Monday Night Reflection: Best Laid Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday Night Reflection: Pen and Paper

The problem with reflections is, and I am making a wild assumption that I am not alone, is that events immediately prior to the reflection can dominate the scene. There is no way I could reflect on every day, I struggle to write in my gratitude journal more than once a week, and I am a lot more grateful than I am reflective, so a real-time reflection compiled and released on a Monday is not going to happen.

I would love to remember to take reflection notes, but that is a lot like trying to do a reflection, even on a few lines, it is not going to happen, and it would mean either note-taking on my phone which I do not like doing, not sure why this approach doesn’t work but I fail every time I try it. I could carry a notebook, and I in a previous life, that would have been far too embarrassing or drawn too much attention to me. When I first wrote that sentence, I was going to say, I was no more likely to use a notebook than my phone. Somehow the idea of being seen to be playing on my phone is getting less and less attractive. However, the fact is, it is possible, and I have no idea how likely, that I could use a notebook.

I am moving back to pen and paper, very deliberately. I have found that while the smartphone can be an awesome tool, there are definitely limits to that for me. And, perhaps, as importantly, the world around me getting more and more absorbed into their phones, and sucked into social media. Which I love, especially Instagram, where I am a complete addict, and have built up a tremendously positive feed, I am aware that social media ultimately does not go anywhere. Social media is what we make of it, what we bring to it and a tool we can use in certain ways. To me, I share my life because although I am far from exceptional, I set goals and achieve and I hope that someone, will look and see that if I can do it, then they can as well. And to show that success is not about Ferrari’s and mansions, and happiness is not through parties, Rolex watches and hanging out with the coolest people. You can be happy with all of those things, but you can be lonely and desperately unhappy too, and in my experience of the so-called highlife, loneliness, despair and emptiness are much more common and the “life” is the disguise that hides it.

I am not sure which is driving me more, the promised practicality and utility of pen and paper, or the appearance of it. The fact that pen and paper feels and looks like doing, rather than messing about or playing. It is also tempting to quickly “check” and very easy to disengage with the world. Which is something I do not want to do, and I do not want to do to those who I am with. I tend to do my “playing” alone because when I am with people I want to engage with them. It is the lament of the older generation that “kids” have their heads in their phones, but more and more I see, it is people are more engaged with social media than the person they are sat with. I must admit I am guilty of the food shot, but then the phone goes case closed either away or does not get picked up. I will sometimes check a notification but I am ruthless about whether that gets a reply, and not much is that urgent.

Perhaps, too, this is a nostalgia drive, a lamenting of the so called connected age where in reality we are increasing disconnected, interrupted and disengaged. I feel there is a passivity, from the use of video over text, which I feel is much more passive than reading. I learn better from a book than a lecture. Voice works for outlines not for detail with me.

What exactly am I reflecting on here? It is not about pen and paper, that could be symbolic, however, I am thinking about engagement and more specifically disengagement. Specifically, I have become aware that while on the individual level I can enjoy engagement with people, and I have a desire to ensure that I am present in the moment, something I definitely picked up from mindfulness, I am, on a social level, highly disengaged. I am disengaged with wider society, socially because I live an isolated life, largely picking and choosing social settings and interaction chances, but I am isolated on a more socio-political level too. I do not watch popular television programs, I am increasingly not interested in popular music, I do not follow football or have any sort of passion for what are the current mainstream sports, and I am woefully disappointed with the political situation. I would leave the country were it an option, and I cannot bring myself to positively endorse any of those who stand for office. Not only to I look at the political candidates and personnel and feel revulsion, I am saddened by how the population has been so ready to believe the complete and utter rubbish they get fed. More than that, it is the collective readiness, even desire, to hate that leads me to despair. My desire to move is to go somewhere where isolation is easier, not because I believe the move would improve the situation, it would merely trade one set of despair-inducing circumstances for another.

This desire to disengage on the bigger stage is perhaps driving my desire to be more engaged with the individual. It is also a symptom, if symptom is the right word, of my healing. While I want to be isolated from that which I cannot change, I am now much happier at the individual level. My new life has led to new circumstances, positive reinforcement as opposed to the negative force applied previously, and I have found a confidence. With each interaction that has not had “consequences” or “feedback,” I have in very small increments been able to learn that it is not only ok to talk to people, but that it is encouraged, seen as a positive thing to be doing.

