The Aspiring Writer

“I think I want to get into writing.”

“I’ve been working on a novel myself actually.”

“Oh, really? How long have you been working on it for?”

“A few years.”

“I only started this whole writing thing a few months ago. Nearly finished, then?”

“Fortunately, not that much. It’s in the early beta stages but I’ll get there. I need to do some more aspiring before I get to the writing.”

“Don’t you want to get it done?”

“No. That’s the best part. I am an aspiring writer. Not a writer. I don’t have to do any of the hard work but I’ll still look like I am. I can just say I’m working on it and by that I mean procrastinating.”

“Working means procrastinating in your world?”

“Yes it does. Working is procrastinating since it gives all the benefits without any of the honesty. My novel is really grand. It’s a story of a protagonist who is best friends with his opposite and gets jealous of how successful he is. The protagonist is me. The friend is imaginary just like my real life ones.”

“This is getting quite personal. Sorry if I’ve awoken any demons here…”

“Oh no, that’s fine. My demons are visible for everyone to see. In fact, I’ll probably write about them some day.”

“I hope you get round to that.”

“So do I. I’m sure it’d be a great read.”

“I’m not looking to write a novel. I think I want to write a children’s book.”

“I couldn’t do that within any deadline.”

“It’s going to be about a girl who wants to be a comedian but her parents thinks she’s too pretty to be funny. Then she’ll try making herself as ugly as possible by painting her face and wearing her brother’s clothes all the time.”

“Haha, sounds like a fun story”

“Thank you very much. I really hope it makes a statement about gender roles in society because it really needs to be said. But in a more light-hearted manner”

“When will you release your Magnum Opus to the world?”

“Oh I have no idea. I’ve just been busy.”

“Ah yes, that pesky busy-ness that seems to plague all of us. What are we even busy with? Coffees and ‘work’?”

“Don’t mock what I’m saying. I’ve just been busy – it’s on the back burner.”

“I get busy too. Facebook and twitter are just so blue. Like my feelings lately. Writing is just so torturous.”

“But you don’t write? You just ‘aspire’.”

“Yes, that’s what I meant. Thinking about writing is so torturous I don’t do any of it. It makes it less like torture and more like a romanticized struggle between pen, paper and a fleeting mind”

“It can’t be that difficult, can it?”

“Oh it really is. You just have to trust me. Are you going to finish your cake by the way?”

“No, please, help yourself. Can you continue the thought about struggles?”

“Yes I will. Just couldn’t pass up on a lonely triple chocolate muffin. Anyway, in its simplest form, I think a lot of my work is going to be rubbish so I don’t write anything. It gives me the excuse to hold onto the idealised form in my head and reminisce in what could have been had I actually had the desire to sit down and write.”

“Hmm. My work might be terrible and that’s really scary.”

“All aspiring writers know that it’s meant to be scary. We’ve all read On Writing by Stephen King a few times and still don’t want to face that fear. I certainly don’t. That’s not in my job description.”

“I’m not an aspiring writer. I’m a writer! And I haven’t even read On Writing. I read a lot of children’s books and cartoons for inspiration.”

“Sorry for offending you. I just thought that since you haven’t actually done any writing but say you want to, you’re an aspiring writer.”

“I’m far different from you.”

“You definitely are. Your hair is brown.”

“I mean about this whole writing thing. I’m actually going to write and you’ve made it very clear you don’t even want to.”

“OK, OK. I’ll believe you. You really want to write but don’t write.”

“Because I’m busy.”

“You’re busy.”

“I really am. I have a job.”

“So do I. You’re not too good at this whole spot the differences thing.”

“I’ve always wanted to write sto-“

“Write stories and books and even plays ever since I could remember.”

“Don’t be so rude. You know what I mean.”

“Apparently I don’t.”

“No. You don’t. Writing makes me feel like an armless, legless-“

“-man with a crayon in my mouth. Pity. I don’t want to feel like that.”

“And you never will since you don’t write.”

“Perfect.”

“I’m quite tired and should get going. I have some things to do. I think I’ll start my children’s book today. You’ve inspired me.”

“No no, I aspire. Not inspire.”

“I’ll get started tonight and send you my first draft.”

“I wish you the best of luck. You’ll need it as an armless, legless man. Do you want my email, twitter or anything?”

“When I finish it, I’ll find you.”

“I’m confident you won’t.”

“Find you or finish it?”

“Both.”

“Enjoy your aspiring.”

“Enjoy yours too.”

“I’m a writer.”

