Sunday 27 November 2016

#176 Manufacturing donkeys

"I heard you were leaving. Is it true?" read a message that popped up on my screen. "Yeah" I replied "I didn't think that many people knew yet".  Greg was a guy who'd left our team a year or two ago and had been helping to drive environmental changes in another department. "I also heard that you don't have another job lined up". "I feel like taking a month or two off" I told him. "It surprised me because you've been here for so long and I know recruiters are advertising a lot but obviously with Brexit there's a lot of uncertainty around". He seemed concerned so I walked over to where he was sitting to say hi.

We grabbed a meeting room. Greg was evidently quite unsettled by the idea that someone who had been at the firm for so long could just leave. He talked about how he'd needed a change not that long ago and had found it hard to arrange so he'd sent an invite to one of the partners, who helped him to arrange a transfer. He said he thought I was in a similar situation.

I never quite know how to tell people what I think.

Putting time in a partner's diary isn't something I'd normally do unless I needed to get something signed. What did I have to lose though? I'd never met this guy but he had a nice reputation and was supposedly good with people. I liked the fact that Greg seemed to care and I wanted to go with that. Who knows, maybe this guy would have something useful to say.

There was one half-hour slot in his calendar towards the end of the week. I knew he'd probably accept the invite. When you send someone an email saying you've been with the company for ten years and have just handed in your notice, they tend to get curious.

The partner was as nice as my colleague's description. He asked me to tell him a bit about myself, which I did. I told him about some of my experiences on projects in recent years. 

Greg had been concerned upon hearing that I was leaving but he hadn't managed to probe that deeply into why. He did ask me about it and even checked whether I agreed with his impression. I made some statements and showed enough agreement to validate him and maintain an easy conversational flow. The partner on the other hand had started in neutral. He'd never met me and had no preconceptions. 

He ended up surmising that actually a career break might be good for me as it would give me the time and space do some thinking and then go after a role that I really wanted. He observed that I felt quite liberated about the whole thing. "A bit scared too" I told him, so that he'd think I was normal "but yeah, no second thoughts". He agreed to let me know if he heard of any jobs that might interest me.

That evening I got a text from my sister. She'd heard there was an explosion in the city. She said she wasn't sure where so she just wanted to check.

"I agree" I told her. "You should check".

Sunday 20 November 2016

#175 The other law of attraction

It seems possible that I'm attracted to opinionated, outspoken people. Not exclusively but they often get the messages. The follow-ups. The attention. They capture my attention. Or I capture theirs, or both. It might not be because they like me more than they like people who are more similar to themselves in that way. It might just be because they have something to learn from me. People love to learn things now and then.

I was going to write the second half of that paragraph the other way around. It might not be because I like them more... but then I realised that it was equally applicable that they might not like me more than an opinionated, self-assured sort of person. Me, the reserved, polite and tactful one. Choosing to focus my attention on them. To learn how to represent myself better. How to assert myself.

It might be a genetic thing. Perhaps my DNA is lacking something that extroverted types have and vice versa. We'd argue and frustrate each other and create misunderstanding after misunderstanding, all because a part of us, a part that we're not even necessarily aware of, wanted to produce offspring with delightfully balanced attributes.

I'm aware of it though. At least, I'm aware of the possibility. It might simply be that most people are more outspoken than me and so when I take an interest in someone, unless they're particularly introverted, there's necessarily a contrast in personalities. I certainly find that with height. What if it's true? Are these people good for me or bad for me? What does it mean? What should I do?

Tuesday 15 November 2016

#174 I like your shoes

Lately, I've been trying to focus on the positive side of things in several ways. One is that I consciously try to make positive statements when answering questions, like if someone asks how my weekend was... and overall I feel like it was crap... I might think, before responding, whether any parts of it were alright and then say for example that I managed to have a good conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken to for a while.

It doesn't answer their question but if the answer to their question is a negative one then there's really no point in giving it.

Exceptions might be in situations where it's of practical importance to focus on the negative, eg. if a doctor asks "where does it hurt?".

Why do this?

Well, I'll admit that I don't have any proof that it "works". For either the speaker or the listener. Apparently a great deal of communication occurs non-verbally and so perhaps to change the words that are spoken is more hastle than it's worth. 

As much as anything else, it's kind of fun to practice developing some awareness around how I'm communicating. I imagine that deciding to add that layer of effort to some of my interactions came about due to the fact that I "overthink" certain things in general. Some people may focus more positively by nature. One thing I've found is that it can be strangely addictive.

It seems to me quite likely that if, for example, you see a post that you don't like on Facebook and comment on it to complain or even just to express your disagreement, what you're doing is spreading your discontent to the other person, who might then feel bad about the fact that you don't like their post.

What, then, are we to do?

Firstly, the potential to just keep one's mouth shut is absolutely mind-boggling. It's also, for some people more than others, incredibly difficult. I mean this in all seriousness. As much as some people fear public speaking enough to break out in a sweat, there seem to be others who are more or less incapable of keeping their opinions to themselves, whether they're good or bad opinions. I am not judging those people. I have enough of my own weaknesses and indeed I'm hardly some bastion of happiness and positivity.

It's the difference between controlling a pigeon population by ceasing to put out any more bread and controlling it by going around kicking the poor birds.

Am I supposed to just do nothing?

Let's say you don't like pigeons. You prefer crows. Well, then feed the crows.

Imagine for a moment, the number of people who will have spent a minute making a negative comment about Trump on social media, when they could have used that time to make a supportive comment about Hillary.

That might not be the best example but you get my point.

Sunday 13 November 2016

#173 A chocolate swirl brioche

Outside every supermarket in London, there's a homeless person. I get a lot of my groceries from supermarkets, so I'm always walking past those guys. What they usually do, as you'll know from your own encounters, is ask for some change. 

