Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ducks, Dialogue and Deliberation

The word of the week is fulminate.

Feb 1 – Anxiety

This was a bad week; in fact, a bad two weeks.

Nothing bad happened, mind you, but rather my internals, my personal balance, is all out of whack.

In a word: I'm anxious - badly so.

Last week was just a preview for this one, unfortunately. The almost-panic attack then has blossomed into an ugly, week-long( so far )full-blown I-Am-Unsure-About-Everything state, which is a first for me. With all that I've gone through over the years, I've never felt like this, and I don't know how to deal with it.

Which is why I've sought help, and kept up a continuous dialogue with myself about all the MANY positives in my life. I'm fairly certain it's not depression, but rather that clever, sneaking beast called Doubt, whose cousin Anxiety has taken up a firm roost in my body, to where I feel shaky, weak and tired all the time.

I'm eating properly, as far as I can tell, though the lack of exercise as a contributing factor is a concern - I'm doing stairs( lightly )at home to build up slowly to where I was 2 years ago, cycling 400km/ month.

It's harder with the mental state. My subconscious seems to have latched onto the idea that 2016 is going to Break me financially, rather than Make me, and that - I think - is the source of my mental fog and Anxiety.

I've always faced my problems, and in that sense, this is no different, except my body's responding to my massive uncertainty with a form of 'Fight or Flight' which isn't helping. It's bad enough that I'm taking St. John's Wort every day, in the hope that it will work as it did in the past to steady me until I can see my doctor next week to discuss further options - if needed.

Not a great start to 2016; I have a lot to do... but I can't DO if I'm a mess.

Feb 2 – Groundhog Day

This year, watching my favorite film was especially poignant.

My girlfriend asked to watch it with me.

By now, I would hope that most of you are familiar with Groundhog Day, the movie, starring Bill Murray. If not, make a point of watching it soon, preferably with people you care about and in a receptive frame of mind about a positive future. That's how I've always seen it.

There's been much written about the film over the years since it was released, by people from all walks of life and all philosophies. I have read quite a few of them myself, and most are quite positive about the messages that the film presents in its themes. It's a rare review that I read where something surprises me.

So that's why I liked this review, as it posits some interesting thoughts about the movie and life in general - it's worth a read, but only if you've seen the film.

Watching the film with my girlfriend was wonderful. In all my previous blog post about Groundhog Day, I speak about the film's message of self-improvement, of finding the truths about yourself and not shying from change for the better. I've always felt that this theme, along with others the film embodies, speaks directly to my own progression as a person in the face of adversity in my life.

Which is why watching it with someone so close to my heart is so special tonight.

Feb 3 – Comment Spam

Let's make things a little lighter here, and talk about spam.

Not the delicious meat-like substance often referenced by Monty Python, but that other disgusting thing that nobody ever wants to deal with: electronic spam.

It's not as bad as it used to be, that's for sure. According to recent estimates, while the number of spam e-mails sent out daily has increased exponentially into the billions, only a few of those ever get through modern e-mail filters to end up in a person' Inbox. As I'm one of the most careful people want it comes to giving out my e-mail address, I hardly get anything anymore that doesn't automatically get popped into my spam folder, which is a far cry from the dozens I used to get per day even 10 years ago.

However, the rise of social media has also meant the rise of another fiendish spam-related trend: Comment Spam.

I'm sure you've seen it on social media, such as FBook: the more popular pages such as IFLScience or Marvel usually have hundreds of comments on every post, and such are ripe territory for spam commenters, like this one:

It's frustrating, though not the end of the world, to be scrolling through the comments and constantly see the same thing over and over again - spam. Unfortunately, the accounts spamming in the comments are almost always fake and disappear within a few hours, their spammy task complete.

I actually spent some time tonight trying to determine how many comments were actually spam by going back to some of the most popular page posts soon after a new post appeared and seeing how many comments had been deleted in total. On some pages, 50 comments had initially appeared and when I returned 5-10 minutes later, there were only a few dozen comments; the rest, being spam, had been deleted by the administrators. That's a lot of spam.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot that can be done about it currently, save to block the spamming accounts and hope for the best; FBook has no spam filters, most likely because that would allow users to block advertising and since that's how FBook makes their money, it won't be feasible.

So it seems that spam will be with us for a while longer; better get used to the taste.

Feb 4 – Bad Call

Today was a trigger day for me, it seems.

Everything at work was going smoothly. As always, my coworkers are wonderful: good at their jobs, great people and extremely supportive in getting the job done and often defer to me or ask my opinion on decisive matters. My bosses' boss makes it a point to tell me I'm amazing at least once a day( and she means it )while my team lead takes pains to ensure that he discusses everything relevant to how the team is doing with me on a regular basis, to show how important I am to keeping things running smoothly.

It's a magnificent place to work, the best I've ever had or could hope for.

Which is why I wasn't prepared for a phone call I received this afternoon, one that was so out of the blue extraordinary that it floored me internally.

I can't discuss the details, but it wasn't anything personal to do with me: rather it was emotion-packed to the point where my empathetic subconscious self was stunned in a short time and I think didn't recover.

