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Friday, 10 March 2017

Own it. Change it.

Retiring Judge Lindsey Kushner issued a carefully worded piece of advice towards women recently. She stated simply that women whom get drunk are putting themselves in danger of being targeted by rapists. She acknowledges that women are “Entitled to drink themselves into the ground”, but that their behaviour could put them in danger. She goes to great lengths to acknowledge that they remain victims, and that they would not be responsible for any subsequent attack. This to me is simple common sense, but of course a certain sub section of the regressive left will scream that she is victim shaming for having the temerity to suggest that they might want to consider mitigating risk.

Scenario; if I go out and get completely drunk, and end up passing out and incoherent, I have made a personal choice to do so. If, when I awaken I discover I have been the victim of a predatory sexual assault then I am of course the victim and in no way to blame. But could I really suggest that I couldn’t have done more to stay safe? Have I not made a choice to surrender my faculties? Would I have been targeted had I been just a bit more self controlled? I think not. And I think I would have to own that choice. This to me is simple common sense. Simple personal self responsibility. I have to own that. Which brings me to a wider concern. We seem to live in a society where we are very quick to project our failings onto others. I fear that sometimes we make excuses when we should perhaps take ownership. And I think that a person whom projects actually cripples themselves and abdicates control of their own destiny. There are many things in life over which I have no control, but there is much I can and should do to increase my chances of flourishing and learning from experience. Even if something isn’t my fault, I can still choose to learn from it. I can own the consequences even if I cannot change the elements which bought them about. As such, I choose to do so. I choose to own my life, to accept that I have a responsibility to turn every experience into a learning exercise. Why would I not want to do that? Why would I not want to take control of my own destiny? What do I gain if I choose not to do so? People who project are, in my view, people whom are less likely to change themselves for the better when faced with life’s slings and arrows. I can empathise with your difficulties, but I cannot endorse the choice not to take personal self control. Even when it is hard. Even when it hurts.
None of what I suggest here is victim shaming. In fact quite the opposite. It is a call to arms, a call to rise above that which would take the wind from our sails. I can see no obvious reason not to do so.

Monday, 27 February 2017

I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues

1st March tomorrow. It’s been a long time coming. Perhaps it’s just me, but as winter drags on I find the going harder and harder. I don’t know whether I get seasonal adjustment disorder, but I do know I love the feel of the sun on my face, the warmth, and being able to stand outside and stare into clear blue skies. I don’t expect I am alone in this, so today is a shout out to those who also struggle with the long dark evenings, the cold weather, the damp underfoot. Give me sunrise at 0440, and sunset at 2200. Give me spring growth, new life, the buds unfurling. I want the feel of the grass beneath my feet, scrunching and opening my toes. I want to feel that sense of new beginning. Unlike some I don’t think I have ever been clinically depressed, but come January and February I do really find myself struggling. I want to have the windows and the doors open, to sleep with a light duvet with my arms and legs hanging out. I want to walk downstairs stark naked at 0400 in the morning and get a funny look from the dog. No need to have the heating on, no need to go out with a coat. Is it me or is it just that bit easier to be spontaneous when you don’t have to think about layers and hats and gloves? I’m a person who needs to breathe, who needs to look up and see a sky arcing outward for miles. I feel alive, alert, less inclined to moan. I’m just a summer kind of guy.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

An Expectation Free Zone

I've come to accept that I am 100 percent responsible for my own happiness. I've come to accept, after a fairly long process, that to expect too much from others is unrealistic. Perhaps unfair, even. I've kind of even taken a zero expectation approach, because this at least removes the pressure from everyone else. You are not responsible for my happiness, my hopes, my psychological wellbeing. You are not responsible for my dreams, my ideals, my crazy tangents. You're off the hook. You're free. You owe me nothing. I wonder whether we sometimes lay excessive expectation at the feet of others, placing them in an impossible position? Perhaps we just expect too much from others in general? And when they "Let us down", we expose them to feelings of guilt and low self esteem? I wonder whether the kinder thing, the more realistic thing is simply to free others from all that? Its an open and unresolved question for me. The obvious risk is that we insulate ourselves from meaningful connections, perhaps shutting ourselves off from potential experiences that could make our lives richer? I can't honestly work out whether my perspective is born of cynicism or just the plain acceptance of the way the world is? I know that I do not want to guilt anybody into anything, or demand that they become something they are not. Perhaps there is no one answer? Could it be that much depends on the other person/person's within the equation?
Ultimately, I get to own my own experiences. I don't get to project my feelings. I'm responsible for dealing with my own issues. I'd be really interested in getting the thoughts of others on this. The waters muddy with me right now. I can't see so clearly.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Pissing On Bonfires - A How To Guide

