Category Archives: Just Living

Bark n’ Bite

Silence, oh silence, detox or prison? With no mobile phone, pen, paper or words around my hospital room felt like the latter. As I waited for my operation in this big barren establishment, my mind sought solace from the solar flares of anxiety.

I was only having four teeth out under general anaesthetic, nothing major. A routine operation by all accounts, yet thoughts of it all going wrong and not waking up had played a 3 day concert in my mind. Despite having an enjoyable day 24 hours earlier watching ice hockey live, memories were non-existent.

I wondered, what if I was in this situation again, not so much as in a hospital but isolated from technology or a canvas, away from connections to people I care about, what would keep me going? I’m entertained but what knowledge have I taken on recently? I’ve ridden the storms of instability in my professional life for the last 2 years through a mix of outlets but what have I learned that doesn’t have emotions attached?

“You only live what you’ve learned”, screamed Chester Bennington of Linkin Park on the song Points of Authority. He was right. In that moment I was transported to core beliefs I held as indisputable, things that no amount of hell could shake me from.  As the plethora of medical staff entered, asked questions and left, I momentarily breathed easier. I took facts from them while regaining a sense of resilience through humour.

The last thing I said to the operating team before I fell asleep was “I trust you”. I woke up 2 or so hours later, glad to be alive glad that this was completed. Immediately thanking the staff for what they’ve done.

According the operating professional, my wisdom teeth had roots like spades” and made it a longer and more challenging operation than expected. I feel more pain in this recovery phase than my wisdom teeth ever caused. Yet I am grateful that things have been done this way.

Anxiety may flare again at some point with another situation, yet in the silence, without my preferred weapons of distraction, I recognised my true tool must be sharper. Entertainment can dull pain for some time but knowledge may be the higher dosage that kills it.

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Halfway House

“One day your metabolism will slow down and your appetite will catch up with you.”

“Go to the gym now so that you don’t have to work as hard when you’re older”

“You look OK from the back but you’re a mess from the front”

“I like that you’ve got something to hang on to”

Being physically appealing from the neck down has never appealed to me. However, as time has gone on, despite eating healthy without calorie counting, my lifestyle has impacted what I can wear. In 2017 I was wearing hoodies 24/7 to disguise my burgeoning belly despite walking 30 miles a week.

By the end of 2018, I had outgrown even the new shirts and had begun to wear a big jumper over what I had. I looked at myself in the mirror with disgust and shame. Even the stress of work couldn’t take away from the fact that I was a mess, and I couldn’t trust myself to do a solo workout in the gym I’d signed up to.

I saw that an 8-week challenge was about to happen at my gym (True Grit Training) and thought I’d give it a go. High-intensity circuit training wasn’t new to me, I’d done “caveman training” beforehand lost some weight. However, the Paleo diet they preached wasn’t for me, I resented the food choices available. Heck, this week I’ve eaten cauliflower for the first time in about 3 / 4 years.

The first 3D scan told me I was practically a chocolate Buddha standing at just over 6ft tall – my heaviest in 10 years. This time I couldn’t rely on a messy break up to lose a stone in a week, it would be sheer hard work and disciplined eating. I sought to motivate myself over the long term so I set my weight target for the year and not the program. I also adjusted my approach to eating this time around. Rather than have a specialised set of foods for the purpose of the program, I chose to apply the lower carb higher protein principle to what I would eat on a regular basis.

In practice, the evening meals have been the same mix of fish, white and red meat with rice or sweet potatoes that I eat week in week out. Breakfasts and lunches have seen switches away from cereals and sandwiches or heavier cooked meals.

After 40 classes over 8 weeks, days before my final scan, I am ready to treat myself. I know I’ve lost over a stone in weight, I am one waist size down in formal trousers. When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t see a crazy amount of change in my shape. What I do see, is a man who is on the right path, a man who has put his mind to a mix of extreme, spinning, strength and other circuit classes. I don’t yet have the body I want but to paraphrase Bon Jovi, oh ….I’m halfway there.

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New Year New….Journey?

New Year New….Journey?

Some things have to stay in the past, no matter how hard you want to drag them into the present. That goes for good things that happened in the previous year too.

I could give you half a dozen titles and hundreds of words for blog posts I wrote (and remain in draft form) reflecting on 2018. I had hoped to give you a glimpse into practical highs, crushing lows and express thankfulness for everything in between. Instead I posted a poetic expression of a very stressful that situation that occurred recently.

