perhaps the financial success other people wanted to be, the fact that so many lives were changed in such a short time and the impact was so positive that I have am still asked to do it again, is proof enough of concept. Following your core values and seeking to be a positive change is a worthy goal even in business. My losing sight of what productivity in my life means had resulted in a negative view of myself and my role.

In the week of no blog posts, I have been a good friend and supported friends through tough times, something that takes time. I have spent time just being with my wife, letting the conversation wander and the two of us sharing fears, concerns, hopes and dreams. Nothing unusual in that, we have always done it, even when we were dating, however, it is important, and worthwhile acknowledging this is doing as much as putting the bin out. I have done house errands like shopping and getting prescriptions, continued sorting through my things, been to the post office to send items sold, said thank you. I have also cooked, cooked a lot and am even hosting dinner this week. Today, I have painted a picture frame that is being recycled for a 21st birthday present and cooked some more. Looking back without the blinkers of my rigid mindset, I have done a lot. Talking with a friend in need is not a burden on my life, it is an essential component of my life. More than posting a parcel or writing a poem, that half an hour is the difference to them and it is the world to me. When my friend rang me in tears, it was the greatest compliment I could get, that they chose me to be the shoulder they wanted to cry on. Humbling hardly encompasses how it feels to be chosen by someone vulnerable in that way. Two days later I was able to spend an afternoon with them, and stand with them as they struggled with the new situation they faced. Those things may not make a to-do list; they are what life is all about.

My productivity focus was an alien one. I do not like to say, it was a getting things done approach because I am actually a big fan of the GTD approach from David Allen because it frees up both time and headspace for the most important part of life: relationships. It allows you to focus 100% on what you are doing, knowing it is the best thing you could be doing. In the negative sense of getting things done, however, that is exactly what I was doing, seeing life as a checklist to rattle through quickly so I could get onto the next checklist. The slide happened imperceptibly  and very nearly locked itself in. Perhaps being sick had made me vulnerable to the change, or maybe, I had simply taken the path of least resistance and conformed to the world’s definition of productivity; and the very antithesis of mindfulness.

As I run out of steam, I am still hurting and I still have things to do, in fact, there are things on my todo list still. Luckily they are small 5 minute or less items, and I have done much more besides what is on the list. Time has gone insanely fast, and I have been slower than I would have liked to be. I feel, sincerely, that I have perhaps dodged a bullet or averted a war in realising so soon that I was becoming so negative and so bound up in values and attitudes that were not my own. That I was conforming to someone else’s reality and standards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Night Reflection

The plan was to write a short reflection about how the Mouse creates, it was supposed to be a short but informative insight into how the Mouse relives the emotions of the past, lives in that very moment and that by being very present in the past, something anyone familiar with mindfulness would recognise, and letting those emotions be without doing, is part of the creative and therapeutic process.

But, that seems pointless, contrived and irrelevant. The first reflection was a spontaneous reaction to life. I need to write, not talk, write about life. Writing is a discipline and a craft when you talk it can be about flowing and the thoughts are left unchecked and unmarshalled. When you write, even when you are a decent typist, the flow has to be slowed down, there needs to be a moulding of the thought into words. Emotions are marshalled and made to adhere to rules of spelling and grammar. While the piece itself can meander and wander, within that there are rules of structure that mean writing is a creative therapy. Writing makes me think in a way talking never can. With writing you have the chance to edit, to reform and rework a thought, and when you do, the feelings and driving forces of that thought can be explored, not just to craft an accurate expression but also you can delve into the deeper roots of that thought. Writing allows you the chance to examine the roots, logical base and evidence of a thought, of an emotion, of your feelings and by marshalling those elements, writing is therapy where you can be counsellor and patient at the same time. Much like saying a thought out loud can reveal the absolutely baseless and ludicrous nature of that thought, feeling and emotion, writing it can reveal that the ridiculous thought is without roots in reality or it can reveal the very thread of reality that leads to what lies beneath. You can literally enter the rabbit hole and see how deep it goes. When you do, if you commit to the process of not stopping, not bailing out, you can reveal what lies within. This can expose trauma, hurt, insecurity, anxieties, it can disturb demons, and stir up a storm of emotions, which is fraught with its own dangers. However, the reason you can raise the storm is because that storm exists to be stirred, these are the unresolved elements of a past in turmoil. By disturbing them you do not create anything, you reveal everything.