Want to damage a relationship? Want to erode someone's confidence and make yourself unapproachable? It's as easy as 1 2 3. Just refuse to listen when they want to discuss something, or respond with immediate negativity when they confide in you over something they might like to explore. Go on, it works!. I guarantee that within no time at all your partner will find it almost impossible to initiate a discussion because they'll know the script in advance. They'll assume a negative response and begin to feel less and less heard, less able to share those deep and difficult parts of themselves. It's perfect. For added flourish, be sure to demand they aspire to standards you've never reached yourself. Complain as your life depended on it. Congratulations! You've achieved a near perfect lack of self awareness. Feels great doesn't it!
Ok, so I jest. If any of the above resonates to you, if you feel challenged or affronted in any way may I suggest a little experiment? Ask yourself when was the last time you approached your partner and asked them if there was anything they wanted to explore? Any goals, any dreams, any intimate desires they would like to pursue. Tell them they have a safe space, that they won't be judged. Show a genuine interest. And then listen. And remember. Write things down afterwards if you have to. It doesn't mean you've committed to anything, but it does demonstrate a willingness to step into their world and play some part in helping them to be the truest version of themselves. To be heard, to be listened to, and for what you say to be taken onboard is such a positive thing. Above all, if you're the listener, be damn sure that if you do say you want to play a part in making another person's dreams take shape you do what you say you're going to. This is crucial. Words and promises that aren't seen through erode trust. Without betraying confidences this last part is hugely important to me. If you make a promise then keep that promise. Or if you genuinely cannot have the decency and self awareness and plain courage to articulate why. I suspect many a good relationship has floundered on sins of ommission. Making a promise and then breaking that promise is the gold standard for pissing on another person's bonfire. As a write this, I'm aware that I couldn't have written it any earlier in my life. I've had to live out many of the experiences I refer to. I've been there, on both sides of the divide. And the thing is, those who cause the pain often don't have a clue that they do so. They can be,and frequently are good people. Just people who don't quite listen out for the signs, who find it hard to have those difficult discussions. I wonder how many good people have been the cause of mortal wounds in the hearts of those they claim to, and probably do in fact love?
Readers, friends, let's be better listener's. Let us be a little braver when are comes to stepping beyond our own experiences. Listen, remember, and above all do whatever ever it is you promised to do. And be open to ideas that may not, at first glance, appeal. It is entirely possible to take joy in the pleasure of seeing someone else blossom. Its your ultimate gift to them. Be brave. Make sure your comfort zone isn't merely a comfort blanket. And above all, intentionally engage.

Sunday, 29 January 2017


So there’s a petition to deny Donald Trump from being received by the Queen as part of State visit to the United Kingdom. It reads “Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official State visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty The Queen.” One has to be somewhat naive to miss the several levels of irony associated with this. Aside from the fact that Prince Phillip has been doing pretty much just this throughout the course of the royal marriage, what precisely would it say about us should we choose to take such a course? Trump is probably mentally ill, and clearly he is unfit to hold high office. Any office, for that matter. He is dangerous not by virtue of the fact that he is evil, but rather because he is so chronically inept on so many levels. You do not have to be evil to do a great deal of harm. Cue my obligatory dig at religious belief; a mostly sincere and well intentioned endeavour that has caused huge tribulation and entirely avoidable suffering through the centuries. And no, I am not comparing Trump to the average Christian. I’m just merely highlighting where a casual disregard for truth and brute facts gets you. But I digress. Concerning his ill conceived vetting policy, which appears to be a classic example of taking a gun to a knife fight. Of course we need to be vigilant; of course borders need to be protected. But a carte blanch approach to an entire demographic isn’t going to solve this problem. It will however increase it exponentially, creating additional ill feeling and possibly an increase in tensions. I happen to think that should we refuse Trump his State visit to the United Kingdom we do ourselves an immense disservice. We just tacitly mimic a thing we loathe, even though I expect many would offer some kind of rationale as to why we could justify this. I’m for treating him in accordance to the values that differentiate us from his inane and consistent non thinking. Whilst I don’t think for a second that he has the capacity to see very far beyond his own glass ego, we can still disagree, we can still voice dissent. But let’s not stoop to the same level as this giant orange skinned ignoramus. I think we can do better than that. And I think we owe it ourselves to do so.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Weaponised Ignorance

