Reaching Nirvana

Way back in the 80s, I owned my first computer. A ZX81, the first computer small enough and cheap enough to be of interest to the casual home user. It came with a massive 1k of RAM, expandable to 16k with a RAM pack.

As you can imagine, programming it was a tricky job. There were games available to buy, loading from a cassette tape player, and some of them were actually pretty good, keeping me entertained for hours. But there were also loads of magazines to buy, each containing listings for programs for you to type in and save on your own cassette tapes. Some of these games were pretty nifty, but one in particular has stayed with me all these years as a metaphor for life.

The aim of the game was to reach Nirvana. You would start in the middle of a grid, and could move north, south, east or west, via arrow keys. Each turn, you would move one step, with the idea of reaching Nirvana. When you thought you had reached it, you would enter a different command.

Every time you said you thought you’d reached Nirvana, guess what? You had.

So you could wander the grid for hours, visiting every square, or you could declare you’d reached Nirvana on the very first turn. Either way, you would win.

Pretty silly game, really.

And yet…

Isn’t that true of life, sometimes? That we can wander around all our lives, looking for something mysterious, waiting to discover our purpose, trying to find happiness? And all we have to do is to make up our minds that this, here, right where we are, this is where we’re meant to be, and what we’re meant to be doing.

Okay, it might not work for everyone, or all the time, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that more often than not, we’re still wandering when actually we’re already there.

 

Another new year

I was really pleased yesterday when I reviewed my running goals for the year. I’d carried a few over from the previous year, and now they’re all complete: run a parkrun in less than 30 mins (29:58); achieve an age grade better than 50% (54%); run a half marathon (Paddock Wood, last March).

So now I need to set new running goals. I’m aiming for distance more than speed this year, so over the year I have a bronze target of 500k, silver of 750 and gold of 1000. I also want to do Paddock Wood half again, plus another half at some point, and I’d like to cover the whole marathon distance in one run by the end of the year, whether it’s within an official race or not.

It would be nice to get under 30 mins for parkrun again, but that’s not my main concern. Hopefully, getting back to the weight I was when I did it the first time will bring my speed back. And hopefully the distance running I’m planning to do will help with the weight.

As for writing, I’ve been working steadily on my 2014 nano novel (Gods V Heroes) since the beginning of that November, with only a break for 2015 nano (Abandoned). Abandoned was the cleanest, most complete first draft I’ve managed so far, and is now sitting waiting, while I get back to GvH.

So the aim is to get a complete finished draft of GvH and seek beta readers for it. Then while that rests again I can get back to Abandoned. I did start another last month, but I’ve decided that two completely active projects is the most I can cope with, at least for now.

Thanks to a drawing course I did in November, I’ve rediscovered the pleasures of drawing and painting, so another aim is to keep going on that, and develop my skills in drawing, painting and digital painting.

I never really got back into technical stuff like programming last year, apart from working on a coding book and revising the GCSE computing syllabus for a tutoring client, so that’s something else I’d like to put on my list.

But most of all, I’m finally learning to be nicer to myself. To allow myself to do things I enjoy and feel pleasure from them, and to appreciate time instead of wasting it. This also means recognising that I enjoy the housework and take pleasure in having a clean and tidy house, and that it’s acceptable to expect those around me to help me in that as well. A tidy house is for life, not just for Christmas!

So:

running: distance goals.

writing: completing both novels.

Drawing/creativity: regular practice.

Technical skills: develop.

Personal life: create an environment in which all can flourish.

Let’s see how that goes!

 

Rediscovering my spark

It seems like a long time since I really felt that spark of excitement. I’ve been plodding along, making progress at times and then slipping back at other times. I’ve reached the point where I say enough is enough, it’s time to really turn myself around and start being more positive.

And yet I know I’ve been at this point before. I’d look back through the blog, but I’m sure I’d only depress myself further with the number of times I’ve declared myself at that point, only to slide back again.

So what’s the problem? Where has that spark gone? and how can I get it back?

I was doing okay until the end of May this year, when I broke the 30 min barrier at parkrun. Having done that, I slacked off, and after being unable to run while on holiday at the beginning of July, I never really got going properly again.

I ran a 10k race yesterday, and while it was by no means my worst performance, it wasn’t my best either. I’ve got slower again, and that’s probably not helped by the stone (14 pounds) I’ve put on since the half marathon I ran at the end of March. So while it was an okay performance, I really want to get that sorted and improve.

So, how do I keep going? I can only think that finding my inner spark will help with motivation. I’m thinking of making a collage or scrapbook of images that will remind me of what I’m trying to achieve. I’m considering making a list of things that contribute towards a positive feeling, and sticking it up above my desk as a reminder. I’ve ‘fessed up to my food and exercise monitoring websites and need to focus on those.

