Filter Silliness

I probably spend far too much playing around with the silly filters on social media – mostly as we send updates to each other to put a smile on each others faces.

I’m a cute lil devil apparently

What I find interesting is to see how much fun I can have to produce the more unusual poses rather than just the stereotypical straight to camera glares. It appeals to me on an aesthetic level, and can be a fun way of practicing for the cosplay photos.

While that may seem of limited use – it a) is something that makes me happy and b) means I have more confidence when more official photos are taken. I recently had a shot taken at a work event to go on an ID card, and was able to pose enough within the limits that I actually appear to be full of life rather than sapped of the will to live.

Fabulous, or demonic? The jury is still out

Being able to have confidence in my own appearance is a relatively new development. My weight gains due to disordered eating while depressed were huge – at one point I weighed over twenty-one stone (135kg) which played no small part in my developing type two diabetes. I came to loathe images of me, especially when I compared them to the slim and athletic appearance I had when I was younger.

It has only really been the last couple of years since I’ve started cosplaying that I’ve begun to be comfortable with having my photo taken. Dressing up and putting myself in the hands of photographers keen to help me make the best images has both boosted my confidence and given me practical guidance in how to hold myself in healthier and more flattering ways – and to stop caring about looking silly along the way.

Discarding the voice that cares and frets about not looking ridiculous has been a freeing experience and helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin. It has helped me in my own journeys to know myself, and it has helped reduce my retention of stress.

And that’s why I love playing the Fool for selfies. I can let go, laugh at myself and with others. I can welcome the silliness and feel both childlike and more adult in my appreciation of using my body with at least a little less shame.

Yes, I do actually go out in public and pull faces too

Cosplay Confidence

I think one of the great skills I’ve learned through attending conventions and dressing up in silly costumes has been to leverage my customer service skills and old stagecraft from performances at school to strike poses and appear confident in public in those costumes. This in turn has bolstered my confidence at work with knowing I can wear sometimes ridiculous outfits and have people admire them.

What it doesn’t do, and I still have great difficulty with, is managing the socialising side of things. In large part I think this comes from imposter syndrome and that dreadful temptation to take people’s social media representation at face value. I’m dreadful at remembering names or being confident in having conversations at times. If I let it, this fosters huge feelings of isolation as I see other people interacting and making plans.

But then I remember that I have a great number of people who I quietly just know and get on with enjoying things with. They’re not the showiest, they’re actually capable of deeper connection and empathy, and who always have time for me.

It’s just a measure of my own baggage that I don’t feel I deserve it, or that people are just tolerating me. Adult brain knows it is false, and also celebrates not embracing shallow showiness, but it is still a head siren call to resist.

Lady M reminds me that the quiet strength and conviction, and no small measure of stubbornness are signs of the strength that she admires. In other ways, so too does lady s. The chorus is strengthened by my counsellor, and by coworkers who prize my ability to tell and sell people unpopular news without flinching, and not alienate them in the process.

I wouldn’t wish the twists and turns of my path here on anyone, and I’m proud of who I am, even if the black dog disagrees. My hobbies, upbringing, lifestyle, and hard work have tempered my confidence and presence. If that inspires or gives strength to other people that’s a grand thing too – whether that’s in cosplaying, work, or the quiet of their lives.

Grumble

I seem to have had a day that’s veered between annoying people on purpose through to major foot in mouth moments, with a side order of “would anything else like to fall off this building?”

One of the aspects of my work at the library that tends to elevate my stress levels is managing the maintenance of the buildings – or at least nudging corporate property services to respond when things go bang, clunk, fail to work or let in the weather in ways we’d rather they didn’t.

One of the libraries in my remit has a growing number of issues that may or may not be related, and that seem to causing a domino effect. Every one thing getting fixed seems to then lead to two more cropping up. I spend a lot of my time on the phone or chasing emails.

Staffing issues will always be high on the agenda of course. The last couple of days have had me smiling through gritted teeth, or asking myself why I am even having to challenge individuals on what should be completely obvious issues. At the same time I will continue to defend them from external pressures.