Here I am today, my biopsy results are not officially in, just I was rung and told that nothing worrying was found, in other words, there is no cancer was found this time. Of course, the fact, this time, finishes the sentence is not without importance. This marks the start, rather than the finish. I know the cells are classified as precancerous, that is urban_isolation_i__by_faiblessedessens-d4ovxubwhat growing up with medical professional parents, having been a medical professional and hanging out with medical professionals does for you. It makes you able to research the medical literature and miss the pitfalls of google by reference to a textbook when you need to get started; either that or you know someone in the field who you can ask. It is a blessing and a curse. What no amount of culture or training can do is stop you being worried, stop those that love you being worried. It doesn’t stop them knowing people who have lost husbands, wives, friends to cancer at near enough your age, it cannot make it less close to home. So while that wait is over, the wait to see what, if anything is next lies ahead, not having the actual results, makes the predictions and likely outcomes all completely theoretical, and discussions fruitless.

I also have to handle the fact that once again I am in pain, once again I am taking morphine, and once again I am using a little alcohol to finish the job the painkillers are not doing. Overall, physically, I feel rough, what is worse is that it is showing, people have started to notice that I am grey and look unwell. So there is a fuss, which while for many would be a welcome acknowledgement, for me fuss pushes a lot of fear buttons. Being ill, unwell and taking on the patient role was not a positive experience. Growing up illness meant you had to work harder, you definitely could not rest if you were fighting through. It was awful, I hated it, the only good bit was getting Heinz tomato soup and being allowed 2 slices of bread instead of one.  This pattern continued into adult life, recovery was something that happened to professional athletes, definitely not me. That could be why I wanted to be a professional athlete, they got sick they rested, they got injured, they got rested up, given rehab and special recovery. Their special fuss wasn’t to made to feel like a burden that had to work extra hard to cover for the fact of being less capable due to illness or injury. I learned nothing stops for you, and if you don’t do it, then it is waiting for you and more when you come back. No one covers for you, no one picks up your slack. I guess, the fuss was never a positive association, and I am having a hard time breaking that association.  The worse thing was always that I wasn’t looking to quit or opt out, I was hoping for a break and a rest to get my energy back. Responsibility and obligations you don’t get to quit. I’d love to say that stopped as an adult, but I had to wait till this relationship to be with someone who works harder when you are ill doing things that are beyond you so you don’t have to. My wife stayed with me all day when I was admitted to the assessment unit, took the day off work, was there till 4am when I was finally admitted and then was back as soon as the ward opened and stayed with me till the end and she had to go. This was the first time, in my whole life, anyone stayed with that long. There were no complaints, I was not a burden, it was to make sure I was ok, nothing more. I feel, perhaps I should focus more on the fact that I had this happen at all, because there are people who will never experience it, but at the same time I feel that something was very wrong given the number of admissions from childhood onwards that I was in my mid-forties when the first occasion occurred. That was something that happened on TV or films, not in real life. Somehow, even being ill, is breaking new ground as an experience for me, which is something to process in itself.

In this context, creativity has felt very much a side thing, I have created, but it has been slow, and I feel lightweight. There is so much unfinished around the office/studio, there is a whole load of writing project work that lies sketchy at best, not ordered, or formed to anywhere near where I want it to be. I look around and nothing is finished, everything is parked up and pending. It’s not messy, which, I have learned is how I create, it is chaotic, which is not something I do well. I am organised, but I am not neat, I am prepared but I am not necessarily orderly. I have systems and I get things done, but I am no minimalist or neatnik. At this time it is not creative disorder, it is not everything at the ready, it is a state, and I am finding it hard to work through to where I need to be. I have too much stuff a minimalist would say, yet everything has been used inside 6 months so thowing away is difficult. A first world problem for sure, however, creatively, it is slowing me down when I am already not working at full speed.

