Monday, February 6, 2012

Eight things I loved about January

~8~ Reading: I mentioned in a previous post that I've been reading quite a bit more lately, thanks to the fact my parents gave me a Kindle for Christmas. There's something silly about the fact I wrote a book for Kindle more than a year ago but did not actually own one of the devices until just recently. After initially thinking e-readers were an awful idea (when my mother first asked me about them roughly a decade ago) I have now become so in their favour that I feel exasperated by those who express opposition to the technology.
I'm not one to think that the beloved old paper-bound book will ever cease to exist, but I don't hold any ridiculous emotional attachment to a book's smell or feel or taste or whatever the hell it is that e-book detractors lament the absence of. To me, a book is not a physical experience. If I want to touch and feel something, I prefer it to be a lady. The words are all that really matter to me, so I am happy for them to exist on a small device that fits easily into my backpack. I realise I may be in a minority on this in particular, but I have always thoroughly disliked the actual feel of books.
"Turning pages has always felt creepy," I mentioned to Jenn recently.
She just laughed at me.
Like a lot of people with e-readers, I find myself now reading more as a result of owning one. I don't quite understand why this is. I suppose one reason is that I am able to prop the reader up and continue reading whilst eating a meal. I had never figured a good way to eat whilst reading a physical book. I had trouble keeping the book on the right page without the assistance of some sort of weight, then, once I balanced everything perfectly, turning the page would require putting down the sandwich/barbecue rib/fried dolphin/etc. I was eating, wiping my hands, turning the page, and re-positioning everything all over again.
Now I need only keep a pinky clean to be able to advance the story. Hooray progress.
Admittedly, there are some drawbacks: an e-reader will come out worse if thrown from the top of a house or if left in the polar regions; an e-reader makes a less functional place marker at a coffee shop (a thief is unlikely to take your physical copy of Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna, but would be happy to walk off with a Kindle); and some vane, self-involved part of me laments that I am not able to put the books I've read onto a shelf so as to impress house guests. But perhaps rows and rows of books written by professional wrestlers wouldn't be all that impressive anyway.

~8~ Writing: My recent increase in literary input seems to have had a positive effect on my output. In January, slowly -- frustratingly slowly -- I found myself tapping out more words. I have begun to work in earnest on a book titled Tales of a Toffee-Covered Llama. You may have noticed, as well, a slight uptick in the number of blog posts.
I am frustrated by my slowness, though -- frustrated by the fact I am not as prolific as I used to be (nor, I feel, as witty).
But it is something.
I've suffered a kind of on-off comfortable writer's block since summer 2010, so it is not surprising I am this out of practise, that the ideas and phrases don't form as quickly as I know they can, and as I feel they should. In the moments I am honest with myself, I can admit I am still trying to pull my feet from that swamp. But in all other moments I feel frustrated; I get afraid I've lost my talent.
Still, it is something.
I am writing, and that is more like the person I want myself to be.

~8~ 'Rithmetic: I'm having to use some old-school misspelling to stick to the alliterative theme of this post. And by "arithmetic" what I actually mean is "finance." And it's not really something that I'm loving. But, January was a month in which I started to get a slight grasp on my currently woeful financial situation. The biggest step toward that was scrapping my car. That means I no longer have access to most of Wales, but it also means no longer carrying the burden of insurance, tax, MOT, maintenance and petrol. As I write this, I have just £6 in my current account but it is still early in the month -- my pittance from Welsh teaching has yet to arrive. So, I am assuming, hoping, that eventually this course of action will be of some benefit. In particular, I am hoping to see some kind of benefit in time to get Jenn a birthday present.

~8~ Resume: The reason I am in such financial dire straits, of course, is that I remain without full-time employment. The effect of this is overwhelming; I am being suffocated by a sense of uselessness, which makes me in turns despondent and bitterly angry. Frustratingly, I know the only way to break loose of all this misery is to get work, and the best way to get work is to not allow myself to be consumed by the misery.
Actually, let me clarify: It is not work that I want, but money. If I had money, there are plenty of things I could and would do to keep my mind, body and spirit busy. But I don't have money, so I need work. The fact that I cannot find work -- that I am able-bodied, quick-minded, hard-working, possess two university degrees and nigh 20 years experience, but am still unemployed -- is like an emotional cancer.
I will be honest with you that I have lost faith in myself. But, unfortunately, a lack of self-belief does nothing to stave hunger. I still need to eat; I still get cold when exposed to Britain's predictably shitty climate. And since repeated attempts to will myself to death have failed I am left with only the option of continuing to try. In January, then, I have pushed myself additionally to find work. I am applying for jobs across a large geographic swathe, stretching from Swansea to Bath, and have set a rule for myself that I must apply for at least one job a week.
Thus far it has accomplished nothing and with each week that passes I feel more despondent. So, to say that this is something I loved about January is a lie. But I have, at least, the hollow pride of knowing that I'm trying.

