The Importance Of Night

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Almost twenty-minutes past three and I am sittng here in the darkness, without my glasses, whilst my wife and daughters sleep upstairs.

I woke thinking.

Now someway into my veritable older years, though the boy inside me queries this, I have those nocturnal meanderings that lead to a gnawingly inward frustration.

It’s over two-years since I finally wobbled beyond wise words. My ‘burnout’ was a forest fire that destroyed everything that I had come to depend upon in my daily existence and spiritual certainty. Even then, I still had a belief in the whole business of God.

I was a character in some cosmic saga and my lines were being written in a sympathetic ‘it will all work out in the final chapters’ manner. It was a nice thought, but it was a thought that gently drowned me into inactivity. Why should I bother to make the hard decisions when they had possibly already been made for me?

It takes many deaths before we awaken to the possibility of our own.   

I think the fifties decade is the one that begins to place the Grim Reaper before us on an ever more frequent basis. People die. It’s not just people we vaguely know or celebrities we have grown up with. No, those now dying are our friends and our family. At this point, life stops being endless, ceases to be something that will happen tomorrow, and starts becoming a little urgent.

We have just returned from holiday in the past week and yesterday I was talking to my wife and commented on how full ‘holiday days’ are compared to non ‘holiday days’.

We were camping in France and we based our stay around the beautiful Lake Annecy. Our camping was a mixture of hard and soft camping with ten days being spent in mobile homes whilst the other eight was real camping in tents. We had our bikes (five people in my immediate clan) and the car was full to bursting with everything that we were to need and lots of things that we had forgotten that we would need. But we were on holiday and that meant that the days were ours and needed the respect that they deserved. So, instead of just letting them drift by, we filled them full of ourselves. Cycling, walking, talking, cooking, meeting, talking some more, seeing, site-seeing, BEING! We did it all.

Like most of our best holidays, the weeks were book-ended by potentially disastrous events. The car broke down, badly, and or final dash for the ferry saw us driving through the most torrential of storms which demanded my wife and daughters’ abject fear and my 1000 percent concentration. We survived both. When we got home we were well and truly knackered, but we had done it; we had filled the days of our holidays with meaning. We ‘did’ rather than procrastinate. It made sense. Back home the doing seems to get pushed to one side for that great big empty balloon of a thing called ‘everyday life’. And that is what we genrally do (or don’t).

Have you ever been to a funeral and said to yourself, “This is too important to waste”, then gone straight back to wasting it the next day and the day after that and the one after that…infinitum? It’s the holiday thing. We have a brief epiphany, a break from the everyday, a glimpse of what could be, then the blinds come down and we are back in the darkness of the mundane.

The thing with the mundane, the everyday, the normal world, is that it’s not taxing. It may be ultimately a stealth-tax but we don’t immediately feel it. We are not left exhausted by our attempts to seize the day and don’t feel the need to stuff all of our energies into a few weeks that will come to an end.  Unlike life, holidays are finite. And that is ‘rub’. Life does end. It’s a holiday that starts with a breakdown and finishes with a dramatic storm that threatens to derail everybody’s safe passage.

So after those fine words, I am still confused as to what my true holiday should contain.  

I have a decision to make in the next few days.

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I can’t put it off. The clock is ticking. 

 

 

The Problem With Believing In Oneself

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I was out cycling with a good friend last night. It acts as a catch-up as well as a talking therapy session. The exercise is our form of meditation.

The ride has several stages. The first is the preliminary greetings. This is followed by a few funny anecdotes from our daily lives. Then it becomes a laughter session. Both of us like humour and both of us can be quite humorous. Both of us are in recovery from the slings and arrows of that outrageous fortune that others call normal life, so the stuff that we find funniest is the stuff about ourselves and what fuck-ups we have become.

We can’t talk to many other people about our thoughts and lives because they wouldn’t get it. The rest of the world seems to be doing a reasonable job of getting on with it. We get on with it, but IT then becomes a pet lion that decides to show its love of you by chewing your legs off. Life is devouring us, little by little, but we can still laugh.

Our rides normally end in a warm feeling of having shared some moments with a fellow-traveller. Our roads have been similar for a number of years and each time we come to the end of one of them, we do a tentative fist-pump.

Last night’s ride was slightly different. For a start, we both arrived racked with guilt over another episode of, ‘Wow, Haven’t You Fucked Up Your Lives!’ I had been thinking of what I had become after having hoped for so much. My friend was chewing himself up over his inability to be there for his children when he thought they needed him. In truth, although divorced, he does lots for his kids. We shared our thoughts, shrugged in mock bravery, cycled, laughed, and swore at the fact that the world was really going to shit in a hand-cart whilst we were cycling.

One lovely lady told me recently that I needed self-belief. She was suggesting that I was a good writer whilst I suggested that she was being too nice. The truth is that I have little self-belief and believe only that too much self-belief is one of the root causes of my present situation. Always an aspiring writer and never an aspired one.