It's understandable that some people give them cash because afterall, they're presenting as homeless and not having a job, so if people don't give them money to buy food and however many hot drinks they have (if I slept outside, I'd probably want twenty cups of soup a night) then won't they, like, die, or something? 

On the other hand, I read that three quarters of them are on drugs and probably have free access to food and shelter if they want it but all they want to do is buy substances that could eventually kill them and by giving them money, the drugs are pretty much the only thing you're funding.

So what's the big deal? Just give them small amounts of money occasioanally. I call it uncertainty-adjusted behaviour. This approach might be viewed as inhumane and overly simplistic though because surely one must take a look at each specific homeless person. Use your eyes. Use your gut. Read some articles. Talk to people and become wise in the ways of charitable donation. Surely. Life is busy for many people though and making time to learn about such specific topics isn't always top of the list.

Giving food always seems like a good balance. For most people this is probably sensible. I eat so much crap though that I do find myself wondering, did that guy really need that chocolate swirl brioche? I mean my diet just about keeps me alive enough to sit around at room temperature, trudge back and forth to a desk job and write shit on the internet. Homeless people need to be on army rations. 

Imagine if supermarkets had a section dedicated to those sleeping rough and customers could donate at the point of sale to give them the things that would help them most. The supermarket could even be blatant about it and write "help get rid of the person sitting outside our store" and customers could leave small donations. Then when the donations reach a certain level, the person could be carted off to a hostel and given therapy and noodles and stuff.

I'm not saying that you can fix every problem with therapy and noodles, I just wonder if the supermarkets could be more "in your face" about what they're doing.

Saturday 12 November 2016

#172 Things I might do if I ever find out I have a kid.

1. Bring a tin of blue paint and a paintbrush every single time that fucker catches a train until they're ten years old and draw a line on the platform two metres behind the existing one for my kid to stand behind so that even if they fall or get pushed over, all they get hit by is a platform.

2. Ritualise the pronouncements over and over again that almost nothing is exactly how it seems, that there's more than one perspective to almost everything, that nobody really knows anything and that no one person's opinion or knowledge is in itself worth more than any other's or if that's too hard to chew, just that sometimes it pays untold dividends to show as much respect as can be mustered, or failing that just to stay silent, often at your own expense.

3. Cuddle that fucker like one of those orange and white rings they throw to people who fall off boats.

4. Provide it with access to a piano, a calculator, some paper and pencils, a globe, a history textbook, a football, a hacksaw, some baking ingredients and the main religious books just in case it ever takes delight in any of those things.

5. Troll the fuck out of any adults who my kid seems not to like very much, even if I quite like them myself.

6. Wear smarter, or at least cleaner clothes. Consider ironing my tshirts and occasionally washing my jeans.

7. Get a cat.

8. Read the Sunday papers.

9. Use the kid to talk to hot women who have kids.

10. Post crap family pictures and anecdotes that nobody else gives even the tiniest bit of a fuck about all over Facebook every day.

I'm just kidding about 10. I have no intention of ever becoming that normal.

Thursday 10 November 2016

#171 Pure Evil

Up comes the sun. Swipe through bitterness, taking the views in one by one. Holding my tongue. They seem so shocked, like the rest of the world has some how done them all wrong. Playing along. Making a joke, withholding my anger so that I can belong. Silence is strong. There's enough negativity out there, I don't want to be the one who's mindlessly egging them on.

A choice has been made. It might not be yours so don't take it from those that earned the right to have their say. This is not your day. So don't ruin it for the ones who came together and got their own way. It's tough but hey, if you're not in pain or sick, is there a need to express so much dismay? You're in your own way now. Watch your step or you'll trip over your educated shoes. True winners tend not to sulk so much after they lose.

What if I were to say that it's all a big lie? That the world isn't run by a man in a tie. It revolves around things that come out of your mouth and it goes out of whack when the comments turn south. I know you don't like him. I know that you care but the sooner you go back to taking photos of your lunch or your hair... instead of fuelling the media machine that put him there. This one's ok, it's creative, I'm not slagging anyone off. Oh ok, you saw through it, fair enough. Another level of garbage. I could swim in this all day, come take a seat. I don't plan on stopping typing any time soon.

Friday 4 November 2016

#170 Making up the guest room

From time to time, I go through a period of days where my dominant thoughts are of worry. It tends to be about my health, specifically, concerns about the future although it can be other things.

It's as though a short-lived flower of semi-demonic qualities suddenly sprouts inside my brain and occupies it for a while. Then eventually it withers as quickly as it appeared.

As far as I can tell, I inherited a certain level of, or inclination to worry from one of my parents. I suppose I might have been affected by an early experience or string of experiences. The rest, you could say, is on me.

The boundaries of a person might not be as rigid as they first appear. There's a little bit of you in my mind, a little bit of me in yours and any number of social mechanisms and complex hierarchies, some of which may be unknown to the people in them.

One theory is that a certain amount of negative energy exists in our collective consciousness and that some individuals effectively become dumping grounds for it while others, as if they were kings or queens are given the finest nuggets of uplifting messages and life-affirming humour. Some of this happens below the level of our everyday awareness. Some of it can be detected by observing our behaviour.

The worry comes and goes from my life. It's not something that has ever stayed. I don't mean to pretend that I'm the only person to have been visited by worry, that my concerns warrant it or that I wouldn't do better to handle it better.

What would happen if I demanded that my guest leave? Would it? Is that the point? Should we not welcome those who visit us and let them stay as long as they wish? A gracious host may appreciate that once we let something into our house, it says more about us to throw them out than it does about them. This depends how forcefully the guest entered and how it behaves while it's there.