Thirty Days Hath November

Halloween offerings

[Day 1, Day 10Day 20Day 27Day 30]

Today is Halloween (or Hallo Iain as my Dad would say to my brother every year) and Samhain which marks the end of harvest and the start of winter – the darkest part of the year. We are well into the Scorpio season of magic, death and rebirth and I am following this Tarot lady on YouTube‘s daily talks on diving deep into Scorpio energies and I am thoroughly enjoying a good rumination on what she says deep down in my soul. I am enjoying thinking once more about the energy of archetypes as well as tarot.

In the accidental techie blog series, I looked at how I got to where I am now, first and foremost as a computer scientist, but the rest of life is in there too intertwined, all the agony and ecstasy which make me who I am right now. In When things fall apart Pema Chödrön summarises all experiences as the eight worldly dharmas: pleasure and pain, loss and gain, fame and disgrace, and praise and blame. I love the succinctness and binary clarity. Nonetheless, ever since I fell into talking about the past – all of it, not just the computer bits – I have had trouble shaking it off and moving forward.

So, I am harnessing that Scorpio energy in order to make some magic of my own with two challenges: I will be doing a 30 day bikram challenge and also NaNoWriMo. In this way I hope to create some momentum by nanowrimoing and bikraming up a storm. I am viewing it as a busman’s holiday because I am stuck in what began as an exciting work project which I now approach with immense resistance and so hopefully by the time I open my advent calendar on 1st December I will have finished it or it will be in much better shape, I might even be in better shape too who knows? Thirty days straight Bikram has to do something to my body and soul.

I don’t normally announce things publicly as I have a horror of setting myself up for feeling like a failure but in Bikram the teachers often say that yoga is a practice, not a performance. Blogging is the same as well as writing any first draft of anything, it’s starting and failing, it’s all practice and progress, which is great.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

[Part 2: 10 days of Bikram, 8 of NaNoWriMo]

2019: Top 10 blogs

[ Part 1: The story in the stats]

I used so many words pondering archives, bonfires and identity in Part 1 that I didn’t have space to reveal the top ten blogs of 2019.

Here they are:

  1. Social anxiety on social media (FEBRUARY 18, 2019)
  2. Katie Hopkins’s #fatstory one year on (JANUARY 18, 2016)
  3. Designing story (3): Archetypes and aesthetics (MARCH 5, 2017)
  4. Katie Hopkins’s #myfatstory is a story of vulnerability (JANUARY 5, 2015)
  5. My top blogs of 2018 (DECEMBER 23, 2018)
  6. Semiotics: Finding meaning in storytelling (NOVEMBER 14, 2016)
  7. Storytelling: Narrative, Databases, and Big Data (APRIL 14, 2016)
  8. The inner life: Tarot and technology (APRIL 18, 2019)
  9. Social-psychology-the-social-animal-on-social-media (1) (JANUARY 20, 2016)
  10. Maslow’s hierarchy of social media (APRIL 14, 2015)

As I said in the big data blog, the stats Jetpack collected didn’t seem to match up with the rest of what was going on my website. Often, I get people wanting to pay me money to either buy links or publish their content, which seemed a bit strange since Jetpack said that on average 12 people a day visited my site. So, I went back to the raw data on my cpanel which said that I get 1.2m hits a year around 300,000 people which was a huge surprise.

But, looking at raw data can take some time so I installed WP Statistics for a brief overview, which was nice for a while, and it is where I drew the above list from. At first, I thought that given that the data was only collected over a few months that it would be really different. However, it wasn’t. I compared the above list with previous years 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and yes, it’s really similar except for the new number one: Social anxiety on social media which was amazing really as I felt quite vulnerable writing it and didn’t want to feel that raw and naked and fretted a lot about it. However, I am glad I did as it seems to have helped other people which is so lovely and I did a follow up vlog about social anxiety and emotional resonance as I really think that they are linked.