It has left me… a little frazzled around the edges. This has then dulled my ability to operate my own mouth to consider some of the words coming out of it in a timely fashion and instead let some absolute garbage out. Some of those who’ve engaged with me today have therefore been justifiably annoyed at my responses. 

While I’ve apologised where appropriate and we’ve moved on; my brain has of course continued to administer the self-inflicted beatings of remorse and anxiety with its usual gusto long after the fact. I guess if nothing else it’s a sign of acknowledging mistakes; but if it could rein back in now and remember that the world isn’t actually about to implode, it would be helpful.

Who knows what new joys tomorrow will bring?

Unveiling Imminent

I don’t officially start the new job until Monday, when I have an induction/official branding or something at Egham library in the afternoon. In the meantime I’ve been asked to interrupt my week off with a staff meeting at Ashford tomorrow so they can be officially be told they’ll be some of my minions. Straight after that is a meeting of all the managers in the cluster to do an end of month handover and discussion of issues.

Even though I know and have worked with everyone who is going to be present at both meetings, I can’t help but feel a degree of trepidation. The new job is suddenly feeling a little more real as opposed to a nebulous theoretical situation.

I shall of course approach the whole thing with my trademarked laconic sarcasm and attention to awkward detail – which are after all important parts of why they hired me in the first place.

I think the disquiet is merely a reflection of changing team dynamics. The people at the first meeting are largely people who will have worked with me as a peer, and who must now make the adjustment to officially having me be one of their managers. The second meeting is full of managers who have largely treated me as an almost equal but still a subordinate, but must now work with me as a peer. 

Essentially they will be my new team after nearly four years of working with the team at Sunbury. They’re not the only ones needing to adjust their expectations. I will also be needing to make those mental adaptations in turn, and I’m curious to find out where the new challenges on the interpersonal front will be.

It’s a different set of intellectual and social muscles that are about to come into play, so perhaps likening this wariness to that of approaching a new physio routine sight unseen is more accurate.

It’ll be fine. What’s the worst that could happen?

Making the Best of Things

I could sit and wallow in the little disappointments, random plot 


twists, brain farts, derailed expectations, or jealousies – and that does feel quite tempting. Alternatively I could do something about it. We’re back to that basic underpinning of what makes for an awesome life, and it seems as ever to be tied to a willingness to take a hard look at what’s causing that slow drag on life and then refusing to be ruled by it.

These hiccups can come from many sources: it can be those conversations where someone says “I love you, but not in that way”, or where the only dialogue you have when you get home is an unspooling of the other person’s day and a demand to be fed. It might be the jealousy of seeing someone taking a holiday in the sun when all your holiday leave has been spent caring for people or burying them. It can come from unanswered texts, or people not thanking you for the simple kindnesses. It can come from being in constant pain, or the worry of money or exam results. In truth, it doesn’t really matter. 

Hand on heart, we can all point to things right now in our lives that upset, or make us at least quietly thoughtful. There’s nothing wrong with that. That is, as the saying goes, just life. The biggest danger sometimes to my mental equilibrium is trying to chase after everyone in search of affirmation. The problem is that it isn’t practical to try and be all things to all people. You’re on a hiding to nothing even trying. 

So, what am I going to do, or am already doing, to refocus on what’s important? Nothing earthshaking; we’ve already established I’m a stubborn sod after all. I’m going to carry on reminding myself to just do my thing – whatever that thing may be – and those who are interested will engage, while those who aren’t will carry on in theirs – and you know what, that’s okay too. I’m going to carry on with the exercise, supporting Lady M, writing, drawing, and running the mostly weekly D&D games. I’ll spend time with my frankly awesome daughter, and if anyone wants to dip in and say hi for a while then I’ll see you when I see you. 

