Monday Night Reflection: Just Waiting on the Day

It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat down to write a reflection making sure I wasn’t being too focussed on the latest and the loudest, that I was looking for balance and feeling the need to avoid undue triumphalism because things had been positive for a good while and I had things pointing in the right direction.
I was hesitant because I was wary that the good can so quickly come crashing down, and because I did not want to gloss over the challenges of a very ordinary life and that I am not a particularly extraordinary person doing anything particularly unusual in the grand scheme of things. I want to inspire, if I inspire at all not because I am outstanding but because I am just like everyone else and I am trying in the face of the same stuff as everyone to keep on being better at life and being positive and helping others have a happy time and love the life they have, whatever that life is, and not some bullshit entrepreneur, internet guru, beach crap. Which, to me looks like hell anyway.

I guess I was right to be reticent, it crashed down, and I was not even up that high really, but down it came anyway. And I won’t lie, I am low, really low, not quite suicidal low, but I can’t say I haven’t considered it, I have, it wouldn’t solve anything so, pretty pointless as a solution. It isn’t worth the details, because people insist on telling me how far I have come, and yes, this true. What they miss is this not my first set back, or my second, this is 2017 and I have been essentially coming back from something big since June 2011, that includes a heart attack that I was just starting to feel was behind me and getting to feel I had some fitness returning.

I am broken mentally, it’s been 6 years of fighting, not for excellence, but for a shot at normality. I lost everything, and my second chance just got ripped away too. As coach DAmato says, it’s all about the six inches in front of my face, inch by inch, step by step because that is the difference between living and dying, but in the words of Coldplay, Nobody, said it would be easy, but nobody said it would be this hard.

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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.

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

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.

Monday Night Reflection: Trumped

Although a week is only seven days long, this last one has felt much longer. It started badly with no progress from meeting my Doctor, and then the new medication to help the pain turned out to not only have side effects in the common category that are worse than the pain, so I am supposed to go back and say. I don’t want to, and I can’t really face another 15 minutes of nothing happening. She won’t prescribe what I want to try and frustratingly I can’t find Actigall for sale. Without the prescription, I cannot get it here, and I would even fly to Europe if I knew I could definitely walk into a pharmacy and get it. To me, it’s utterly mad that I can have something with side effects Pregabalin has, and not the one I want which doesn’t have such nasty possibilities at all. That was a bad start, the pain this week has been up to the in a ball on the bed and blacking out level several times, and the baseline has changed with an extension of the pain to my kidney. The pain is distracting and exhausting, it comes with psychological sides. My bile duct is partially blocked and my liver has started malfunctioning as it cannot rid the body of what it has filtered out, I don’t like the word toxins, but essentially my liver is detoxifying away like it should and cannot get rid of that waste, so the waste products are going back into my blood. Jaundice is the yellow pigment of broken down bilirubin, and at the moment I am not yellow in a noticeable way, but the whites of my eyes are now grey and the corners do show shades of yellowing. Mostly I look a ghostly grey, which for someone half Italian with olive skin is quite an achievement. These waste products affect your brain, in my case at the worst my speech slurs and I have stopped recognising my wife, my short term memory is always affected, and confusion is really common. Added to that my emotional capabilities are altered, from getting really upset at things that are not upsetting and upset at the confusion because I cannot understand a really simple situation, to just a lack of any real ability to cope.

Overall, life has become difficult because while I experience the effects as real, I also know that this is not how I am. Literally, my body and brain are misfiring and I know it, and six months on its getting harder, not easier to deal with. The upside is that there are breaks where I feel a little more like myself and I am doing what I can to hit those windows of clarity, and in between trudge through those tasks I can do. At the same time as having less mental agility, creativity feels like it has tanked, I definitely type worse and my skills in dealing with my attention deficit traits are well below their usual level and while not disordered, it another thing making concentration difficult. It has been a difficult week on a number of levels, when you are not at your best and not really 100% the person you really are it affects personal relationships negatively, those around you are not getting the “you” they know and love, and you are not being that person either, so while I can medicate the pain away and even put myself out of life completely, what is missing from the medical assessment is that my quality of life is deteriorating the more this goes on. I have to hope that the ultrasound on Friday shows something up, at least lately I have a very direct and predictable reaction to food, with pain now getting swelling and heat coming with it, so not only do I feel it, but there is something to see. So the plan is a big meal before I go and provoke it to see if that can speed things along. My wife said that a good outcome would be to be in such a mess at the appointment I got admitted to the different hospital under a different team and something might happen.