~8~ Wrestling: Amid my seemingly constant state of depression I find myself finding solace in the world of professional wrestling. Particularly, I enjoy listening to Colt Cabana's weekly podcast. Colt is a wrestler who has long been a staple of the independent circuit, bouncing around from city to city, country to country, performing in anything from arenas to barrooms. It's something you can't help but admire. This is what he wants to do and he is pushing and pushing to make it happen.
The career of professional wrestling is a strange one, to say the least. In his book, A Lion's Tale, WWE wrestler Chris Jericho points out that professional wrestling was borne of carnival sideshows in the 1800s and, despite all the world's progress and all the changes in how the performances are done, it still holds to that tradition. It does so especially in business dealings. Wrestlers are constantly lied to to by promoters -- swindled, used and overworked. But even when things go right, the wrestler's job is to get the crap beaten out of him. Yes, the outcome is pre-determined, but there's no way to throw yourself to the ground over and over and have it not hurt.
So, physically, emotionally and financially Colt (and any other wrestler) has to struggle endlessly. The only way you can avoid struggle in wrestling is to quit wrestling. I admire that.
I mentioned in my previous post that I've emotionally divorced myself from the Welsh-language experience. Having accepted that coming to Wales was a major fuck up, I can't now help but feel a certain level of frustration as I try to build my life toward something that I can actually appreciate. But in following the tales of wrestlers I feel a kind of comfort and kinship. Surely, Colt must find himself at times thinking: "What the hell is the point of this?" I can relate to that: the sense of deep anger and frustration at one's "dream" turning out badly. But, additionally, I can compare the two situations and think: "Well, at least I'm not getting the shit beat out of me."

~8~ Ridgeways walk: One of the reasons it upsets me so much to be sans car is that accessing many of the parts of Britain that are worth seeing, the parts that are open and "natural" and allow me to not feel so sick with confinement, is really hard. That challenge is exacerbated by the fact Jenn rarely ever has a day off. So, the trains and buses one would suggest as an alternative are nugatory because using them would eat up all the time we have for any given activity. It all feels sickeningly unfair, but it is the situation that exists.
We are doing our best to combat it, though -- investing time into staring at maps and trying to work out walks that could be done with minimal travelling. One of the best ones so far has been a walk we did across the northern edge of Cardiff's city limits. We were able to take the train from Penarth to Lisvane and Thornhill station then stumble our way through mud and forest down to the station at Taff's Well. It was not exactly trekking in Colorado, but I enjoyed it.

~8~ Running: Can you tell that I'm angry? My deep and increasing bitterness can't even be held back for a simple blog post in which I am supposed to be highlighting the positives of my life. I was worse before January. In December I allowed my swingy-uppy-downy broken brain to get the best of me to such an extent that I stopped working out. Which, of course, only served to increase my sadness exponentially. In January, however, I managed to get myself out of the house a few times and go running. I still have not really found a route that I enjoy in P-Town, one where I can simply shut off my brain and not feel nervous about people or cars, and I think that makes it difficult for me to build motivation. In running literally I like to feel that I am running metaphorically, that I am getting away from the weirdness and the cruelty. Doing that is tricky in Penarth. You have to keep your brain constantly on as you dodge cars and teenagers and self-involved dog owners and uneven surfaces.
But annoyances of not running are far worse, so I've been making myself do it.
Additionally, I've switched gyms, which is kind of fun. Without the car my previous gym had become frustratingly inconvenient. I did not manage to visit it at all in the month of January. On the last day of the month, I cancelled my old membership and enrolled at a gym that I can walk to.

~8~ Reichenbach Fall: The second series of "Sherlock" came and went in January. I enjoyed two out of the three movie-length episodes, feeling the one about H.O.U.N.D. was a bit weak. Ammends were made, however, with the cliffhanger mystery of how Sherlock had managed to fake his own death. Additionally there is the question of what happened to Moriarty; did he, too, fake his death? There was no mention of him in the aftermath of events.

1 comment:

Curly said...

I don't think you really mean that moving to Wales has been major fuck up, the things you have experience and people you have met have all had a hand in you now living with Jenn and producing funny (and sometimes quite informative) vlogs which you seem to very much enjoy doing.

Also, you'd be surprised how many people drive from Cardiff in the evenings and weekends to get out into the amazing countryside that Wales & England have to offer.

exempli gratia...
http://www.ramblers.co.uk/groups/groupInfo.php?group=SW11