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Life

Feeding Wolves

While talking to friends about their interactions on the internet recently, an interesting subject has arisen – the receipt of discordant feedback, and how best to deal with it.

If somebody takes exception to content you have posted to the internet, should you defend your view, or move on?

I tend to avoid conflict, so will invariably ignore conversations I would rather not have. As entertaining as it might be, the last thing I would want to do on the internet is make an example of anybody else – to draw attention to their views, no matter how flawed I might think they are.

On rare occasions where I feel I cannot let a comment go (as happened recently with a particularly bigoted comment on one of my posts at Medium), I tend to find out a little about the person behind the comment first. If they make a habit of making an arse of themselves then of course they are fair game, but if there is a gulf in terms of culture, faith, or understanding then I am far more careful.

I’m often reminded of a Native American story I heard years ago (hence the title of the post) – I think it’s from the Cherokee people:

An old grandfather was teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”

If you search the internet, you will find many re-tellings of the story – with wording changes to suit each author’s narrative. The essence is absolutely true though – the wolf that lives is the wolf you feed.

When faced with views and opinions you did not seek, the best way to deal with them is to deprive their authors of food. Incendiary feedback is invariably posted in pursuit of reaction. Reaction is attention.

I’m also reminded of “The Celestine Prophecy” – a wonderful book that explores the nature of energy in the universe – that interactions between people can be described as transactions. While some might be described as sources of energy, others might be described as consumers. Consumers create “drama” in order to draw from those around them.

Anyway.

Enough soapbox psychology for one day. Time for a cup of coffee.

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Life

Coffee Break

The clock is ticking past four in the afternoon and I’m taking my first break of the day. I have a pretty bad habit of not stopping – I tend to work straight through lunch every day – eating over the keyboard in a madcap pursuit of seeing how much I can get done.

I should really force myself to go for a walk and get some fresh air. Maybe walk into town, buy a coffee from Starbucks, and sit in the park watching the river for half an hour. I wonder if it will be therapeutic in some way? Knowing me, I will end up writing notes en-route about something I’ve forgotten to do, or an intractable problem I’ve just solved. I’ve lost count of the things I’ve figured out while away from a computer or notebook, and then not been able to remember later.

I’m listening to the Hackers soundtrack album while writing this. It’s one of the best 90s dance compilations I know of – filled with the likes of The Prodigy, Underworld, Leftfield, and Orbital. I need to download more dance music – it’s great to put on in the background while working because it doesn’t have a distracting vocal – just a rhythm.

Since wandering back into WordPress over the last few days it’s been wonderful to catch up with old friends. I’ve always been something of a rolling stone when it comes to blogging – never really settling, although WordPress has always been a “home” of sorts.

Anyway. Break over. Coffee cup is empty and emails are arriving. I’ll be back.

Categories
Life

Neverending

As the clock ticks past 11pm I’ve cracked open the programming text editor I’ve been using for the last several months to write blog posts. I guess when it comes to emptying my head, my brain works best when distractions are removed. If all I can do is type, I don’t get distracted by typefaces, line spacing, or anything else. It’s just me and the words.

Some time ago I experimented with turning my laptop into a computer from the 1980s running Wordstar. It’s amazing how much more you can concentrate without a multi-tasking operating system offering the possibility of listening to music, browsing the web, reading emails, and countless other very important distractions.

Anyway.

Today was something of a slog.

From the moment Alexa began filling the bedroom with radio early this morning it felt like I was walking out to bat over, and over again. Here’s hoping the rest of the week gets a little easier.

Time to go brush my teeth and fall into bed. Perhaps a few pages of a book first.

Categories
Life

Retracing Seasonal Paths

Every so many months I find myself retracing paths I have walked before. Repeating decisions. Revising judgement. Changing my mind one way or another. Becoming brave and then not so brave. Stepping out, and retreating.

It’s all very perplexing.

A girl I used to work with found my changes of heart amusing. She connected them to the seasons. I seem to be retreating at the moment. Falling into shadow. Perhaps she was right – the weather has grown cold in recent days – frost has arrived, leaves are falling, and I’m becoming increasingly insular.

At times interacting with the world feels like such a struggle – a battle I have to wage with myself in order to write emails, reply to messages, post to the blog, or share happenings of note.

I’m not really sure I have a point to relate. I’m just sharing the way I feel at the moment. At least if you don’t see much from me you’ll understand why.

Categories
Life

The Great Blogging Escape

I’m sitting in the junk room listening to the radio, typing into a text editor. The clock is ticking towards 9pm and I’m wondering where Saturday went.

Clothes and dishes got washed and put away. Visitors arrived to see Miss 16, who continues to make progress after having her leg re-assembled by surgeons a few days ago. She made it up the stairs today and broke into a huge smile en-route. Her confidence is starting to return and it’s wonderful to watch.

I saw a humorous book title on the internet a while ago – “How to do nothing, with nobody, all alone, by yourself”. It’s an actual book – you can look it up. While it’s aimed at parents of young children, I found myself relating to it quite a bit more than I should have. Oh to be left alone sometimes.