Three of the blogs also appeared on the all time Top Eleven Blogs (JANUARY 27, 2018) which I wrote to celebrate having blogged here for 11 years. Though the actual stats were from Jetpack which I installed in 2012 so instead of all time it should be of all six years which is not quite as dramatic, alas, I do like a definitive answer, we all do, we desire certainty.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself gazing again at my stats instead of blogging and this was around the same time I realised that there’s no real point sharing my blogs on Twitter and Facebook it doesn’t really affect the stats, unless it is something like the Comfort blog which is about grief and my mum and family resemblances. I got some click throughs from Facebook because I keep in touch with friends and family who knew my mum though I felt a bit shy talking openly about my feelings in front of people who have known me all my life, which is a bit odd when I think about it, as I say I always think I am blogging in a void and I am free to say whatever I think here. There was nothing at all on Twitter because that’s a different group of people and no one cares about my grief or feelings on there.

This is interesting (I laugh when I write this because my PhD supervisor used to say that it was not for me to say) because I read some research ages ago about being a different person on different social media platforms using the honeycomb model and I was not certain, especially when you use something like Jetpack as you can use its Publicize which just publishes every blog on every platform, and many businesses do the same. They will post the same content on every channel. But, since I had deleted Jetpack, I had to make the decision each time whether to share a blog or not, and then I found that I was getting navel gaze-y about it and didn’t feel that I wanted to share a post because no one cared, and so I was showing up differently on different channels, even though I didn’t believe it as I want to believe that I am consistent – what the heck? Why do I want to think that? Why is consistency so important to me? Apart from in HCI of course! I am allowed to change my mind. We are all allowed to change our minds. It’s how we grow. I’ve been blogging here so long now that I have expressed opposite opinions on the same topic quite a few times as I’ve learnt more or thought more. It’s all progress, and we say different things to different groups of people all the time, back to emotional resonance again, why waste your breath explaining your feelings to people, as my troll put it (hey babe), who just don’t give a shit!

The interesting thing (see again) was that WP Statistics showed me that regardless of whether I publicised my blogs on Twitter or Facebook or not at all my stats remained the same. So, that felt good, I don’t need to rush about on social media when all I want to do is blog, blog, blog. With that realisation, I deleted WP Statistics as I didn’t quite understand some of the interface and I couldn’t be bothered to learn how it should work, and also I had begun to create content specifically tailored to an audience, which would have – as you can see from the list – eventually led to more Katie Hopkins blogs and I just don’t want to do that. Two was more than enough. That woman came in (2) and (4). She is endlessly fascinating to some people but thankfully she has fallen off my radar and I intend to keep it that way.

Yesterday I was missing gazing at stats, so since then I have been playing with Slimstat which is linked to Infosniper which is an IP lookup but shows you it on a map, and that is pretty cool. I’ve had so much fun. It’s one thing to see hits and unique visits, but quite another to see that visit on a map and imagine someone sitting in their home or in a cafe in Shanghai or Jakarta looking at my website on their phone. Wow! How amazing is that? So far all the bots and crawlers live in NYC. Why is that? It’s so exciting!

At one point though, I was looking at my stats, and I thought oooh, that looks like my IP address, is something hacking me? So, I rushed into my husband and asked him if he had checked out my homepage on my website for three seconds. He had. He roared with laughter and called me a stalker! Nice. I now understand what the little clock thing means on the interface and how that gets hit – if you reopen your browser and my site is open then I will get a little clock it’s not just a very short or long time the human may have just left the browser open and isn’t looking at all.

But back to my top blogs which were measured between April and October 2019, apart from Katie Hopkins and social anxiety, the other six blogs are about storytelling and making sense of the world, or data, or life experiences, or other people, which we do because we all want to feel better and we all want to feel heard (the conclusions I come to in every blog, it’s ultimately what motivates us):

This is blog number 200 and though I don’t write here all the time, when I do, I use it as a tool to manage my feelings and thoughts. Ah yes, I do it to feel heard and I do it to feel better. So, the fact that people stay and read and occasionally comment is just so lovely, all over the world too. Amazing. I am heard all over the world. That is magic. So, thank you to everyone who spends even three seconds on my site, it is lovely to think that my words may touch other people and that they come back to read more, even if when I write them I think that I am all alone.

2019: Top 10 blogs or the story in the stats

I have a big box under my desk which is full of planners and journals and notebooks that I have dragged around forever and I am wondering, should I make a big bonfire out of them? I never look in them. I keep them, just in case.