Idle Musings

My motivation to blog continues to be all over the place, but I’m largely blaming that on being a busy little bee, and in usually being in the middle of something when a blog idea occurs. Alternatively I write something and then donate it to someone else – like the blog article I wrote about a week ago and gave to Lady M for her TWITT blog. 


That means that I’ve been thinking of updates and commentary on a blog post that will be posted next month some time. It started as a random observation along the lines of ‘Things Lady M says’ and turned into a slightly rambling rant about unconscious bias and our inability to spot our own blind spots. I may have been a bit tipsy and in a weird mood at the time. I’ll link to it when it goes live and then we can all laugh about it together.

That, and a chat with Lady G about writing, led me to have a long discussion in my most recent counselling session about not wanting to rely on drinking to cue writing sessions when inspiration is in sparse supply. The stereotype of the alcoholic writer exists largely because of the disinhibition that comes with even a small amount; and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there were occasions where a looming deadline had been met with the aid of a glass of scotch or two. 

On those occasions I found I was winding myself up as a perfectionist and paralysing myself with a fear of even starting. A bit of alcohol helped me not care enough so that I could just make a start. Tidying it up afterwards was simple enough once I had something to edit.

My concern was that this not become a habit or to be under any illusion that it was necessary. I’m all too familiar with how what seems to be an effective tool can become a crippling necessity from my experience with self harm. There were parts of that nightmare that at times felt as much like addiction as a horrendously flawed survival mechanism. I have no desire to revisit them. 

It’s not even as if I need alcohol to come up with ideas, as anyone who’s seen my brainstorming notes on Twitter can testify. The surreal and eye-catching tends to come easily (yay me!), and as one of my oldest friends once remarked: my humour is insidious in how it tends to creep up behind you, tap you on the shoulder, and then summon dread Cthulhu to tapdance in your cerebellum. I have no idea quite what they meant, but it sounds hilariously squamous.

Incidentally, my counsellor agreed I don’t have a drinking problem, problematic drinking, or even a difficult relationship with alcohol. We will no doubt be spending more time on why I feel the need to worry about the possibility and what it says about my self-confidence in continuing to recover. Either that or I’ll engage in sarcastic diversion tactics while she skewers me with painfully direct observations that send me spinning after my own tail. Well, as I said to someone recently: I do appear to be the human incarnation of a labrador at times…

Uneasy Malaise

My enthusiasm and joie de vivre are both pretty suppressed at the moment, and it’s taken me a while to compose my thoughts around recent events. The murders at Pulse in Orlando, and of Jo Cox MP in West Yorkshire are both resonating with me on two counts.

Firstly they both took place in or just outside what are generally considered as safe places. Gay clubs are often one of the few places where people can be themselves, especially if their families or neighbourhood are unsympathetic or outright opposed to their rights to even exist, let alone love who they love.

Libraries, despite what feels like a concerted assault by government, are community hubs serving everyone, helping those in need to help themselves with information, access to resources, and sometimes physical space to avoid a hostile outside world. Local and national politicians use them for surgeries because they know libraries are seen as a neutral meeting ground, and they go where people will feel safe enough to talk.

The second resonance comes because in each case, the perpetrators of the actual murders are being tarred with a variety of brushes to suit political ends. Mental illness has again been suggested as a factor in each crime, but at the same time there seems to be a reluctance to address whatever has triggered these horrific attacks.

On both sides of the Atlantic, rhetoric and hatred has been allowed to hijack public debate. Right wing media has joined in fanning dismay and prejudice, and the sad fact is that those of us who suffer from mental illness can find ourselves being even more sensitive to the outrage and bile than whoever cares to label themselves as ‘normal’.

In such a toxic mix of cheap outrage and manufactured hatred, it’s not hugely surprising that some people snap. Whether it’s due to self-loathing and feelings of powerlessness, an inability or unwillingness to ask deeper questions, or someone planting a seductively easy target in front of them in their confusion, there’s only so much frenzy that people can let slide off their shoulders before they begin to identify with it.

