Am I ok?

It’s innocent enough when you meet someone to ask them how they are and it’s customary to return favour and ask them the same. Are we ever truly honest in our replies? Even if you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders you will mostly likely reply I am ok thanks. You are unlikely to unburden yourself on a chance encounter in the bread section at Sainsbury’s. How many people would be actually prepared for someone to bare their soul. We are social animals yet sometimes when we are not feeling it the thought of conversation is draining which is why we generally play it safe and give the “I’m ok” or “I’m fine” answer.

This is something we are all guilty of and even if you wanted to tell all in an exclusive expose you wouldn’t. As the actuality of telling this person you greeted with pretend animation and fake smile probably wouldn’t really be prepared to give you anything more than “don’t worry” or “things will get better” as a reply.

The first thing you need to probably sort in your own head first is the notion that you are not ok. Too many times we just have the approach the things will only get better. They generally will but you need to 1) want that to actually happen 2) do some work to make it happen. Maybe previously you’ve stuck your head in the sand and when you have removed and things appear better only for it fall apart further down the line but appear so much worse than before. We don’t like to admit we need some guidance or read something that might create an awakening inside you. Why? Because it’s change. I mentioned in a previous musing how and why change is petrifying.

The last 3 1/2 years for me I have faced maybe situations where I have asked myself am I ok?

Fiona leaving to back to NZ 2018-Am I ok? Generally with this one I was ok. Yes I was saddened but I knew in my heart that one day it was going to happen.

My health issues of 2018/19-Am I ok? It was a long and difficult journey to find the issue to my problems but finally with a diagnosis of central sleep apnea it was decreed. Im around 30kg lighter, sleeper better and have more energy so I’m much better but condition is still prevalent so not fully ok.

Relationship issues 2019-21. Am I ok? At the time I wasn’t ok. I was broken, downtrodden, frustrated and sad. On reflection we never gave each-other what we needed. I have learned a lot about myself when dissecting the aftermath and done a lot of work on myself to be comfortable to talk about this openly. It got too much in the end and parting was hard but it paved a way for me to embark on a bit of an awakening.

Redundancy from my job at Citi 2020. Am I ok? Resentful maybe but generally I have made my peace with it. It’s not a pleasant thing redundancy at the best of times but to be thrust to the hands of the gods during a global pandemic which lead to the worst job market in living memory was hard. Citi as a firm never really got the best of me until my last few weeks. Ironic really. Perhaps sardonic. I had been struggling with the aforementioned health issues since starting there albeit they only came to the fore late 2018.

Death of my dear Fiona 2021. Am I ok? I don’t think I’ll ever really be ok with this one. There is not a moment every day when Fiona doesn’t come into my thoughts one way or another. She will always be my best friend, my inspiration and my guide. I don’t really think I mourned properly at the time given the eventual break up of the relationship happened in and around the same time.

There are other small less momentous occasions to pose the question but think I keep these mains ones for the discussion.

If I’m asking myself the question today if I am ok? Generally speaking I am. There are days when I feel good and there are days when everything seems like a chore and feel laboured.

If you ever feel you are not ok please do try as much as it seems hard, to talk to someone. It won’t instantly make you feel better but sometimes it lifts an element of gloom and can make you rationalise things.

Loneliness Vs Being Alone

Have you ever been happy to be by yourself? Has there been another time when you were by yourself, but wishing for the company of others?

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Kitty O’Meara

This little prose appeared and went viral during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As an only child I have never experienced the joys of sibling rivalry nor the shared thought exchange to overthrow the parental dictatorship. That blood bond which only siblings share. Fighting one minute then the ceasefire as parental control takes over and that only solidifies the bond.

During these surreal times, with the world approaching a “new normal” I feel there needs to be a clear dissociation between being alone or being on your own and a feeling of loneliness. Many people seem to mix these states of mind are only too keen to lump them together and view them in a similar manner. I feel this is a very ill informed and all too common misconception. Being alone is the actuality of not having a physical and meaningful interaction with another individual. Being lonely is a psychological state of mind that is characterised by an often miserable feeling that happens when social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality than what you crave. Thus, the social contact you have at a given time does not give you any fulfilment. Now, do you see the difference? Someone can be alone but not lonely and someone can feel lonely even when surrounded by people.

As we have been navigating the covid pandemic more and more people have been thrust into isolation and they at times have had no actual tangible human contact for weeks. It’s not good for the psyche not good for the soul. All of our lives are centred around a certain amount of social interactions and physical proximity. Even the most socially awkward and introverted of us would still enjoy even a limited amount of social contact and that was now denied.

Long-term feelings of loneliness can have similar detriment to your body in the same way smoking or obesity can. Furthermore, extended periods of social isolation can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiousness, addiction, fear, and more than a few more unpleasant things. That’s why I feel it is important not to associate being alone and being lonely. I do sometimes feel very alone in this world but very seldom lonely. I think being an only child you become adapt to finding ways to amuse yourself such as immersing myself in music or latterly my writing and thus enjoying your own company but this is getting used to being alone not being lonely.

