Sunday, 23 November 2014

My efforts to stick to the Kick Start Fat Loss diet

Greetings bloggites! Firstly apologies for the delay! During this time I actually had two weeks off, so you'd think I'd have more time to write. But what time I did have I allocated solely to Clara Bow and the Staff of Aaron. The bad news is I still didn't manage to finish it. But the good news is, the end is nigh! To that end this blog, and my tortuously slowly progressing blog novel may suffer, as I feel that overall, if I have time to sit and write, it is best used on Clara. Once the second book is finished, I'll have some peace of mind that it hasn't dragged on too long, and will be more prolific on this blog and the Fading Ark.

So I've been writing. But I've also continued my healthier living efforts. I am now officially signed up to Kick Start Fat Loss and it is now four weeks since I had coffee, wheat, gluten or anything processed. I've also completed my first full 5 day week of exercise sessions, which consist of HIIT and kettlebells.  It also involves dragging myself from bed at 5.45am, ready for a 6.30am workout, 3 days out of the 5! The amazing thing is that results are already visible. The bloated gut is diminishing and adorable wife is constantly admiring what she calls the 'apples' that have appeared on my biceps. I still have a way to go before I slim down, and tone up, fully, but it's encouraging to see real world results so soon.

The other aspect of this regime is having to ensure I eat properly. As I mentioned I've cut out various baddies from my diet, and now have a much healthier breakfast and lunch. An omelette has become my staple breakfast, and a salad with a meat has become my lunch. Dinner is not much different from before, but I am trying to cut out white rice, because it's not actually on my 'shopping list' from KSFL, so am breaking the rules by having it!

The group frequently share our meals on a private facebook page, to show how good, or bad, we have been, and to help encourage each other to stick with the good foods. Therefore I thought it would be nice to share my recent meals!




This is spicy saucy beef with choi sum and turmeric cabbage. Broke the rules a little with this because there was some ketchup in the sauce. Next time we shall have to make out own ketchup!




This was one of my early lunch efforts. Smoked salmon on salad. Simple but scrummy!
 




More salmon here. This time curried for dinner, with stir fried kale, and miso soup with seaweed. The white rice is naughty! Bad starchy carbs!



This is an example of my staple breakfasts. A spinach, enoki mushroom, button mushroom and chilli omelette. Really delicious.




This is my work lunch box. Usually filled with a large salad, and here I had some leftover curried salmon and some avocado.
 


This was a lamb stew, with loads of amazing vegetable, like sweet potato, courgette, carrot and parsnips. Quite spicy too, thanks to a healthy dose of chillies!




Another one of my lunches to the right. This time I had cooked chicken thighs with coriander and chilli (which is an ingredient that shows up a lot in my dishes! Certainly couldn't live without it). The salad dressing is a simple mix of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. In this instance, I had also added some fresh chopped coriander.



Below is another partial cheat. It's spicy tomato mackerel. But the fish was tinned, which means it must have had some preservatives. I did check and it was very low on the sugar content so I think it wasn't the greatest sin of them all. But next time, it should be from the fresh fish counter.



 


This is one of my favourite breakfasts! It's a banana and cinnamon omelette. A wonderful post work-out treat!
 
I made this yesterday for my breakfast because I totally forgot to buy eggs when I went shopping on Friday! Huge mistake when eggs are a staple element of your diet! This is a turkey thigh stir fry, with red peppers, cabbage, courgettes, and... what else? Chilli of course!.


This was lunch yesterday. Smoked salmon and avocado salad. Simple and delicious!

Overall I'm finding that having a heavy omelette for breakfast and a large salad for lunch is keeping me going just fine. The whole point of this is not to snack between meals. So far that has worked out, and I have resisted the cakes, biscuits and chocolates table at work. I have also donated my unopened cereal to local food bank.


Who knows, if I get some really good results soon, I may even become brave enough to post my before and after photos!! Currently the 'before' photos are held in a secure facility that even the members of IMF would struggle to access.
I'm off to have a fruit tea! Catch you all very soon.


 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Shove it sugar - Week Two

On the 27th of October I started a sugar free and exercise five day regime via work, called Shove it Sugar!