I think my motivation is the same as Muriel Spark’s. I talk about it here in the Privacy blog (one of my personal favourites, just lately anyway), as Spark kept an archive as irrefutable proof of who she was and the experiences which had shaped her. She could use that archive to know the truth about herself. No one could tell her who she was.

I feel that. I want me to tell me who I am. It has always been my greatest fear to not know myself. Deepak Chopra says that the fear of death is just really the fear of not knowing who you are and once you know who you are, you are no longer afraid of death.

Having watched my mother withdraw from life, from herself, and from all the things which give life meaning, including who she was, I saw that not knowing who you are was quite different from the frightening thing I imagined it to be, to the point, that in some respects, it might be nice to not hold on so tight to everything, all those social labels, those constructed identities, the need to please, the desire to be seen as successful. That said, throughout my mother’s long journey on home, as it were, though she was my home, I wanted her so desperately to stay the same, be the her I had always known, and to still be here with me, so that I wouldn’t feel so lost and homeless.

After she died, I decided that I would use the money from her Estate to do something nice for me, so I applied to do a Creative Writing MA at my local university. At interview, I had to discuss one of the last five books I had read. I chose Elizabeth is missing (oh they are going making it into a BBC drama starring Glenda Jackson. Great joy).

The main protagonist has Alzheimer’s but she is never afraid of not knowing who she is or if someone is annoyed, perhaps even at her – it is what it is. She just carries on with her detective work, and the reader finds out what is going on from the other characters, which made me laugh out loud. I read it not long after my mum died and I was so comforted because I often worried about my mum’s distress and pain about not remembering even though she never seemed that bothered. One time I said to her: Oh there’s another Jean in here. And she nodded and then looked at me for a bit and nodded: Jean, Is that me? Am I Jean? Is that my name?

So, there I was in the interview, part way through explaining the book and comfort and experience and resonance (oooh no link, my fingers are itching to write a blog on resonance) and all the stuff ( good stuff) I blog about. And, I began to cry. I couldn’t speak so I cried for a good few minutes. The interviewer – white male middle class (patriarchal but thinks he’s not, bless him) – just looked at me expressionless and then offered me a tissue, and I cried into that until I finished off what I was saying and we carried on with the interview. It was very British. The only thing that was missing was a teapot. One lump or two? (I wish I hadn’t written that as it reminds me of discovering breast cancer.)

Sometimes, I think that it might be nice to retreat from the world, to choose to shave my head and go sit in a cave somewhere, with just a knotted hankie of my possessions and no social labels, just to connect with the divine. Although, I have just put a lovely blue rinse – wash in/wash out Pixie Lott promises me – on my fabulous long grey locks which have taken ages to grow, so no, not right now, perhaps I could take a mirror and a job lot of blue rinses: You look gorgeous.

The first time I had chemotherapy, I ended up in hospital with neutropenia. Lying in a hospital bed on a drip with the curtains closed feeling like death warmed up (as my mother used to say), which apparently I was, medically speaking, it wasn’t that bad. It really wasn’t that bad. I could barely remember my own name and couldn’t at all remember my date of birth, but that was ok, it was written on the tag on my wrist. I was detached from anything which had given me meaning and it wasn’t at all how I imagined it to be. It wasn’t frightening. It really was peaceful, nothing mattered, and if I had slipped away, it might, possibly, have been okay, selfishly, for me. Although, to be perfectly honest it has taken until now for me to come to terms with the reality that I had cancer.

Another time, in the chemotherapy room which made me nauseous – the stem cell treatment smelt like heated sweetcorn – a woman next to me was telling me that after a chemotherapy session she found it hard to care about anything including her beloved dogs, she said she literally threw food at them. I shared with her that it was the same with my babies, my longed for loved babies, the drugs were so strong as to disconnect us and life shrank down to the bed and the pains in my veins (she told me that she loved her central line and I was momentarily envious) from what had been injected in there. She looked better about it and I am glad we had that moment. I wonder how she is and I often think of her. I like to think of her walking her dogs, feeling happy, full of love.

Life is what it is in any given moment, and it’s easier, though nigh on, sometimes, impossible, to accept things as they are and remember even in the depths of despair, things change. Even when there is no hope, there’s always hope. At the very least, the hope that when the desperation passes there will be peace, even just briefly.