On the back of this reflection has been difficult because unlike my plan I haven’t been making notes of the dominant threads of my thinking, and perhaps I haven’t really had any dominant threads to write down; reality is my ideas and thoughts pad has had a tablet on top of it all week and I haven’t used either, nothing much has moved forward at any pace all week on any level. The reality is that terms like behind and ahead do not apply to open-ended endeavours, but I am behind the day to levels of progress I would like to see.

Which is what I do, I accept that everyday is going to have a different one hundred percent because I am not a machine and that achievement has multiple measures. Three hours with a friend may not have any metrics of achievement but is valuable and worthwhile, whereas pushing forward some writing a few thousand words is instantly measurable but may have been the least valuable or worthwhile thing I could have been doing. In my system all tasks have merit, so cooking dinner and editing are not compared one more valuable than the other as absolute items, but rather as contextual assessments. At ten am cooking dinner could be a low priority, of it could be overdue depending on what is being made, and I have also learned to underpromise and over deliver with myself. In fact, the switch to pen and paper has really pushed me along in having realistic expectations. The discipline of having to get my Filofax and write my to-do list means that my actual “have-to-do” list has been culled of wish and would like to items. Everyday my phone would have 15 or more items on its daily to-do, now I have three. This has taken a massive amount of pressure off me and put my expectations firmly back as realistic. Important at any time; perhaps more important when I am less than one hundred percent.

So what has any of that got to do with the title of the reflection? This week has been dominated by the American President Donald Trump, even my little bubble has been made aware. I try hard not to get draw into political debates or discussions mostly because my viewpoint is unpopular with anyone partisan. Essentially both sides will hate me because I see problems and questions and ask them, and I am essentially pessimistic about things changing significantly. I have a dim view of what the collective “people” will do, and when it comes to the UK I am completely fatalistic because history tells a very poor story when it comes to collective action. Our last revolution was to put the Monarch back in power! However, I have let myself be drawn a couple of times into putting my pessimistic assessment of the world and its inhabitants and the response and I have allowed myself to engage with what happened.

When it comes to what people call serious subjects I have a strategy of first avoidance and then secondly detachment. Detachment I achieve by asking questions, this is hugely unpopular as they are things like where did you get that figure from because the three usual respected sources have completely different ones. It goes badly, interestingly the left think I am right and the right think I am left and the centre think I am both depending on where they are. If I think about that at all, then it is really funny. However, I engaged briefly but, rather like my personal circumstances, I felt powerless and rather irrelevant. The hatred, bigotry, things I avoid and find unacceptable were all I could see, and often in people I had considered to be more tolerant and accepting. Scratch the surface and there was not understanding and tolerance but hatred and fear. It was almost crushing. I have been “other” and as such on the wrong end of bigotry and prejudice, perhaps not to the extent of some groups, but being attacked, property vandalised, robbed, denied employment, decent healthcare and housing, I think, count as an introductory experience at the very least. I first experienced these at sixteen, the introduction was young, and prior to that, I had very little engagement with the real world, I had no need to and it was not required. I had decided a career, was chasing that, the rest I guessed would happen in due time. I had worked since thirteen, at seventeen I moved out of my parents on good terms and took things as a flow from there. I learned to cook and clean and manage my little life and get things done. As life expanded I went with it, not sure that was a great approach, it served me well then and its working well now, the patch in the middle where I went all planned did not work out quite so well. This is not saying I don’t plan, I really do, and methodically, I am known for being a lists person, something I have worked hard to put a lid on, however in terms of life direction I was never chasing the house, the car, the status and tangibles. When I did, things didn’t work. Instead, as a youth I sought out relationships and experiences, the difference is that then I was running from something and blotting out the painfulness of reality, now I am focussed on contribution and positivity. Back then it got me from almost no school qualifications to a Masters degree, something must have been working. I chased my dreams, and I let the rest happen along the way, let opportunities open up and took the ones I could and spent no time on ones I couldn’t because they were not opportunities for me, if they were I could take them. I was completely unprepared for the experience, I knew of it, but never expected that I would experience it first hand, it was like abuse, something I defined as impossible for me to experience because I really did not understand it. Experience is a phenomenal teacher.