Coupled with my reduced work capacity and output overall is that my concentration capacity is reduced. Which impacts my reading, that is frustrating. What also frustrates me is how material has moved to audio and video. I am a relatively fast reader, and so reading compared to listening means I can get through a lot more material; I am used to devouring much more than is possible when the medium is audio or video. What takes an hour to say I can read in much much less, and I process the written word much more easily. I am dyslexic and listening is hitting me in my dyslexic breadbasket, that is an area most affected. Whereas my ability to read, synthesise, understand and summarise is 99th percentile, my reading out loud is around 3rd and my listening comprehension doesn’t get out the teens. I guess that could be the fact my dyslexia comes with a significant number of ADD traits. I have a great tangle, that helps enormously with my finger fidgeting in a positive way.

I had no plan for my reflection; all that professional training on how to do a structured reflection that I could use and I am sitting at a keyboard wondering what I was actually reflecting on, why it is gone midnight and my brain is working now instead of when it would be much more socially acceptable to be working, and what it is I set out to achieve when I started writing.

Which is the point, I had no plan, I just wrote, I wrote what came into my mind, what pushed itself to the top. I shared that consciousness, and now my thoughts have lost coherence and structure I am done. But, I don’t want to be done. I want be deep, meaningful, heck, I want likes and follows too. Which is a complete derailing of the blog, its purposes and reasons for being.

This blog has just had its’ first birthday, yet for much of that nothing happened until, well, until I changed my mindset. Nothing changes unless you do was so true. I decided that rather than locking myself into purely therapy postings and being focussed on the traumas of abuse, coercive control and violence, I was opening up the field to the creative. In probably an ironic turn, by saying anything goes, I ended up heavily focussed on abuse, coercive control and violence. By saying I didn’t to only look to the past, I have in fact been very heavily focussed on the past. I wanted the blog to serve me, I was not even sure I wanted readers, I am not sure I do want readers. I left it public because I know that blogs do not shoot to fame and they do not turn any online success into monetary pressure without the sort of work and effort that I could avoid deploying. The appeal of being able to have that level of control was massive, and if it got to much there is always the option of shutting down by going password protected. As an enterprise, blogging offered safety and security a theme in my life. I crave safety and security, materially, emotionally, creatively – in all aspects, any risk has to come with a safety net. I have rolled the dice risked everything and lost, that loss was devastating. The learning experience I could do without, the successes amazing as the are feel diminished by the fact I failed. The crushing reality that if I was forced into full-time employment that I would mentally crumble as quickly as not quicker that I would physically is a stark and unpalatably harsh reality that in the flow of the mundane and trivial I avoid very successfully indeed.

While at the same time, I am working hard, I am producing words, I am sorting and sorting, I have a business plan and a business planned. I have projects and project ideas parked up ready for the opportunity window to be opened by me when I am in the position needed to open them. I would hesitate to say ready, and we are never really ready for what chasing our dreams will really mean. I would say I am chasing my dreams, but this was never my dream. I could not have dreamed of this, I did not know the life I have was possible, that it was something that could exist. Not in real life, not in the life I was expected to have, not in the life of one so broken and in need of being fixed. I cannot say I am making it happen, that would sound like I am forcing something. Instead of me making things happen, they are happening, life is creating the spaces needed for me to be where I am. It is so impossible to describe, that setting off with the goal of being myself, that was it, being me. First making sure that me was indeed really me, healing me up or should I say, taking the journey of healing and living life as I took that path was all I had in mind. And from that goal, I saw things and I have added them as goals and pursued them. I never knew any of this was here or possible.

So where is this reflection?

It is drawing to an overdue close grateful. Not grateful for everything, definitely not saying everything happens for a reason and the universe has worked to bring me here. I do not think that. I brought me here,my decisions, my choices, good or bad, wise or stupid, I came to this place through my life. And everyone can explain the why with their own philosophy. The reality is, I gave up on why a long time ago. The why is someone else’s story, rather like Job, the long narrative is not for me, I get the journey and the whale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Night Reflection

craterlakewest
A lot of people do not like Mondays, and I can see why, I have been that person although for much my life I did not work a regular nine till five, Monday to Friday job, in fact, today I was talking about how I had spent much of my employed life working thirteen days on and one off, and 7 years working permanent night shift. As well as two jobs on and off. Although my longest hours were, definitely, working minimum wage doing 12 and 13-hour shifts, going self-employed did not reduce the workload because for a long time I was working a paid job full time and then working self-employed full-time hours building up to the point where I could cut back my paid employment.