It’s odd to think that I got discharged so I can go about the world bombarded with adverts on every social media platform about shite that I have no interest in. It makes me want to look under the hood and tinker with the lazy algorithms, though the Match.com 30something handsome men who want a date with me ads aren’t so bad. You are as young as you feel ( I wouldn’t mind feeling me some 30, wink, wink – perverted old lady stereotype – nice, a new social label).

Offline, I have an immense amount of super boring transactional conversations about other people’s shite too. You know the type, when you have known people for years and seen them daily but still they never speak unless you make a big effort so that they notice you, they don’t reply to your email even though it’s about fun stuff our kids could do together, you have to go over and put your face in theirs and demand a yes or no because they are holding out on a better offer and don’t care if they hurt your kid’s feelings #wtf. They never remember your name, or your children’s until they find out that one of yours child goes to the school of their dreams and now they want to be your best friend and want information like you have some sort of insight. Oooh, perhaps they thought I tweaked an algorithm. An algorithm of life. A secret of life. Interesting. We often all think that, don’t we? That someone else knows something we don’t which is why they look like they are living on Easy St and we are stuck in the Five of Wands battling through life, our difficulties, our mental conflict.

Five of wands source: Tarotteachings

I love the Tarot, it has a card for every occasion.

So, I have deleted my stats plug-in, again, and today, I am thinking I might just write my own, as we can see, I like thinking about algorithms, and interpretations, I could do that. I have been pondering what to do and that I am done, stick a fork in me, I’m done. It might be nice to do something new within what I already know.

But, before I do, and before I deleted my stats counter- which reminds me of comedian Alan Carr’s very funny routine about his parents buying a shredder to prevent identity theft, if they carried on like that, they wouldn’t remember who they were themselves – I made a note of my ten top blogs of 2019 which now that this blog has gotten really long, I will analyse separately in: 2019 Top 10 Blogs the sequel.

In the meantime, I have to ask: Does it matter if we don’t remember who we are? Does it matter if I don’t drag around my past? Would I feel better if I made a lovely bonfire out of my journals and danced around it, naked as a new born, under the moonlight?

We are always changing, always experiencing new things. Perhaps, I could let go of the past, of the journals, of old ideas, old dreams, old goals, and with a big fire, I could create some space for dancing, dreaming, drumming and the odd quotation from ye auld Lao Tzu:

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

– Lao Tzu

I have no idea what it means, I really don’t, but does it matter? It fills me up, it gives me hope.

Last winter I burnt all my old lecture notes and forgot I had and only remembered when I had turned the place upside-down looking for them. Turns out I got on just fine without them. I didn’t need them at all.

I’ve never needed my box of journals either but after I have emptied it, I may just leave it the box there as a den for the cats, and I will also leave a note, so that if I go looking for my journals and my past, I’ll find a cat and instructions:

Look inside your heart, Ruth, you’ll find everything you need.

– Is that me? Am I Ruth?

I used to be, my darling, I used to be.

[ Part 2: the list ]

The accidental techie (10): Finished

  [ 1) the accidental techie2) the uninvited3) transference california4) flow5) shadowing6) going inside 7) lost and found8) 20/20 9) creating, 10) finished ]

The bliss of an empty inbox

Il n’ y a pas du feu au lac…

– Vaudois saying

I often wonder why I blog. I’ve even blogged about it, of course I have, though I often come to the end of something I have been blogging about and think yep that’s it, that’s the last blog I will ever write.

However, I am ready to organise my ideas into another format and make them sustainable in case the next blog is my last or I want to take my website down. I have spoken to several, very nice, people in the publishing world and even though the feedback has been so wonderful, I can’t quite see how I fit there. It is very different from blogging as I drink tea and swizzle round on my spinny chair and writing about things which make me feel super excited and thrilled. I understand people want to make sure you are a horse worth backing before they invest time, money and energy into you. However, given my need to please, I can’t help feel the way that I am trying to squeeze square peg self, yet again, into a round hole, it all feels a bit like the medium might just become the message and the parts of my writing which appeal to me and other people may well get lost in the process. And, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from trawling through my life during this accidental techie series is that it is important to listen to my heart.

