Not an island

Sometimes there are events that make you stop and take stock of everything.

Such things come without warning, hit you like a brick & leave you breathless when you consider their scope and impact for the future.

I can’t go into detail – but it’s been a tough last few days and I’m left thinking deeply about how precious everything in life is.

This sudden and unexpected time has manifested itself in an unusually quiet and reflective Davey, who for the most part has been unable to fully vocalise his feelings to those around him and has been left wondering what things all mean and what is really important.

I‘ve always known that it’s not material possessions or money – and it’s people that are important – but I’m confronted with yet another realisation related to my life changes.

That is that now more than ever I have had to confront how vulnerable and exposed I feel – because in the past I never felt like there was anything to lose.

When I lived a life of self destructive solitude there was nothing about my (probably extremely selfish) existence that made me feel like I was going to lose anything or anyone.

Oddly I often viewed my (very likely) early demise as a benefit to others rather than a potential loss and I was absolutely certain that it was me that would have a catastrophic health event and exit in a pine box before anyone else.

In my twisted view of the world this made everything better instead of worse.

I would leave my house to my brother and if I was no longer on the planet it would mean that my family would be financially more secure, free of worry (related to me) and able to just get on with life.

I felt that (because it was almost certainly me that would be dying first) I had no fear of loss or that the people I cared about would leave me without warning.

How selfish was I?

How would they have felt?

Now I look back at my thought process I feel like travelling back in time and kicking myself squarely in the man globes.

I was an idiot – and I didn’t realise at the time what was really going on in my mind.

Truthfully I thought that my lack of worry regarding losing people was because I was a hard person, and that unlike my peers I didn’t care as much (if at all).

Furthermore I was convinced that I had something that had somehow ‘broken’ inside me.

The side of my personality that sat up at night worrying whether someone came home or not just didn’t seem to exist.

Others stressed this way but I did not – and I considered myself as someone that had an absence of the ‘normal’ emotional bonds that families typically shared.

I just expected everyone to be ok and I expected myself to not be ok. I never thought it would be otherwise.

Life has a funny way of re-educating you though, and one of the side effects of living a healthier life is that the balance of probabilities has shifted.

I’m now no longer automatically the one that will leave everyone else behind when I die.

It may be the other way around…

This means that over the last few years I’ve realised that I’ve begun to look at people in my life with a different perspective – and that this phenomenon has become particularly acute when I look to my partner.

It’s daft – because we spend a lot of time exercising together, we’re both health conscious and we look after eachother as best we can. We know pretty much all there is to know about each other’s medical backgrounds and there’s nothing (as far as I know) that we don’t share.

She’s probably going to be hugging me, making me laugh, and poking me in the ribs to annoy me for many years to come – and I dearly hope that I’m around to do the same back to her.

I wonder if this happens to other people that lose a lot of weight?

I suppose it must do.

Believing that your life expectancy will be so much shorter than other people’s informs a certain way of thinking (usually a cavalier one) and it touches every single thought process in your life.

You don’t realise how far the web of self delusion stretches or see the blind spots that you’ve created until you suddenly have to confront them.

I guess I’m not alone though – and you don’t have to lose a ton of weight to suddenly be faced with the frailty of human existence – or to be occasionally consumed with a fear of loss when you care deeply about someone.

It’s crazy how much things have changed.

I used to be so certain that I was an island – in need of no one and capable of endless solitude.

Now I know the truth – because I see with 20/20 vision that back then I was only half a human being.

The other half was disconnected, roaming the earth, also not knowing that they were incomplete until we randomly met on top of a hill.

Now we’re part of a whole – and I know with certainty (and have done for quite some time) that my future happiness (and possibly even sadness) is contingent upon their continued presence and health.

I lost the ability long ago to step back from her – and neither would I want to because she means everything to me and I need her in my life.

She just smiled and stroked my beard when I looked sad last night, and put her hand on my shoulder as I sat quietly looking at the wall.