Looking back I can see that these long hours happened not because they were made necessary by choices I did not make. What is difficult is understanding how I was allowed to be away, but then I realised, that the job I had was isolated. I was on site, at night, with no co-workers with me. So it was secure in that I was controlled, later in life when I started my own business, which was part of my downfall, I could not be controlled, and I saw a much more obvious system of control. Especially as having my own business saw me trying to exercise control and build my dream, not her vision. I also see how she used her position to sabotage and undermine my chances of success. In short, I see how being allowed certain freedoms was a way to hide and exert control over me.

Which, sort diversion takes me and the Mouse away from this week’s creative efforts and other thoughts that have happened over the week. Me and the Mouse are still very much finding our feet on this Monday Night Reflection thing. Last week I meant to write notes to give ideas for what to include, I thought about talking about some of the process behind a poem. That did feel self-indulgent, but we could run with that. I thought about reflecting on our life, my life, the creative life, and writing down thoughts and ideas. That had more mileage in it but carries the risk of giving away my real identity. Which, when you say it, sounds rather paranoid, but anonymity is the key to the blog and freedom of expression. It is one thing to have your creative output mocked, quite another to have it both mocked and then twisted and used against you.

It also occurred to me that I could write the Monday night reflection before Monday night and schedule it, although seems a little deceitful. Although I am trying to up the creative output so that blog posts can be scheduled and saved in advance, which is trying to become a better writer and master my craft. Which is where there is congruence between the Mouse, as my blog persona, the part of me that processes the past and channels that to a creative expression, and me. I am in the transition from what I have done for over a decade, and I am very good at, to something new which, I feel very bad at because I have stopped enjoying what I am good at. The reality is that the more I have indulged my creative side, the less I have enjoyed where my mastery is. Till now learning was a joy, I am surrounded by books on my profession. My profession was my passion and my living, which made it so much easier to do the bits that were no fun, like accounts and tax returns. However, it got stale, and now it really is not that much fun at all. The transition is that, if you don’t like a situation, either you change the situation or you change your attitude to the situation.

Creatively this week has been great, letting the Mouse loose on some ideas and material from the pre-Mouse era, reworking those, what look now to be, very rough sketchy handwritten notes into poems has been really rewarding, and I haven’t finished with them yet. Only three pages of A4 but a good seam of inspiration.

This has been a positive development, because I identified a problem, in seeking to direct my creative energies away from the past, although this reflection is evidence that the past is still very present, and get the Mouse flowing in a different direction where the past is inspiration, guidance and advice for the future, and to sneak in some non-reflective, less Mousey work as well, I have started to seek out writing prompts, and am in danger of using them as a replacement for self driven.  A problem made worse by the challenge of a writing prompt, which is, on its own highly appealing. The challenge of finding originality in myself is a little more daunting. What if, when I dig for creativity there is nothing there but the past and what has happened then. What if pain, abuse, hurt and depression are the only wells from which my creativity draws. I am not sure how I feel about that at all. Worse still, what if they turn out to be very shallow wells, and that not only are those the only dimensions to my creativity and inspiration, they run out and I am left in a void. Perhaps that is why “what if” questions can be so debilitating.

The disadvantage of the online world is that it can be easy to fake confidence, and even be a little abrasive and strident in tone and conduct. I know the persona of the Mouse gained confidence and that spilled over to me, and I very quickly came to regret that. It also led to the Mouse and I agreeing to boundaries and ground rules for the Mouse and how the Mouse conducts business. The Mouse has a twitter account and I do not. The main purpose of that account is to follow and learn and to engage where appropriate. I was taking over that and becoming vocal with a different agenda, perhaps some undue coquetry and definitely some anonymity driven abrasiveness. Which was not the idea at all.