The other thing is that I always tell myself that I only write about computing which is just a big fat lie. I write about myself on here all the time. So, why do I feel the need to lie? I guess I feel vulnerable, though I was thrilled when someone said on YouTube the other day that being vulnerability is a superpower, but vulnerable is scary and even though it’s not true I still think that no one is reading. Also, I feel that it is rather self-absorbed to be taking up precious bandwidth about my feelings. Funnily enough, the other day someone left me a comment telling me that I was a nasty self absorbed stalker which echoed my thoughts as I had blogged about how bad I felt about telling someone how I felt (let down) and my name is Stalker. I have never really felt allowed to express myself, I was taught not to burden people and when I had a chat about with a friend, she said and I agree, that it’s a woman thing – we were taught to put up and shut up. The troll who left comments here really needled me and got me thinking: Perhaps they are right? Or, perhaps they were just repeating something someone once said to them? I’ve always been quite hard on myself and so it isn’t anything I’ve not already said to myself. However, and I can’t find the blog I’ve written about it in, we do take people online as experts – especially influencers – over the opinions of people we know. And, conversely strangers’ comments can hurt us but not as much as our loved ones can. Thankfully, no one close to me shares the opinion of me being a nasty self-absorbed stalker, or at least they’ve never said as much, and this troll-y person didn’t leave a proper name or whatever so they are not experts or influencers or anyone really. They are nameless and faceless, as bullies often are, I was going to link to some other research but to be honest, I have wasted too much bandwidth on it already and am going to take the advice of Dame Helen Mirren:

Great advice from Dame Helen Mirren

Global warming is a huge concern, we have everything online and now we have data centres in the North Pole or wherever there’s a cold place to save on air conditioning, they are melting the ice caps and it’s so wasteful compared to way back when we viewed memory as precious and every input was calculated and carefully made and stored in a sparse matrix as memory was hard to come by. In California they turned off the electrical cables to prevent wild fire and people were roaming the streets in what sounded like a post-apocalyptic melt-down looking for wifi as we are all so codependent on our phones and my imagination runs riot and I think who am I to be wasting precious resources on my thoughts? And, that’s without getting into thinking about all those people who don’t have access to anything they need, like fresh water. It is unbelievable how we have all these resources and yet some people do not have access to fresh drinking water.

In almost every blog I write about anything I summarise Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, especially when we share on social media in a sentence: we all want to be heard, we all want to feel like we matter to which I added in the last blog because we all want to feel better. Actually, I think all this time, I’ve really been talking about myself. I’ve really been talking it over with myself and I read and research a lot to make sense of our ever shifting digital landscape. I am always asking the three usability questions any UX consultant hopes that their user can answer: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where are we going?

I began this blog series with the same questions about myself as somewhere along the line I have forgotten what it is like to have fun when I am thinking about work. I am not even studying the theory of fun, at least that would be useful. It just feels like that there is always another hoop to jump through, someone else who needs impressing, and you have to have the right number of hits or followers on twitter and all that nonsense, and even when you get that, speaking from experience, it is meaningless, it is not my measure of being impressed, and just lately, I am wondering where are the people who are going to impress me, wow me, inspire me? It’s the easiest thing in the world to criticise. It is so much harder to create and it seems that online people either do one, or the other.

Last week, I was in Bikram and someone was standing in from of me blowing their nose and throwing the tissue on the floor. No where else in society is it socially acceptable to honk your conk on your snot-rag and just fling it on the floor, it really is disgusting. So, I asked the person to please tuck her tissue under her towel as it was grossing me out. She got really angry and refused to do it and then spent the rest of the class not only blowing her nose and throwing it on the floor but turning round so that she could give me evil death stares whilst she did it. I hate angry confrontation and was thrown into one of those transference flashbacks full of self-recrimination. So, I did my usual and apologised profusely which made her go on and on at me. Luckily, a couple of people came up afterwards to ask how I was and said: You didn’t do anything wrong.

It was lovely of them but alas, I still carried the ugh feeling with me all day and the thought: If only I hadn’t asked, which is ridiculous. It was a reasonable request, expressed politely, but it triggered something in the person who decided that the only way to respond was with an angry outburst and sustained passive-aggressive behaviour directed at me until the teacher asked them to stop.

