Finding myself again

I’ve flagged this as medical rather than general mutterings but I’ll soon start work on my sites again so perhaps it will be in a ‘personal’ category. We’ll see.

My wife and children think I’m having a mid-life crisis, my mum and aunty are just glad I don’t look like I’m at death’s door and while our Sue is half jealous that I’m slim once more, having gloated when I finally put on several stones after a lifetime of being able to scoff a box of cream cakes without putting an ounce on. I’m just trying to get myself back in shape, physically and especially mentally. I may not be 20 any more, but just because I’m over 50 doesn’t mean I should conform to society’s idea of a middle-aged man. Still, I’m somewhat lost and need to fix that.

Just finished reading :

Stop the Excuses, How to change lifelong thoughts by Dr Wayne Dyer.
Interesting book with some great ideas. A few are maybe a little wacky, but overall I really got a lift from reading it.

The Power of your subconscious mind by Dr Joseph Murphy.
As it was written back in 1963 it’s rather dated, particularly some of the theories, but it has been revised and boosts a million copies sold. If you can ignore the religious angle and a few of the quaint ideas and dated and sometimes unbelievable stories it’s not bad. If you get just a few ‘Aha’ moments from reading it, it’s worth the evenings light reading.

Currently reading :

Mindset, How you can fulfil your potential by Dr Carol Dweck.
Haven’t got far into it yet but it’s promising already.

I also did a revealing online test with : VisualDNA. Here’s my result:

You’re a Culture Vulture
Sophisticated and inquisitive you have a real passion for art and culture. You pride yourself on being in the know when it comes to the latest music and films and you always like to have a good book on the go. You believe in immersing yourself in interesting experiences that make you look at people, places and opportunities from new angles. Being sensitive and creative you want to feel connected to the world around you and actively seek out opportunities to explore it. It’s all about broadening your horizons and living life to the full. Anything else would not fulfill your curious nature.

From an early age you’ve definitely been something of a purist at heart. You have a strong respect for hard work and dedication in any aspect of life.

Asking about the latest book you’ve got on the go is probably the best way to get you talking. You like to lose yourself in another world or lifetime, as each page is turned you become more involved with the plot and characters and increasingly enjoy the sensation of fueling your imagination and knowledge.

When it comes to travel, you love to get as far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life as possible. Being the culturally adventurous person you are, the kind of holiday you crave is one that’s well off the beaten track and combines the sights and sounds of the exotic with something historical to really get your mind racing.

To sum it up in a few words, you love the mystery of life. You are not someone who only sees the humdrum of human existence – you like to marvel at the wonders of nature and universe.

Taking a different tack today, thinking about myself, who I am, what makes me tick. I was thinking about web sites I’ve done for people, systems I’ve fixed, jobs I’ve had – and they were many and varied, places I’ve been. I’ve been thinking about what names me happy, why, how. Then striking out anything with a ‘preen’ factor, ruling out anything that was selfish or selfless, focusing on things that connect, that don’t need a reason, an excuse, a justification. Things that I do because it’s just me, that make me happy without necessarily involving other people. Funny what strikes you. I used to work in an aluminium paste plant, both on process and in the labs. Dirty job but generally a good crowd of people. One night, when it was quiet, everything running smoothly and most of the night shift asleep on benches in the hut I took up a wide broom and swept the place. Took a while as it was a big hanger of a thing with fourteen mills and so forth. When I was done I felt a sense of pride in my job, of achievement. When you see these talent shows and some vacuous expert rolls out the hackneyed, “You took that … and made it your own.” for a few hours I really did.

“Ummm, so your crowning moment was sweeping a factory floor. Okayyy, nice to see you aiming high in life.”

I prefer to see it as making order out of chaos. It was also a good physical workout as I had to manually relocate scores of pallets, tonnes of atomised powder and man-handle drums of oleic acid each weighing up to 360lb. I was a lot younger and fitter then, of course. The place was heaving and when I’d done, for the sheer enjoyment of it, it was spick and span. Ignoring the false glow of prestige and the disparity of wages which, honestly, would you rather be, a happy cleaner taking quiet pride in their work, or a stressed and miserable executive, massaging figures to placate board members? The wisdom is to know when it’s time to leave your comfort zone and when you are going in above your head. And to know when your comfort zone is anything but.

Another snatched moment was working as a subcontractor for a nuclear plant. (Yes, I really did). A friend and colleague was struggling with a bug in a database he was writing to collate schematics and even though I’d only read a dBase II manual years earlier I managed to spot and correct the error in my first scan of the code. It wasn’t that I’m a genius programmer, just that I could see the disparity. Again, order out of chaos.

