January 2020

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Happy New Year!

I’m trying to be positive but… are we on the road to hell?

Normally, the beginning of a new year is filled with hope and promise. Unfortunately, ‘The People’ (whoever the hell they are) have voted in a government that is going to make everyone’s lives so much more difficult for decades to come. On top of that, they’re wasting billions by sulking their way out of the best trade arrangement anywhere in the world while at the same time ditching an arrangement that has ensured peace in Europe for decades. Yeah, okay, we’re going to get blue passports and have Union Flags on our butter and eggs, and we’re allowed to be cruel to brown people again…

What? We’re not? Oh, some folks are going to be well pissed about that. I’ve heard a lot of people say they voted Leave so that the brown ones all have to go back home.

There. Done.

I know not all leavers are like that but, as Will Self said, ‘Not all leavers are bigots but all bigots are leavers.’ I can only apologise to my sensible leaver friends (of which I have quite a few). But I don’t envy the company you keep.

Now back to being positive.

I’ve realised that the only way in which I can pursue any degree of positivity is to concentrate on those that I love and trust: my friends and family. DSC06596There’s plenty of work to be getting on with there. Our family has increased by two new people recently and I hope it continues to do so. Plus, we all have individual targets that should have our undivided attention. Personal development both intellectual and physical. Maybe even a bit of spiritual thrown in for good measure, though I’m not joining any clubs. Those who seek to control all things spiritual usually have an agenda and it’s never one that benefits its target audience.

Positive!

For me, it’s getting myself back to running and walking; getting fit again and tackling jobs around the house that have been screaming out for completion for a few years now. I am aware of a rut that I seemed to have rolled into. One supported by the notion that I’m knocking on a bit now so I can forgive myself for not doing as much as I used to. The key to that it ‘not doing as much’. I appear to have interpreted that as ‘not doing anything’. Not good. So it’s pull your socks up time.

This is cliché corner, isn’t it?

The physical stuff will begin when it begins. I mean, it’s cold out there so it’s going to be a slow, rough start. In fact, it’s going to be tough as well because I haven’t run since the end of July.DSC06600 That’s five months of muscles turning to stone and ligaments losing even more elasticity. It’s going to hurt but I know that if I stick at it then it will pay dividends. I’ve been here before which gives me great hope but is equally galling that I will be starting at the beginning once again. I should start with easy jogs around the block but I have a psychological problem with that plan in that my shortest ever run is just under five kilometres. That usually means that my first experience of getting back into it again is a distance that most folk would be more than happy to achieve after a decent period of training. Anyway, it is what it is and I’ll see how it goes.

The writing needs sorting out as well. I have a novel that I wrote for the MA that I’m really not happy with but can’t quite put my finger on why. The quality is there, that’s what the course demanded, and it’s polished and finished.DSC06601 It just doesn’t move me, you know? Even just after I finished and started sending it out, there was part of me that wanted it to be rejected because I wasn’t sure that it was what I wanted to be defined by. That sounds like so much bullshit but it is probably the best example of not believing in yourself that you’ll come across. My other novel though, the most recently worked on, has got to the fifteen thousand word point and I’m still convinced it’s good. Though why it stalled, I can’t really say. It’s like that Hitchcock effect where the corridor gets longer as you move along it (The Dolly Zoom). It started out as three separate ideas that I have squished into one and maybe that’s it. Those fifteen thousand words are the result of writing maybe fifty thousand. I’ve deleted more in the past though so it shouldn’t be that much of an obstacle. I even know the ending. Perhaps that’s part of it: there aren’t enough surprises left in it for me. I might have to adopt the Chandler rule of having someone run into a room and fire a gun.

So it’s all about motivation or the lack of it. I have spent a couple of years obsessing over politics and events that I have little or no control over. I listen to Radio Four news as I drive into the city in a morningDSC06602 and I read the news online throughout the day and I listen to the same crap as I drive home in the evening and then check out the news again as I try and relax at home. I’m poisoning myself. I think maybe it’s time to cut the misery feed and listen to some decent music instead. I’ve heard a lot of people make the same claim: that removing twenty four hour news from their lives increases the quality of that life almost exponentially. It makes sense. Reading or listening or watching things that lift or inspire obviously make you feel better. Constantly reinforcing the fact that everything has and is continuing to turn to utter shit can only do the opposite. Let’s be rid of it!

The problem being that I have tried some of this positive thinking stuff before. I had a tough few years, back at the beginning of the new millennium, where my skin hijacked me and I was seriously thinking of throwing myself in the canal. I’m being flippant but my mental health deteriorated at a frightening speed during a period where something like seventy percent of my body itched continually.Palm I threw more blood-covered sheets away in that time than in the rest of the years I have been on this planet. I was put onto a guy, a lovely, Indian guy, who was a general practitioner but who also dabbled in meditation and other psychological methods of healing. I had a few sessions with him in which he taught me how to find a happy place and to visit that happy place and leave all negative thoughts behind. There was a load of other stuff as well but I’m over-simplifying it here. The happy place can be real or imagined. Mine was half real, half imagined. It was a breezy, desert island. A couple of trees, bright light and a hammock. And it did work to a degree. The problem I had was that, having put in a huge amount of effort to place myself in this virtual paradise, I couldn’t help but peek back at reality just to check that I was still itching and bleeding and utterly miserable. Maybe I wasn’t giving it long enough. I felt a failure.

And on the few occasions where I’ve tried to wean myself away from news and politics I have always crumpled at some point and just switched the radio on as the hour struck to check DSC06599that I wasn’t missing anything really important. I mean, if the world’s ending, a heads up would be good, wouldn’t it? But this was always the same as falling off the wagon. One little hit and I’d be in a complete tangle of  news sites and then on to streaming the news channels continuously within the next week. It would be nice if there was a way of achieving this without a massive effort on my part but, I fear, there is not. I have a daily habit of doing a Guardian crossword. It convinces me that I have a reasonable level of ongoing cerebral competence (I made that expression up). The problem is that, in order to access this crossword, I have to navigate via the main page of the Guardian website thus exposing myself to daily headlines. And the daily headlines are very rarely uplifting. Maybe I need to try and find a way of going straight to that page via a link. It must be possible.

There. Done it!

So, a New Year and an attempt at a New Philosophy. I can only do my best even though, as I speak, Trump has provoked Iran in a way that neither Bush nor Obama would have dared while maintaining popularity in the polls and it looks like all our promises for a bright future are now possibilities. Let’s hope Pelosi has at least some degree of success and some miracle happens in Europe. I know, I’m doing it again, but, I can filter the mean-spirited and low-level negativity but major issues are always going to be impossible to avoid. Even if Social Media is only ever used to post pictures of cats and dogs and babies, other stuff is bound to appear. I have to learn to scroll past and pursue more pleasant experiences.

You can pursue more pleasant experiences right now by visiting My Website!

See you in February.