Getting used to the positive change in circumstances is taking a long time. Undoing a lifetime of learning is not easy at all. Moving to pen and paper, an insecure way of recording thoughts, a way that can be stolen, abused, that could invite ridicule and mocking was impossible. To carry a pen and the paper would invite suspicion, ridicule, some derision, while playing on my phone was just playing and messing around and so the insults lesser and the price easier to pay. Moving away from a protective behaviour to another is illustrative of how my mind had become locked into protective patterns. The minimising of threat and potential harm was the default setting. In childhood, I learned to protect, defend, and minimise potential harm. I learned that planning for the worst was always the best option and that hoping for the best was unfounded optimism. The key moving forward is to take the positive forward, the planning and preparation, and to leave behind the negative such as pessimism. Moving to pen and paper, going back to the transitional period between my childhood and my marriage, that time when positive seeds were sown, but that I ran away from those who would cultivate them, and where I sought to block out the world and numb the feelings of brokenness I had been given via drugs and alcohol, and taking a tool that worked.

Rediscovering and taking a confident step in building new habits, utilising new and old in this new setting, ditching the phone. Like the pen and paper, it is symbolic. I am not the phone guy, I am not the technology guy, and I am not the one device super efficient life, slick suit guy. Trying to be something I am not is something I need to confine to the past. I need to make trying to be by living up to an image or what I think people will find acceptable needs to be past tense. My greatest prison is still my mind.

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.

 

Behind Me But Not Me

Behind Me But Not Me

The poem was inspired by what I didn’t say in my Monday night reflection, which was the realisation over the weekend that I had become a completely different person. Not so much in my essential nature and qualities, but in my appearance and what I had become about as someone you would meet.

Looking back, it’s clear that I was for much of my life at war with myself. My core characteristics were being over-ridden by trying to conform and be someone that I felt I was expected to be, while at the same time existing in a situation of control and coercion. The fact remains that I was trying to conform and be someone who I was nothing like.

images-4Today, I look and act very differently. Who you would meet is consistent with the person inside. This change is because of the massive changes in my life, moving from an abusive situation to a supportive situation, and being in a new place where I can build up my identity as I choose. I chose to be consistent and not try to fit in, conform, and have people “hate” me for who I am, rather than not liking me for someone I wasn’t.  Accepting that I am not going to be everyone’s cup of  and that no one is liked by everyone gives a freedom of expression and conduct.

The irony, perhaps, is that I never wanted to be anyone outrageous. Physically I was never likely to fit in anyway, so trying to conform was doomed to failure. Behaviour wise I was trying to be a middle-class guy, something my mother would have called respectable. Which meets head on with me not being a 9-5 person, not having regular interests and hobbies, and not being very much like the stereotype of a middle-class man.

I love to make people laugh and smile, I love to help and support people and I love to create. I am into quite times, and being with family (which includes my close friends), reading books and course writing and being creative. Not a really outrageous list, not even when I include liking secluded log cabins in the forest, open fires and cooking. That is the person that had to be hidden and squirrelled away, and instead,
I tried to be a pastiche figure of all the things I thought I was supposed to be.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Corner: Quietly

Lonely isolation brings me solace and comfort in the crowded spaces
On my own, I find the peace and quiet of dim contemplation,
Voices speak that are all my own when silence permits,
Every day a quiet conversation in passion persists

My demons polite in torment, pervade my consciousness,
Each gives a gift I dare not resist.

 

Facebook, Memories and Kindness

Facebook is different things to different people. The Mouse doesn’t have FB, because images-3Mouse is not a real person. Mouse has a twitter because Twitter is much more voyeuristic and facilitates following without interaction, which on FB is much more limited, although I am guessing with work it could be through pages. For me, FB has been and continues to be a very positive influence, from encouragement to meeting up with people who have shared interests, and even conversations with people who have shared life experiences them helping me and me helping them through tough times and coping with what has been a traumatic past.

However, FB is for many people destructive, and I do see that spill over through some people, people who often end up falling off or with whom contact is limited. I know my wife, sees a lot more drama through the “professional” links from her colleagues at work which contain more than a few drama magnets and drama queens. She stays mostly quiet and focussed on work, she is a texter and messenger not a wall poster sort of person. The contrast is marked.