The real shame is that those peddling the hate won’t see that they’ve done harm, or do anything to change their ways. It’ll all just get used to justify the next wave of distorted crap that sells us all down the river.

So you’ll excuse my lack of humour at the moment I hope. Normal chirpy facemasks will be resumed in due course. Your challenge, should you accept it, is to see what you can do to level the playing fields and do some good in the world. What are you waiting for?

International Rescue

There are times when my counsellor looks at me, raises an eyebrow, and struggles to sigh, grin, and stay composed all at the same time. It usually happens when I’ve been putting other people’s needs ahead of my own for an extended period of time, and I’m looking a bit ragged around the edges.

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The last week or so has been one of those rollercoaster events, coupled with overtime at the library and an extra influx of articles, so suffice to say I’m enjoying a weekend of doing not much and curling up with Lady M.

The recent troubles arose out of events in Lady G’s life (she who has also been dubbed Lady M-to-be by the current and ex-Lady Ms. Pay attention, there may be a test later). Domestic life in her household has not been going smoothly, and all of us in her social circle have been increasingly concerned by the behaviours of her partner – especially those of us who have been in emotionally abusive relationships in the past.

This came to a head last Sunday when some of us were down the pub. I received a message from Lady G that her partner had accused her of being an alcoholic, and that none of her friends liked her when she was drunk.

Having supported people battling with drugs and alcohol, I can tell you categorically right now that she is not an alcoholic.

I showed the message to the assembled throng, and my favourite Valkyries (Ladies M and P) rose from our game of Cards Against Humanity, grabbed the car keys, and drove round to Lady G’s house to kidnap rescue her for the afternoon. A very pleasant afternoon and evening then followed, as we reinforced our support, love, friendship, and care for her while continuing the game.

We dropped her home later, and stayed on standby to rescue her if things turned nasty. She ended up coming over to the flat the next day and staying over. A number of in-jokes based on comments made in arguments have now gained currency in our group, and while she is back home and her partner pretending nothing has happened, she is thinking things through.

This of course is the frustration any of us feel when we see someone in a bad situation, where they are being acidicly undermined and made to lose their self confidence. The urge to leap in and rescue someone can feel overwhelming, but the only person who can resolve things is Lady G herself.

It is hard to watch, but we are all supporting her with kind words, jokes, and counter arguments to what she is being told by her partner.  How will things turn out? Well that depends on what makes Lady G happy I guess.

Some Thanks

There are a number of people who, over the last few weeks, have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help and support us, and this post is simply to say thank you. You know who you are and what you have done or said or messaged that has lifted our spirits or provided tangible assistance.

It is no exaggeration to say that this is one of the most gruelling experiences that we’ve had to cope with – and there are elements of it that I just won’t write about right now because they are so raw. There have been, as predicted by a number of people, some upsetting revelations on a couple of fronts and those aren’t helping the general stresses of this sort of situation either, but the voices of support on all sides really are making a huge difference in how Lady M and I are dealing with things.

Thank You.

A Week Of Woe

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The last week has, frankly, been awful – which is why I’ve not been updating recently. Instead we’ve been mostly on the road and living on caffeine and bloody-mindedness.

Lady M’s father had been rushed into hospital after a fall, but we learned in the early hours of Wednesday morning that he was in critical condition and the hospital was advising us to come in. The hospital in question was in North Tees, and we live on the outskirts of London – so with very little sleep or time for preparation we threw stuff into a bag, wrote texts to assorted people who needed to know, and hit the road.

As of today, he is still in a critical condition with multiple system failures, on life support and non-stop dialysis, and we’ve had to make the heartrending decision to come home and try and carry on with life while the specialists try to work out if he has any chance of recovery. We’re expecting sooner rather than later to get a fresh call to return and say goodbye, but we also know how tough and stubborn he is so who knows how this will end? The specialists aren’t taking bets, so we’re not either.

I use humour to get through and past the trials of life, but between this, my own slightly precarious health and the problems of the people I love, that humour is pretty thinly stretched at the moment.