The title is a little misleading because actually we were encouraged to cut out not just sugar, but wheat, gluten and caffeine. To be honest, the thought of not eating chocolate, biscuits and sweets was not really an issue for me. We still have a few chocolates leftover that adorable wife bought at last years Banbury food fair! Neither of us are big bread eaters, but we do usually have a fry up and toast on the weekends for breakfast, and usually end up making sandwiches for lunch during the week. 

But actually adorable wife doesn't really like sandwiches, finding them too dry. Therefore cutting out bread didn't seem too tricky either. 

My first attempt at home made healthy bread

Coffee, well, that's a different story. I don't over-indulge, honest I don't. I have freshly ground beans, via the coffee machine in the morning, and then a coffee pod via the Dolce Gusto machine at work. And that's usually it. Apparently when people cut out coffee, even when they only drink one cup, they usually have headaches, but I was fortunate to have no issues whatsoever. I hope that means I'm not overly addicted, and caffeine hasn't been having a negative impact on my body. But right now, when I'm at home, it is the thing I'm missing the most. The machine is just around the corner from where I'm sitting and I have coffee I'd already ground before the week starting calling to me! 

But I shall be strong. I don't think I'll cut caffeine out of my life forever, but I will hold out for a 28 day period for a bit of a detox and then stick to one cup of fresh coffee per day and cut out the capsules, because it's harder to know what chemical treatment they have been through.

The first set of exercises on the 27th were after work and was what is called a HIIT. That's High Intensity Interval Training to the layman. It involves 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds rest, followed by a 20 further seconds of a different exercise, the break, and back to the previous exercise. You do three sets of these 20 seconds, 10 seconds cycles, and this takes about half an hour, and then you're done! Well that's the theory, but about 20 minutes in my head started to swim and I had to pause, before finally giving in completely and laying on the floor. Sindy, the instructor, suggested it was better to walk it off, and so I tried, but my head was clouding up and I knew I need to be on the floor! I recovered slowly, talking to Tanya, the lady who would do our meditation sessions later, and felt myself able to get back up and take part in the stretches at the end. It wasn't really the physical effort that foiled me, but the dizziness that threatened to topple me.

The next day, my thighs were destroyed! It was incredibly difficult to sit, stand, walk up or down stairs, or even slopes. Yet I had agreed to walk to work with my friend, rather than drive, for the rest of the week. So despite the discomfort I wobbled all the way up the (mild) hill, oohing and ahing the whole way. Crossing the road was a much greater challenge than normal because if the timing was off, I couldn't make a dash for it, the legs just wouldn't cope!

Worse still, that day the lunch time event was another walk! But I got a lot of mileage on my pedometer, so from that perspective I did well.

Wednesday lunch time was relax and stretch, and I think this more gentle exercise did a lot of good in setting my body back on track. Thursday was Pilates, which I thoroughly enjoyed and will certainly do again. Friday was another HIIT, but as it was lunchtime it was, thankfully, a lighter version. Also by Friday, much to my relief, my legs started to feel functional and normal again. Walking down stairs now became possible without holding the handrail! I wasn't broken after all!

My lunch today! Couldn't resist a little butter...


Every morning I had been cooking scrambled eggs or omelettes, rather than having cereal as normal, and I did find that kept me in good stead until a large salad for lunch. The trick was to mix in some extra ingredients from the list, such as spinach and smoked salmon. I was surprised to find that I quickly took to this heavier breakfast. 

As of Wednesday I also dared to try one of the hardest suggestions of the week; a cold shower! Initially I was only brave enough to wash my face while standing out of the water. Eventually I had no choice but to plunge under, instantly feeling the iciness grasp at the skin on my back. Gasp! It's electric and I couldn't hold, having to side-step and keep dipping under and back out of the water. Apparently it's good for me, so I've stuck with it each subsequent morning.

I haven't really changed my evening meals because as a rule they are home cooked and healthy already. Besides, adorable wife isn't on this scheme and I don't intend to enforce it on her, though that is happening to a degree due to not purchasing certain items, such as bread. 

So, cooked breakfasts, leafy salads for lunch, home cooked food, no sugar, wheat, gluten or caffeine, cold showers, and knackering work outs... What has this all meant for me in only five days?