“And sooooo am I.”

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Living with Chronic Pain

I’ve been trying to put into words what it’s like for me to live with chronic pain for a while now. It’s quite difficult to explain living with chronic pain beyond ‘it’s difficult’ without seeming overdramatic. However, I think it’s worth having a go. I’m going to split this into three parts.

  1. My motivation for writing about it
  2. What the problem is and how it came to be
  3. Chronic pain and me

If you want the main portion of the article, skip to the third section. The other two are brief and largely explanatory.

For those who don’t know, chronic pain is usually defined as pain that’s continued for over 3 to 6 months. Everyone experiences it with different levels of intensity and react to it in different ways. With that being said, this post will be completely personal to me. However, I hope it’s still useful if not entertaining.

My motivation for writing about it

I find writing therapeutic. Trying to write my thoughts out in a clear manner is helpful even if the result isn’t always particularly successful. I’ve made a few efforts to understand what I feel about the illness. They haven’t made it very far since my initial reaction tends to be nothing more than frustration towards it.

However, what could be more important than that is giving an insight into the issue to other people. The reason why this is important is not because I desire a flood of sympathy. It’s because a simple understanding of various illnesses, disabilities and limitations prevents prejudice and judgement formed due to ignorance. Not everyone has learned to withhold quick judgements so it’s useful to educate where I can instead of feeling victimised which will result in an even worse attitude towards the problem.

What the problem is and how it came to be

My medical problem is somewhat complex and boring to explain but I’ll try to keep it short. I won’t run through a detailed timeline of the issue.

The large majority of my pain comes from my back injury that was sustained about 5 years ago playing rugby. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. In reality, I don’t remember getting hit in a bad way or a specific moment where all the back pain came from. It just steadily got worse until I had to stop playing the sport. I have slipped discs in my upper back that rest on my spinal cord which slightly complicates the issue a bit more.

I still use a walking stick because my right leg is weak because of my back problems. More recently, I’ve also found that my hips are a bit rubbish so that’s affected my walking also.

Chronic pain and me

My relationship with my pain has changed a fair amount over the five plus years that I’ve had to experience it. It’s moved from apathy to anger to optimism which is sometimes marred by pessimism. To say it’s been a smooth ride would only be dishonest. Sometimes I wish that I could keep the bright optimism that I once had but of course, the experience has to change the longer I live with it. It’s the human thing to do.

In the first two years or so of my injury, it’d be best to describe my feelings towards the pain as positive.  Yes, I was in pain for most of the time, but that doesn’t matter too much. I’ll get better soon because it isn’t meant to be a very long term problem. The saying ‘other people have it worse so I’m fine’ often found itself in my justifications for why I was still happy. In some cases, I’d feel bad for complaining about the pain because in perspective, while my condition may have been worse than my friends and family, in the larger scheme of things, I was pretty lucky. After all, I could still see, eat good food and laugh. I couldn’t do sport or do things I enjoyed for as long as I’d like. But that was fine. I’d just adapt and slowly get better.

This reminds me of the time when I was stretching in class and my history teacher quickly remarked ‘it looks like you’re dancing!’ to which I later thought, since all good thoughts happen in the shower after the actual event, then invite me to the chronic pain disco! At the time, I laughed and continued to read whatever I was reading at the time. Such comments didn’t really make me feel isolated or worse off because of what I was experiencing. I just didn’t need to feel singled out because I was in pain all the time.

As I grew older, I began to view my pain in a different way. I went from a phase of using perspective to make myself feel better to feeling frustrated and sad.

The longer the pain lasted, the greater my feelings of frustration and hopelessness became. After two years or so, my optimism slowly began to crack and one of my most poignant fears revealed itself to me.

This pain is normal.

That might sound odd coming from a person who had already experienced it for far longer than necessary. Why had it taken so long for this to happen? If it’s normal, doesn’t this mean I can now live a more fulfilling life around the pain?

To the first, I’ll answer with a brief story. I went to my doctor for a check up on the most recent MRI scan I had taken. As is rare with pretty much every person in existence, I remember going to the hospital happy and hopeful. It was possible I’d be told there was a great improvement in my condition and I’d get some kind of timeline for when I could expect all of this to end. Almost as wonderful as being told two hour lecture would end early. I sat down and after a discussion of how useless my doctor finds my Philosophy degree dressed up in backhanded compliments, I was told that there wasn’t a difference in the scans that I had taken months ago. He’ll see me again in a year and hopefully there will be a difference then. When I got home, the frustration of being told such a disheartening thing resulted in me kicking a hole in my door. (Almost shocking from the guy who enjoys writing a lot about the value of meditation, right?)