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company”

Jean-Paul Sartre

“People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.”

Kim Culbertson

Being lonely is not just an emotion reserved for those who are single or alone. But there are ways to work through it. 

It’s very common that people find themselves in long-term relationships feeling lonely.

There are some of the factors that can lead to feeling lonely in a marriage or relationship:

  • Intimacy fizzles: Some relationships just lose their spark and it will eventually die. If you feel a loss of connection and affection, you may be left simply going through the motions. Intimacy and that is so much more than just sexual aspect. This plays a big part in getting deeply connected. Without this feeling of connection to your partner then you may start to feel a sense of isolation and separation, which may lead to feelings of loneliness.
  • Incompatibility: Couples who get together and ultimately find they are not compatible may end up in a dead-end relationship. This causes resentment, intolerance, impatience, and unhappiness can replace what was once possibly a blissful existence. If you end up in a relationship like this, loneliness could be among the emotions and feelings that bubble up to the surface.
  • Emotional issues: Issues like substance use and depression can introduce loneliness into the relationship. Mental health for both you and your partner is important and if you feel it is being compromised talk to someone.
  • Physical or emotional abuse: Any kind of abuse in a relationship can certainly lead to loneliness, but it can also lead to depression, substance use, and injury, as well. If there is abuse occurring now or in the past, I urge anyone reading this to talk about it as you need to get help to deal with it.

My overwhelming advice here and I’m talking from personal experience is

It is much easier being on your own than feeling alone in a relationship. A partner that doesn’t give you what you need is not a partner. Learn to be your own best friend. You are stronger, more resilient and more confident from being alone.

If you are reading this and feel you need someone to reach out to. Please feel free to contact me. Contact details are on the about section. Links to social media too.

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen

How Many Turning Points Before Going Full Circle

“Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is just a train going in the opposite direction.”

They say if you are tired of London you are tired of life but I think maybe mental fatigue plays a massive role in this. When you are in the Rat Race you try too hard to keep up with the person in last place so you don’t fall behind. It’s draining to say the least.

To say the last 18 months have been tough would be an understatement but one thing it has given me is perspective. It’s so cliché to say life’s too short and such like but it’s true. We only get one shot at it so it needs to be enjoyable and you need to do ultimately what makes you happy.

Happy is subjective of course and I guess like all of the eternal mysteries in life-finding the true meaning of happiness is the hardest. It’s a feeling I’ve rarely felt over the last 3 years or so. I’m not depressed though just generally the gloom in the corner. There have been some brief moments of rainbow during this storm like my documented trip to Croatia and seeing Rangers win the league. Of course there were some family times too but due to the aforementioned sadness coupled with an increasing self awareness I probably seem a bit different to my parents. Sad, angry, disrespectful, distant, isolated and alone.

The question I keep asking myself at the moments is how many turning points do you need to experience until you’ve gone full circle? I firmly believe I am cyclical in nature as when I reread poems I’ve written from 2011/12 my state of mind seems quite similar as to now and it was the year after I took the plunge and moved to London. Maybe it’s time for a change? All change is good change right? Change for many is petrifying , so much so, that many people disregard potential turning points in their lives. They are blinkered to new opportunities, they just keep going with their noses to the grindstone, hoping that their focus will bring them the rewards they want. Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t. While this may be the case, focus or distinct lack of, this is often a formula for missed opportunities. You have to be able to disengage your focused brain to look more deeply at other opportunities. It’s the old adage of if you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the raffle.

I find myself in very similar situations just with different people in different locations. How do I break this cycle? I try to rise above it but it’s like there is some force pushing me back. I know there is much more I can give this world than being chained to a desk for at least 12 hours a day. Fiona always said from an early stage in our friendship that I had more to offer this world than being an office worker.

So how does one transition from said office work to something more meaningful? What can a financial markets professional give to the world? Travel writing would be the dream. I was always told I’d make a good teacher but the stresses of modern teenagers isn’t something that really feels with glee. I am constantly told I need to get a grip but what’s the point really if you are only just holding on and the rope is barely strong enough in the first place. I need to have something more to do with my life than move obscene amounts of money from one system to another. I want to make a difference. I want someone to feel I have changed their life even by a very small amount.

What about a new location? Or get a job where I could work and travel. The odd piece of work whilst travelling the globe with a zoom call to my boss or client to touch base on progress or offer some wisdom before I embark on another voyage of self discovery.

If you keep treading water you will eventually sink. Same with turning points you can not achieve the benefits of a turning point if you just keep doing what you are doing. It’s that desire to change that is the fuel for these such turning point to occur and to be embraced.

