Adventures in Babysitting

It’s been a Week. The two Open Mics were more successful than I could possibly have imagined. From one, a recommendation from a hero to submit. From the other? I’m pretty certain it earned me the chance to spend 15 minutes on the Big Kid’s Table…

In Full Disclosure News, I made the poster, because it might be a while before anyone else puts my face on anything, and you take the chances whenever they arise. Questions need to be asked next week as to a) how long I do in fact get to read, b) whether its in the first half or second and c) if graphics can be used. I think the last one is the least important right now, but am seriously thinking about the possibility of presentation. Maybe that happens when it’s just me doing both halves…

I’ll be talking more about this in the weeks leading up to the event, but needless to say, a LOT of publicity is going to happen. It is the least I can do as thanks for the opportunity. Having never read for longer than five minutes before?

This undoubtedly is a game changer.

Progress and Process

Despite feeling decidedly sub-par over the last few days, a lot has been achieved. The personal branding on social media has undergone what will be an (approximately) monthly change, and we’re ready to move into the next phase of 2022 Will be Awesome (Honest). If you’ve not read last weekend’s post on what to expect, you can find it here, but that just covers my personal plans. There are some other things happening too.

February 3rd is Time to Talk Day. This year, the event’s moved out of the hands of Time to Change, who no longer exist as an entity. However, the legacy they left behind, thanks to hundreds of groups of Mental Health Champions, is very much alive and well. I’m working this year with a group in York, and my A-Z of Personal Poetry will be all over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook on Thursday. There’s a secret page here too, if you can find it before the event, where the selected poems have been recorded as audio…

There’s only eight poems featured here, but the full set of 26 will, once we’re done next week, be put together and made into a lovely pamphlet which I’ll stick up on the Amazons, after which every copy that’s sold will have a portion of profit sent straight back to YES (York Ending Stigma) I’m immensely pleased and proud to be able to help the organization this year, and hope to keep supporting them and their ideals in years to come.

I hope you’ll consider starting your own conversation next week, or perhaps take the time to make your own personalized A-Z of mental health priorities.

The Bigger Picture: Exercise

From time to time, I will feel the need going forward to write about other things than poetry.

According to the way in which BMI is measured I am, right now, eligible for the above programme.

Except, I am in the best shape of my entire adult life, can deadlift 65 kg and bench press close to 45 kg. I still get breathless going upstairs at certain times of the day, because of the way my body works. In essence, I’m a train: it needs a while for me to get going, and then I can work for hours. It’s also taken nearly six years of incredibly painful, mental and physical challenge to get this far, and to understand what one body is capable of achieving. 12 weeks of support, to be honest, seems like a bit of an insult. Being healthy needs to become a full-time commitment, and trying to make schemes best fit for most people is often doomed to failure.

Exercise is also not the answer for everyone. Throwing terms like ‘fat’ and ‘thin’ about is insulting to so many, and using BMI as a benchmark is increasingly being cited as a damaging and dangerous. The key, undoubtedly, are measurements like biometrics, and a genuine understanding that not all human beings are born the same. I’ll never be ‘normal’, after all, because my body’s a lot longer than most people’s and my legs are shorter than many others, and it is high time that we stop using old-fashioned labels to try and define fitness. I really hope in the next 10 years that there’s a move away from ‘wellness’ as a visually-defined ideal. People are not all created equal.

My last Biometric reading, before Christmas 2021

Since I started at my gym, as you can see, I’ve put on nearly 10 kilos. Most people go to exercise in order to lose weight as a path to health and fitness. Not me. I’m here to fulfil my weightlifting ambitions, and become a better cyclist. In the last six years I’ve completed numerous bike events (including Ride London) and last year I completed my first 10 km run. In all this time, there’s been a running battle between body and brain, one that has lost me friends and caused numerous amounts of emotional grief. You are not exercising to fulfil someone else’s idea of happy, or indeed fit. You should be doing it to give yourself happiness, with an improved quality of life.

If exercise does not do this, the answer may not lie in being what other people think is acceptable or beautiful, and this is why I think more Gyms need to be putting mental health front and centre in their wellness plans. What is it that stops you from achieving your goals? Why do you eat in the first place? What changes would you like to make, not only to be healthier, but to feel mentally more capable of changing your life? Just giving someone 12 weeks to change and no support or motivation to do so is not helpful. I’d love to see more Personal Trainers with Mental Health First Aid qualifications, and more Pharmacists with the same.

This has never just been about eating less and exercising more, even though that’s basically the point you need to reach to succeed.