Reading and, like now, writing, simple pleasures like that matter greatly to me too. Surrounding my computer, when I’m not hiding in World of Warcraft, are books on psychology, programming, photography, writing guides, French and Spanish, fantasy novels, even a copy of Tolkiens’ ‘The Hobbit’ – in Latin. Struggle with it at present as my Latin is barely rudimentary, yet the moment I saw it on Amazon I knew I wanted to read it. Buried under headphones, a copy of Stièvenard’s ‘Rules and Exercises on the French Language’ (from 1881) and Berlitz langauge CD’s is a copy of ‘Latin for Dummies’. My Kindle collection, as yet largely unread, ranges from Nietzche to Marcus Aurelius while my youtube listening habits continue to exasperate my daughter as I flip apparently randomly between Mussorgsky, P!nk, Foreigner and more obscure songs like ‘Seven Devils’ by Florence and the Machine, the latter of which made her lean over me and type, “CHEER UP GRUMPY BONES!!!!!!!!!” on my Sticky Notes

All these interests you’d think I’d be well-educated, but I’m not, not really. Dreadful at general knowledge quizzes too. I’ve taken a lot of courses, some I completed, some I dropped out of, others I was unable to finish for other reasons. Even now I’m thinking of doing a degree in Computing and Psychology and wondering why I want to do it. To have it. To be able to say, “I have a degree”. Preen factor. I’m not academically inclined. Some courses I take because they interest me, others because it’s wanted or needed for this or that, but I fail. No discipline. I have a tendency to give it 110% or I don’t care. I can’t pretend interest in something that bores me, and me giving 110% tends to overwhelm lecturers as I learn can faster than they can teach me and being presented with a 60 page document when they expected two sides or having their programming politely corrected by a new student doesn’t always go down well. You have to laugh at the cruel irony, I know full well I have the potential to be a world leader in my field, yet I have low confidence and not a clue what my field actually is. This, of course, is what I hope to discover in my ramblings. Whether I do find it and rise to the challenge is another matter but if I hear it sing to me I’ll have to answer the call.

Natures sings to me, but it’s not my calling, I don’t think. I’d never want to be a vet, gave up on the idea of being a zoo keeper and didn’t follow through with being a forest ranger. Still, whether I’ve trampled through open field of deep snow, dared rain-slick screes on a mountain, slogged across sandy dunes, sauntered casually in a sunlit woodland or stared at the sky from a frosty river bank I always seem to find some inner peace, a moment away from humanity, from technology. Not my calling, but that’s the real me. Looking at the universe on a cloudless sky, watching moonlight capture dew on a spider’s web, seeing green shoots poke out the ice, talking companionably to a blackbird in branches overhead, listening to the silence as I contemplate a tree, wondering if it can hear my thoughts as I watch the ecology of its bark, the face in the knot…

Yes, time for me to do, to be.

I enjoy photography, but it’s not a career for me, though perhaps it can be. Not commercial or people, but abstract and nature. Capturing an insect in flight, sunlight streaming through trees, moonlight reflected in a puddle. Something to think about. Pity my eyes aren’t as young as they used to be but that’s just an excuse, something to overcome. I read an inspiring quote in a Mensa magazine recently, from a guy called Sean Allerton. An ex-RAF gunner, he’s tetraplegic after a bike accident yet is on his second 500 mile walk for various charities (see Push500.com). He can use his arms, but not his hands yet managed to push himself 500 miles doing circuits of airbases. Here’s what he said:

“I could go on and on about the things I can’t do but why bother? I have to concentrate on the things I can do… The world does not owe you a living. It’s up to you to get things done.”

Another quote I have that makes me grin is:
“Always find something to be glad about in any situation, even if the only thing you can come up with is that at least it’s better than being hacked alive by ravenous cannibals.”

I was very ill myself for a while, when they agreed I wasn’t about to die it was believed I’d end up in a wheelchair and it’s still a possibility, yet I’m still pretty mobile. The chair I’m caged in I build around myself, shored it up and fortified it for good measure. Then I bunkered down and withdrew from the world for years on end. I could bemoan what a waste of my life and talents or I could accept the hell I put myself (and family) through was where I needed to be to grow up and move on. At present I’m like some mole poking out it’s burrow and quite prepared to dive back down into the safety of my darkness. I can imagine more painful deaths, but I can’t imagine a slower, worse one than to do that. Have you ever held a healthy mole? Few people have and they are amazing creatures. Their fur is like silk, they have wonderful, inquisitive faces and the strength in their front paws is phenomenal. Beautiful creatures, at home in the earth, but I’ve shared their world for too long, time to release the wolf in myself and run thought primeval forests once more. Or at least code.

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