Well, I went from 71kg to 70.7kg. So there was a little weight loss, which isn't really my goal, I would be happy to lose my pregnant gut and gain muscle elsewhere really. I also appeared to have lost an inch from my waist and hips. Which in five days isn't too shabby and encouraged me enough to stick with it going forward.

On Saturday I went to Sindy's YouTube workouts and did one of the HIIT sessions she kindly recorded. I tell you what, I was glad for the cold shower after doing that! That appears to be the trick. Work out and THEN have a cold shower.

This is what I did:

 

I also tried the Tabata training in the afternoon. I sweat half my body weight away on that one. Needed another cold shower after this one...

 

She says to start all over again as it's "only" three rounds. Heeeeelll nooo! Once around the tabata block was enough for me right now thanks very much!

Now I'm off work and thought I wanted a bit of eating variety. Sindy kindly supplied me with a healthier bread recipe, so I gave it go this morning, in time for my lunch with the usual salad. The results can be seen in the photos above. I was pleasantly surprised that it worked first time, even if it is a little small. It's a flax meal loaf, made with no flour, and no yeast and took me just over 30 minutes! It's very light and soft, and full of flavour. Not bad going for a first effort.

So the adventure continues. I continue keeping away from the processed foods where possible, and will attend some of Sindy's official sessions, as well as doing them at home. I do feel energised and hopeful that I'm getting fitter and healthier and can keep the momentum going.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Shove it sugar week - Day One!

On the 26th October 2014 I weighed 71kg, my chest was 37.5", my waist was 38", my hips 39", and apparently my left thigh is half an inch bigger than my right, being 22" and 22" respectively. My biceps are a barely worth mentioning 11.5" each.

I exclaimed greatly when adorable wife measured my hips at larger than my waist, seeing as all I can see looking downwards is gut. She politely reminded me my bum was also sticking out the other side.

Photos were taken, the kind you take for your before, normally looking glum, unwashed, and all grey tones. Should I see results I presumably need to take happy smiling ones. Though I made a before faux pas by looking reasonably happy in the before. This despite the experience being a gruesome one, where I let the gut hang out in all it's glory. Honestly, if I were a lady, you might ask me when the baby is due. I'd say I have another 3 months left.

What, you cry, is the point of all this measuring and photographic shaming?

A friend asked me if I'd attend something called Shove it Sugar week at work. It was simply to accompany the first presentation so he could see what it was all about. The attendance was poor, and the lady, Sindy, was enthusiastic and inspiring, so it seemed a worthwhile idea to sign up and see if my lifestyle is below par.

Not that I needed someone to tell me that was the case. Frankly I spend most of my work life on a chair, and then come home to spend most of the evening on the couch, watching TV, or in the current case, writing on the laptop. Since getting the car I've stopped walking to work, and despite a valiant effort to become a jogger, once the weather turned nasty I wimped out.

As far as food was concerned, I was pretty confident that I wasn't a terrible eater. I don't put sugar in my hot drinks, don't indulge in biscuits and sweet treats, and am not really a fan of junk food. That said, Asian cooking, although it can be healthy, can also be very oily, and you usually leave the fat on meat when cooking. We also have white rice with pretty much every meal. And we do occasionally treat ourselves to a nice unhealthy desserts, bad things, bad bad things. I mean, not serial killer bad. Though one could argue that sugar is currently a serial killer, the ultimate bad guy!

Today was the beginning. We're supposed to cut out sugar for the next five days. I don't think that will be too much of an issue for me, I'm not big on sweetening everything I eat or drink. Next, we've been given a list of good foods, though this is not a diet, just a suggestion of healthy foods to eat. Mostly it's about cooking a decent breakfast, and eating lots of leafy greens, partnered with something meaty.

For my breakfast I tried to make a mushroom omelette, but in my morning haste I left the egg on the pan too long and it ended up far too dry. The only way I managed to chew my way through it was to sip coffee in-between mouthfuls. It was only pointed out to me later in the day that coffee was not on the menu for breakfast. Caffeine is another drug that should be limited. So green teas and water from now on!

I ate nothing else until lunch, only drinking water post-breakfast. Lunch was actually something I'd been eating already, a leafy salad with hard-boiled egg and chicken. I just added more greens than usual, as instructed! My friend and I even did a bit of extra credit by walking briefly after eating, having picked up a pedometer each, to record each step. We'll be walking to work tomorrow morning, and for the rest of the week. Shed pounds, save pounds, winner all round!