At the start of the month, my Gym awarded me the title PT Hero after deciding that I’d worked quite hard and deserved some recognition. They presented me this in a packed exercise class, which was good practice for the day when I do indeed win a Poetry Award and I don’t crumble to dust with the attention. It also made me realize that, in all my adult life, I never really felt I’d achieved something until someone else took the time to tell me so. I have medals, I’ve fundraised over £1000 for mental health charities, but nothing thus far feels as important as this, and that’s odd when I spend a lot of time not getting worried about other people.

It makes me ask the question: why does this matter? Normally I’d take time to work that out but not today. Achievement and representation are not the same thing. For decades, I hated exercise, found it hard and stressful, because I could not push past the idea I had to look and act a certain way. Once the tyranny of appearance was dealt with, and once I started seeing women like me being given greater prominence in the wider world, it was easier to believe that this was acceptable, that I could be the strong, capable woman I had always wanted to be but never known where to find.

All the awards in the world are not as important as being respected and encouraged as a strong and capable person.

I am tired of the manufactured Influencer outlook, so many people have, on life. I want to hear about failure, and stress and concerns because only by knowing other people feel like we do does anyone ever get anywhere. It’s not about being at the top of a pile and looking down: we all need to lift each other up, help collectively to improve life and wellbeing for everyone. If my Award inspires someone, if my exercise chat makes someone thing or maybe just sharing the Sky article changes someone’s view, it’s worth talking about. I am also tired of people shouting at each other, as if knowing the ‘right’ answer will help everybody in the long run anyway.

We need to stop telling, and start showing what matters most.

Dean Friedman is Following Me on Twitter

Back in March 2020, just before the first lockdown hit, something happened that, it must be said, made me realize that whatever other people might try and attest, Twitter will never be anything other than one of the best things that ever happened to me. The story I am about to recount was first told on my personal blog, but is being repeated here again because, finally, I’ve begun to write the poem whose title is the same as this blog post. It’ll hopefully be done this month and then, I will share it with everyone.

Meanwhile… I feel some time travelling coming on…

Imagine, if you will, it is 1977.

I am 11 years old. I hear a song on the radio for the first time that immediately captures my attention: Ariel. It’s by a bloke called Dean Friedman: an American singer-songwriter, for whom that is, at the time, his only ‘major’ US hit. However, this is not about success, but quirkiness catching both my ear and that of a Radio One DJ I listen to obsessively: Noel Edmunds. Thanks to him, I am compelled to seek out Friedman’s second album ‘Well, Well’ Said the Rocking Chair and shortly afterwards I become obsessed with one particular track.

I still carry that same song with me, to this day.

It remains the quintessentially perfect piece of narrative storytelling: a breakup song to end all breakup songs, but not obsessing on what’s been lost, but how to pull yourself together after the fact. It’s uplifting and smart and has the most killer saxophone solo in the middle, but what keeps it fresh in my head after forty years are these four lines of poetry which, let’s be honest, have never been bettered:

Take a look at the place you call your home
you’re reflected in all the things you own
and the seeds of reason you have sown
they’re a measure of a part of you that’s already grown…

Not gonna lie: for a good few years I literally carried those lyrics around with me too, wound tight inside a tea ball locket. I am happy to reveal that to you, dear readers, because I know we’re at that stage in our relationship now. It’s remains on a playlist that gets listened to weekly, and has been stuck into numerous other best of compilations over the years. When I inserted it into an online one back in March 2020 which was posted on Twitter, things started getting funky…

I can still remember the complete, abject disbelief when I first saw this on screen. Not only had the man whose song I’d made into a mantra for moving forward liked the fact I’d highlighted the song in my playlist, HE WAS NOW FOLLOWING ME. How was this possible, exactly? I didn’t @ him, he wasn’t directly mentioned in dispatches, but here he was, and remains. Dean’s still working online and playing gigs and has new songs out as I type this. You might move away from the people who influence you, but those people remain a constant regardless. In all the chaos we’ve now collectively experienced, it’s good to know Mr F remains one of the good guys.

I promised I’d write ‘Dean Friedman is Following Me of Twitter’ nearly a year ago, and the draft is still there, waiting for the right moment… and here I am, starting 2022 on a high. It seems the right moment to pay back a debt, too, so time and effort will be taken to ensure the final result is the right, fair and correct summation both of the story and his connection back to an 11 old girl who knew that, some day in their future, words would matter like nothing else ever could.

It’s taken a while, but I think I’m ready to do my pre-teen self proper justice.

Holiday

I’m supposed to be having a couple of weeks off, but instead there is a compulsion to write here for the first time in a while. The reasons are complex, and will be discussed in other places as time goes on, but for now, this is the moment to start laying foundations down for new ventures. As that happens, it is also the moment to consider how far I have come.