The wall was blank and uncomplicated.

It didn’t have an opinion and I couldn’t lose it.

It would just be there day after day without any form of complication, just like it was the day before and the day before that.

Later that evening I eventually sank into her arms – and that’s where I fell asleep, thinking that if I could stop the world, and prevent the clocks from ever moving forward then I would.

Today however is another day.

The world turns, people are born, people die and we all get a tiny bit older. It will all end eventually – and there’s nothing we can do to prevent that.

All we can do is cherish what we’ve got, look after the people that we care about and live a good life, free from negativity or conflict and filled to the brim with love for others.

Davey

Boogie nights and tiger balm

So the weekend has ended – and it’s already Tuesday. Boy oh boy are they moving at light speed again now I’m gainfully employed.

If you blink then you miss them!

However they probably pass by at such a frantic pace because I’m doing all I can to make absolutely sure that they’re crammed with fun things – which in my case usually means spending time with people I care about and doing lots of exercise.

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Saturday was just such a day – and after taking my now customary kick in the man globes at Slimming World (where for no good reason this week I put on not one but two pounds) we headed out to a local hotel for a wonderful afternoon and evening celebrating the 50th birthday of a good friend.

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We’ve known eachother for literally decades now and I’m proud to say that he’s a mate.

This isn’t just because we share some of the same interests (we do – check out his flipping awesome cake in the above pic) but because he’s a genuinely solid and dependable guy with a sound moral compass who’s also been with me (along with his wife) every step of the way as I crawled my way back to health over the last few years.

When I was incapable of climbing up a ladder to pull ivy off my wall and out of my guttering he brought his one round, clambered up it and did the job for me.

He did this not once – but many times – and it was made all the more poignant when I realised he doesn’t like heights.

It’s people like this that you have to look after your relationships with in life. They keep you grounded, remind you why it’s important to be a good person and demonstrate how it makes others feel when you reach out to help just because it’s the right thing to do.

Now I’m fitter I try to pitch in whenever I can to repay his favours – and I hope by now he knows that he can ask me for any kind of help and I’m there.

On Saturday though I was just enjoying his hospitality (plus maybe a little too much cake) and a lot of boogies to some great 70’s and 80’s music.

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For the longest time as a teenager (and adult) I felt incapable of enjoying events like this (whoever they were for) without being completely smashed, and even when I was small enough (back in the early 90’s) to spend any length of time on the dance floor I had to have some form of lubricant flowing through my blood stream to make it happen.

These days I don’t care because I just dance and enjoy myself.

I imagine most onlookers simply wonder if I suffer with epilepsy or am a recovering stroke victim.

On the bright side if they do I’m sure the memories of my ‘special’ moves on the dancefloor will cause them to donate money to sympathetic charities when an appropriate collection box is placed under their noses.

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I’m therefore doing my bit for good causes and equal opportunities whenever I step out and throw some shapes.

Rollicking about with gay abandon isn’t always a great idea though – and when I got into the car to drive home I realised that (whilst helping Angie to pack away the boxes of books and hifi bars at the end of my SW group) I’d managed to sprain my wrist.

I could barely change gear!

The pain (although very slow to arrive initially) appears to be persistent now – and for days now I’ve been unable to put weight on it or go swimming.

This morning (Tuesday) I gave the pool a go with very little success – and after a few painful lengths had to admit I couldn’t grip the side to turn, that each stroke hurt, and I could barely climb up the ladder to get out.

Looks like the only option is to keep going with the Ibuprofen gel and tiger balm (which my brother introduced me to in Starbucks on Sunday.)

It’s rather good, makes things all warm and tingly and takes your mind off the strain with it’s frankly delicious scent.

If my wrist doesn’t recover at least it’s delightful bouquet will make the task of chewing my lower arm off a little more palatable.