It started as a joke. A little comic relief. And nobody took him seriously. Mocked by his own party, to whom he appeared only vaguely affiliated. Ridiculed by everyone else. "The Donald" he was jokingly referred to. And the disdain continued, even as the wheels of his campaign gained traction. It couldn't happen. It was unthinkable.
In a few hours time Donald John Trump will become 45th President of the United States and the leader of the free world. What was once absurd will now be the establishment. Has a stranger thing ever come to pass? I will watch the news, listen as others seek to make sense of it, but hasn't that ship sailed now? We're all in the same boat now, and he's the Captain. A Captain whom has never sailed before. Whilst I have felt a very real, and perhaps sometimes unfair anger towards the silent majority that enabled this absurdity, I'm beyond that now. We're all in this together, each of us on the oddest journey, a magical mystery cruise where none of us, and probably not even the Captain himself knows the destination. Strange times lay ahead, and I find myself wanting, more than ever, to stay true to the values that matter to me. Honesty, humour, creativity, a commitment to following the truth irrespective of whether I like the view. Amidst a world that has forsaken reason I will choose reason. In a post truth world I will seek it with renewed passion. Its the only way I know. And I invite you to join me, to resist despondency and seek growth and new horizons. Walk your path, pursue your vision, and have an open heart and an open mind. There will always be the likes of Donald Trump in the world; craven power seekers and ignorant buffoons. I cannot change that, but I can work on little old me. In a world that has weaponised ignorance I do not see any other way.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

And The Wheels Keep Turning

So the clock ticks over and another year begins. I am at work. My apathy is tangible. No new year’s resolutions for me, no grandiose promises to keep. I’m just going to keep doing more of the same and try to be less of the things I dislike about myself. You see, I feel no need for reinvention, there isn’t much I want to change. Sure I want to be a better husband, a better Dad, a better colleague, but surely I should want those things anyway. Perhaps a day will come when I need to make such bold declarations, but today is not this day. I take my existence in little bite sized chunks, taking nothing for granted and trying to take enjoyment in the small things. I’m passionate about continuing to deepen my relationship with Joy, and the journey we are on has been amazing. After all this time, all these years we are still looking to make our level of connection better. She has been such a positive force in my life, helping me to better understand myself, to accept myself, and her ability to bring out the better angels of my nature speaks volumes for her. She understands me, and does so in a way that connects us in ways that continue to amaze me. It’s rare in life to be so fortunate, but then this is not about luck. It’s about being intentional, about wanting to see another person flourish and to find full acceptance. It always saddens me when I hear couples who have been together for years speaking negatively about each other, sniping and bemoaning. Why do that? Why pour acid over something that plays such a pivotal role in your existence. God it sounds such a cliché, but if we could all just be a little braver when it comes to our relationships, a bit more willing to understand, to engage, to dissolve those barriers of fear that I’m convinced have hamstrung so many couples down the years. Be honest, be brave. With yourself firstly, but also with those whom share the same space. I can honestly say that I want Joy to experience full happiness and contentment. I never want to put barriers in her way that compromise this. Why would I? If she has passions I want her to pursue them. If she has interests and hobbies I want her to indulge them. She gives a lot to other people, and even more to our girls, so when it comes to us I take the view that it should be a safe space to be who she wants to be. I’m no relationship guru, and I’m perhaps the least perfect person that I know, but I figure that so long as I bring good intentions to the table then that at least gives a baseline starting point for something good.