The wonderful Micky Flanagan did a standup comedy routine years ago where he decried the lost skill of “f*cking about”. He talked at length about the many and varied strategies you might employ in order to get nothing done – I will admit to bursting out laughing when he advocated buying the cheapest electric kettle you possibly can – because it will take longer to boil, affording you more time to stand in the kitchen waiting for it.

The man is a genius.

You might argue that most of my writing is “f*cking about”. Maybe I should re-title the blog accordingly. I used to tell myself I was sharing my life with the online community – but let’s face it, the blogging phenomenon of the early 2000s lasted about a year. The hipsters that arrived during the Web 1.0 explosion and took ownership of “cyberspace” left shortly afterwards to cultivate their MySpace profiles before vanishing into the emerging “social” internet.

I write to escape. I sit in a room on my own while writing these journal entries as an escape from daily life. Sometimes I tell stories, sometimes I grapple with the mundane, and sometimes I just wonder about the most random rubbish. Sometimes I sit in front of the keyboard and get no further than the first sentence before being called away. Sometimes my fingers can’t keep up with the torrent of inconsequential thoughts that pour forth. There’s no pattern to any of it.

I suppose in a strange sort of way the title the blog has ended up with – “Jonathan Wrote This” is quite appropriate. It’s the most accurate description of it’s contents – both in a good, and a bad way.

Categories
Life

Recovery

After going into surgery to repair her broken leg on Monday morning, Miss 16 came home on Tuesday afternoon. For the next few days she has swapped bedrooms with her older sister – who’s bedroom is downstairs. While she can in-theory walk on the repaired leg, doing so is as much a matter of confidence as pain management.

She’s on the maximum dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen at the moment – taking them on a strict schedule throughout the day. As the days roll by we will be reducing them, then eradicating them entirely.

Most of yesterday was spent hobbling around the house on crutches – trying out strategies for doing things on her own. Simple tasks such as going to the toilet have become a logistical exercise that have informed clothing decisions in the interests of making life easy. Making a cup of tea is still out-of-reach due to the unexpected barrier of retrieving an opened milk bottle from the fridge and carrying it to the kitchen counter without spilling it (we have milk in glass bottles – we still live in the 1950s).

Yesterday evening, confounding all of us, she visited Rugby practice. Not to play obviously – just to show her face. I imagine there was a fair amount of attention seeking going on, but the reaction of the coaches and players was fantastic. Some of them couldn’t believe what they were seeing having witnessed the injury on Sunday – only three days before.

In other news, I bit the bullet late yesterday and started out on a task that I’ve been meaning to do for several years but avoided due to the drudgery of it – resetting all of my online passwords. I now have no idea what any of the passwords are for any of the services I use. I do however know the master password – not written down anywhere – for a database in the cloud containing the passwords.

It took hours. You really don’t appreciate how many accounts you accrue around the internet until you re-visit them all. I’m sure there are more – I used the browser as my guide. Most modern internet browsers can compare logons against hacked databases to tell you how many of your passwords are out there in the wild.

Anyway.

My coffee break is coming to an end. Time to post these words to the internet, and retreat back under my stone until tomorrow. In a strange sort of way the chaos unfolding at home this week has provided a wonderful break from all things related to the internet. A reminder that life exists away from the screen.

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Life

Postscript

She was scheduled to come out of surgery early this evening. We took a chance and jumped in the car – making the hour-long trek to the hospital. After parking the car and finding our way to the ward she thought she might arrive at, my other half’s phone rang.

I watched from a few feet away – trying to read her facial expressions. Good news? Bad news? Good news. Definitely good news.

I had called the hospital late the night before, and spoke to the sister in charge of the ward (do they still have sisters?). I very quickly handed the phone over to my other half, who was prompting me with questions. Quite why I was involved was anybody’s guess. There’s something about mothers, daughters, and healthcare staff – a higher data transmission rate kicks in once the men are removed from the communication loop.

Anyway.

Miss 16 is out of the woods. Operation is complete. Her leg is now re-assembled, aided somewhat by the precursor of hardware that will one day be built by Cyberdyne Systems. Let’s hope she doesn’t start talking about finding John Connor any time soon.

A few minutes after arriving in the correct place in the hospital my other half went off in search of the ward while I settled in for potentially several hours in a reception area, adjacent to a cafe that had just shut. While updating family on the situation, the phone started ringing.

“Hello. She’s here. She’s ok. She’s asking if I’ll stay.”

A very short conversation ensued, subtitled “don’t mind how you get home”. Five minutes later I stood on the pavement outside the hospital, having clicked the “home” icon within the Uber app. Moments later (literally moments), a swish black car swept to a stop on the other side of the road. I cracked the door open and a smartly dressed driver told me my name.

Isn’t the internet amazing.

An hour later I was home, having spent the journey home making small talk with the driver, listening to England play football on the radio, and updating family on further developments. The elder daughters met me mid-stairs and absorbed the news. Rather than repeat myself endlessly I pressed a “call back” button on my phone, and handed the handset to Miss 21.