Typing this now makes me all nervous since it came the day after I was trolled here on my website, which is such trigger for me. If ever there was an incident anywhere and I told my mother she invariably said: Well you must have done something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. So, if I hadn’t been blogging here about my feelings I wouldn’t have had my very own troll come forward and feel the need to leave comments with one goal to intentionally hurt me. You succeeded, well done, I hope you are very proud.

The troll of my dreams, alas, not my website

I also hope that my mother was trying to say that there are two sides to every story and not just being a bit of a tyrant (which alas sometimes she could be as she had an amazing scary temper) – like Bikram nose blower, she felt unfairly singled out, she doesn’t know that my immune system remains compromised and I am likely to catch whatever she is waving around – but really all I ever wanted from my mother or anyone was a bit of understanding and in the really painful moments: That sucks to be in that situation. I’m sorry that happened to you, which is what I try to do when someone shares something with me. Whether I succeed or not is another story. I try but I am beginning to see that I am sometimes a hot mess and I won’t ever reach that place where I feel balanced or happy or successful because it doesn’t exist. It is not a destination, it’s fleeting and when it happens there’s no need to hold on so tight.

I have trailed right through from my beginning as an accidental techie to now, and once more I feel like I have nothing else to say, and there’s nothing else I want to do. But then I often think that and I come back as the best bit of HCl is that it is always changing. Sometimes I am tired of being so cerebral that I run off and do other things like that time I trained to be a yoga teacher, I like yoga, I love yoga, I just don’t want to teach it (but if I did, snot rags would be banned, just saying), and I trained as a journalist and a tarot reader, and a creative writer, though I turned down my place on the MA as I don’t need another degree. And, then I come back to it, I come right back to being an accidental techie. It’s what I love to do and that has to be a measure of success – being lucky enough to do what you love and to take a break too. That’s privilege.

Success is not a destination. Feeling good or balanced or Zen is not a destination. Happiness is not a destination. All these things are subjective anyway. The good news is that it’s all fleeting and temporary which means that this funky mood I am in today is fleeting too and the bad feeling I have from asking for what I need will pass too, and it was with this realisation, once more as it’s not new, I finally understand what the Vaudois phrase above is on about: There’s no crisis. People used to say often at the quatre heure apero: on est bien ici, and il n’y a pas du feu au lac. If you aren’t in the middle of a crisis then all is well, sit back and enjoy your 2dl of vin blanc. And, that’s the thing, I’ve lived through quite a few crises it’s just that sometimes my mind doesn’t know the difference, it thinks it has to keep striving, keep meeting those goals, keep firefighting. Il n’y a pas du feu au lac.

This weekend was the 10th anniversary of our family transplant, which is super amazing, and I am so grateful to all those wonderful medical people who worked miracles – nurses, doctors, surgeons, consultants, counsellors, everyone – who saved my daughter’s life, kept my husband safe, saved my life, saved my mum’s and dad’s lives and gave us extra time together until they died. And, I kept thinking that I can hardly believe that we are still here, after everything we’ve lived through and that on est bien ici and il n’ ya pas du feu au lac though my parents are dead and gone. So, my little family went camping at the weekend to celebrate 10 years and we were dancing about under the stars in wonder and joy and sadness and hysterical laughter at the way life works.

And, this has made me think, as has writing here, I can’t control what other people say and do, and writing here gives me great joy, even when it pains me, I can only focus on what I want and either fix what I don’t, or leave them alone, snot rags and verbal abuse, and trolling, and the neighbours blocking our drains because they can’t be arsed not to put baby wipes down the sewage pipes even though they’ve been asked many times not too #ffs, and it’s me who has to call the plumber out.

So, I intend not to bend myself out of shape to keep the peace or jump through yet another hoop in the hope that everything will work out ok. I am planning to be like Jia Jiang who set out to get rejected for 100 days but was pleasantly surprised because people are really nice on the whole. And, I believe that too. No one is doing anything to purposely upset me, not even that troll on here who was typing NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOU. It was obviously very triggering for them and they are wrong PEOPLE DO GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ME. I am so lucky I can count on at least one hand the PEOPLE WHO REALLY, REALLY LOVE ME and hold me and tell me that OFTEN AND I LOVE IT AND I LOVE THEM (and I love you, random citizen). Yes! That is where I want to focus all my time and energy, on people and projects that fill me up and which I deem to make me feel good.