Long story short: it triggered more anxiety later on today, and the following day as well. I can think about it logically all I like, but inside me is a quivering emotional child who's not been able to deal with it on top of everything else of late. To say that this call came at a bad time is selfish, in a way, but it certainly had an impact on me that I couldn't control, given how I've been feeling of late.

Fortunately( yes, I can still use that word here ) it meant that I could speak to the anxiety I've been feeling, as well as having a talking point to express my difficulty to my boss. To show how great a place it is that I work, I was asked the next day into a debriefing about the call, expressly to discuss how I handle the situation and my recommendations on such. It was made clear to me that they thought it most fortunate that I had received the call, as nobody else in the office would have been able to handle it as well as I did - at least, initially, that is.

In any case, it also put my problems in perspective. While I do it knowledge that I've been having some severe anxiety issues this week, they pale in comparison to what's going on in other people's lives and I think that perspective is important for me to remember. Not to downgrade my own problems, but to assist in putting my own anxieties in perspective about what my future may hold and what I can do about it.

Feb 5 – Poetry

This was my second Friday in a row that I spent listening to poetry - nice!

My lady and I went out to the long-running Planet Earth Poetry series, which meets at Hillside Coffee on a weekly basis for a few hours every Friday. I didn't know that Planet Earth Poetry is highly regarded in poetry circles across Canada and internationally, or that some of the poets who read tonight travel great distances to be here for a few hours.

The poetry tonight was wonderful, with an open-mic session for the first 45 minutes that saw a collection of new and new-ish poets strut their stuff verbally for the crowd of several dozen poets and appreciators. I quickly realized that my own poetry, as naturally as it comes to my mind, is an area where much work is needed in order to ascend to the level of some of these folk, whose work was splendid.

Then the featured poets took the stage, and their words were magic.

I especially liked Missie Peters, a Victoria-based spoken-word poet. Her selections were splendidly simple, focusing on how we use our modern-day language. One piece in particular tickled my fancy when she mentioned laserdiscs, in terms of obselesence; what a wondrous thing to hear in context to my own recent explorations!

Definitely a good night, that lifted me above myself for a while: poetic, in every sense.

Feb 6 – Secret Of Kells

How could I not know this film existed???

Many years ago, my mother told me about the Book of Kells, a richly illuminated medieval manuscript that is Ireland's greatest cultural treasure. Its pages contain art that is the pinnacle of the illuminators craft, beautiful enough to take one's breath away with its colors, shapes and rich hand-wrought detail.

The same can be said about the 2009 film The Secret Of Kells, whose visual tapestry is rich enough to bring tears to one's eye as you watch it. I had to pause numerous times, just to savor some of the individual frames that appeared on the screen, like this one:

Click for the HD version!

This is a film that begs to be enjoyed on multiple levels, to be savored for its story, its characters and its visuals all at once - then again separately, and again, and again. A person could, perhaps, watch it once or twice a year and see how long you can make it through the film before you have to pause it to admire a particular visual frame.

I think I'll be adding this one to my movie collection sooner rather than later and definitely in high definition BuRay - it would be a crime to watch it any other way. It was a soothing and uplifting experience, one I will probably repeat again next week, and perhaps the week after that - I enjoyed it that much.

Have a listen to the music, and enjoy:

Feb 7 – Dialogue

Talking helps. So does walking.

I went for a walk today after lunch, in the cool winter afternoon with the sun hiding like a dim light behind the clouds - it did peak out now and then, which I thought was nice.

I haven't been for a walk to Beacon Hill Park for a while, not since the fall season, I think. The grass is still green, though there's quite a lot of muddy bits and squishy parts underfoot if you don't keep to the more solid pathways and walks.

There were quite a lot of ducks, more than I thought there would be this time of year:

While there wasn't a profusion of flowers, there were many rows of hardy blooms shining under the occasional drift of sunlight to add some color to the dull brown of the earthen beds they were rooted in. As well, a new art installation had just been completed, which was stunning; called the Mossy Lady, she sleeps softly:

Later in the evening, after a restless afternoon of anxious thought, I made a phone call to my parents and the conversation ended up including talk of my anxiety and what can be done about it. To my surprise( and it shouldn't have been, really; my parents are wonderful people )we came up with several solutions and helped alleviate my somewhat off-base assumptions of what could be done for me personally and financially both. Having been the person in the family who always had to take care of things for the longest time when no one else could, it hadn't occurred to me that this wasn't one of those situations based on how the last year or two have gone for us all.

Long Story Short: a good number of my worries have been laid to rest tonight. It may take some time for my subconscious to process things, but I'll just keep repeating the simple truths until it has no other choice but to acknowledge the fact that there's now much less to be anxious about them when I woke up this morning.

Not everything is a certainty, certainly, but I'll sleep far better tonight, I know now.

This is been an exhausting week for me, emotionally and mentally, one of the worst in many years in some ways. Writing the blog tonight after speaking to my parents, I feel as though the dark tunnel of my immediate future has become far more transparent and brighter. Though it will still be a tedious journey, I don't feel now as though something is chasing me along the tunnel and I'm not moving fast enough to escape it, but rather that something good is waiting for me at its end, which is nearer than I had hoped since 2016 began.