Recovery is a journey, and I am on that path. It can be easy to forget that having travelled a great distance, there can still be an even greater distance left to travel. It is hard also not to be reminded of the words of Karl Marx who wrote, “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”, in that my past can lie like a nightmare on me.

 

Poetry Corner: Days Ahead

What of days ahead?
Will they be filled with fear and tears again,
Do I travel with hurt and find comfort in pain,

Will it be familiar places and oh so familiar feelings,
Repeating it is not the same, not the same,
New wounds and new scars, humiliation and shame

The future no assurance of sanctuary or rest,
Time like my past does not care,
Left with the ache of wounds no longer there.


 

Word Press Discover Challenge: Song

Word Press Discover Challenge: Song 7 Lions One More Time

I first heard this song when I watched the WWE Tribute to the Ultimate Warrior.

Like many of my generation, I first encountered the Ultimate Warrior in my teens as the WWE hit the UK. A lifetime fan of Arnold Schwarzzenger, Stallone, He-Man, The Hulk and other superhero muscled figures the Ultimate Warrior was an obvious logical extension of that element from my childhood. Possibly an obsession, because, as an adult, I went on to spend 15 years bodybuilding trying to look like my heroes without ever actually achieving that look.

I moved out of my parent’s house and didn’t have a TV for years let alone a sky subscription, and I guess I quickly grew out of wrestling. I rediscovered Warrior in my 40s, when a friend pointed me towards his YouTube channel. Immediately I connected with the man, Jim Hellwig, somehow, although this was supposed to be Warrior, it was always Jim to me. Warrior was the wrestler, and he cut promos that never made much sense. Jim, in contrast, cut through my personal bullshit and ripped at my soul. I was desperately unhappy at the time; to the world, I had the dream. In reality, I had become trapped in the prison of an abusive relationship, and it felt like as escape became more and more remote the walls were closing in. Every desperate attempt and cry for help served only to isolate me more and deepen the hole.

Watching the Warrior Man was a reminder that there was something. Jim was part of the turning point. Like Eric Thomas, Jim was a key figure in the chorus of voices telling me something different about myself. They screamed at me “You Matter”, and time and time again I would return to Jim and Eric time and time again they screamed the same message to the core of my very being. When I was kicked out and the marriage split was nasty. Jim was there; this time instead of reminding me, painfully reminding me of what I didn’t have, I watched Jim the Warrior Man in a different light, the passion and the intensity with which he spoke and lived connected with me again on a different level. He screamed at me with such passion, like the video had been made for me and me alone, you matter, it does matter, an it does matter life. At the very depths of my personal darkness it was incredibly difficult for me to see any light. But in the same way the text message of a friend jogged me out of a suicidal spiral, Jim the Warrior Man was there to remind me that there was more to life.

Jim screamed and shouted at someone inside me who had hidden away, like a very scared Mouse. It wasn’t just video’s people too were about. However, in all honestly, no one pulled me out of that dark pit of brokenness and dispair but me. I worked my way towards the light one inch at a time, I fought and I clawed for those inches.

 

It is a long road, but Jim connected with me on my journey. He died 4 days before my birthday, suddenly. Like many, I was still celebrating the induction of Warrior into the WWE Hall of Fame when footage of his final speech and the news of his death came as one big hammer blow ….. with the words


“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the bodies of others, and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalised. By the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory, by those who honour him and make the running the man did live forever


And, just like that Jim was gone, but not forgotten, as a child I had been entertained and captivated by the Ultimate Warrior, as an adult Jim the Warrior Man would speak to my very essence, and help with the ignition of the person I am today. It is old and it is worn out to call someone an inspiration, usually that means someone admires while that admiration does nothing to them as a person, and nothing about them as a person changes. With Jim the Warrior Man, I was and have literally been inspired by the very fact that there are people, of which Jim was one, who live a life which I can aspire to emulate. Not because it has money, cars or material wealth, but because it is a life chasing their passion.

 

7Lions One More Time is the Soundtrack to that memory; and so when I hear it I can remember, and more importantly I can summon the emotions. I can feel what it was like to be trapped, I can feel what it was like to sit watching Jim on my laptop with my breakfast on my own, alone hardly able to face the day feeling that intensity and passion driving its hammer blows to my desperate soul. I can relive the flicker of “I can do this”, of “I can recover, I am down not out, I will be more than this right now” not as words but as feelings. That feeling that while the future looked like a storm of uncertainty, I had what it takes to grow and be something better in the storm and after it.

