Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sayings I won’t say

I know it is being pedantic but I have realised particularly in the last few months that there are a number of sayings and phrases commonly used that I have decided I cannot use anymore. This is not as easy as it sounds, they are on the tip of my tongue. But I have a rationale so I am trying to teach myself to not use them. I will go through them and explain why.

Good Luck

I cannot believe in luck, it is to me illogical. I don’t believe in the concept of fate, that our lives are pre-determined by some greater being/cosmic force, so I cannot believe in luck for the same reasons. I cannot use good or bad luck as excuses for things that have or haven’t happened, to me things happen because people make them happen and a series of consequences. Yet every day I see someone wish someone or me luck. My problem with this one is that I want to pass on the sentiment used by saying “Good luck” but I now refuse to use those words. It has become “I hope it goes well” but it does seem to lack the oomph that good luck has. So any suggestions for rephrasing that saying would be gratefully accepted.

Touch Wood

This one is also illogical and can be applied to all such sayings, yet I still find I have to stop myself from doing it. Let’s be honest unless you believe in some kind of luck fairy or magic wood monster, then touching wood does absolutely nothing. I don’t even know where the saying came from (and am too lazy/not interested to google it). Even as recently as this week I have found myself going to do it, a creature of habit I guess. But yet again saying “Yeah I hope so.” seems to have less impact as the act of saying and actually touching wood. But I think this is due to how common the sayings are.


“God knows.” “Thank God.” You get the message. Sayings with God in them. Now I realise that many people I chat with online use them out if habit, but the pedant in me cringes when I know they are atheists. They don’t “Thank God” or care/believe that “God knows”, they don’t even believe he/she/it exists, neither do I. But I know it is that they are used in every day language, people use such sayings for their implied meanings not their literal ones. I know it is a little ridiculous that it has come my bugbear, but it has. I don’t point it out to people when they use them, but I do have an grumble to myself.

Go to Hell

This one needs little explanation. As an atheist I do not believe in heaven or hell, so how can I want to tell someone to go to an imaginary place? I know it is the idea behind the saying that is implied “Go to some horrific torturous place where you will burn for eternity”, but if I were being logical and true to my believes I should say just that, for this one I do find that “Fuck off” replaces it quite nicely. And if I am in a social situation where fuck off is inappropriate, then I shouldn’t really be telling them to go to hell either, as it could also be judged as a little rude.

As sure as eggs is eggs

“Is” surely you mean “are”? Yes my pedantry knows no bounds. This one I don’t like just because the grammar sounds and feels wrong. “Eggs” is a plural so surely “are” should be used? I agree with the sentiment behind the saying it is based in logic, and yes I know that it is a jocular misquotation, but it irritates me.

I know there are many more sayings yo which I apply this logic, but they are difficult to think of when I haven’t seen them. I am not judging anyone who does use these sayings, merely pointing out that they are to me, illogical. I am slowly teaching myself to not use them, although it is not easy they are, as I said before, on the tip of the tongue just waiting for use. I’m not sure it makes me a better critical thinker at all to actually consider the meaning of what I am saying before I say it. But it is a habit I have got into. Please feel free to add any sayings you can’t stand in the comments section and of course tell me your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Knowledge is... scary

Prompted by a few online conversations I have realised how much I have learnt in the last year or so. Partly because I became a non medical prescriber (I blogged a bit about ignorance being bliss on this topic here). So I accumulated much more knowledge about psychopharmacology, legal and ethical issues in prescribing. But also through delving into skepticism, rationalism and critical thinking. (Let’s not forget comedy too, knowing about the comedy scene is also knowledge, perhaps not particularly useful although I have reaped some benefits.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have not mastered any of the above subjects yet. This is my point. By realising I have an interest in or a need to learn about such subjects, I have discovered how much information is out there that I do not know. It is almost overwhelming. The books I haven’t read, theories and views I don’t understand (the acts I haven’t seen yet). I realise that we can’t expect to be experts in all the subjects we have an interest in, but perhaps we do hope to acquire enough knowledge to have a reasonable informed conversation about such issues? (This is where I am ok with my comedy knowledge, but I still love to find/learn more).