I chunter on here about how the Internet has compressed time and space and blah blah but lying awake in the tent with freezing toes (I forgot my thermal socks) I got to experience the great joy of how the world is always busy, 24/7, busier than my crazy mind and my even crazier troll on a hate rampage. The world is full, all night, of people driving trains, dogs howling, owls hooting, people snoring and fighting and crying and loving, crows crowing, cows mooing and I am thrilled. Thrilled to be a part of every single bit, to breath deeply, to lie under the stars and be a part of everything. I am so grateful to be here. But, sometimes I forget where I have been which is why blogging is great to keep a trace. And, there I was in the middle of the night, far from anything and yet I did wonder why the fuck have I spent any time at all thinking that I need hits, and twitter followers and all that nonsense so that someone else can use that as a measure of my success. I am supposed to decide what success is and what it means to me. I am the one. This is my story, mine. No one else can tell it for me.

I am the one because I said so.

Danielle LaPorte, White Hot Truth

So! Instead of lying awake, I have resolved to follow in the footsteps of Christopher Alexander and Edward Tufte – creative inspiring people I have quoted lots of times and whose beautiful classic books I go back to time and again – who self-published because they had a vision. (Oh and so did Danielle LaPorte and her White Hot Truth book.) I don’t really have a vision but the thing I want to do isn’t really what a publisher or agent would feel worth their time and energy, which is fair enough. I really believe everything I write about the gatekeepers of culture and publishing and the media so it feels natural that I just create the thing I want to create and self-publish and have a nice time, rather than asking people to co-create something I am not clear about. It looks like I am finally taking my own advice, and that is very nice. That has to be a measure of success and that has to be a destination. I guess I will second-guess myself again at some point but for now I am determined. And, I love how easy it is now to self-publish. It really is. How amazing is that? What would Licklieder have made of that?

I have deleted my webstats as I am so sick of measuring things, and I am just going to get on with enjoying how I feel when I am creating, that is my new yardstick, my feelings. I am going to get me a vision which will hopefully lead to me creating something very beautiful from what I have already created here and from what I feel is awesome and it probably won’t fit into any box but that’s okay by me. My intention is to light my own fire, instead of waiting for someone to either do it for me, or give me permission and if I can’t do that then at the very least, I can have some fun trying. And, the best part is, no one can tell me whether I am successful or not, as in the words of that other great dame:

I’ll be the judge of that

– RuPaul
RuPaul being the judge of that…

The accidental techie (9): Creating

1) the accidental techie2) the uninvited3) transference california4) flow5) shadowing6) going inside 7) lost and found8) 20/20 9) creating, 10) finished ]

Is there anything you do now that swallows your sense of time, allowing you to simply experience the present?

– Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star

I know I have always lived too much inside my own head and it’s not a good thing. It’s not for no reason that the Tarot represents thoughts as swords. We all know the stabbing sensation of awful thoughts and mental rumination. My mind is always busy, storytelling, imagining the worst, my mind is always creating.

For me, there are two ways of using the verb creating: 1) The dictionary meaning, e.g., causing something to come into being, and, 2) The Geordie meaning: when someone is fussing or making drama, e.g., he’s been creating all morning.

The second definition is a great description of the resistance we’ve all felt and sometimes the way we may respond in a situation or project where we can’t quite get into the flow of it. And when we are creating in the Geordie way, it’s hard for other people to want to connect to us, since it’s just super noisy. In the past, I have turned to my computer. I love technology.

Technology can augment humans either with social media or by manipulating design solution spaces when we are working. At play, it can change our brain chemistry by immersing us in virtual worlds or shared experiences so that we transcend ourselves and become inspired to get through our resistance and start creating in a nice way. I know I love that when it happens.

The flip side of this seems to be when we do business online or are connected to people we would rather not be using the same devices where we get our kicks we often feel invaded and distracted. The Internet compresses time and space so that we are often presented with inboxes overflowing with email and DM requests which can come at us all times of the day and night and that we feel under pressure to reply and sometimes feel obliged to do things we’d really rather not. Then, we have the opposite – when we are waiting for certain texts and emails which never come and we feel lonely and despondent because we were hoping for connection in the form of attention, appreciation and even affection.