Above all, I need to ensure that I’m writing regularly and exercising regularly. Both will help with my mental state, and the exercise will help with my physical state. I have a selection of races coming up over the next few months, and I always seem to exercise better across the winter than the summer. Nanowrimo is coming up, and I’m trying to get into an appropriate mindset for that, with a nano project lined up plus another to keep me occupied until then. And of course there’s still Gods V Heroes.

As to that, the next stage involves really upping the stakes in the novel. I need to dig deep and find the strength to write strong scenes. Those scenes are what the story is about, in my head; about the in-fighting and hatred I see around me, and putting that into a fantasy context. I need to get out of this comfortable rut I’m in, where I seem content to curl up and go to sleep, and I need to get out there fighting.

Above all, I’m not competing against anyone else; it doesn’t matter how many novels others have published, or how fast or far others can run; it’s about pushing myself. About knowing that I’m doing the best I can, and not just sitting back relaxing, while complaining that others are achieving things that I want for myself. And all that needs to start now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not when the cake has been eaten. Not when the race is over. Now.

How do you find and keep your spark?

 

Shortchanged

A few days ago, I went into a local shop and spent £4.50. I handed over a £20 note and was given £14.50 in change. I looked at the change in my hand. I looked at the receipt. And I walked away, even though I knew that I’d been shortchanged.

It’s been bugging me ever since, and I’ve realised why. I was in the right. I’d been done out of something that was rightfully mine. And yet I didn’t bother doing anything about it. I just accepted it as the way life is for me.

Why do I do that? Why do I take whatever crap life throws at me, and just accept it as what’s due?

So many times I’ve taken what’s given without questioning. Without standing up for myself. Without considering the fact that the other person is clearly in the wrong. As though it’s my lot in life to suffer the poor deal, the lack of consideration, the carelessness of others.

I want to stop. But how? For a start, I can stop sitting playing solitaire on my ipad, while feeling miserable that all around me are finishing writing projects and getting them published. I can stop feeling envious of those who spend time drawing, while I play games. I can start considering what I have a right to, and take steps to get it, rather than waiting for scraps to come my way.

I find it hard to put myself forward, to claim I’m good at anything, to say that I want anything. In my mind, there’s always someone better. Always someone who needs it more. Always someone who’s more willing to yell for their own needs.

I need to make a stand. The only one who can change this is me. Although it means doing exactly what I find so hard.

Suggestions always welcome.

 

Arguing with the voices

I’ve spoken before about two of the voices in my head – there’s Annie, my inner child, who is always looking for fun, and Betty, who’s my inner parent, always serious and stern and negative. As I woke up this morning they were both arguing with me, and both had the same aim in mind – to stop me from going out for a run.

Annie was complaining that she didn’t want to go, she’d much rather stay home and play computer games. Much more relaxing, much more fun. Betty was reminding me of the work I had to do. Wouldn’t it be much better to stay at home and get some of that out of the way? Time to relax later.

With them both ganging up on me, it would have been easy to give in, but I pointed out to Annie that games are much more enjoyable when they come in small doses, and going out for a run is fun too. Besides, it was long slow run day, so no time pressure. To Betty, I pointed out that if I don’t get enough exercise I work more and more slowly, until I grind to a halt. Much better to sharpen the metaphorical axe by going out for some exercise.

With both of them silenced for long enough to get me out of the door, I did settle down and enjoy my run, and am now working hard with the thought of a little gameplay over lunch to keep me going. But one thing I did realise during my run was that they were trying the same technique to stop me writing.

I’ve spent the past week or so going through my novel and identifying major weaknesses that need to be dealt with. Now Annie keeps complaining that it’s not fun any more, she’d much rather do something different rather than keep on with the same old thing. Betty backs her up by claiming it’s not likely to be any good anyway, even if I do manage to finish it.

So I’m now telling Annie that after the 1st October I’ll be working on the planning of a new novel ready for nanowrimo, and if she wants to do anything new before then there’s nothing stopping me doing that as well as the novel. To Betty, I pointed out that this novel started as a bit of fun, a training piece, and I’m surprised myself at how far I’ve managed to take it. It might not ever get to the point where I’m completely satisfied with it, but just like marathon training, it’s the endurance that’s the reward, and the final result is just a celebration of that reward.

I love the way that my writing and running play off each other, and how I can apply lessons from one in developing the other. And so hopefully, I’ve got the voices on my side for a while and can get back to making good progress.