What has that got to do with politics, it is that once again I feel despair and a desire to detach from the world. It is not a place I like. I have of course,  created a bubble of existence, something my young self would have recognised had I it pointed out. My life then as now is self-contained with a short range focus, being drawn into political discussion and engagement has opened my eyes to the truth that I am not about that level. I am too aware of my irrelevance, and my lack of any wish to do what it takes to be relevant, influential let alone powerful at a level where I could impact on these events. I would rather spend the day helping at a homeless charity/shelter than talk about anything with a politician because one makes a difference the other is just talk. And that is the crux of the matter, everyone is talking, people are making noise with marches and petitions but no action. Ghandi brought the British to their knees with passive resistance not marches and petitions, memes, tweets backed up with angry Facebook posts and shares. That would require the impossible, people to embrace the possibility of short term personal negative circumstances to effect change, however, with enough buy-in even those could be massively negated. The system everyone is so angry about is supported by their actions and as much their inaction, no one is saying, if we don’t engage after a while none of this can happen. In my own life, this has worked and I have stayed legal and within my rights of the situation, knowledge became my weapon, knowing where I stood meant I knew how to be passive in the most destructive way. I never moaned or bitched, I did something. The irony may be that as a student I was very close to the locus of power and did have influence, largely because I was completely uninterested in the exercise of power or control. I had the ear of people at the top of the student body, but no one knew, I never bragged about it, it was nice to be on the inside and know things, but they didn’t change my life or what I was doing. I had no desire to be a wheel in the political machine, yet there I was discussing those very things. I got in that position by proposing passive resistance, in that case doing what the University wanted the student body to do in the full knowledge that the en-masse adoption of the system would crush it and they would have to abandon it or change it to a working model, either being the outcome the Student’s Union required and wanted. It worked, and quicker than anyone expected, plus had bonus positives for the Student body that no one could have seen coming. The door opened, but I didn’t want anything out of it, I did learn how politics works at that level, saw the people who wanted to be part of it and how to get ahead. Hence my disengagement with politics and politicians. It is all a sham of self-interest and ego. Perhaps what I am driving towards is the mindset of “if you cannot change the situation, change how you think about the situation.

So my despair is based on engagement and understanding. I have then, by venturing out of my bubble found that I want to stay in it and cultivate it. Of course, I am affected by the world and what happens, but I have only got the option of awareness, preparation and reaction. What is coming, is coming and I am best being prepared and ready, or at the very least realising I am powerless and be ready to rebuild and pick up the pieces. Which is what last week was all about, close focus and the exclusion of worry about the things I cannot control or influence. As a coach once said, “control the controllables”. Right now I have situations which are not controllable, I am not driving the bus, not sure I even wanted on the bus, but here I am, and it will stop where it stops, and I will get off when I am allowed to get off, although if I don’t try I won’t ever get of off course.

I hurt, life has so many good elements that I have to be about not letting the immediate physical obscure that. Focus on what I can do, what I can control, cope as best I can with the rest, which is how I approach life and politics. Do I agree with what is happening or think it is right, no. Do I think good decisions are being made, no. Do I think my life is going to be made a lot harder and more difficult, definitely. Changes are coming, the best I can do is expect the worst, hope for the best and love my way through counting those blessings I do have.

Monday Night Reflection: Gluten Free Cookies

Christmas time is rich in reflective material, for me the week before Christmas day was one of visiting old friends and so was especially rich meaningful for me. I saw Katherine Jenkins in Concert on the Friday before just to give the week an extra special feel.

However, what seems relevant, at this moment, is not those good times, not the thoughtful gifts received or the joy I have in giving. Perhaps ancropped-cookieother day, it is not how emotional I have felt, it is not the tears of sadness and joy that mixed when I read my Christmas card from my eldest son who lives his mum. It is not how much I miss all my boys, or how grateful I am for the second chance I have been gifted.