Following from that moment, I guess it dawned on me that I could be stuck like this for a while. I could no longer fight it by comparing it to people who were worse off than me. I lost the comfort of genuinely being ok with my situation. I had to begin the arduous process of accepting my condition.

To the last question, yes and no. Realising the pain is normal has led me to improve some areas of my life. For example, I started meditation much earlier than I probably would have in an attempt to find more peace with my pain. Studying, by necessity, had to become much more efficient otherwise I would never get anything done on time. Such skills have spilled over to other areas of my life since being like this has simply motivated me to learn more about how I can improve myself and get back on a normal level playing field.

As you have hopefully guessed, the positives comes with its negatives. Realising the pain is normal has highlighted the fact that being in pain every day and tired as a consequence of that shouldn’t be normal for a 19 year old. With the pain being such a large part of my everyday life, my feelings of loss likes to tap me on the shoulder then punch me in the face. “You can’t go out with friends without being in pain!” “Can you walk around university without feeling tired and frustrated every single day? Of course not.” “Let’s be real, I took away parts of your teenage hood and I’m fine with it.”

Well, that’s what it would say if my feelings could talk like they were separate people. Instead, I’m faced with the wonderful task of reminding myself of those facts. It leads to a strange situation of trying to toe the line between self-loathing and blaming something on my pain. My situation has taken away small freedoms that I usually would take for granted and they’ve cumulated to restrict me greatly. Being able to work on something I enjoy is frequently marred by pain that hinders my concentration. Working on an essay takes far longer than I think it should because I’m too tired to work for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Even not being in pain is interrupted by the knowledge that it will come back. It leads to feeling extremely guilty for resting during those periods instead of making the most of it. Simply living my days without pain in mind was taken away.

Far too often, I fall on the side of self-loathing. I blame myself for things I know are not completely in my control. I get angry when I can’t complete something on time because of the pain. Why can’t I just work through it? Man up and get it done.

As much as I try, I cannot. I try to convince myself I can but it results in anger and disappointment. I’m unable to just brush past the pain even though it’s so familiar. Despite the pain being a regular occurrence in my life, it definitely hasn’t lost its potency. In a way, this familiar thing always feels new. It’s as powerful now as it was when we first became acquaintances.

Following closely from this is the indefinite nature of the whole thing. As I mentioned earlier in my brief story, I was told to wait by my doctor. Years later, I’m still waiting. I haven’t been told any kind of timeline for when I can expect my condition to get better nor have I been told it’s permanent. Given that information, I’ve tried a large variety of things to cope with or fix the problem but none have shown themselves as a solution to it. How many times need I answer the question of when can I expect to get better with “I have no idea”? Having to say that to other people and myself has proven to become a huge emotional burden. Maybe part of me has become tired with it all. Dealing with it day in and day out not actually knowing when it’s going to end has sometimes driven me to the point where I’d rather just disappear. Not die, but no longer exist so I finally have some rest.

If I’ve made it to this point, what could I be waiting for? It’s been years and an end doesn’t look to be approaching any time soon. I’m waiting for it to get better. I’ll eventually be free from the pain, worry about regular things and enjoy my days like I should have been for the past few years. My optimism has not failed completely. Even during the times where I’ve felt the most depressed. This problem is very difficult but I have valuable positives to take from it. I’ve become much more involved with personal development. Helping myself and (hopefully) other people become better and find peace with themselves is wonderful. I have wonderful friends and family with colourful life experiences who have and continue to bring joy to my days. I have a place to talk about this where people will listen so what I have written won’t be greeted with silence.

And finally, I’m still here.

Chronic pain for the most part is silent. One needn’t grimace all the time if she’s in pain nor does she need to cry when she gets home. She can just have the pain and live with it.

For those who have suffered in the past or currently are dealing with the problem of chronic pain, I hope that your relationship with it doesn’t become one of hate or anger. Of course, it’s terribly difficult to remain the happiest person in the world when you feel the suffering is so potent, meaningless and unfair. However, if it’s something we are to live with temporarily or permanently, that time, hopefully, won’t be of complete despair.

Unfortunately, I cannot give any professional advice on dealing with chronic pain but I do invite others to share any experiences they may have had with such issues. Perhaps we can help each other. For those who know someone else suffering from chronic pain, I can say the least one can do is to offer a warm smile and helpful hand if they need it. Depending on the length and severity of the pain, the relationship with it can change quite substantially. Chronic pain is just as emotional as is it physical.

