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Category: Diary (Page 2 of 23)

September 25: Heavy

I had a heavy day today. I could feel it coming on during the drive to work, and sure enough it hit me later in the morning. I don’t know how to describe it other than everything feels like it’s physically weighing down on me: getting out of the chair is an extra effort … even sitting in the chair, I feel like gravity has decided to take it all out on me. I do my best to get through on autopilot, but sometimes it’s the sort of day where you end up having takeaway for dinner because the thought of preparing and cooking something seems about as achievable climbing a mountain.

Fun times.

September 24: Friends

They say that in times of crisis you truly learn who your friends are. I always used to think this meant that, when the shit hits the fan, that you find out which people are your friends and which people aren’t. But it’s not that simple. It’s about learning who your friends really are. People are defined by how they act and react–by what they do, rather than by what they say–and moments of crisis are when you glimpse behind the words and get to truly learn who a person is.

During this year I’ve learned that there are many types of friends. There are people you thought were friends, but are not. There are friends who forgive friends, and friends who don’t. There are friends who find themselves swept up in the current: some who get pulled towards you, some who get dragged away. There are friends who hold you up and, sometimes, friends who let you down again. A crisis forces people to act and, often, to choose.

We are reflected in the company we keep; both by the choices we make, and by the choices our friends make. Who your friends are tells you something about who you are. Friendships may start as a product of circumstance, but circumstances change and friendships are tested through these changes. The fracture lines from a crisis don’t spread out in an orderly fashion, conveniently grouping relationships together: they cross each other at seemingly random tangents, but eventually things will settle and you will be able to see which side of the crack people have jumped towards.

Friendship is a complex beast. It’s just about who you like and who likes you. It’s a fractured mirror that reflects back at you in a hundred different ways.

But, mostly, it’s awesome.

September 23: Lazy

I had a Lazy Day today. It wasn’t a Do Nothing Day: it was a Can’t Be Bothered To Do Anything Day. I find these days a bit frustrating because I typically want to get something done–I don’t get much spare time,  I don’t like to waste it, and there’s always something that needs to get done.

These Lazy Days used to happen more than they do now, but I don’t bother fighting them anymore. I figure it’s the universe’s way of telling me to stop and take a break. So what if the kitchen cupboard doesn’t get tidied up? A lazy day means I’ll sit down and watch a movie with the kids instead which, in the end, is a far better use of my time 🙂

September 22: Halloween

(No, you’re not going crazy: it’s not October 31.)

For our weekly Fridate Chiller, tonight we watched Halloween. I picked it up on blu-ray last week largely because I don’t currently own a copy on blu-ray and it seems to me that owning a copy of Halloween on blu-ray is the sort of thing that any horror/cinema enthusiast with their wits still about them should do.

It is, of course, still incredible. You can see the origins of the modern horror film throughout, via motifs that other directors would beg, borrow and steal–most often to far lesser effect. Oddly, you can also see how no one would ever make a horror film quite this way today: the acting is a little too staged, the camerawork is relatively unflashy. It lacks the high naturalism that is an essential part of modern cinema.

There were also things that I’d somehow never noticed before, such as the fact that Laurie Strode’s first encounter with Michael Myers happens in the house over the road (not the house she’s babysitting in), and the sound of heavy breathing whenever we see Michael’s POV.

Ultimately it’s a really sparse film, and that typical simplicity is something I love about the pioneering movies of cinema history. A similar movie made today would need at least five different trick endings, some self-conscious commentary about modern culture, and some sort of CG-derived panning shot from the POV of someone’s pumping arterial spray. Sometimes simple is good: it lets your imagination do the rest.

September 21: Meetings / Routines

I had a lot of meetings today–some of which went well and some which didn’t–and they’ve reminded me again about structure and routine.

Routine is the scaffolding of our lives. It gives us structure and security. It is, I believe, what has enabled the Kinderbesten to ride out the collapse of my marriage. Because very little in their daily routine actually changed, they were spared the greater impact of it all.

Sometimes meetings a part of the routine of the day. For me, however, most of my meetings provide a break. They mean I’m not sitting in front of my computer screen all day. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes having too many meetings means I don’t actually get any work done; other times they offer a fresh perspective on the job and help to re-energise me somewhat.

Routine is good. It can take some–or a lot–of the cognitive load out of your day. But you should never let it become the prison walls around you. Sometimes the simple act of taking a different route to work, or having lunch at a different time, can be a refreshing change and prompt you to look at things a bit differently.