Stories that make a person whole…

For the last thirty-nine weeks, I’ve captured myself on video explaining my plans going forward, and this undoubtedly has contributed to an ability to rationalize beyond what was there to begin with. The fortieth video will launch on a new platform, having finally removed myself from Patreon. Ironically, it was their own fault it happened. I was given the opportunity to join a marketing course, which showed me how to sell the ‘brand’ better.

This is not a brand, and never will be. I am a perennial work in progress, and trying to promote that on a platform which only sees fulfilment and cash as success really was doomed to failure. As a transactional person at heart, there needs to be a balance between what is truth and what is the line that won’t be crossed. It was therefore inevitable the relationship would end after it was obvious the company’s values and mine did not align.

I was sent a brand survey last week that was the last straw, and I made my displeasure known. Also, I didn’t sign up to win the $100 gift card because the exchange rate is woeful, part of a far bigger issue.

This week I’m going out with the youngest, will be taking photos everywhere, and hope to get some back end work fixed in an environment which is considerably more conducive than it was. Mostly, I need to be organized better, which is the perennial demon to appease. At least now that’s grasped, there are other things to talk about.

#Instaverse will be back in September, but so will occasional posting here too on personal issues.

The End

I try, as a rule, not to wipe people out with walls of text: nobody really cares about three lines in anyway. So, let’s make this short, sweet and to the point.

If I was pledging to you as a Patreon Creator, I’ve cancelled my pledge as of this morning. It’s 100% absolutely not you. I have run out of money, and can no longer sustain pledging to anybody is the main reason, but the secondary one is that I’ve effectively had enough of Patreon. As a creator, it no longer caters to my needs, which are making more money for me and not for them.

I have to be blunt here: without more cash, it’s becoming unsustainable to keep going. I’d make more money stacking shelves in a supermarket, even after tax. So, it’s time to relocate and change the game plan, in the hope I can get more support and more of that support in my pocket and less in someone else’s.

Therefore, starting September 1st, all my content moves to Ko-Fi.

I’ll give you more details on this going forward.

#Instaverse: Grasp

REALLY important day for me today, so much so that I wasn’t able to record the audio until Friday for this. This is a poem about understanding what a particular word finally means, and accepting what I am in a wider framework.

#Instaverse : May 6th, 2021 : Grasp

Ready to Go

There are lots of things I’d like to do in 2021. This is where I let you lot in on what they are.

The Ko-Fi exercise is going REALLY well, so much so that I’m expanding out to other places too. I have a Tumblr account now, where my experimental stuff is gonna appear, and having linked my Pinterest account to here in the last week, I’ll be pinning my poetry there too. It’s another place where exposure can happen, and all those things are Good [TM] going forward.

Next up, we have audio: there’s gonna be a selection of audio files to play with next week, and part of me is already wondering if there’s an easy way to make an image map for all of these (so that’s been shoved on the To Do List) and that faffing alone might well have been better served happening a bit earlier in my planning. However, there’s still a week left before Time to Talk Day, so it’s not a total loss. If it works, we’ll play with other things in a similar vein.

Finally, photography will be making a return in February. For most of this month when I’ve gone outside it’s to either exercise or do essential stuffs, which is really how this should be working anyway, so my subjects need to be integrated into exercise practically. There are plans afoot, and again we’ll start working on those next week. Everything is under control.

I just got to do it all now…

Change

It’s the UK’s @TimetoChange ‘Time to Talk’ Day in [FX: checks calendar] nine days and as this will be the last time that this event takes place under the auspice of the organization (who will cease to exist in March) it seems only right and proper to do something special. Therefore, I’ve decided to take my mental health journey, which is recorded in CURT; URBANE [click here for a link to purchase] and effectively present a virtual reading.

All 20 poems will be available here EXCLUSIVELY on Time to Talk Day, on a dedicated webpage. I’ll be sharing eight of those between 9am and 5pm on the 4th via my Twitter account too, with some extra bits and bobs along the way, and hope you’ll take a listen. In the end, all of this is about starting conversations, however small, about the things that worry or concern us. Talking about how you feel doesn’t just allow you the chance to explain what’s wrong, it can also help others understand and suggest where you can find help and support.

Time to Talk may be going away, but I fully intend to keep writing poetry about my mental health, and promoting conversations around it. I qualified as a Mental health First Aider late last year, and it’s only the start of a long-term commitment to help other people who might be struggling during the pandemic, and long after we’re back to whatever ‘normal’ ends up being. Poetry is a how I learnt to express feelings that previously I could not actually discuss, and my chapbook is an important metaphor in my continuing journey to enlightenment.

I hope you enjoy what I’ve made, and that you can take the time to listen to the poems when they appear next Thursday. Thank you for your support 😀

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