In a way, writing this post has exposed a vulnerability I could have hidden but chose not to. Sharing my experience with it may have helped or you might simply know me slightly better now.

Whatever you may have gained from this, thanks for reading. It’s greatly appreciated.

Pigeons

I was waiting from my train after my mentoring session and saw two pigeons. I assumed they were just completing part of their daily routine.Walk around and look for food, fly around and look at a few sights, poop on people going to important interviews for good luck and entertain small children by flying away.

I saw them picking at two of bread crusts on the floor. They both seemed pretty enthusiastic so they must have been hungry.

Of the two pigeons, one was more aggressive than the other. Similar to David and Goliath but they were pigeons and David has no chance of winning the battle at all. I’ll call the dominant pigeon Goliath and the more submissive one, David.

Goliath had the bigger piece while David ate the smaller piece. Oddly enough, I smiled a lot at this fact even though it was bound to happen because pigeons aren’t known for their sharing.

However, something that struck me as more interesting was that they both had the same problems. David and Goliath both failed to keep control of their food. Every bite they took resulted in the food flying in the air for a brief second as they lifted their head to swallow the bread. Then they would walk around, nodding their heads, to find the piece of bread.

Goliath finished his food first and stole David’s piece. It looked like an armed robbery but that wouldn’t describe the power imbalance. David accepted his fate. He walked away, nodding his head, and began picking at smaller crumbs on the floor. He looked slightly dejected but the other pigeon didn’t care. He was clearly enjoying his food too much.

My train came and they started walking in opposite directions. Were they scared of being seen together? Possibly. I didn’t see them together after that. Goliath actually flew away to increase the distance between them. Perhaps it was a mistake to think they bonded over those two pieces of bread.

After all of that, I looked at my watch and saw that whole experience was only 5 minutes . I was one of two people at the train station but the only one laughing at pigeons eating food. The person next to me may have thought I was odd but that didn’t matter.

I was entertained by pigeons and that’s ok.

They enjoyed their food and I enjoyed my wait for the train.

Why am I writing about pigeons?

It was a very simple moment and allowed me to appreciate the beauty of living in the present.

A lot of small and surprisingly interesting things happen when you just observe your surroundings. If I battled the boredom-induced anxiety with my phone, I would have missed this! The David and Goliath of pigeons! Who would want to miss that? No one? Perfect answer.

Try living in the present sometime. It can be very relaxing.

How to become a Famous Philosopher

So you’ve stumbled upon this post in the hopes of becoming a famous philosopher. I’ll teach you how to reach that goal.

If you don’t want to become a famous philosopher then carry on reading anyway. You’re here, so why not. You should because the philosopher God says so and he exists because he says he does. Now we have that logical correction out of the way, we’ll continue.

Things you’ll need to improve your chances: 

  • Notable facial hair (e.g. moustache, eyebrows)
  • A beard is even better
  • Good arguments (less important)

Ok, let’s begin. If you want to be a famous philosopher, you just need to follow some steps. None of which are too difficult. Just follow the examples of others!

Neitzsche’s father died before he was ten and his brother died at the age of two

Sartre suffered the same fate too

Before he could talk, he had to say to his father ‘adieu’

Pascal’s father died when was seven

Hegel’s mother died when he was eleven

But at least they could change your world view

Here’s a new philosopher in the mix

Spinoza’s mother died when he was six

And his big book called Ethics was a bag of confusing tricks

This poem has no regular rhyme scheme

But J S Mill must have wanted to scream!

He went through severe depression due to an unhealthy obsession

from the father who wanted Mill to continue his greatest passion

Instead of living the philosopher’s dream

But here’s something that isn’t out of fashion

Erasmus’ parents died when he was seventeen

Good thing Nozick hadn’t created the ultimate utility machine

Bertrand Russell was an Earl

But Wittgenstein gave away his right to a servant girl

Kierkegaard was wealthy

But his siblings were very unhealthy

This is all very sad

But surely it can’t be all bad?

What about Rousseau, Descartes and Hume ?

Descartes was friends with the evil demon of doom

Rousseau lost his mother when he was only 9 days out of the womb

At two, David Hume saw his dad enter the tomb

If you don’t have all of this on your side

But still want to become a philosopher full of pride

There’s one thing they all had in common without fail

They are all white, dead middle-aged males!

***

I’m not trying to become a poet laureate. I just read too much about philosophers. If you really want to become a famous philosopher, ask Plato.