It’s been a long day. A long day of not knowing.

The not knowing has now turned towards knowing, and although the future is perhaps still a little uncertain, it’s at least looking like a happy future.

While sitting in the taxi on the way home I began working through “what we would have done if” in my head – even though the darkest timeline hadn’t happened. I caught myself doing it, and wondered if others do the same.

It’s now a little after midnight, and my other half is curled up in a chair alongside a hospital bed quite some distance from home while the rest of our family sleeps soundly here. I’ve just downed a glass of wine – mostly to take the edge off the day. I’m tempted to get on with work tomorrow, for no other reason than to distract myself from the “what ifs”.

We’re already wondering about recovery, and re-arranging a room or two. Maybe we should stop thinking for the moment and just be thankful for skill and dedication of the army of NHS paramedics, nurses, doctors, surgeons, and consultants that burst from stage left when we needed them most.

Categories
Life

A Broken Leg

The last thirty-six hours have been something of a whirlwind. While playing rugby on Sunday afternoon my youngest daughter tripped, fell awkwardly, and broke her leg. The first we knew was that she was down in the middle of the pitch – then after a paramedic arrived that had been watching the game, we heard her voice – from 100 yards away. I’ve written before about knowing your own child’s voice in a busy play-park, and you also know the difference between a play-acted cry, and the real thing. My other half dropped everything and ran.

I’ll spare you the next few hours, which involved a lot of gas and air, syringe after syringe of morphine, and an ambulance. A helicopter was nearly involved. I went with her in the ambulance while my other half raced around London in our car to meet us. She beat the ambulance, much to the surprise of the crew. En-route, my daughter seemed most impressed that we had the sirens and lights on…

“Why do they have the sirens and lights on?”

“For you.”

She was pretty out of it on painkillers. Her memory of the accident was almost non-existent. Thankfully her memory of the sight of the injury had also gone. The crew let us know that might happen, given the medication they threw at her in order to get her on a stretcher. She was so brave. She nearly broke my fingers as they pulled her leg straight, but then I told her to do exactly that.

Several hours later we sat in a hospital north west of London – my other half at our daughter’s bedside, and me in a waiting room on the other side of the hospital – surrounded by the typically entitled emergency room time wasters you might imagine. One girl demanded to see a specialist about her headache – “I could drop dead right here, and it will be your fault”… She walked away from the unimpressed receptionist, murmuring “c*nt” to anybody within earshot.

We were sent home at about 10pm. Given COVID restrictions, and another story about her being checked into an adult ward that I also won’t expound on (they’re moving her tonight), we left her to sleep off the elephant tranquilisers they had hit her with.

Today has been somewhat less stressful. After being allowed to visit mid-morning and chancing upon the consultant while waiting outside the ward door, my other half and eldest daughter were allowed in to see her, and perhaps most importantly to deliver a bag of essentials (she had arrived at hospital with nothing). Of course, the most important belonging for a teenage girl should have been obvious – her mobile phone.

We’re home again now, playing the waiting game. Waiting for the call that she has arrived back in the ward after surgery on her leg. When the word comes my other half will race off to visit once again, and return late this evening. I’m staying behind to make dinner for the rest of the family, given that only one of us will be allowed to visit at a time.

I’ll write more as we know more.

Categories
Life

Going Out Out

We went “out out” last night. We took part in a charity fund-raiser quiz in town – held by the local rotary club. If you’re never heard of such a thing before, rotary clubs are run by local people who work together to solve community issues, provide aid, and promote goodwill. They also tend to be skewed heavily towards retired people – perhaps because they have time to devote to it.

Anyway.

We arrived at the venue ready to abide by the somewhat strict COVID guidelines in the invitation, only to discover that the hall was absolutely packed to the rafters with people who were pretty much ignoring any of the advice or guidelines. Oh well. We are fully vaccinated and did lateral flow tests before leaving the house – so we were not too worried. Seeing how many old people were crammed into the hall I began to wonder about their safety in each other’s company though.

We won the quiz. By quite some distance. An embarrassing distance, if I’m honest – especially as we drank prosecco throughout.

One guy in his late 50s across the room was apparently furious at being beaten. He made a complete arse of himself as the quiz started by standing up and shouting at everybody to “SHUT UP!”. We struggled to contain ourselves. Our singing of “We are the Champions” at the end was mostly aimed at him.

After not going “out out” for the better part of two years, the effects of an entire bottle of prosecco each came back to haunt us this morning. I still got up, still had a shower, and still got talked into going into town with my youngest daughter – but I won’t pretend I felt great. Distinctly second hand would be a bit more accurate. I think my body might be a bit annoyed with me.

We won though. And that’s what matters – or at least, it mattered for about a minute while we sang “we are the champions”. After the quiz we wandered how through the late night air and looked forward to meeting up over Christmas, and the New Year together.

The world is slowly returning to normal. I’m not sure my liver is quite ready for it yet though.