The lyrics also speak of a different emotion, sadness. My Mother, for all her faults and abusive behaviour, I want to see again. I held her hand as she died, right there in front of me, imperceptibly at first. Her breathing slowed, she became still, she said almost inaudibly, I am proud of you, and then that was it, no sound, peace and stillness till moments later she was gone. Just like that. Then, you sit, and then you leave. You walk to the car, you drive, nothing has changed, yet, everything has changed. That was it, 37 years old, 16 days until my 38th birthday and I am all alone. No grandparents, no aunts, uncles, just me, no siblings, cousins. With nowhere to escape at all, the abuse of that marriage gradually increased until I stood up for myself and was discarded like yesterday’s old news to be destroyed at the earliest opportunity.


I’ll stand in the front lines.
I’ll give it all just to see your face.
And tell you its alright.
To hold you for one more night.
Just give me one more time.


alwaysbelieveknifeframeThe song reminds me that
my mother and my father, like Jim are gone. I will never get to tell Jim what a difference he made, get his autograph or even show him my Warrior Tattoo based on his original artwork. Instead, it reminds me of what will never be. I read the lyrics, and they remind me of what my 1st marriage should have been, my mother gone, my father gone and the relationship I had and the stark reality of how my normal was anything but right or normal. The song is a soundtrack to times of pain, hurt, and endurance, even a little suffering at times in the way of a Rocky montage. At first, when I heard the song I was down, I was nearly out, I doubted myself and all but lost belief. I was ready to check out of life itself. But the Warrior Man spoke to me, the ghosts of my past spoke to me, Eric Thomas spoke to me, a few people stood with me and stayed the course of my journey through darkness. And the song keeps playing as I have risen up.

It plays to finish with the backing of a highland piper, the montage of my redemption starts to show me with my wife, my successes at the end of the journey and the song plays to the fact that now, each of us would tearfully play this in remembrance of each other, that the words speak of reality and the tune foreshadows the fact that for one of us, this song will echo the longing of loss.

 

 

 

 

I quit.

