Monday, 22 March 2010

Love is...

I think I need to write this blog to be able to make some sense of my random thoughts on this particular topic (as I said in my TYSIC blog, I need to do this more often and be open to constructive criticism/feedback). It is my way of improving my critical thinking.

I know why I am thinking about love more right now, it is because I am thinking of what I used to consider “my goals before I turn 30” and that is fast approaching; also I have been single for some time.

Firstly, I don’t think being single for the last 3 years is a problem, at all. I’ve had plenty of fun and dated a bit, met some interesting people. But more than that, having been in long term relationships from the age of 17, pretty much non-stop until I was 27 ish, some single time was much needed. I guess others will share a similar experience, but I believe from teenage years into your twenty something’s you change a lot as a person, you grow up and gain some sense of identity (I know some do this earlier or later, but for arguments sake...). Being in long term relationships has to have some effect on these years, as you grow up and develop as an individual, but a couple has to have some influence on each other. So my point is, having spent those important years (mostly happily) with a partner in tow, it has been great to find the real me (sorry, I hate that phrase too, but nothing else fits). I have not gone all hippy or anything, but I have tried things I used to do (some I forgot I did), and decided whether I actually like them, or perhaps I was playing along a bit (as you do) with the boyfriend of the time. And I now have a lovely mix match or random influences from which I have decided I like lots of different things, because I choose to.

The “my goals before I turn 30” bit was, as I now realise unrealistic and not necessary. I had the goals that many people have; have a career, own my own house, fall in love, maybe get married, have a baby. I know I said they were unrealistic, but perhaps that was not the right word. I do own a house and have a career which I mostly enjoy. It is the love, marriage and babies bit I have come to realise cannot be goals. My thoughts on marriage have changed a little, although I don’t object to it and may even one day do it, to me it is something that may or may not happen and it does not matter, so long as I am happy. The same for the having babies part. I used to believe I definitely wanted children, and although I think I still would quite like one, if it doesn’t happen and I am happy, I think I can accept that. (I have 14 nieces and nephews)

Now we come to the main part, falling in love. Of course I think it would be great to be in love, even with all of the angst and the getting to know you, scary parts. To have one person that truly understands me, who I can understand back and who I can share my life with would be awesome. But it cannot be a goal. It will happen or it won’t. I have accepted that hunting for love is (for me) not the right way to go about it. My concern is that in looking so hard for something, I will see something that just isn’t there. The only way I can think to accurately describe the way I feel about this is; imagine those people who really want to be famous, as a singer or a model. Some of them are lucky and make it they have the right attributes and are in the right place at the right time, they get their break. Then there are those unfortunate few, who really really want it, but it doesn’t happen. Yet they plod on entering countless competitions, sending of demos and photographs, it consumes their lives. Then one day with a moment of devastating clarity they realise it was all a pipe dream, it isn’t going to happen and their life seems wasted. I don’t want my desire for love to be like one of those poor deluded searching for fame people’s search for recognition. I don’t want to spend my time searching for something that won’t necessarily happen. I also do not want to fall into the trap of deluding myself, seeing love where it isn’t really there. Bluntly put, I don’t want to “make do” with the next nice guy who comes along. I may find the real thing, I may not.

From all of this contemplation I have decided, what I do want is to be happy. This means filling my life with experiences and people, making the most of every moment, and most of all not being focussed on love. If I am one of the lucky few who meets that person then great, but in the meantime I plan to live life not waste it in the search.

I know lots of people may think that even the search for love is great experience in itself. I don’t argue with that, but for it to be a main focus feels wrong to me. If I am going to have a chance of meeting someone I figure it will be when I am doing the things I enjoy doing, then there is a chance we will have at least something in common, a beginning maybe. I am lucky I did meet my exes in such a way (a rock club, at university and one of my best friends). There has to be some maths in all this, the odds are that I will meet someone with similar interests when doing something I am interested in, not in some artificial dating scenario. I am also aware that in some cases opposites attract, and two people in a couple are very different, have different hobbies etc. But I have decided I like doing what I do in my spare time, and although I am always open to new experiences, I want to keep doing the things I do and have someone else share in my enjoyment of them.

In a way I consider myself lucky, the beginning part of a relationship is very exciting, an adventure. And although I may have many beginnings and not quite find the security of “the one” for some time, if at all, I will have fun along the way and not be too preoccupied by my lack of love.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Books, books and more books.