I finally did it

Today we were taking pictures. I never liked looking at them because I thought I looked weird. My mum always told me the camera adds 10 pounds but it made my hair messy and stained my shirt. Today would be different because I was going to look like my dad in his pictures. Time to look the part.

I started to get dressed and made sure to button up my shirt properly. I checked it three times because I was always left with missing buttons somehow but it was correct this time. I was making progress and that’s all that matters.

But then came the most difficult part. My tie.

My dad always did it for me and once tried to teach me. It never really worked out because I was always ended up tying my hands together or not doing anything at all.

I held both ends of the tie in my hand, stood in front of the mirror and tried to recreate the magic. It was difficult but eventually I had something resembling a knotted tie.

I did it all by myself. This was the time I became a man.

Me. The manliest man of them all. I was extremely proud of myself. I ran downstairs  and showed my dad how I got dressed all by myself  with the biggest grin on my face. He started laughing then told my mum to look at me. She thought I looked amazing in my school uniform.

I was ready to take pictures. No one could ruin my hair or mess up my shoes because I was on top of the world.

That was truly exciting. School that day was special to me. It was the day I said goodbye to depending on my parents and hello to my first day as a man.

My next step is to grow a beard just like my dad.

***

This is a response to a prompt about excitement. I just wanted to post something since I haven’t been consistent with posting in the past two weeks. Sorry if it seems rushed or you now hate ties.

I tried cooking my sister

I found the small stool I used to reach the sink when I brush my teeth and placed it down in front of me. I could now reach everything I needed. The fiery circles mum puts the pots on, the big wooden spoons and carrots. I climbed on top of the counter and put everything I needed in front of me.

Then I saw her. She thought smiling and kicking her feet would change her fate but not today. She took all of mum’s attention by screaming and crying whenever she felt like it. I no longer had story time because mum was too tired from looking after her all day. She also got more presents than me last Christmas.

Today that would all change.

I tried to make the fiery circles work. I didn’t know all of the dials and buttons mum used to make it work. It looked like a spaceship and I didn’t have any training for that so I had to find another way to complete my plan.

I walked over to my sister and tried to pick her up. I thought babies were meant to be small? Carrying her felt like the holding all my school books at once. I didn’t want to hurt her so I put her down and she stumbled her way into the kitchen.

I opened the oven and she gleefully climbed in. I put the carrots in for flavour since that’s what happens in all the movies and waited.

My mum warned me against having cookies when she wasn’t around but she was sleeping this time – so it was kind of ok, right? I thought so. I climbed onto the counter and tried opening the cupboard where she kept them but the worst thing possible happened. They fell onto the floor.

She shot up from her bed, rushed downstairs and caught me staring at the cookie jar that was smashed to pieces. I tried running past her but she blocked the doorway and asked me where my sister was.

My plan was falling apart.

After she took my sister out of the oven, I ran upstairs to hide under the covers in the hope that she’d forget about everything. She didn’t.

I expected to hear “You’re grounded forever!” or “You’re never allowed to eat in this house again!” Instead she walked into my room and said:

“You didn’t turn the oven on.”

I wasn’t allowed any cookies for a whole week.

***

26/08/13: This also relates to a daily prompt :) However, I’m not sure I would call myself a comedian.

Weekly Writing Challenge: I remember

The clouds were dark and a soft breeze stroked the grass. Maybe it would rain. The weather was unpredictable but right now; it was perfect. I took a slow jog out of the changing room, heard the familiar cheer of my teammates behind me and the daunting stare of my coach greeted me at the top of the pitch. He never said much, but his general stance gave me an impression of fear, respect and comfort.

He wished our team luck and we went on our way to play one of the most important matches of the year.

It started as a high energy encounter. Both teams fought for that oval shaped ball as if their lives depended on it. There was blood, shouting from the small crowd of friends and parents, encouragement from friends. Most importantly, I was on top of the world. Running towards the try line with only winning on my mind gave me a feeling that I cannot replicate. I felt at peace despite being among so much destruction.

Peace among destruction. A wonderful state I have yet to experience again. One poor tackle made that so. I was left to watch the match on the sideline in pain as I struggled to walk again.

It took a few months to understand what had happened. But I’m reminded of it everyday. One of the most important matches of the year turned into the most significant match of my life.

I wasn’t to play the sport again.

***

I wasn’t expecting that to be my second post but it was an interesting challenge. You can get a lot done in ten minutes! Do you have any important memories you want to share?

Here is a link to the challenge.