I think my fear and realisation may stem from the fact that I think or assume that my memory is not very good. However, there may be evidence to the contrary. Firstly anecdotally, in a chat with a friend I said much the same and she exclaimed, “But you know loads!” and we discussed it from there. I guess I do have some knowledge about things, but I recall when at university the first time I used to memorise references for exam essays and could rattle off numerous theories and viewpoints easily. Thinking about this rationally I realise I used to study for hours in order to have such information at the forefront of my memory. Secondly, in certain subjects I do “know loads”, I know my job and am not bad on mental health law, NICE guidelines, Clozapine and ECT, but these are topics I work with on a daily basis. I am constantly learning but as a scenario crops up I can recall similar situations and figure out a solution or where to look for the answer. In my job I may be considered “an expert” (I am the Lead Clinician).

I would like to feel the same confidence in discussing other topics, one not work related but to my opinions and beliefs. However I find myself attempting to discuss the issues and relying on “Have you read...” then failing to summarise how the viewpoint in the book matched or differed from my own. I am hoping that as I read more, learn more and blog more my skills and memory for such facts may improve.

Much like when at university, and even more so when nurse training, I recall the panic in the first few weeks of not thinking I would be able to acquire all the knowledge I needed to pass the course/qualify. But bit by bit as these course progressed and my brain began to link the information and ground it in my daily knowledge, then hey presto. I knew stuff, and of course I passed and qualified. I must admit I had the same crippling fear when I began nursing and did my first week of night shifts. They were terrifying, and there were not many people around to back me up, what if I didn’t know what to do and people were busy? Thankfully in my first week of nights I had the pleasure of working with a very wise nurse (they don’t leave you on your own on nights at first) who told me “I have been a psych nurse for nearly 30 years and I am still learning.” Boom, it hit me then in that moment, I didn’t need to know everything I can keep learning, I can ask, I can look in books, journals, policies and guidance notes. From then on I was not frightened of my lack of knowledge and learned to enjoy finding things out I wasn’t so sure about, also as a team nurses and doctors constantly teach each other.

As I hoped would happen, in typing this blog, I am now panicking much less. I should treat my new thirst for knowledge and fear of a lack of it, just as I did in university and when I started nursing. I should recognise that there will come a point when the information fits together and I gain some confidence, but that I will also continue to learn from a variety of sources. Phew, I feel better now.

Thanks if you read this.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


I have visited this subject before, but events this week have led me to ponder etiquette on twitter further. I remain unsure of the “rules” of twitter, mainly due to the fact that people use it in very different ways. Some people use it to gather information from many sources, others like myself to chat and connect with people and I would assume that many celebrities use it as a way of promoting their work and getting feedback (and rightly so). So I guess the rules are different depending on why and how you are using it.

I followed suit with a couple of fellow tweeters and unfollowed a few people this week. Not for any negative reason, but just because I felt I was following too many people, which meant if I spent time away from twitter I was struggling to catch up. Unfollowing is difficult. I selected tweeters who had not been very active lately and one or two I thought I hadn’t connected with very much. But the whole business feels a bit rude. I have been unfollowed by a couple of people recently that I have noticed (I tried to send DMs to them) and have to admit there was an initial sting. Why would someone unfollow me? What have I done? Am I dull or irritating on twitter? (Possibly)Then I thought about it and realised it does not matter. I have plenty of followers and it is not about numbers, it is for me, about connections, so as long as I can still chat to those people it does not matter that they unfollowed me, they may also want to clear their feed a little (I do tweet a lot). So long as I haven’t been blocked, then I assume I have caused no offence. I have had conversations with a couple of tweeters that I have met who have honestly said they don’t follow me because I tweet a lot, but they will from time to time check my feed and happily chat to me if I send a @ reply. Fair enough.

I have considered unfollowing a few more people but haven’t for fear of causing offence for exactly the reasons people have unfollowed me. If people chat a lot it is sometimes too much to catch up on. A solution would be to unfollow one or two people in a group so that the connection remains but as you don’t see all of the conversations unless you follow both parties, so your feed would not be as busy. However, how do you choose without causing offence? But I also want to remain involved in some conversations and wonder if I will miss a trick if I don’t always follow everyone in those groups. Being nosey has consequences, it means I have to see all the conversations I am not so interested in or don’t have time to read just to be able to get involved in the ones I am.

To me facebook makes it clear, if someone removes me as a friend on there it sends a clear message. I have removed people who added me because we went to school together, but then did not ever chat or get in touch, what is the point? But as facebook is not like twitter as it is updated with such frequency that it is easier to manage to have more “friends” on there and keep up with it, plus I often only go on to look what one or two individuals have been up to or read blogs. Twitter is not the same you don’t actually remove the person fully unless you block them.

