Category Archives: Just Living

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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All Good Things

The piano tinkled one last time as a man mountain of hugs closed the final show. A stream of tears became a Mexican tidal wave that overtook us all. Grown men sobbing publicly without fear or thought to what any of the audience may think. It was real, for all of us.

We had worked with each other, for each other, we loved and laughed, we embraced as we grafted and crafted something special. We hoped that it was impactful whilst entertaining. For many of the 600 or so that came, this was essential viewing.  A conversation on masculinity and mental health has well and truly been started, how far could it go?

When the last drop of celebratory beers had been drunk, and the last of our multiple hugs had finished, each of us returned home to face the reality of life outside the bubble of a performance. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I didn’t know how to feel. For all my emotional intelligence and self-awareness I was numb. I knew I’d grown but I didn’t know how. I was exhausted and fragile yet strengthened by the experience.

As I write this, I don’t know how I’ve grown personally, maybe I’ve grown as an artist. I remember the first performances where I messed up lines but got through my solo in the show. That started an incredible mental battle that I had to overcome. Slow down so that every line can have the impact you want it to, was the message from the directors.   I duly started my piece in 1st gear rather than 3rd and found a groove that allowed me to shine. Word perfect and performances 3 – 5 got better each time. Some said they saw me grow through each one.

Some have said they’ve learned a lot from me, again I don’t know what. So I ask myself what is the legacy of Man Up for me? Perhaps it’s relationships.

Throughout my life, I didn’t have many deep connections with the males, one every blue moon at best. The connections I had were generally social and rarely along meaningful lines. Ultimately they’d fizzle and I’d be left to fend for myself. As the weeks pass, I intend to build even deeper personal connections with the family or UpMen as we called ourselves. If brotherly love must continue, being intentional is necessary.

“Yes I’m a mess but I’m blessed to be stuck with you…”

Thank you, Paul & Clare, for your direction and process of co-creation, thank you Up Men for your love for this overthinking wordsmith. We have redefined the words Man Up in a positive way. Let’s build.

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Old vs New Man

To some, the new man seems more feminine. They seem too sensitive, soft, more cushions and curtains tan grit and graft. They don’t know where man has gone. This new man isn’t real man. They don’t fit, they’re the ones fighting for acceptance. They find fewer outlets for their kind of guy.

Is this new man an evolution? Is it the standard for men to come? Or is it just a phase that will go full circle? How does sensitive man teach the toughness that manhood is known for?

I see this so-called new man as more of an expansion to the existing property rather than a standalone building. It is an exciting addition to the stoic menu of masculinity. Our base instincts to build, conquer, fix will always be there. It is simply that we have better ways to protect ourselves. Better ways to heal.

Protection from being honest and open. Protection by knowing what our fights really are. Allowing ourselves the chance to heal properly and become stronger for it.

It is also about better day-to-day maintenance of the man mentally and physically. We have access to greater resources than ever before. Can we trust ourselves to use them?

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