My brother’s taste in drinks does not appear to be quite so refined as his taste in embrocation however – and when we met at Starbucks he decided in the queue that he would try their new ‘Golden Honey Macchiato’.

Admittedly the picture on the board made it look great – however the reality was far grimmer, because not only was it a lurid dayglow yellow colour (it contains saffron) but it looked like someone had just sneezed on it when the (optional) honey was added.

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Needless to say, after a few exploratory sips (by all around the table) a number of grimaces and a lot of funny faces later the rather sorry looking cup of yellow froth was left for the next occupant of the table to dispose of.

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I hate waste but I’m not sorry I didn’t drink it.

Not only did it taste like ass but it was probably wasn’t very healthy as a dietary choice either.

Tellingly the Starbucks site has no nutritional information on it’s website about this drink (at least none that I can find) which leads me to believe that it’s not going to fall under the category of a Slimming World ‘healthy extra’.

My black coffee was precisely 2 kcal – yet this sugary monstrosity (or ‘crime against coffee’ as my sister in law called it) probably had a couple of hundred in it.

I’m going to have to be super careful this week too.

If I can’t swim my usual distance my food intake has to be lower and that’s a problem because I’m used to a certain portion size (namely large).

I’ve never had to stop at 250m before and it really peeved me when I was forced to get out of the pool early.

On the plus side it cheered me up to see my partner in crime continue to power back and forth in the lanes working on her own milestones.

Yesterday she even got out of bed and went to swim on her own!

This may not seem strange to those that don’t know her, but there’s a massive change in the mornings now that she’s really getting into her swimming – and frankly I’m saving a fortune on dynamite because I no longer have to leave a lit stick under her pillow to propel her upright as I creep off to the loo.

She’s bounding out of bed at the moment like a Labrador puppy chasing 20 tennis balls.

Her swimming (since she started putting her head under water during breaststroke) has improved in LEAPS AND BOUNDS and she’s almost as fast as I am now.

The only thing that’s different that I can see is that she’s slightly slower on the turns – but her stamina is fabulous and bit by bit she’s catching up.

This morning we appeared to be neck and neck and it just goes to show that if you put your mind to something you can achieve great things.

Together.

You can also achieve great things together.

Sure – there’s nothing that either of us couldn’t achieve alone, and I’d be swimming whether we’d met eachother or not.

I’d have probably also found a way of sorting out the ivy on my back wall when I was bigger – but then there’s the absolute joy of human relationships that makes everything in life better.

We’re not meant to be separated from friends or partners – and the natural predisposition of a successful human is to be around other like minded humans. It works with Slimming World and it works with life.

Anyway – time to walk to work. It’s not good to be late!!!

Davey

The road to one million

For a while I toyed with the idea of shutting up shop on my blog – and seriously considered just closing it all down.

I’d downloaded an archive of all my posts and was looking at the cost of keeping it going (it’s not free when you share as many photos as I do) vs the benefits of carrying on – and at the time the money didn’t seem worth it.

I was skint and it was an expense I didn’t want.

After all – it costs more than a year of Netflix to keep my blog going – and at least with Netflix you get lots of nice things to watch.

However, at the time I also felt quite down about some aspects of my life, and becuase they weren’t areas that I like talking about in public I felt as if a creative drought had begun to consume me.

I wasn’t suffering from writer’s block. It was more like writer’s constipation.

There was actually a lot to say – but the truth was that I couldn’t or wouldn’t put it into words.

I guess the old addage of depression being rage turned inwards is true – because I keep finding again and again that when I can’t (or maybe more specifically won’t) be honest in print that it has an impact on me over and above what caused my mood dip in the first place.

The fact is that the Netflix subscription is a great example – because spending money on that instead of WordPress represents consumption as opposed to creation.

I’m sure that we can all be accused of forgetting ourselves from time to time, and losing sight of how we came to the places in which we exist – happily or otherwise – and I’m no exception.

This morning I looked back over my ‘About’ page, and I realised that it had been over a year and a half since I last updated it.