Twitter is a social networking tool and as I have said before I have made new friends from it. In getting to know people online I also use messenger, facebook and email with various (but not all) tweeters (usually the ones I have met face to face). The people I have got to know better tend to use email or messenger for more personal chats. I don’t tend to put really personal information on twitter (which I have explained in previous blogs). So I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing to unfollow someone you are still friends with if you have other ways of staying in touch. You can still have conversations on twitter (so long as the person you unfollow understands and continues to follow you, or if you just regularly check each other’s feed). I would unfollow celebrities and comedians if I was not amused or interested by them, but sometimes there is an ulterior motive, such as that they may give me information about gigs etc. With non celebs it is a much harder choice to make.

I think I can manage my current level for now, but if I struggle again I may have to reconsider who I follow. I am curious to know other people’s thoughts on unfollowing people. Does it feel personal? Does it matter if you are still in touch in other places like facebook, forums, messenger and via email?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Is blood thicker than water?

I am not stupid I know it is in the literal sense, but that is not what I want to ponder in this blog. Some things have happened with friends and family over the last few weeks (which I won’t go into detail about) which have left me wondering what it means to be “family”.

There seems to be an assumption that if you are related by blood or on some minute genetic level then you must automatically have a connection with and love that person. I disagree. There I said it. I do not love everyone in my family, is that controversial? I love all of my friends, if I didn’t we wouldn’t be friends we would be colleagues, friends who drifted apart or in the extreme enemies. I cannot choose my family, but genetics will not and cannot dictate my emotions. To me love is a connection, a mutual respect and liking of someone else, not having the knowledge that someone we are related to had sex resulting in a person’s existence.

In all honesty I do not like everyone in my family, I can even go as far to say there is one person I actually hate, I wouldn’t spit on him if he was on fire. I know that is a harsh statement, but obviously I have reasons for such feelings. That is my point; there are actions and consequences which lead to emotions. I am aware that evolution would suggest that I would have some innate need to protect my gene pool, and in a sense I do. But we have evolved since then and are now very complex creatures; it is no longer about survival of the fittest. The remnants of this evolutionary need are still there, I don’t know whether it is genetics, or the logical reasoning I give to it, but yes I do on some level care about my family. I still don’t love them all, the depth of the relationships are in groups, close family, people I know, who know me, we get on, we enjoy spending time together, I love those people (even if I don’t see them very often). Then the family I have spent lots of time with over the years, but perhaps not so much recently, our fond memories bond us and keep the love there, some of these people I wish I knew better, something I can remedy. Then the relatives I know, in that I know they are alive, but not much of their personalities, we have never spent much time together, I don’t know their interests, nor they mine. This is where I honestly don’t think I can say there is any love. There is some level of emotion, but in thinking about it logically, I think that it is that I care if something happens to those people because it will have an emotional impact on the people in my inner family circles, and I do love them. Then there are the relatives I have not met. In all honesty, I don’t know or care about those people, unless someone I am close to does, then I have the need to protect the distant relatives from harm in order to protect the feelings of those I do love. I’m aware this all sounds very harsh, but I honestly think it is true.

I guess I should admit that this partially because I have examined my feelings when some long lost relatives got in touch recently. We haven’t seen them in over 10 years, since they were very young. I don’t know them, so I don’t love them. Is this wrong, something tells me it is, but I have the need to be honest with myself. I’m not saying over time I won’t love them, but I also might not like them. I don’t understand the social need for me to have an instant connection with these people. Yes we have some aspect of shared history, but whether we get on will depend on if we both think we are nice people, we have common interests and values.

I have some close friends who know me much better than some of my family, I feel closer to them. I have discussed with such friends my feeling about them and family and they understand my logic. These feeling were concreted recently when I considered my will, thinking about which of your possessions and how much money would go to whom after I die puts a lot in perspective. I won’t be around to face the consequences of my actions, so I can be blunt and honest (although I must admit there were some token gifts to save my Mum some heartache). In doing this I realised I have lots of people close to me who I love, not all of them family. I have realised that if I don’t like someone I cannot love them, I don’t believe in the social construct that you have to love your family, “You may not like them, but you love them, they are family.” Wrong! I cannot have two conflicting emotions about one person. If I don’t like them, I don’t love them. I care if something happens to them because of the fall out, the consequences of this that someone I do love may be in distress, this should not be confused with love.

Thanks for reading, as usual please feel free to disagree with me, debate or comment via my blog, email or twitter.