Father, maternal grandfather, mother “centre of my orbit”, henry st. clair he was my friend, two-gun bob, auntie and me – 21st February 2020

Main image – Chris Neate

The cacophony of modern life also stops us from listening. The acoustics in restaurants can make it difficult, if not impossible, for diners to clearly hear one another. Offices with an open design ensure every keyboard click, telephone call and after-lunch belch make for constant racket. Traffic noise on city streets, music playing in shops and the bean grinder at your favourite coffeehouse exceed the volume of normal conversation by as much as 30 decibels, and can even cause hearing loss.

– Kate Murphy (New York Times, Talk Less, Listen More)

First, please quiet the noise in my head.

The events of this past week have put me in a spin. Even as the sadness recedes somewhat, images pop up randomly, memories flicker; a pre-tear feeling appears in my chest and throat but is soon countered by my rationality and tucked back away.

While my mind wanders less there is a lack of clarity around my thoughts. A directionless, purposeless meandering. This is a different feeling to the one I was experiencing previously. Where I could sit in my class and concentrate with students running, shouting and screaming. Now it drives me crazy.

Image: Nick Blinko

All this adds up to limit my engagement, to cloud my listening ability. I can hear but I’m not listening.

Listening is a difficult skill to master. Made even more complicated by the sound-byte outrages of social media culture. I don’t feel that I have ever been able to listen properly. I want to practice the quietening of my own thoughts and be more fully engaged, whether in conversation, in watching videos and movies and to attempt that euphoric emotion when really listening to music.

I keep reminding myself to talk less, to shut up a little. Not to jump into what I want to say, to make my point or to win the argument. Just listen. And think.

Damn, this was hard to write today. It’s probably reflected in the scattered approach and execution. But every day I accept the challenge. Put words down on paper. Get thoughts out. Think, until clarity.

Hello and welcome to inconclusive arguments in today’s conference we have a psychologist, a guru, an athlete, a freak, a scientist, a dictator, an anarchist, a mass murderer, a composer, a human vegetable, and a complete outsider. let’s open the discussion with you, er huh what gives? that look of revelation on the athlete’s face – the complete outsider is the centre of attention – just what is the human vegetable doing to the psychologist, the freak is eating the mass murderer, o my god terrifying vistas of reality and our position therein are being opened up to us all, this is the worst thing that’s happened to mankind and in the studio they’ve opted for a new dark age but your commentator has gone stark staring mad.

– New Dark Age by Rudimentary Peni

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful to
have put myself on a better path. It’s a struggle but it will be worth it.

My war, you’re one of them – 31st January 2020

“Keep this thought handy when you feel a fit of rage coming on—it isn’t manly to be enraged. Rather, gentleness and civility are more human, and therefore manlier. A real man doesn’t give way to anger and discontent, and such a person has strength, courage, and endurance—unlike the angry and complaining. The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength.”

I’ve never been a manly man. Well, I say that, though I can remember trying to be one from about ages 11-14. Then I started getting bullied a bit at school and realised I wasn’t ever going to be a strong boy physically.

Not me but you get the idea…

I retreated into my mind but taking resentment and bitterness there. I filled myself with seething hatred for everything around me, confusing what I considered personal injustice with larger injustices of the world. Everything was against us. It was us and them, whoever us was and whoever they were.

I dove head first into the moshpits of punk rock. Besides my mother, punk really was a rock for me to hold on to. Sometimes I clung too tight but eventually I found my way.

Justice and fairness are still amongst my top character strengths, thankfully along with curiousity and gratitude – those two came later.

These days I’m trying to calm my mind to bring some inner peace but the tunes of yesterday still rattle around from dawn to dusk. This inner noise is it’s own sort of peace, it’s familiarity calming, the anger gone.

Man is spelt big M.A.N. it’s the letters of the law,
Man is spelt big M.A.N. that’s who the law is for.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for the supportive teachers around me. They have helped me cover a lesson today and it was easy to stand once I found the right person to talk with.

I’d rather be happy than right this time – 1st February 2018

It was a shock to me, so wound up and heart rate spiralling.  I could feel myself losing control, unable to think clearly and put the words together succinctly.

Mostly, I am very calm and chilled.  Most people’s drama and excitements don’t affect me much – they often seem so petty and inconsequential.  I am not a fan of conflict – I just can’t deal with it calmly.  I recall a particular instance of being accused of always running away when I get into an argument with my then partner.  Damn right I did, she was way smarter than me and could still put together a coherent thought whilst screaming her disapproval at me.  I had to run away and calm down before putting out an olive branch of regret.  Sometimes too early, and I had to run away again.

But, sometimes, in a couple of my work roles, I have felt the need to stand up and say my piece and call out the stupidity I see around me.  And so it was yesterday.

The circumstances are not particularly relevant because, of course, now, I can also see how petty and inconsequential they are.  What stood out to me in the post-conflict situation was how I felt and I struggled to deal with it.  I took a walk and called Amy, though I didn’t discuss what happened with her, just needed some soothing re-assurance of normality.  I checked my heart rate and that was still high, even about an hour later.  I wasn’t re-living the event and going over it so much, cos I was right, goddammit!  I think perhaps I was concerned about the possible escalation and continuation of the conflict for the rest of the day but that never eventuated.

Of course, as I slept that night and occasionally woke, that is when I started replaying the events in my mind.  And the titular lyric came into my head.  Now, if I could just put it into practice!

I used to think that justice had to rule for happy lives, but now I’m not so
Sure at all

…you’re either wrong or right and life will go on either way, whatever
You chose….

Weight: 85.9kg
Resting heart rate: 50

When it happened, something snapped inside – 30th January 2002

I feel calm. I have a sense of loneliness with anticipation. Anything could happen. I’m calm but I want it to happen now. Right now. If I have to make it happen then I will. I know I can do anything – it just seems strange to have no one to share it with.

26th Dec 2021 – As we look back it’s strange to imagine that these words are from 20 years ago. The emotional intensity is still immediate, yet I’m now somehow detached.

At a low point, despite feeling calm, I was still agitated and anxious about the future. I had been through a handful of years at an extreme high, now was the time to deal with the hangover.

TLJ had often mentioned to me that I always seemed to feel that I needed a girlfriend or a partner and, despite my denials, it was true. I needed that female figure, that mother replacement, in my life and it felt like a constant search.

It wouldn’t be for another few years before that feeling would change and, at the same time, finding the long term partner that I had been seeking.