 

 

Z is for zest

Posted as the final post in the a-z challenge – apologies for the lateness!

Z is for Zest. Or Zeal. Both words meaning enthusiasm, excitement, passion. It’s hard to get anything done without these. And if you do have a zest for something it’s hard not to do it.

Finding that zest for life is important. What really makes you sit up and take notice? What makes your heart beat faster, makes you feel awake and eager?

Years ago, I generally felt listless, without much enthusiasm. Then I went out – to an antiques valuation session for the local radio, to be precise – and suddenly felt wide awake and full of excitement. Not necessarily for the antiques, you understand, but because I love radio, having been part of hospital radio for a few years, and being back among the technology and the crowds reminded me of something I’d lost.

Now I feel to some extent I’m walking around in a fog again, or at least mist, but at least it occasionally lifts and I get a glimpse of that zest for life. The secret is to recognise it, recognise the source of it, and steer yourself towards it, so that it can shine through the fog and warm up every aspect of your life.

 

Y is for yearn

Posted as part of the A-Z challenge.

Do you have a yearning for anything? I have a yearning to have my novel finished, and to run a marathon. Both are very possible; both involve a lot of hard work. Work that won’t get done without the drive to do it. What causes that drive? The yearning.

It’s yearning that drives our lives; yearning for a better, more comfortable life, maybe. Without that longing for something, we would be content to stay exactly as we are.

Yet sometimes we yearn for other things when we should be content with what we have. If yearning is driving us to do better, it’s good. If it’s driving us to forget the good things we already have, then it’s bad.

 

V is for victory

Posted as part of the A-Z challenge.

Victories give you something to celebrate. I’m celebrating a few victories today: I have the clear conscience that I got a job out of the way yesterday that’s been hanging over me for a long time, I ran a really strong PB at parkrun today – and there are currently three chickens in my new hen house.

Sometimes we have jobs that we dread, and we put it off as hard as we can. When that happens, I try to remind myself how good it will feel to have it out of the way – not only because it will no longer be looming, but because I can pat myself on the back and remind myself that I did it, I achieved something, I showed some self discipline.

I’ve been running parkrun for nearly two and a half years now. My slowest time is over 39 minutes (not counting the 41 minute attempt which included a loo break!) and my fastest time has been gradually creeping down. I can still remember celebrating beating 35 minutes. Last year I was celebrating breaking the 33 minute barrier. This year so far I’ve brought it down another 2 minutes, finishing today in 30:40. It was hard work, but I feel really pleased that I’ve developed the strength and stamina and the self discipline to make the effort over the distance and bring my time down so far.

I’ve been thinking about keeping chickens for years, at various levels of seriousness. Then a month or so ago hubby bought me a chicken coop and run, and we were planning to get chickens when we get back from holiday, later in the year. Today the farm that sells chickens was running a talk on keeping chickens, so we attended. Hubby suggested that we could take the cat box “just in case”, as it’s still a long time until our holiday, and so we returned home with three chickens!

So all in all, lots of victories to celebrate today.

 

P is for perseverance

Posted as part of the A-Z challenge.

“persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” is the dictionary definition of perseverance. It’s easy to keep going when it’s going well. It’s harder to keep pushing forward through difficulties, but that’s where the successes are really made.

I’m currently watching the highlights of the Brighton marathon. If those runners stopped when things got hard they’d never make it to the end. I know that; I did a half marathon a few weeks ago, and there were training sessions where I really struggled. Further back, I remember when covering 5k in a combination of walking and running left me lying on the sofa for the rest of the weekend.

But somehow I kept going, and I’m thinking of pushing myself further and harder, because I recognise the strength it’s developing in me – and I’m not just talking about my legs and heart!

It’s the same with my writing. Writing a novel is hard work, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s easy to give up and decide it’s not worth it. But if you decide it is, then you need to keep pushing forward, dealing with any issues that arise, and keep your eye on that finish line – and even further ahead, because you can’t just stop. Not when you’ve run a race; not when you’ve published a novel. Because there’s another one ahead, and another, and each one provides another opportunity to push and grow and develop.

 

O is for oh dear

Posted as part of the a-z challenge.

Anyone who’s keeping up might have noticed that this should have been posted yesterday. I dropped the ball. I missed a post.

Oh dear.

But it’s not a disaster. No one is going to chase after me and do nasty things. I can pick up and catch up and carry on.

How many times in our lives do we go wrong, and then panic over it? Sit ourselves down and wail that it’s all gone wrong and things will never be the same again?

Being able to recognise a problem, deal with it and move on is a very useful strength. One that I’m working hard to develop.