So here goes with a self-esteem quiz:  

1. On the whole I am satisfied with myself.

2. At times I think that I am no good at all.

3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.

5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.

6. I certainly feel useless at times.

7. I feel that I am a person of worth, at least the equal of others.

8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.

9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.

10. I take a positive attitude toward myself.

Devised by the sociologist Morris Rosenberg, this questionnaire is one of the most widely used self-esteem assessment scales in the United States. If your answers demonstrate solid self-regard, the wisdom of the social sciences predicts that you are well adjusted, clean and sober, basically lucid, without criminal record and with some kind of college cum laude under your high-end belt. If your answers, on the other hand, reveal some inner shame, then it is obvious: you were, or are, a teenage mother; you are prone to social deviance; and if you don’t drink, it is because the illicit drugs are bountiful and robust.

How did you do?

Selling Like Hot-Cakes?

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL Read After Burnout.

It makes no sense. 

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On Your Bike!

General cycling

I was out on my bike this morning intending just to enjoy a little summer sunshine. As I was cycling along that breath of wellbeing suffused my soul. Cycling is simple, just turn the pedals and enjoy the countryside.

I had been doing moderately well as I climbed hills and dashed down dales. This was what cycling was invented for, getting back to ones youth and enjoying the exceedingly simple pleasures of life. Not wishing to put a dampner on things, I decided not to consult my Strava. Although an excellent tool for checking ones output, it can instil a little too much internal competition and turn a good ride into a painful one. Nevertheless, when I came to a particularly challenging climb I put the hammer down significantly more than I had done for some time.

The results were good.

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The little yellow medals there are personal bests. How very, very sad for me to worry about that set of insignificant achievements.

This form of exercise has played a major part in my recovery from burnout. I recommend it. 

 

Food For Thoughts…

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Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.

Anthony Bourdain
Big decisions had to be made and I was not the man to make them. I was waking up to another morning of completing a profoundly profound post and then moving into a contemplation of my life from that moment on. It was set to be a long day conversing with myself.

Before I started my arduous toil, a cup of coffee was needed. Coffee, unlike tea, is not a domesticated drink. It is a drink to be consumed in public, amongst others who share the same addiction. My favourite place to upload caffeine is a cycle themed cafe, Cafe Velo.

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The coffee is sublime and there are cycle magazines in abundance. In the last week however, my choice of venue has received an unwanted complication. I visited another coffee shop, one that served amazing almond croissants as a morning freebie. It is unfortunately part of a chain, but I have been there.

I was in the midst of this internal dilemma when I saw myself in the mirror. My hair was wayward, suggesting that there was still some madness within. A shower was in order. Yesterday, I shaved and I had already completed any other toilet tasks earlier, so it was just a shower. The random mayhem of the night’s sojourn would soon be mended.

On my way into the bedroom, I noticed my phone sitting on the bedside table. As I went to uplug the charger, it lit up. The phone was on silent and it was not set to vibrate. There was a certain fortune about this as it would certainly have gone unheeded if I hadn’t noticed my lunatic follicles.

Unwanted phone calls have been plaguing my life recently. There are a number of companies who have my number. They hand it out to any trainee cold-caller who happens not to be able to get a job, and have declined the golden mitt of teaching, so call unknowns up to try to sell them things. There are tribes of these telephone tormentors in Glasgow, Manchester, and London. The ones from the Indian sub-continent, with spurious names such as Grant or Mitch, have fallen off the map of late. Anyway, I checked the number and recognised it to be local. It may have been that the tribes had invaded my region, but I sacrificed due caution for curiosity (the cat was safely out of doors at this point).

“Is that Mike, Mike Evans?”

“Speaking.”

“Could you possibly do a day’s supply work?”

“Yes. Where?” I was a little too enthusiastic for my own liking.”

“Could you do Darfield?”

“No, that’s one of the places I said that I would not do.” Darfield had been the place where my pot finally boiled over.

“Could you do Polaris?”

State controlled private schools seemed to be involved in a competition to have the most stupid of names. Polaris was a set of officially ‘Good’ academies. It did a half decent job of educating the offspring of an economically, and culturally, deprived area. I had spent almost six months there until the person I was covering for annoyingly reappeared.

“Yes, I’ll do it.” Again that overly enthusiastic tone.

“Good. Get there as soon as you can.”

I bounced in the shower, brushed my teeth, ironed a shirt, said goodbye to my bemused middle daughter (but wasn’t that the place you left on Monday?), patted the cat for good luck, took the car to the petrol station, bought a cheap sandwich and drove to the north star.

It was with a happy indifference that I walked into the reception to find that my details were still on the clocking-in system (data protection error) and received my lanyard, class lists, and temporary timetable.

It was with well acquainted irony that I discovered that my first class of the day was maths, but with a number of students who were collectively my least favourite.

It all added up; I didn’t particularly like maths, I didn’t particularly like a number of  those students, but I also didn’t like the prospect of sitting with my own company trying to reach a difficult decision.

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Life had become a smorgasbord of indifferent delights.

In memory of Anthony Bourdain