Whilst I was tinkering with some of the wording and updating a couple of links I started thinking about who I was in the very first picture on that page, and when I constructed my very first post.

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January has been a great month for me to be honest – and becuase the new year started with a renewed sense of optimism and positivity I’ve written a lot more posts than I have in a while. I can feel the benefits of this output deep down in the core of my being – unlike the man sitting on the edge of that chair in Starbucks.

He was an unhappy consumer who binged on everything from food to Netflix and created nothing.

I’ve never posted an unedited version of that photo – but the man sitting next to me in January 2015 is my Dad. He too was struggling and continued to do so for some time afterwards.

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Like me folding my arms to cover my stomach (fighting a losing battle with reality) his coat was doing the job of hiding the area he felt the most self conscious about.

It’s fair to say that whilst I was by far the most out of control we were both on the wrong side of our healthy BMI’s.

Last week I posted a different picture from when I went to visit him in Aberystwyth – and although it may seem like I’m veering away from my original topic it’s very relevant.

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Although our relationship as father and son hasn’t always been the most communicative and we don’t always see eye to eye (particularly with regard to religion and politics) I know that my father loves me – and that has grown deeper and more present due to me writing this blog.

He reads each and every single one and shares them with his best friend.

Not only has the personal catharsis of working throughmy thoughts helped me – it’s helped him and his friend) too, and I know (becuase he’s told me) that his weight loss is directly connected to my own.

It’s not just about the impact that my openness in this site has on others mind you.

I do have a tendency to think of everyone else’s needs and feelings before my own – but not this time. On this occasion what I’m writing about and celebrating is personal.

There are times that I need to remember where I was when I wrote my very first post almost four years ago in February 2016 – and although I felt a sense of optimism I had no idea what the future held.

I hadn’t realised at that point how much I loved to write and share my life with others. At my core I was a man only weeks removed from alcoholism and still held onto a certainty that I would probably still die well before my time.

I’d failed to make the changes I needed to so many times before – and always ended up back where I’d started both heavier and often a lot drunker.

I didn’t know if I could make the changes that I needed to and I had no idea how the mechanisms that would keep me on the straight and narrow in life would work – or even what they would be.

I just started writing and never stopped.

When I read my posts again (and I do a lot becuause I treat this as a diary) I found myself staring back from the pages that I’d constructed. Surprisingly I began to like the man I was becoming as well as understanding who he was and what I needed to fix in life.

Often I had no idea (like today) what it was I’d be writing when I sat down to type. It just happened, and almost without exception when I closed the browser window at the end of editing and fiddling with a post I felt not only purged, but as if I understood myself just a little bit more.

If you’d told the man sitting in the picture next to his father that in a year’s time he’d be paying to give his innermost thoughts to other people, and spending hours and hours of his life every week doing so then I’m sure he’d have laughed you out of the room.

However – here I am again, still feeling the need to share – and for some reason doing that in full knowledge that I cannot control people’s opinion or perception of me once I’ve done it.

They will make their own minds up about who I am and whether my words are worth their time – but in some ways a readership is immaterial. It’s nice to know that others like my blog and flattering that they still keep coming back for more – but they probably don’t do so thinking ‘what I’m reading saved this man’s life.’

I guess fundamentally that’s what it comes down to.

This blog saved my life.

It came before almost everything good that happened to me and it’s been with me through the successes and failures along the way.

I’ve poured my heart and soul into being as honest and as open as I can possibly be (without telling the world my PIN number) and it’s become so ingrained in my identity that I can no longer stop.

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I’m edging closer and closer to having written one million words – and that’s pretty incredible.

In fact it would be rude not to get to that number – so that will be my goal.

I’ll force nothing that I don’t need or don’t want to say. I’ll carry on writing from the heart, trying to understand myself and help other people like me and chip away until I’m there.

I’m gonna do it!

See you at a million!

Davey