Post work there was a HIIT work-out! For those not in the know that stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This was going to be the toughest part of the training by far. Upon arrival we discovered only one other hardy soul had bothered to turn up, so we felt a sense of pride at actually participating. We learned that the principles of HIIT is 20 seconds of workout, followed by 10 seconds break, followed by another 20 seconds. The 10 seconds is really just the time it takes to shift to the next exercise.

I think I was okay for the physical side, though it was a struggle, I'm no Olympian that's for sure. Squats, running on the spot, sit-ups and push-ups were all punishing my lazy muscles. But worse still, about half way along in the training, my head began to feel light and fuzzy. My vision was unfocused and I needed to take a genuine break. Sindy advised I walk it off, rather than sit still, so I tried but quickly found my head was swimming and I needed a lie down!

I managed to revive in time for the stretches at the end and redeem myself somewhat, before forcing my jelly legs back down the stairs and into the car for the slovenly drive home.

Sindy is kindly going to visit first thing in the morning to do a blood sugar test, to see if she can help identify the cause of my light-headedness. It is something I experienced when I used to jog last year, and as I got used to the exercise it did die down, but it shows that I lack something, hopefully nothing I can't replenish with the right diet!

So, I'm at the cusp of a, currently only 5 day journey, but who knows, will my weight change? My muscles increase? My energy levels improve? Will anything change? I hope I find something from all this, and I hope it can make me healthier for a lifetime. But for now, 5 days is the short goal, because exercise is the easiest thing to dive into, and ditch not longer after.

And I am, after all, a procrastinator. So, wish me luck!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

A day in the life of a procrastinator

The oblivion of sleep is punctured by a vague recollection that reality is about to shift plains. Within an indefinable time-frame an unnatural noise signals that my mind needs to change gears, and it shuts off the link between dreams and consciousness. My arm moves to tap the cancel button on the phone, shutting of the light tinkling of melodic bells that acts as an alarm.

The world comes into focus. What was I dreaming about? When did I drift off? Did I wake up during the darkness of night? What day is it? Do I need to make our lunch? 

Adorable wife will have already made it to the shower. Shaking the lethargy from my re-awakening body I'll trot to the kitchen to boil the water for her rooibos tea, and pop an energy fizzer into half a glass of water for me to get the first liquid of the day. 

Teeth. Drink. Shower. Lunch. Breakfast. Leave the house. All within 1 hour and fifteen minutes on an average day. By the time I'm in the car heading to work, any dreams I had are long absent from my mind, locked away forever. Adorable wife is dropped off and I'm on my way to work.

Work consists of attempting to produce something new, with continual punctuation marks provided by colleagues with queries, customers with problems, and technical issues. Lunch arrives before I know it, splicing the day in two. The afternoon continues without mercy, and the day's end arrives, not caring whether my initial goals were completed, started, or even thought about again, after their original inception. 

Back in the car, pick up adorable wife. We're home. Dinner will be wanted, and is often pre-prepared on a free day, so only basics such as rice, side dishes and other niceties are required. 

How was your day? We ask this of each other. I rarely have anything of note to report. I do my job, it treats me well, I respond accordingly. Adorable wife sometimes experiences dramas. On occasion she neglects to tell me about them on the day and I only learn later down the line. Understandably I tick her off for not keeping me in the loop. My concern is for her, and if I don't know all the facts about her day to day life, I can't help. If something unpleasant should come to light, I will obviously be keen to talk it through and see if there is a resolution.

And so, we come to the later stages of the evening, and my second job takes precedence. My second job is to blog about my life and my writing. My second job is to write a sci-fi epic direct to blog, no ret-conning allowed. My second job is to continue the adventures of the Bow family. 

Music is required. Via the hi-fi should the living room be free to do so, via headphones should adorable wife want to watch the TV. I need sounds with melody, with a beat, with some motion within, and it will set the pace, and sometimes the tone, of what I type. Should I be on Clara or the blog novel, and need some action to kick in, I need something fast-paced. This is when I commonly dig out some form of dance music, not something I listen to by default as a rule. I can tolerate dubstep when the mood calls for it, though left on too long it can became wearing on the brain. Electronica, chillout, and other variants on dance will also be called upon to help my typing flow with appropriate gusto.