I’m not the New Year, new me type, never have been. Maybe that was my go with the flow mentality. Significant changes every year for who? Me? For a few years, my end of year reflections started in October and changes began in November. Whatever calendar you work with, change has to start as soon as you’re ready to start changing. Simple, isn’t it?

Just knowing you came out the other side is as inspirational as any detail you could explain. The new you begun before anyone else could start putting up social media posts about what they would or wouldn’t be doing for the next year.

A new year may not bring or require wholesome change. There may be situations or seasons that have started at different times and require your investment to maintain or improve them. You could have started a job or taken up a hobby, you may be a parent and simply have seen your child grow up a little more. It is likely that you will have different things in different areas of your life that require your efforts. There is a journey to be had whether you are starting, maintaining or finishing something.

Can you trust yourself to acknowledge what has happened at a particular time and simply take only what is necessary into the next interaction, the next phase? Take enough fuel for the journey and burn it accordingly.

Although the stories of how we got from A-B are incredibly important. We cannot carry every book in its entirety with us. For us to live and move forward in life we must let them live in their space. That space may be the museum of unshared blogs or diary entries. That space may be a one off reading at an open mic, a WhatsApp message. That space may even be a single photo, a phone call or meeting at a café.

What are you keeping in your space in this season? What are you fuelling your journey with?

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0301

Crushing pulses of pandemonium pilfer my purposes.

Pathways of reeds rushes and leaves distressed with canned candour cover cracked screens.

Wearing patchwork seems fashionable when colours fill a shape.

What’s a super man without a cape?

I escape. Into waterways washing banks with interest.

Though laundering loveliness is endearing even Bambi died.

Can’t expect a leopard to have a spotless mind.

The carousel of well fayres have finite loops.

They say ride the one that suits you.

 

I keep tailoring top and tales hoping for a body of work

Sell me for what I’m worth

A magnetic moment ironing flaws as I walk steeled

Tired of staring at my bruises.

I want to heal, I want to feel.

For once this onion can remain unpeeled

Just give me A and B so I can see the road and walk along

Somewhere I belong

Wherever that is.

 

I’m sick of tripping from this slapstick

I searched my soul so much I asked google to map it.

If I must burn than can it be without sack cloth and ashes?

If I must burn, how come everything I think is fire strikes to take away my matches?

Cashed in passion feels like a coma because I’m strapped into this madness.

Thought there was treasure at the top, all I see is a flat chest

Pawn in this mad chess

There’s no checks, every move is contactless and strafing with strife

Blood drips so much I wonder if I’m cut for this life

Since they let the electric slide, I can’t fight the power.

The death of I in team and time in our, has come.

Let us dance

 

Let’s dance to algorithms of these coarse decisions

Hold the baby in an unwanted divorce and call him Moses

Fill our faces with roses instead of head stones.

Let him grow in the hope that this shall be lauded.

Give ourselves the life we were afforded

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Fear? Oh!

As a male who is happy to adapt to any city, I’m generally comfortable wherever. I’ve been to London enough times to know you have to be savvy with the way you carry things due to the sheer number of people around you at any one time. I’m privileged as a male to (rightly or wrongly) believe, that I am at a lower risk of crime against me than a female may be.

However, after my colleague’s purse was taken on the first day of our company induction in London, my awareness of my safety was heightened. I found myself holding my bag tighter, I didn’t want any bulges that told you where things were on me. I was wary of anyone in sports or casual clothing that wasn’t in line with particular looks. Wary of being in confined spaces (lifts, tube etc) with them

At the top of my suspicion list were people that looked like me, followed by other ethnicities, those who spoke English and those that didn’t. At the bottom of the list lay predominantly white professionals.

As I returned from dinner during the middle of the week it dawned on me that, I was possibly projecting. Projecting fears that never manifested themselves. Those people didn’t (and still don’t) need my stereotyping, they don’t deserve to be looked at as potential thieves or muggers who might injure me for saying no their intentions.

I recognise that I was once a young black male who was seeking to avoid being seen that way. The overall majority of people are law-abiding folk looking to get from A to B. Who am I to think the way I did? I questioned my automatic suspicion of black males as being the perpetrators. Why didn’t I think that it was simply an opportunist? Why did I think that they, along with non-English speakers to be the biggest threat to my safety?