Instead, it is the cookies that I received. I have three boys who live with their mum, an eldest and the twins who are seven. My eldest used his own money, initiative and time to make me a card by hand and buy me thoughtful and deeply humorous presents. From any thirteen year old they all would be thoughtful and heartfelt, his card so honest and emotional beyond his years too that they made me really proud of the young man my boy is becoming. From a young man with autism they are measure of his character and the hard work he puts into his life. He does the work.

They are great things to reflect on. Instead of buying presents, every year my youngest twins make them, they have an art inclined mother and so this makes sense economically and practically. This year they made cookies, they are beautifully decorated too.

Thing is, I have coeliac disease, and sadly everything has to be gluten free. The cookies arrived in time for Christmas. And on Christmas day we Skyped and I saw them open my presents and they could have watched me open mine, my eldest did, they had toys which are more interesting than Daddy. I thank my eldest for arranging the opening, and his commitment to it saying he would wait as long as was necessary for me to be able to see him open his. So I emailed, silly question, are the cookies gluten free. After all, my ex-wife was there when I got the diagnosis, she knows how ill I can get, and what happens when I eat something contaminated. The answer came, they are not. (I can see a positive in this).

Those around me are shocked, the cookies came with no note, no indication they were regular cookies from someone who knew how ill they would make me if I ate one. They came as a present to me and they thought my asking was a 1% just in case, bib and braces make sure sort of question. I was confirming what I suspected.

This has shocked them, they are wrestling with the thought that she allowed, even deliberately, let me be sent something that would cause me pain and make me sick. Years after throwing me out, years after the last open piece of warfare, indeed, in a time of distinct détente and a definitely less frosty reception, after the collaboration and successful team-work of co-ordinating Christmas presents. Would she really do this, a disbelief, that without melodrama, she did actually try to poison me.

I am struggling with their disbelief. I expected nothing else. Through this I realise that even though people have stood beside me, counselled me, and been part of this process, the fullest impact may never be apparent to anyone but me. And that this must be the case in any abusive or traumatic experience. I have had the chance and privilege of talking to survivors and we have really connected, our common experience gave us a bond and understanding. I knew I was getting an edit, I do the same, we share what is salient, what is important to us at the time, and we summarise, we connect on horrors of experience neither of us needs to relive to understand have happened. We know enough from our own life, bruises, hurts and scars to stand with those like ourselves. I never realised how much depth was left beyond that, even in my fullest disclosures something was not apparent, something did not make it across. Perhaps it is a failing of language when faced with conveying emotion, perhaps it’s the assumption that certain phrases, words and concepts have an almost universal meaning. Part of it is perhaps that unless you have lived through something, then it remains an intellectual concept. You understand that having someone trying to drive you to suicide is horrific, and intellectually you can grasp the idea of someone creating the situation where you feel trapped with no end or escape, but ultimately, you have never experienced either suicidal thoughts or had someone drive that hard to create that situation and so experience lacks immediate reality.

For anyone who has had that trauma, then they have their own reality on which to draw an understanding, but the uniqueness of individual experience leaves part of what happened to you inaccessible. And so it is with the cookies, the people around me now would cannot grasp the mind and intention it would take to make someone ill deliberately in that way, in the same way they know that she did try and drive me to  suicide but the type of thinking and personality required to do that are completely beyond their ability to access. I, in contrast, having experienced that mind, that intelligence first hand, while not being that person am keenly aware of how that mind plays out if not how it is driven or works internally. The external reality of it is all too real. The careless intentionality of simply allowing harm to occur is not alien, it was instead, how life was for the majority of my life.

The cookies are symbolic both of how things have been and of how they are. From the harm of my past to the caring of my present. This has already passed into the story of my life, a story to tell as an illustration of where I come from. I guess, it is a small piece of evidence that flies in the face of the official version of my life and who I am. An official version whose presence is felt particularly at Christmas, adding a dimension of significance to any event involving my past. A reminder that I have to be wary and aware of those access points to my life that are vulnerable because of my boys and that my love of them is seen as a weakness to be exploited.

Ultimately, the cookies say nothing about my twin boys, who have taken a lot of time and trouble to make lovely cookies for their Dad, who have been genuinely excited to open their presents, even letting me know I had unwittingly duplicated something they already had in one of their little extra’s, and they speak clearly about who she is.