I have a compulsion to buy books, not at a Robin Ince insane and wonderful level, but I do find I have to stop myself, I know I own more books than I can read in the coming months. I also know I should devote more time to read them, but what can I say there are distractions everywhere (this blog and twitter being two of the main culprits). As I decided to use my blog to think through things a bit more, I decided to examine my own minor book obsession.

I am one of those people who reads lots of books at the same time. Right now there are two on my bedside table, two on my coffee table and about four put back on the bookshelf, half read. It is not like this with every book, if it is a real page turner, then I will make the time and read it quickly. I don't believe every book has to be this way. For example it took me three months to Read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, you have to be in the right frame of mind to tackle it, the meaty subject matter and complexity of ideas it was not light reading. I did think it was worth it to persist and finish the book, and I'm sure I will one day read it again, even if some of the notions do come across as a little fundementalist.

My favourite, cannot put it down, book of last year was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, a fantastic dark expansion of Pride and Prejudice. I even actually laughed out loud on the bus while reading it. I know not everyone will share my enthusiasm as I do have a little obsession with zombies, but still everyone knows the story, and can imagine the accents as they read it.

If you are a zombie fan I do recommend Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum, I read that one in 40 minutes. It is a very short, funny and gross book of poems written by a zombie.

In my random book buying habits I recently developed a new one, nostalgia. I have now begun to buy books I read as a child, or even were read to me. No, I don't mean Spot the Dog, the ones from when I was a little older, like Daniel Keyes' Flowers For Algernon and Stig of The Dump by Clive King. I am not in a rush to read these books, and not even sure why I bought them. I obviously enjoyed them as a child, but will they stand the test of time and impress me now, or be a an utter disappointment? In a way I think I have bought them in order to share them with other young people, although I don't have children, I may one day or at least I can lend them to my nieces and nephews in the hope that they too get cherished childhood memories from them. I may be setting myself up for disappointment in buying these books, times have changed.

I have just started reading Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot, I think it will be in the page turner category, despite being a philosophy book, it is beautifully and poetically written and a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I ordered it 3 months ago and have waited all this time for the paperback to be in stock, so far it is well worth the wait. Here is a clip of the passage I heard Robin Ince read and then peaked my interest in Carl Sagan.

Another philosophy book recommended to me was Alain De Botton's Essays in Love. This one I read in two days. A wonderful story of one man's journey through love, while considering the nature of love and our neurosis while afflicted. It is the sort of book you find yourself wanting to quote to people all of the time. My favourite line from it was,

"Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self-knowledge."

Following my enjoyment of his work I then bought Status Anxiety, and although it is a great book, it does not have the urgent draw of Essays in Love and I find myself reading it much more slower, returning to it every few days. For accessible philosophy I do recommend Alain De Botton.

I love that I can enjoy some books while learning something, and it doesn't feel like studying like the books at university did. I think this is down to that talent of the author at keeping the reader intrigued while relaying the facts. Ben Goldacre's Bad Science and Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst's Trick or Treatment are two brilliant books which spring to mind.

Don't get me wrong I do also love silly entertaining books too. I recently reread Dave Gorman's Are You Dave Gorman? and Googlewhack Adventure; Danny Wallace's Yes Man is also thoroughly amusing (unlike the film based on the book) and of a similar style (Danny Wallace is co-author of Are You Dave Gorman?). Sometimes I do just want something light and fun to read, these books for me are hard to choose. I love Nick Hornby's books, but I tend to get stuck into buying one author so that I have the guarantee of a good read. I have bought a few random books, and they soon get returned to the bookshelf, half read covered in dust having sat on my coffee table for a few weeks. I will finish them one day, but if they are not that enthralling they go to the bottom of the reading pile, for example The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill, yes it is witty and a fun read, but once a better book arrives, it can wait.

I also like having a few books that you can pick up and put down again, just dipping into them when the mood takes you. Charlie Brooker's books (Screenburn, Dawn of the Dumb etc) are great for this, pick them up when you fancy a hilarious rant about popular television and then put them away again. I was bought The History of The World Through Twitter by Jon Holmes and Mitch Benn for Christmas and giggled all day as I dipped into it, it is one of those books to randomly peek at and be amused.

I have now started to buy books recommended to me on twitter or in blogs (if they peak my interest), I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, or if I will need to buy a bigger house to fit all of my books in. (I cannot throw a book away). I just bought Bad Thoughts - a guide to critical thinking by Jamie Whyte as recommended in Peter Harrison's blog which I began to read following my first visit to Sheffield Skeptics in The Pub (SiTP). I can't wait to read it but am resisting my usual urge to start reading several books I really like at once and then struggle to choose which one to read.