September 20: Stories

Writing the other day about work also caused me to reflect on my other “career”: writing stories (which is in no way a career). I’ve been doing this “properly” for several years now, which means nothing more than there’s a routine attached to it: I get up early almost every day and write for at least 30 minutes before I get ready for work. Before I wrote “properly” I would sit down on occasional evenings, when the mood took me, and attempt to write. It was not a hugely successful model.

To date I’ve had four stories published and have earned perhaps as much as one, or even two dollars (update: I received a royalty payment of $30 via Paypal about a week after writing this post!). Clearly this is not a career, but it is a passion. It is what I would be spending my life doing if I were able to choose.

That said, over the last few years writing has become something more than a passion. It’s a necessity. It’s become an essential part of how I start a new day, and has become one of my tools for processing the days that have already come and gone. When I don’t write I get angsty; when I do write I feel like I’m continuing to move forward.

My stories usually sit in the horror genre, but sometimes swing over to science fiction. From time to time I will write something oddball and unclassifiable. When I first start writing, I worried whether I would get enough ideas, whether I would have to hunt for inspiration. That didn’t end up being a problem: I have always had more ideas in my thought hopper (and thanks to the person who shared that phrase with me) than I’ve been able to write. Earlier this year, when all the shit was coming down, I stopped writing for a couple of months. I continued to get up and write stuff, and carry on with the morning routine, but I wasn’t writing fiction. For a few months I didn’t get a single new idea for any stories. I began to wonder if that was it. If the stories had simply stopped. If that was my PTSD symptom. Then I started writing again and the ideas started coming back. Once again, more ideas than I have time to write.

I have lots of good things in my life, but writing is literally the reason I get up in the mornings. It means I can start the day by creating something (even though those efforts can be frustrating at times). It means I can start the day with my head somewhere else, and not focusing on what I’m going to wear to work, or how long it’s going to take the Kinderbesten to get ready for school. And it means I get to start the day doing one of my favourite things: making shit up.

September 19: Career

Work and stories
I’ve been thinking about work a lot lately, perhaps because I’m now back in a mental space where I can focus a bit more on where I want to go with my job. I’ve had a few months where I’ve turned up to work, done my job, come home again … and nothing more than that. I’ve been lucky that I have a job that allows me to do that.

Now, however, I’m starting to see that the same flexibility that allowed me to take a back seat has come at a price: I’ve, predictably, not advanced in any way over the course of the year. In fact, I’m feeling that I’ve taken a few steps backwards. I’m not complaining: I would not have been able to give my job 100% over the last few months, and the fact that I’ve been allowed some space to drop down to 80-90% suggests that my management value me enough that they’ll accept 80-90% from me for a while.

Inevitably, I’ve also been thinking about my career in general. Is this a job I want to be doing for the rest of my life? Is it what I’ve spent my life working towards? Well, I’m lucky that I have a good job that I enjoy doing, but it’s no way my dream job.  I doubt there are many people who can truly say they have their dream job. (Mine would be to write full time, but the chances of that happening are infinitesimal. Even if I had my work published regularly, I would have to sell a LOT of books in order to make a living out of it.)

It is, however, probably the best, most ideal job I could have in the real world. So, I will carry on doing what most people do: I’ll turn up to work, find inspiration wherever I can, and do the best work I can do for 7 or so hours a day.

After that, I get to come home and do all the stuff that having a good job lets me do: such as caring for the kinderbesten, writing stories, watching Netflix and playing with my Bluetooth light bulbs.

September 18: False Equivalence

I’ve once again been pondering the Marriage Equality Survey, and the tsunami of side effects that its very existence has unleashed. Forefront in my mind today is the business with Margaret Court being dumped from her tennis club, because her tennis club have rightly decided that being associated with a famous homophobic bigot is not their best look.

Then, elsewhere on the internet, someone posted words to the effect of: “you wouldn’t be celebrating if she’d been ditched for being homosexual.”

No. No, I wouldn’t.

This got me thinking because there’s potentially a problem there. For a while I didn’t know how to articulate why ditching one person on account of their views and preferences (i.e. a homophobe) is correct and appropriate and good, but ditching another (i.e. a homosexual) would be a terrible thing.