This is on my mind because of two things. One I remember clearly how my FB was read and how if someone said something while travelling I would be expected to know about and was questioned on it. I was grilled massively about women, even though my job and employment was partly working with women. Of course, my communications were all read, my emails checked and my phone checked. When I did lock my phone because of concern at work she deliberately put on the wrong code and locked it up for a lot of hours to teach me a lesson. No communication was private, I was expected to relay verbatim telephone conversations, along with justifying anything I said or didn’t do right. And, that included what the other person said. I never made personal phone calls or phone calls at downloadall unless I really had to. Someone saying they had seen me was bad enough, if they said we had spoken, that too had to be relayed, often the conversation would include “that is not what they said” element of some sort. Isolation got to be a very peaceful and easier life option.

But, what really struck me, wasn’t the contrast in monitoring behaviour, it was the stark difference in my behaviour on FB. The FB memories feature really highlights this because I have not deleted that life. I considered having a new account for my new life, but that seemed like a lot of work rebuilding my network and getting friend requests accepted, but more than that, I didn’t want to hide that life away. If you come to know me then my past is there. I don’t want to be keeping secrets, which I guess is why I was easy to monitor and built up surveillance on. I am a very open person with those close to me. My mistakes and my triumphs are there. There are things and times I would love to keep private, but by the same token those close to me either already know, or wouldn’t change what they think of me anyway.

From the memories feature I see that by comparison nowdays I really do not mention my wife. Sure, she appears, but fleetingly and very very rarely. We haven’t even married on FB yet. I am not sure this tactic was a deliberate choice, maybe at first, but my profile is private and my posts are friends restricted, and the fact I am married is not a secret to anyone. My Instagram is public too, my son and therefore my ex has access, so I am not sure why I am still hiding. Maybe it is because FB was used against me, my friend’s list “warned” about me, and people did walk away. The walked when they were attacked for knowing me, although not all. The one who stayed despite being reported to the police showed their true colours that much is certain. The fact remains that for whatever deep reason not only do I hardly post about her, I feel virtually no compulsion to post about my wife either.

I was pondering this when I stumbled across a piece on coercive control and abusive behaviours that slipped in that the abused make excuses for their abusers and try to make abuse2their abusers look good by portraying them in a positive way. Most of the time I had read only the first part and realised how picking fights and upsetting me when people were coming over or we were going out was a way of making me look bad so she could make excuses for me. And I realised too, that her telling people about me and my needs, was in fact, making excuses for me in advance. Of course, I was withdrawn and shy and possibly a little moody looking. I was scared of talking to anyone because of the interrogation and backlash, and I had been emotionally attacked before leaving the house. I spent so much time trying to slide past unnoticed, and definitely not talked to. I wanted not attention at all because when I got home it would ensure I had done something wrong, said something wrong, behaved inappropriately, been embarrassing or something that deserved punishment. No wonder these people believed her version, I wonder if anyone realised I was scared and covering up. On FB as well as the rest of my life I was putting on a front, a face to the world that everything was ok, and I had the dream life that I was supposed to have. And of course when I wasn’t good enough at keeping up the act there were consequences, there were always consequences.

I didn’t make excuses in the traditional sense, and looking back she did do the things I posted about. I am still struggling with this. One the one hand there is the extreme emotional violence and the sometime physical too, yet on the other hand, there is the undeniable things that were thoughtful and kind that also happened. There were fun moments, intimate moments, genuine laughter and smiles. But, that is it, looking back, the word genuine seems hollow and empty. At the time, the experience felt real, authentic, heartfelt and genuine. Now, it is not so clear. The simple, that was a lovely thing to do, what a thoughtful gift, becomes uncertain. Photographs were always difficult because I could remember the context, the hurt in so many. But this is different, how could someone who hurt me, someone who wanted me to die and tried so hard to drive me to suicide, someone who controlled me, someone who told me I was unlovable, told me I deserved to hurt, that no one would be stupid enough to have me – so something kind and thoughtful for me. How can someone who stopped my getting proper medical treatment so that I would, and do hurt every day and will for the rest of my life, show any sort of love, concern, show any sort of kindness towards me at all. How does that work, how can you do that.

Maybe, not understanding how you can be two people at the same time and go between them so effortlessly is a good thing. Maybe it is best that I don’t get it?

 

 

 

 

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.