One answer is to disconnect from the social media channels which don’t fill us up but this is hard as our brains view social media messages as rewards – likes and hearts actually light up our nucleus accumbens – so without them, we feel the same way we do without our special peeps – we feel deprived and existentially lonely. Trauma therapist, Alan Roberge advises sitting with the pain until it passes, but some days we just cannot, and not even technology can help us when we are all there up in our own heads thinking and triggering feelings which may involve all that longing and yearning for more connection. I know I often picked up my phone hoping to escape my reality and be virtually elsewhere but it doesn’t always work. So, what else can we do?

Life coach Martha Beck recommends the Four Ds – dancing, drumming, dreaming and drugs. For when we are longing and yearning for connection or feeling invaded with unpleasant requests, we are closed in, but when we dance or drum or dream, (I don’t have any experience with drugs to get excited about) we dissolve the boundaries between us and the world making us feel at one with life, which feels just like falling in love. In this way we can feel connected and rewarded all by ourselves, anytime we desire. We can light our own fires.

Lately, I have been making time each day to do Ecstatic Breathwork, which is basically meditation with heavy breathing and resulting tingling sensations. It really does what it says on the tin, and afterwards, I feel deeply embodied in such a present way without any stories going on in my head.

All yoga traditions talk about breathing as the most important part of yoga because the practice of pranayam means managing our energy, our life force, chi, or prana. Not only that but we can tap into the universal life force known as shakti and raise the kundalini. I have known this theoretically and done various breathing practices but never had the experiences yogis talk about, until I took Scott Schwenk’s class (online – see enriching technology). Now I know how much creating and connecting I can do, just by breathing. It is electrifying and I love it.

The nicest thing about breathwork is that the goal is not to create anything or try to relax or release, it is purely about experiencing the present moment as it happens and being present in the body. Schwenk says that as we do this practice – and my goodness, he walks his talk, he literally sparkles with fresh energy – we can gradually release all that does not serve us, leaving us to be present in the moment and unfettered, as ultimately that’s how we all want to feel. And, we feel all stirred up again when life gets us down, we can return to the practice, return to our breath, anytime we like.

We all want to feel alive, delighted and excited. We want to feel good, like all those times when we’ve fallen in love, been in flow, in the gap, where there’s no where else to be, nothing else to do, and no compromise to be made. It’s just so easy and wonderful. We don’t give two hoots about anything, we have so much energy, and life feels like magic and we are creating effortlessly. That is what we all want.

A fellow yogi in my yin class today recommended that I try naked dancing. Apparently, you begin fully clothed wearing seven layers or seven items of clothing which represent the seven chakras which put me in mind of the Salome’s dance of the seven veils. So much of our energy is tied up with the chakras and so much has been lost in the Bible and rewritten to edit women out altogether or turn them into sex objects, so perhaps it wasn’t a sexual dance she was doing at all.

I recently read Meggan Watterson’s Gospel of Mary Magadelene which made me feel all sorts of tingling and connection and truth and freedom around the Bible which I will blog about at some point. However, I do like the sound of naked dancing, just to feel free, to stop thinking and to dissolve the boundaries between me and something bigger than myself.

It is interesting that we talked about naked dancing before our yin class started, as then in one of those lovely flow synchronous moments the teacher began the class by saying that yin yoga is perfect for this time of year and the changing seasons. It may seem that the leaves are falling and dying as nature is going into hibernation and nothing new is happening. However, there are seeds deep down in the earth which will germinate when the time is right. There is vast potential, there is pure possibility, just waiting for the right time, already full of itself, not needing anyone else’s validation or say so.

I’ve said before that our society worships youth, because young people seem to be full of that potential and possibility, they are still unfettered by life’s admin and life experiences. But, we too can be like that too, we can remember how we loved and laughed and everything seemed possible until we learn how to feel like that once more. To do this, we need to be brave enough to step back from our constant activity, our constant creating and to allow ourselves the time to go deep. We need to stop forcing ourselves to push through and answer our inboxes and DMs and deadlines, we need to breath deeper, love ourselves longer, dance, dream, drum, and trust that we can create and be in all the ways which nourish us.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

– Rumi

part 10 ]