Then I realised it’s because these arguments are not the equivalent of each other. People who seek to deny rights to others frequently try to introduce equivalence where none exists. It’s how they keep you distracted while they work the con. It comes down to the paradox of tolerance (something that has recently been doing the rounds on Facebook … I can’t imagine why) which tells us that in order to be a tolerant society we must be intolerant of intolerance.

A tolerant society is once that embraces diversity. Intolerance is the opposite of that, therefore it does not deserve tolerance.

The argument in favour of equal marriage rights is entirely about tolerance and acceptance. Simply put, we believe that all other people should have the same rights that most of us already do: to be treated as equal human beings. The argument against equal marriage is exactly the opposite of that: it’s seeking to deny equal rights to specific people based on arbitrary characteristics (and by arbitrary, I don’t mean inconsequential: I mean characteristics that should have no impact on a person’s place as a member of society).

Opposite does not mean equivalent. Taking something away is not the equivalent of giving something.

In other words, Margaret Court wasn’t ditched because she wanted to vote a particular way, or because she’s a Christian. She was ditched because she believes certain people should be treated as lesser citizens and have fewer rights–and, most significantly, she actively campaigns for it. It’s not just a private opinion on her part: it’s an action that has tangible and detrimental effects on others.

Freedom of speech, as bigots often forget, does not mean freedom from consequence or criticism: it simply means the government won’t arrest you for criticising their policies. You can say what you like, but your peers will hear you and judge you and act accordingly. Court wasn’t ditched simply because she ‘believes differently’; she was ditched because she supports intolerance, and we cannot and should not tolerate that.

September 17: Games

Every fourth Sunday (or every second #childfree Sunday, if you like) I leave the house to go and play Pathfinder with several of my dearest friends. As a rule, I leave the house with great reluctance: after all, leaving the house is usually caused by going to work, or otherwise going where other people are. Nuff said.

The game itself is a wilderness to me. My head can contain detailed references of CSS rules, grammatical no-nos, Doctor Who continuity, plot structures for my various short stories, and the general principles of staying alive. It can’t, however, cope with the rules of Pathfinder. I turn up, I roll my dice, and occasionally I’ll do something useful. But it’s ok: I’m surrounded by people who know what they’re doing. More importantly, I’m surrounded by people who I enjoy being surrounded by.

I like to think of it as a forced excused for socialising. Because sometimes you need an excuse, otherwise you might end up never leaving the house.

September 16: Blinds

Today I did battle with blinds.

Spotlight had one of their semi-regular sales in which blinds were half-price, and I’ve wanted to replace the roller blind in the kitchen pretty much as long as I’ve lived in the house. The one thing that has stopped me is not being able to buy an off-the-shelf blind that would fit my odd-sized window bay, and either being too lazy to cut one to size, or too tight to pay for a custom blind. Spotlight, however, offered a ‘cut to size’ service …

… which they knew nothing about when I went into my local store this morning for my shiny new blinds. I deliberated for a bit, then decided that for $35 I’d get the blind that was slightly too narrow and come up with some stunningly genius idea for filling the 5cm gap on each side.

I had a nice/unpleasant surprise when I took the old blind down: the top of the window bay is plasterboard. This is good because it means NO DRILLING!!! But it’s also not good because I have no idea if plasterboard is strong enough to hold up a 160cm wide blind.

Well, we’re going to find out.

  • Taking the old blind down: 2 minutes.
  • Putting up the fittings for the new blinds: 5 minutes
  • Actually getting the new blinds into the fittings: 1+ hours

Yep, the blinds are meant to slot into the brackets, then you slide a slidy thing over to lock them in place. There were a number of problems encountered during this phase, the most significant being the obstinate refusal of the blinds to fit into the fittings that they were iffing well designed to fit into. Supplementary problems included there being three fittings and my only having the two hands; and the fact that it’s damn turing having to continually lift a 160cm blind over your head while crouching precariously over the kitchen sink.

Eventually I solved the problem by using my pliers to widen the fittings just enough for the blinds to slip comfortably in. Now that I phrase it that way, I perhaps could have tried some form of lubricant …

Anyway, the new kitchen blind looks fantastic and transforms the kitchen in a wholly unexpected way. For the gaps at the side, I cut out some strips from the old roller blind and taped them to the window–far from the ideal (or permanent) solution, but good enough for now.

The moral of the story? A combination of persistence, creative thinking and utter cheapskatery can really pay off sometimes.


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