In truth, humans will do terrible things by choice or by accident at any given point. Not everyone can afford to hire security to protect them from what may never happen. We can only take a limited number of actions to protect ourselves. Beyond that, we are at risk of damaging our own mental health by living in fear. Fear that causes anxiety by magnifying the smallest possibility of negativity. Fears that lead to words and actions that could cause harm to those we are fearful of.

Pre-emptive strikes against someone who has no intention to hurt you is your problem, not theirs.

 

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Throw Me Away

Suicide…Let’s talk about it…..I must admit I’ve thought about it.

I feel sick, bubbling up with tears in a way I’ve never done at the mention of suicide. Today I remembered how in high school I was on the verge of doing so. How close?

I struggled with academia and comparisons with higher performing peers and siblings brought shame to my own efforts. Though I was never beaten for bad grades, the constant sniping was death by a thousand cuts. I wasn’t good enough, I’d be like such and such a person. If it wasn’t A+ they don’t want to hear about it, don’t mention creative stuff, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Don’t you dare disagree, or have an opinion that contrasts with another vision for you.  Walk like this, talk like that, hold your knife and fork this way, your lips moved – you must be being rude even though no sound was made. Your eyes moved this way, you’re supposed to be that way, stop being disrespectful. Dismiss it as nothing if you will.  For me, without validation from important adults, I was nothing.

I was bullied often and at different points, year in year out, from the beginning of primary school to the final years of high school. During break times playing basketball in high school, guys would actively shout “1000 points if you knock his glasses off or 10, 000 if you trip him over and get him to cry”.

There was one physical education session where I was playing football. I came in for some rough treatment as an outfield player and became the goalkeeper. Although I fared better in this position, the fouls got worse to the point where I blurted out that I just wanted to kill myself. They thought I was joking.

I had struggled with self-esteem issues (body etc) and all-around confidence. At this point, both were 6 feet under where I wanted to be. They had never accepted me for me. Nobody did. No matter what I did, being me wasn’t good enough for anyone. In my head, I mused whether school tie around a goal post or by other means away from there would do the job. How close did I get to it? close enough.

I fell ill and was out of school for over a week. When I returned, people told me that they thought I really had taken my life. They joked about me returning from the dead. I don’t know what stopped me from doing it. Maybe there was a fighter in me after all. I didn’t dare tell anyone how I really felt. Nobody would have listened anyway, not without making me feel worse than I already did. Dead rappers get lauded, there are no prizes for near misses.

Although I’ve thought about it in my adult life, I’ve been able to divert my intense thought patterns to a better place…just. Whilst I’ve been able to pour myself into writing in times when I had nobody to talk to, a creative outlet to channel destructive energy isn’t given to everyone.

I don’t want to be in a world where 9-year-old boys or anyone else feels like their life isn’t worth it. That hurts me to my soul. I hope that we create environments so that those who struggle can freely express their struggles, their pain. Talk to me, talk to someone.  Together we can change the puzzle so that more people feel like they fit into this world.

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Re: Definition?

I’m not the kind of man that can have his manhood away, Jamie Neville, fellow cast member.

Although my body no longer feels the emotional weight of a week of shows, I find my mind is still processing it all. It is still at the checkout scanning everything on the conveyor belt and counting the cost.

Now that I’ve cross-examined masculinity and mental health, what do the words “Man Up” mean? The negative association it had has been vanquished by virtuous relationships. Machismo is no longer the main mode, nor is there shame or intentional repression.

Maybe I was privileged to have encountered so many genuine people at once. Maybe it’s the post-show comedown. What I do know is that there is hope. Man Up is a statement of encouragement to be open and honest with yourself. It is a smoke signal for friendship and fostering positive behaviours. It is men recognising that they are not alone or other men cannot be their best selves alone. To hear those words is to tell someone that you’re ready to serve them, to support them.

I could argue whether the phrase should still exist, I won’t because I know it will outlive me. This phrase is a statement of your attitude and intent.

If I’m committed to using what I’ve learned then I will listen without judgement. I hope to understand the journey and help you along the way. Maybe we’ll see the finish line together. Are you ready for that level of vulnerability? Can your ego and prejudice stand down to help a man up?

If you’re the kind of man that can’t have his manhood taken away, your actions will answer the questions. I live in hope.

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