I keep telling myself that the best of me has yet to come but almost 20 years later we are still in the woods with no obvious exit strategy. There is the occasional glade where I seek solace and collect my thoughts but sometimes you need that escapism to navigate the way through what is quite a perilous course. I miss Fiona for emptying my head and having a conversation that’s as much about nothing as it is about everything. Yea I was blessed by having her a wonderful friend but she is still with me as a spirit guide to help navigate my way through these storms. Love you Fiona always. Thank you for everything.

First Impressions

They say if you are meeting someone for the first thing that both you and the person you are meeting will create a first impression inside 7 seconds and will know if there is a connection. So that has got me thinking do you play the wacky oddball character so they’ll never forget you or do you do just be you and let fate decide if you are good enough and them good enough for you.

It’s a crazy thought really that inside 7 seconds you know if you want to work somewhere, hire someone, spend more time with someone or perhaps grow to love someone.

We all do whether we think it or not. I can usually tell when I meet someone in a business capacity by their handshake. I personally like to think I have a very firm handshake and expect the same in return. Expect is the key in that last sentence. In truth first impressions have to mirror expectations otherwise something doesn’t sit right.

Conversely we are told to never judge a book by its cover so why is there so much emphasis on first impressions. All the modern day emphasis has on individuality surely kicks out the first impression debate. I’m not sure I would actually want to know the perceived first impression of me is but I do know for a fact that it’s unlikely to be correct. Here’s the quandary : We are all too aware that other people will make snap judgments about us. Yet we continuously tell ourselves that we shouldn’t make such snap judgments about them. The “shouldn’t” in the previous sentence is key, as our brain and subconscious are always about discouraging us from following our natural propensity.

As I sit on the tube I have completed a scan and made up an impression of everyone in my carriage. So wrong but somewhat entertaining which is ok I guess as I’m unlikely to have any meaningful interaction with them other than “Excuse me” as I make my way to the doors.

You could argue that if Natural Selection persists then the notion of First Impressions should not even be in this Darwinian Society as ultimately we are humans much like any other species adapt to change over time yet this psychology behind First Impressions still creates an interesting concept.

My conclusion on this is whilst you can never recreate a first impression you alter your perception on the person in question.

What is Music?

I like my music to be weird not just one stop away from the mainstream but quite possibly the end of the line on the journey in which music takes. You see, I don’t think there’s really a lot of truly “weird” in music. Weird and whacky musicians, for sure. Weird and beyond abstract concepts, absolutely—how about those guys who write about the molluscs?—but actual, genuine, weirdness? I don’t know. Maybe my mind is numb to the idea of weirdness as I journey and immerse myself in the musical minefields in order to discover something absorbing for my mind to eat and digest and find relevance and reverence for my heart and head. When it comes to music I’m very much listen first and ask questions later. Sometimes much later when you mind is focused on something else you realise something made sense.

My listening habits are really quite diverse and range from Turkish Tango to Pakistani Film Music to Harsh Electronics to Brutal Death Metal and almost anything in between. Strap in . Going to be long journey.

I love to lose myself in music. The mood of any recording is important. Music for me can be cathartic yet catatonic, inspiring yet depressing , uplifting yet unnerving, euphoric yet dismal, familiar yet distant, gregarious yet perverse and transcendental yet savage. Music is a massive part of my DNA and more often that not it feels that music finds a way to let me know that I will be ok and helps me make sense of a situation or just acts as that switch to allow me to lose myself in that moment. It can transport from warmth of summer to icy misanthropic ecstasy within seconds or lift my despondency with an uncanny delirium from the most obscure channels.

We are often judged by the music we love by others which is often misguided and unwarranted. Music is personal and helps you on your journey whatever you need it for. I’m often asked why someone like me listens to extreme metal music? I don’t like the someone like me angle as by the undercurrent of the statement there is an already palpable disappointment. On the contrary I could ask as to why someone like you drinks decaf coffee with that same disdain offered during the music round of back and forth interrogation.

I believe there is good and bad in every genre of music. Whilst there will never be inspirational Nazi Folk music but the actual music can be interesting to listen to and conversely on the most part people are still amazed and some abhorred by the idea behind Christian Metal music. Music crosses divides and has potential to unite communities. One of my favourite listening experiences is the of Israeli group Orphaned Land who crossed the Israeli Palestinian divide with their Middle Eastern inspired Folk Metal. They should have be heralded for this as it’s something that has been attempted on many occasions but failed instead they had to flee their homeland and seek refuge in Turkey as they felt threatened by Government officials.

Lastly for now is enjoy music regardless what you listen to. Don’t ever be ashamed by saying I like a certain type of music. Embrace the fact you might be different. Don’t let your parents,friends and locality stifle your musical journey. If I was to be inspired by friends and family I’d be listening to Country, The Bee Gees and enjoy listening to the radio. Lucky escape I’d say.