Should I be required to type something more emotional and thoughtful, I will end up with some form of smooth jazz. Earl Klugh, Brian Culbertson, Dave Koz, and many more. This more relaxed background music can soothe my mind and leave it open for a more studied writing style.

The key is to avoid anything with singing where possible. Hearing the poetry of others, when trying to keep your own voice unique is not beneficial. Though when I hit the writing zone with enough vigour I can effectively block the words and use the beat.

What do I blog to? Pretty much anything really, again, avoiding anything too wordy, which could otherwise prove distracting to the mind, and adversely affect my own tone, or worse, simply distract me from my work. Currently I have an internet radio station playing jazz, lounge and bossa nova, offering an eclectic, but easy-going mix which offers a pleasant background.

I don't set myself a minimum, or maximum, amount of writing to complete because how one feels after an early morning start, a full day of work, and a post-work catch up with the wife, will vary from one day to the next. If I manage at least an hour of focused writing, I would count that as a successful night. Anything above that is a bonus. 

Writing may, in essence, be an easy task. You are simply putting words down on screen, no physical effort required. But after a day of brain draining, it can often be that the mind will simply not offer sufficient resources to practically write something of value. 

Not only that, but adorable wife has herself had a full day, of physically tiring, and mentally wearing hard toil. What if all she has been looking forward to all day was a chilled out night with her hubby? There's only so often I can turn her away and say that I have to knuckle down and stare at the glow of my laptop in favour of a cooch on the couch with the prettiest lady in this galaxy. Sometimes I resist the urge, sometimes I don't. There's no real rhyme or reason to my decision that I know of. Maybe it depends how well she deploys those big brown puppy dog eyes...

Even when I do resist adorable wife, sometimes I can write for three to four hours after a crazy hectic day, and barely manage a sentence after a bog-standard, no-challenge day. Is there something to be argued for the days where the brain is so fired-up from other activity, it stokes the flames of creativity for later? Whereas the less action it has experienced, the more dulled it can be. 

But it's not just the lovely lady of the house. I do also like to keep a toe in some sort of social life. I never was, and still am not, a big socialiser. But you can't shut yourself away in a room and never venture into the big bad world. I've been like that in the past, though have always been lucky to know at least one plucky soul who liked me enough to keep attempting to part me from my beloved movies. I have a fortnightly Thursday outing I attend, and will do the occasional ad-hoc session too. Getting out into the real world is also hugely useful for a writer. Unless you're writing about amphibious goat-men from the planet Grobble, seeing and interacting with real people is the only way to write real characters.

But here be guilt. Because for every night I spend with adorable wife, and for every evening I pop out for drinks with mates, for every TV episode I watch, for every film I settle down to, technically the time could have been used for writing. Once a day has come and gone, it can never be retrieved for a retry.

What I tell myself is this; if I have no life to spend with adorable wife now, what life will I have left if I succeed as a writer, but our relationship has been adversely impacted? If I always stay in, friends will eventually drift away, and should I later have more free time, they may be too busy for me. It may be retrospective justification for merely enjoying myself, but until my day time job is writing, I have to walk that tight rope. 

At some stage of the night, my mind will begin to fog up, dream clouds fill up my horizon, and I'll head to the shower, if haven't already done so earlier. The safe, cosy haven of duvets and pillows have begun calling me, like sirens of the sea, lulling me to the days end, and a seemingly endless slumber. Until once again oblivion is punctured. Once again a day must be lived, before the decisions of the night are revisited. 

To write, or not to write?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Seeing the world through a cold funk

I had me a stinking old cold last week. It's the first full blown cold I've had for a couple of years and my brain just wasn't clear enough for writing. And that actually drove me a little nuts, because I had a couple of days booked off from work already, which should have been perfect for getting a good amount of keyboard gymnastics completed.

As it was, the days wasted away with little achievement and now I'm back to full time work for the next four weeks. What a pain! 

Talking of what you miss when you're sick, I casually mentioned to a friend that the worst thing about having a cold was that coffee and tea didn't taste right. He immediately countered by saying he thought it was not being able to hear clearly, making listening to music pointless for him. Adorable wife always mentions her tastebuds go dull and she can't taste food properly.