I have always wanted to write a brilliant motivational post entitled, quitting is a state of mind, telling people that you quit mentally first. The thing is, that is just about all I really have to say, actions speak louder than words, is something we hear fairly regularly. And for the most part, actions really are the measure of intention, however, the older I get, the more I realise that actions are not the complete picture.
Sure, when, it comes to relationships, what someone does, is a good measure of what they are really like, and love will always be a verb. However, when it comes to quitting, I am not so sure actions are a clear indication of where that person is internally. I first noticed this in the gym world, where many people are going through the motions, and dripping with the sweat of effort too, but mentally, they have quit. On the outside they look the part, and many indeed are in great shape, and some are even professional athletes, but inside they are dead. They have quit, they no longer enjoy what they do, but are there because of a huge pressure not to quit, even a self identity that precludes being a quitter. Once I had noticed this, I realised that people have quit on life, they literally go through the motions.
This hit me when I had it all, the business, the car, the house, the family, inside I was dead, and I had quit wanting to achieve, I had quit with engagement, my business and my life, I quit and stayed on because, like many employees, I had no choice. I looked at people around me, and I saw the same, “I have quit” in their eyes. We were together in our endeavour to just get through the day, fulfil our responsibilities and be the person we were supposed to be. We even managed to look passionate about the right things, and engage, but I saw it, I felt it, the deadness the mental disengagement of having quit life.
Quitting, then, is not just walking away and ceasing, which is what instantly springs to mind, I realised quitting was the mind. In a situation where physically stopping and changing was not an option, we mentally quit, disengage and retreat because we do not want to be part of the life we have. I felt I had been sold a lemon, a Friday afternoon special of a life, one that looked great but actually did not work properly, and I realised, that I was not alone in wanting to quit my faulty life and have the one I signed up for.
The truth is, I never worked out how to un-quit, how to re-engage and become active in building a life that I wanted to be part of. The quitting was done for me. Which is why I could never write my motivational article, because, what sort of advice is it to say, yes you are in a situation you do not like and have quit life in the active sense because of this, without proposing an action to start the process of change. I feel, I could recite some motivational literature; I think I could do a reasonable academic job via research, but that would be cold, distant and theoretical. Tony Robbins says change takes an instant, its making that change stick and seeing the results of that change that take the time, and he is right. The problem is that I have no idea, had no idea, of what done looks like, no goal, because I was at the goal and it wasn’t like the brochure.
In making a change, we consciously or subconsciously pick a goal, the issue is, when we have quit on life, goals, achievement and the train of lies we ended up riding, we lose faith and trust in the process as well as the destination. The trains look the same, and whatever they say we become pretty sure that they all end up at disappointment and disillusionment. Gradually we look at a world, not where happiness, achievement, goals and such are things that happen to other people, we live in a world where those things are a facade to the outside world put up by people like us, dead and helpless, maintaining the lie that we got what we paid for in the store of life. Each of us hiding the reality, that is not happiness and not what we wanted, realising that it is not that we have failed, but that success is nothing like what it was supposed to be.
Inside we quit on the whole “game”. From soaps, sports, social media, and alcohol we self medicate away the pain, but that never goes, and the hole grows a little, bit by bit. I wish I had answer for the bleakness. I guess at twelve step plan would be a great way to make money, or fame, or fortune, but it would be a lie. A lie in a sham world of broken dreams and promises. In my personal world the truth is, the change came from the blackest place where I realised I could not trust things, people, relationships, blood or anything that was not me. It came when I realised that my reality, my world, whatever label got put on it, was mine and that I lived in it as much as I lived in a physical space. I learned how to rub along in the physical world without realising, to go through the motions. On the outside, I don’t think there was ever much to see, certainly a description of my daily routine is as mundane and repetitive as any call centre worker or cleaner. What I came to change, was how I viewed my internal space.
First, I realised my internal space was real, and no one but me was in charge of its definition. The world could advise me, and there were healthy and unhealthy constructions I could make, and as such structures had been put up without planning permission, and so some building was required. This was my space, in a conscious sense and my reality was important. So, when something said was hurtful, if I didn’t care about the words or the intention, it did not have to hurt me, it did not have to have an impact. The rudeness, the selfishness, it was my choice whether I would take those into my world. In this world, my thoughts and feelings had intrinsic legitimacy. Suddenly it was no longer mad, or odd, or a sign of mental illness to fantasise of a different life, as a girl, it was just something to pass the time on the toilet. Just because no one I knew admitted it, does not mean it was not happening, rather how people do not admit the fact their perfect life is not what it looks like.
I suppose, you could say, that I learned to become at peace with myself. I no longer took the measures of a world of sham and lies and saw how far I didn’t measure up to them. Instead I took the measures of what I had decided were virtues to determine how I was doing. Would I be someone, I would like to know and be friends with, if the answer was no, then I was in charge of doing something. This internal space, this peace with myself did not require a level of income, a certain car or house, a certain relationship status, it is independent of those externalities.
The decision was to seek happiness with myself. First, I never wore a lot of black, I didn’t change my style or my wardrobe of clothes, externally I did not need to go, “look at me, I have changed”, or “look at me I am different”. I did not discuss the external style, I had, instead the internal perspective, the foundation of being at peace with myself. The world of cars, houses, babies, careers, records, relationships was there and I was now in charge of how I engaged with it. It was up to me to enable or disable what would ultimately matter.
That is how I un-quit on life, by realising that the so called life I had quit on was no life at all, and life was about peace and happiness in my internal world first and foremost. And that the walk through life is conducted from this space, and so what I do, my job, my relationships, my house, car, dog, define me only in so far as I decide they define me, and that un-quitting is about taking internal control first. From that place of internal peace, ultimately being I able to say, I am a person with whom I am happy, my values, motives and intentions are consistent with who I have decided to be, is the starting point. From that solid foundation, actions follow, and character builds so that actions speak louder than words, after all, we tell the world very little, we show it a lot.