Do feel free to let me know any life changing, or interesting books you have read. Thanks for reading a particularly long ramble of thoughts in my head. (I did say I would blog more as part of my TYSIC to think through and record such thoughts more as a way of developing my thinking skills).

Monday, 15 March 2010

Being Famous

No, I am not famous, and I am not claiming to be in any way. I know a few select people may read this blog as they are lovely enough to tell me they do. But as I discussed in my last blog entry, I do want to aim to be more reflective and document my thoughts on here as part of my TYSIC. So here goes...

Today I began to ponder, what is it that makes someone "famous"?

Famous adjective
Known and recognised by many people

Being a little bit pedantic, I am recognised by "many people", but I guess that depends what you mean by many.

The reason why I was thinking about this is that over the last year I have met a few comedians, some I consider to be famous. Don't get me wrong I am not constantly rubbing shoulders with comedy royalty, but I have said hello after gigs and been fortunate enough to have a drink or two with a small minority. Of those comedians that I consider famous, I am always shocked to find that many of my friends and families have never even heard of them, and give a blank look when I express how happy I was to meet them.

The flip side of the coin is that of the comedy fans I talk to online, many do know who I am talking about when I say I am off to see a great show, or I was lucky enough to say hello after they share my excitement, so to them those comedians are famous.

Does being famous really mean being a household name? Is it being on the telly all the time? Being splattered all over the tabloids for every minor out of context mistake or fashion faux pas you make? If it is I cannot see the appeal. Being stalked by the media can't be any fun, it must be bad enough being stalked by fans (in a nice way in my case, not in a weirdo "I want your babies" fangirly way).

I have been on Tim Minchin's fan forum for over a year now, and as he became more well known thanks to his excellent tour and an increasing number of TV appearances, it has saddened me to see the fallout. After I saw him in Sheffield last October there were hundreds of people outside, many asking him to sign their boobs, really? *Sigh* I mean I know he loves boobs but come on. Tim being a very nice man, stayed outside until he had met every single person, something I am sure he cannot keep up as his fame grows (or he would be there all night and exhausted). But does this mean that being famous means you can no longer have a connection with your fans?

I can think of many comedians who have DVDs out, have had very successful Edinburgh fringe performances, won awards and had UK tours, yet unless you are a comedy obsessive like me, many people don't recognise their names. To me they are famous, as they have the respect of fellow comedians and have made a success of their careers in comedy, this does not necessarily mean they are on TV a lot or a household name. I prefer this level of fame, as speaking from experience they are the ones who are usually happy to say hello and accept your praise or gratitude after a good show.

I do wonder if the being on TV level of fame is something to aspire to? Yes, I bet it does pay well and raises the comedian's profile, but as I said before, at what cost? I'm sure many TV programmes are restricted in content and subject matter, meaning you don't get a true sense of what the comedian meant when he/she wrote the material. I know lots of comedians work very hard within such constraints and with fantastic results, but to me there is nothing better than seeing live comedy. There is room for banter and interaction and the comedian has the freedom to take the show in which ever direction he/she wants to.

Although I have pondered ad reflected upon this subject, I don't think I really know what it means to be famous. I guess it is more important to be a success at the level you want to be.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Ten Year Self Improvement Challenge

I know I am late to the party but this took some thinking, and there is no point in starting something unless you have thought it through properly. For anyone who does not know what The Ten Year Self Improvement Challenge (TYSIC) is, I suggest you read Mark Watson's blog for the last couple of weeks. But to fill you in briefly, it is a 10 year project where everyone must commit to goals which may improve them, and report these goals and any achievement to Mark Watson (currently via comments on his blog, but soon on the shiny new fan forum and of course on individual blogs). It emulates the 24 hours show, in that through a sense of community and shared experience something wonderful can be achieved. There is a twitter hashtag #TYSIC and Mark is happy to hear from people about their success or failures.

Well, I had agreed to be a part of this before I knew what it was, so feel I should be doing something and have a goal for my TYSIC (I should have already started too, I know but it has been a busy week, and people arrived late to the 24 hour show). I tried to think of a goal, not as easy as I expected it to be. I have many friends who have goals, but in reading them I have found none of them suit me, I need my own goal. Is it possible can I find one.

To explain, I will discuss how some goals are just not for me (although of course I respect that they are perfect for others, no offence meant to anyone in any way).