I suppose it's a little like becoming someone else for a few days. I love a good quality cup of freshly brewed coffee, or a nicely steeped cup of loose tea. The moment may be fleeting, but the satisfaction lingers. With a cold, my coffee tastes off and tea has an odd aftertaste, and I gain no pleasure from them. My friend is a huge audiophile, his amplifier alone consists of 6 separate black boxes with a sexy green glow, so his music is his escape, his true pleasure. Having his auditory sense hampered is destroying the enjoyment. Adorable wife loves her food, cooking and eating. Not being sure the taste is perfect, and not being able to savour the flavour is truly a frustration. But if you view it as seeing the world with fresh eyes, ears, taste buds, and smells (or lack thereof if you have a cold), it can give you a different perspective. 

Admittedly the whole problem is you don't actually feel very fresh. But the point is, you can silo yourself with your preferences, and some time without them, or in this case, now disliking them, can drive you to other experiences. 

That said, at the first sign my cold was retreating, I ground some fresh coffee and savoured a nice hot brew! The whole experience does require sensory acuteness. The lush scent of coffee beans, before and after grinding, and the hot earthy, bitter (but not too bitter) brew it becomes. Can't beat that!

So did I discover anything special when I was subjected to a week without my favourite drink? I did learn that proper Lemsip is 100% nicer than any cheap alternative. But I also learned that a spoonful of local honey is a cure for any degree of gross cheapskate hot lemon cold drink. I did fall in love with a nice spoon of thick, runny honey!

I also rediscovered my love for a drink called Milo, which is a malt energy drink that you mix with water and milk. You can buy it in this country, but it is seriously inferior to the Malaysian version, which is pure silky powder. The local variety appears to be the dreggs from the production process, looking more like rubble, and not dissolving much better. The real stuff is a good pick-me-up and a nice way to start the day, or a lazy way to get something that almost fools your body into thinking you've eaten. Kind of like a kid-friendly Guinness. Luckily adorable wife's dad brought us a big supply of the genuine product from Malaysia when he visited earlier in the year. What a hero!

Not being clear headed to write, also served to remind me that I am lucky to be able to do something creative. It's a gift, and I don't say that to be big headed. There are much more talented and gifted writers than I. But there are many who want to write, but cannot work out how to construct a sentence, or string together several into an effective paragraph. Or they have an idea they wish to express, but cannot find the words to do so with clarity. I realise that I just do what I do without really trying too hard, and in essence the difficulty comes from trying to fit all my writing into a life with a full-time job. So it did make me appreciate what it is like not to have that at my fingertips.

I'm not sure my friend would agree that he learns something particularly useful from keeping his Naim hi-fi silent. Though sometimes silence has its benefits too. Especially if you are used to keeping some sort of sound constantly running in the background, be it the TV, music or the sound of the neighbours making mad passionate love. That reminds me of the house I grew up in. The last set of neighbours we had would either argue, vacuum or bonk. That seemed to be the sum total of their lives. 

But I digress.

Ultimately, whatever current events are throwing at you, try and take them as an opportunity to understand who you are, discover knew things, and see the world from another perspective. And count yourself lucky that if you don't like what you see from your new perspective, it will only be temporary for you. For some the world will look as it did to you when ill all the time.

 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I'm far too trusting



I have trust issues. 

I'm far too trusting. 

My nature is to believe what I have been told is the honest truth. It's part of my natural optimism, and you might think that it's a good thing. 

It's just there are circumstances where it can be foolish or dangerous. 

Example one happened in Sheffield back in 2001. I was in the city after work, and it was already dark outside. I was heading to the tram when a scruffy young man blocked my path and asked if I could help. He told me he needed money to get back to his residence. He explained he was on remand and would possibly go back to prison if he didn't get back in time. He said he'd come to the city for a job interview, which had fallen through, and somehow the money he was supposed to have to return was gone. I forget why. What it all led to was an impassioned request for help with the train fare. Now, I genuinely had no cash on me, bar a few pence. I explained this and he suggested I could go to a cash machine if I was willing to help.

Now I know what you're thinking. Hell no! Go to a cash machine with a complete stranger? Sure, enter my pin, get a bash on the head, and all my money is gone! 

Sure, that sounds wise now. But for whatever reason I didn't look at it that way at the time. I figured he was in trouble and perhaps I could help. So off we went, two complete strangers, to a cash machine.

I tapped in my pin, withdrew £10 and gave him £5. No bash on the head, no theft, no mugging. He thanked me, went on his way and I lived to tell the tale.

Only in retrospect did I consider how dangerous that was. Why did I not see that at the time? Because I believed him. He seemed honest, and the story seemed authentic. Was he genuine? I'll never know.

Example 2 was in Bali. Adorable wife and I had just been dropped off in the city by a taxi from the hotel. We were immediately accosted by a friendly chap with some scratchcards. They were free and practically thrust in our hands. He encouraged us to see what we'd won. Adorable wife had some vouchers. I had won a free stay in a luxury hotel. 

The nice chap then told us that he would be able to get a real job if we went with him to collect our prizes. The hotel was apparently nearby and he could get a taxi and go with us and not only would we get our prizes immediately, but he would have brought in enough custom to secure a job at the hotel.
I had my doubts about what we had won, but in my trusting brain saw nothing wrong with checking it out, and so suggested we might be able to do this. Adorable wife suggested we didn't have time and we'd think about going later. In a stroke of ignorant genius I tried to suggest maybe we could do this first, until she insisted we had that 'very important thing to do' and I finally twigged that she wasn't keen on going with the strange man in strange taxi to an alleged hotel. And so we made our excuses and moved swiftly on.

I was immediately chastised by adorable wife for being so naive. Of course the cards were a scam. They were probably going to drive us out somewhere and at best rob us of everything we had.
I'm sure, in this case, she was 100% right, but the chap had been so nice and sweet, and I didn't look beyond that. 

I think both stories are lucky dodges for me. The first, I don't know for sure, but I assume it was a scam but he wasn't a mugger, just happy to dupe a fool like me. The second can only have ended in disaster if adorable wife hadn't been more worldly wise.

I still trust people though. I take things at face value. I guess when it's in your nature, unless you have enough negative experiences to teach you otherwise, it remains part of who you are.
Personally, I can only hope that I don't lose it, because that means I'll have been through some bad times. And I do have a cynicism when it comes to work, because you tend to hear the same phrases so frequently, that you grow immune. The amount of reminders that don't arrive in the post would suggest the area has a rogue postie who can identify them and is hiding them in his basement.

But that cynicism doesn't carry through to my personal life, and that does mean I must always remind myself to pause and think about who I have in front of me and whether they have any reason to misrepresent themselves.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

How I deal with my anger

I'm not good at being angry. Don't get me wrong, I do get annoyed, but it's never really a long term proposition. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.

I just don't get outwardly angry in situations I know others would and so perhaps I don't react as you would expect. A simple example would be the other day, when I was driving home from work. The route I commonly take goes through some chicanes, and I had reached the second set where it was my right of way. The first car coming through had time to get through before I got there, the second car did not, yet he brazenly carried on driving. I had to completely stop to let him through. Now I know from being in cars with other people, and from what I have been told, that in similar situations, they have honked angrily or given the driver the finger. I just made a face, and then went through, grumbling mildly.By the time I was through the chicane I was over it, and didn't care a jot.

I've been in the car with adorable wife before and been cut-up or someone has done something stupid, and she's told me I should have honked. But I never think to do so. In that circumstance I'm usually more focused on dealing with the car than getting mad. I just don't see the point in getting all roiled up, and what is honking going to do? Will the other driver be, "oh thanks for honking, I have learned the error of my ways and will never do this again"? I don't think so. I suppose the only benefit is if they didn't realise they had caused an issue, and by you honking they were informed. But to be honest, when I have cocked up at a roundabout, or junction, I knew it, irrespective of whether someone honked or not. Don't worry, it hasn't happened that often!

And even if I do get mad, it usually dissipates within minutes. I'd say most of my anger stems from frustration, in situations when something is not functioning as it should, or someone has repeatedly done something wrong, or poorly. But even then my anger is usually directed at inanimate objects. When I was young, and I was still an avid video game player, I'd get frustrated with a game and throw the controller, or pluck the cartridge (yes, that's how old I am) from the console and fling it at the wall. I never lash out at other people, not then, and not now. 