Goal 1 - To lose weight. Yes I could shift a few pounds, eat a bit better, exercise a bit more but... well in all honesty I don't want to. I'm not massively overweight, dropping a dress size would be nice. But I eat quite healthy all week, usually have some crap food at the weekends, I walk to work and home every day, so meet the recommended levels of exercise in a week (it is very hilly and takes about 25 minutes each way). I don't believe in fad diets, well most diets. I think if I wanted to lose weight I would have to change something for life, otherwise I would just put the weight back on when I stopped the diet. I did some of those changes a while ago, changed to wholemeal products, push myself to get my 5 a day fruit and vegetables etc. I don't want to restrict my diet or spend my time in a gym, gyms are boring.

Goal 2 - To read more books. - Yes I do have this goal and I do want to achieve it, the problem I have is that it is not quantifiable over a 10 year period. I have not counted how many books I read over the last 10 years so have no baseline comparison. I know this is a little pedantic of me, and I could just make a concerted effort to read more, but I won't. I know myself I have had this goal already for a long time, I have bought lots of books and am yet to read them. I am half way through at least 6 books scattered around the house. I enjoy books, whether they be fictional, philosophy or factual, but I don't find the time to read as much as I want to. I could make the time, but I know myself, I don't. I get distracted by twitter, facebook, blogs, forums, TV, phone calls, life in general. Yes I do want to read more books, yes I will do it, but no it is not my TYSIC it just doesn't fit the brief.

Goal 3 - To be more assertive/confident/positive about life - I know lots of people have this one, including Mr Watson himself and it is a very good goal to have, it just doesn't fit me. Again it is something I was already working on and have done recently. When I qualified as a mental health nurse I soon learned that in such a job you have to act confident whether you are or not, luckily the confidence followed. The last thing people want to see from an inexperienced healthcare worker is nerves, and if someone is kicking off they won't listen to a quiet scared nurse, only a confident clear and assertive one. This last year has also changed my confidence a lot, only on looking back on it do I realise how much. Through twitter and forums I've met loads of people, travelled and introduced myself to lots of comedians, this has led to many great experiences and new friends. I was nervous, but now I have gained the confidence to explore more. This may develop further, but it would feel like cheating to make it my TYSIC.

I also would quite like to do lots of the other activities some people have challenged themselves to do, write a book, travel, learn to drive, fall in love, maybe make a small person in my belly and I'm sure some of these things will happen and some will not. I like the fact that although I am an obsessive planner and list writer, my life is an open book. I'm not restricted. There aren't things I have to do, I may never have children, I may fall in love lots of times or never in the next 10 years, and I may never get around to learning to drive (it is bloody expensive to learn and maintain a car and would make me lazier). I just don't know and that is how I like it, some things, for me personally are better left unplanned. I have learned my lesson I had some fixed goals for when I reached 30 (later this year) but in thinking about the fact they won't be achieved I have realised they don't and never really did matter, I am happy, that is what matters. I am not criticising those people who do have such goals, if you can set them, aim to achieve them and feel accomplished in doing so then good for you. It just doesn't suit me.

I do want to take part in TYSIC, but in my own way. I won't read all of the blog entries or read the forum as often as I should, although I will aim to do so. I am already committed to a number of daily blogs I read, but I already know that realistically if I get distracted by something else, they too may be doomed as daily activities, and 10 years is a long time. It is goal time, please forgive the waffle for this bit but here it is...


To be more reflective and document this, but not only that seek other's opinion and where necessary criticism. To not stick my head in the sand, face problems head on (I know this is kind of being more assertive too). To explain I aim to firstly continue with this blog, I haven't been doing it very long and do like the way it makes me think about things in a clearer manner. I also like getting feedback. For more personal situations I may do the same but via emails to some of you lovely people out there, or if even more personal I will start a diary on my computer. Reflection is a useful tool, to gain perspective on things, there is a purpose to it - to document all of your thoughts and then tease out the important aspects/feelings/outcomes and learn from them. I'm not going to restrict my self to daily blogs/diaries as it is not realistic, but I will try to document more frequently and use my blog more than I do now (lucky you). I'm not sure how this will fit into the whole TYSIC, in that it may not be very interesting for others, but as actually documenting my thoughts and feelings in such a way will help me and give me something to have a MASSIVE reflect over in 10 years time, I think it suits me.

Do you see how I did it in this blog? I thought about the challenge, how it works for me and came up with a solution. This will be this week's achievement. Well done me.