I reckon it's all linked to my shyness, where my ability to express what's truly inside is suppressed when I'm in company. And this is where my thought about whether it is a good or bad thing. Because if you're holding emotions in, repressing the frustration and anger, it must be going somewhere. It's a simple transference of energy. I think that can affect you physically. Tire you out, or make you ill.

Not only that, suppression of emotion can mean it is unleashed later, when it is not appropriate. Is it better if the person who caused it, know it immediately, and you can then both deal with the issue at hand? 

Perhaps once I was affected by a repression of emotion. But I'm not sure if I am anymore. I think it's more that I genuinely don't harbour ill-will. I find that whatever the cause of my initial frustration, given a few minutes, I start to consider the other side of the story. 

What if I'm the one in the wrong? What if I have misunderstood? What if I could have done something differently? What if they're just having a bad day? 

Once you start to consider the issue from another perspective, it starts to devalue your own concerns. And even if you conclude that you did no wrong. That short time you were outside your own concerns, reduces the heightened emotional state anger places you in. Once you are in a calmer state, I find, the whole thing starts to appear somewhat meaningless. Does it matter if you were right? What is gained from proving so? If you manage to prove it, will the other person immediately reconsider their position, or will they simply feel aggrieved, not for the original reason, but for the steps you took to prove them wrong?

All this will have run through my mind within minutes, and by then, calm has returned. 

Other times, I also fail to identify why something could be perceived as upsetting. That as got me in trouble with adorable wife at least once recently. Because I didn't see something as a concern, i.e. if it had happened to me I wouldn't have registered it as an insult or personal attack, she felt I was not supportive. That was a particularly difficult issue to deal with, because as described above, my mind tried to put itself in the position of seeing how and why this situation would make me angry. It's actually harder when you're not angry, to try and make yourself angry! I suppose it's like tickling yourself, you can't really do it.

The reason I didn't really see the situation as adorable wife wanted me to, was because, even when directly faced with insults, or personal attacks, I don't really find it affects me. I can't take it seriously, because any personal attack is more likely reflecting an issue the attacker has, rather than an issue I have. Once someone has resorted to being personal, they have run out of any better options. I say this from years of experience in customer service, where people can get angry and lash out, and you genuinely start to let it wash over you. Sometimes they have a right to be angry about something, and even if they personalise it, I know it's not really personal. Perhaps that just means I've desensitised myself against attack. I don't care enough to rise to it. 

I also don't pick up on passive aggressive undertones that well, and what had happened with adorable wife was definitely passive aggressive. The problem with passive aggression is, it's often too subtle. I'm sure a lot of it flies around social media. I try not to make assumptions about what someone has said, or what a text meant, or an action that was taken, because we often only base our guesses on how we are feeling at the time, or how we would have written something. But that doesn't mean the other person has the same concept of that as you. You can assume something was directed at you, when actually it wasn't.

And really, what good does passive aggression do? What does seething over something someone did, or what you perceived they did, actually achieve? It's like they say, when you hate, the only person you hurt is yourself. The person your anger or hate is directed to is unscathed by your distant dislike. And if you externalise your hate or anger in a petty and non-confrontational way, do you not only validate their own reasons for being unkind? If you have an issue, either address it, or leave it. If the person does not want to bring it up with you directly, it really can't be that important, and therefore you shouldn't give it any stock.

I think I have historically been afraid of confrontations, and I think that means my instinct has been to leave something, rather than address it. Now I have built my confidence, I find I am more willing to speak out to the whoever has caused an issue, when it happens. And most of the time, that addresses the issue, I'm not storing up a glut of frustrations, and that maintains my calm equilibrium. It took a long time, and in some ways, a professional need to do so. I would not have been doing my job correctly as a manager in retail if I was afraid of telling the assistants the bad, as well as the good. And I would not be doing my current improvement role correctly. But of course, in a workplace, it's not about confrontations because you're angry, insomuch as feeding back, so there are positive ways of dealing with it. 

The simple fact is, sometimes I wish I did get more angry, because the concern is people will walk over you if you are a perceived soft touch. But overall, I prefer being the calm, controlled person I am. I think you can deal with a problem easier and better when you are in a calm state of mind.

I think it's healthier, and will lead to an easier life, if you don't let the world burn you out.