A Not So Simple X In A Box

Well this weekend I did the Park Run near my house. I was very excited when I moved up here, so close to the Park Run I’d begun frequenting. However this very same local Park Run had started to get popular. It was starting to be a bit of a drag. Not that anything should stay small just to make me feel better, I’m insignificant in this world. But anyone who has ever ran an organised race knows that miles 3-5 are the charm. That’s where the wheat and the chaff start to part ways, and space reappears. The local park our run is based in has some narrow pond areas, narrow tree lined streets, parked cars to endure, but throw into the mix a heavy dose of men with those 3 wheeled active pushchairs taking up a lot of space, and you have a recipe for frustration. That’s why 3 years later, I have only 18 runs to my name. I can never motivate myself.

I was one of 796 runners. 796- madness. So it was little wonder that the former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was sat casually having a coffee in the cafe as nearly 800 of his constituents, a typically undiverse, middle class bunch of people, take to the tarmac for a two lap circuit, a group sober and motivated enough to run of a Saturday morning. It’s a stroke of genius on his part. Not so much as a ribbon cutting ceremony attended to my knowledge since 2010, and now here he is, Mr Congeniality sharing a brew and lending an ear to people as they start their Saturday morning.

The upcoming UK general election is playing on a lot of peoples minds. I mean, it’s not everyones source of anxiety, political apathy is widespread and to my mind often completely understandable. One often expects that your political leanings will form naturally and are defined by who you are and your ideals and aspirations. Alas it is never that easily identifiable. I mean, I once joined the Socialist Worker Student Society mainly because I was lusting after its president, a man named Joel who used to wear a white The Smiths t shirt and dance to house music in the students union, and I liked the way you could see his arms and chest hair through his one t shirt when it was wet. I was a terrible Socialist. Joel graduated and I never boarded a bus to protest fascism again. I mean, I still oppose fascism, but after that I was more likely to go to Manchester shopping than march on Whitehall.

I think the question of who do you vote for is so very difficult to answer. Its entirely subjective for a start, and most people I know are rather respectful of this. But as soon as a few peoples political affiliations align, it starts. The ranting. The bashing. The policy assassinations, the personality assassinations, the hopeless exclamations. All valid, all perfectly acceptable but I often wonder about those in the seats around us who remain voiceless, and eyes routed to the computer screen. Do they silently agree, or may that have alternative political viewpoints? Or do they simply not know what they are going to do come polling day?

I was born in 1980, at a time of refuge collection strikes, miners strikes, at a time where trade unions had a voice loud enough to cripple day to day life until messages were heard and results delivered. 2017 is not reflective of those days. Politically, peoples views are not so linear, but are intersectional. People are intersectional. No longer is the experience of one person defined by a class structure. No longer does race automatically indicate a natural affiliation. Attitudes towards gender, sexuality and gender identity are now more evolved, and political attitudes towards these issues are of significance. In short, who we are has changed, and this has changed thinking when it comes to party politics. I see this, this is clearly evidenced in recent political results and ratings, but it doesn’t seem to have changed much rhetoric.

So when the “man most likely to” in our constituency happens to be a Liberal Democrat man, traditionally I should be ok with it. A public sector working, middle class, gay man, with a Lib-Dem MP? Should be ok with me, right? I actually have felt rather uneasy about the Lib Dems, for one reason only. Tim Farron. His bumbling, inept responses to the concerns over his views on homosexuality have been so reductive, both to his party and to the conversation about equality in my view. In coalition, the Lib Dems helped shape marriage equality. One of the principal issues which separated LGBT people from their heterosexual counterparts was the legality of their union as a couple. Stage one, the Civil Partnership, was a well executed compromise but I must admit, I always felt their was something inelegant and unromantic when people told me they were going to a civil partnership. It sounded like it was a good mannered business meeting rather than a celebration. But it was the means to an end. And that day came. But now, Mr Farron would answer questions about his views on issues of sexuality with statements about our sins, and the view of Jesus Christ of these actions.

Now theological viewpoints do not good telly make as a rule. But asking a political leader about their views on gay sex are clickbait gold. So the media have a field day. “Mr Farron, do you think gay sex is a sin?” the interviewer asks, time and time again, urgency growing in her voice. Eventually he said no. This raises my anxiety. A party founded on liberalism, and the leader cannot say with conviction in 2017 that he doesn’t see LGBT people as valuable and equal members of society, but classifies them as sinners. His hesitation gives him away. You maybe don’t agree, but as a gay man, I felt a sense of being let down. I felt hurt by this lack of regard or support. And this leaves a hangover, which taints everything. As they say, with rank comes privilege. But also responsibility. So for a party’s   leader to seemingly view me and those of my kind with what seems to me to be a scathing judgment cannot help shadow the party. And if I think this way, I cannot help but wonder whether others do too.

Well, that diversion into my views of the Lib Dems aside, the whole election being called acts another uncertainty at a time where quite frankly I already had more than my fair share of stress to deal with. I swear, if I were prone to favour a conspiracy theory, I would be of the opinion that Theresa May has a spy cam on my life and asked herself “what would make Adam’s life even more stressful, what would possibly send him into further turmoil?”, so off she went to Wales walking with Philip and said “I’ve got it Phil, lets have a ploughman’s lunch and a half of mild for lunch down the pub, and then lets go home on Sunday and call a general election. That will tip that poor sap in Sheffield over the edge”.

I mean, by and large I’m doing ok with things. This is why you don’t find me posting some predictions of apocalyptic doom based on Conservative policies and Brexit. Sure, I voted remain, and I stand by my vote. No, I have never and will never vote Conservative even if traditionally my family have. But I do know humanity. I do know how durable and adaptable people are. There will be massive challenges along the way, and even I can see there will be casualties of the vote, but I have no doubt that there will be real opportunities also. I wish I was commercially minded and knew what they were so I could set myself up in business and get ahead of that game but, alas, I’m not. This does not mean I am full of apathy and resignation, but at the same time I cannot be a massive pessimist as I move forward in life. I find the constant doom forecasting brings a massive anxiety, a depressing foreboding that makes me apprehensive to do something, anything, else. Do we book a holiday abroad? Do I take on any additional financial responsibilities? What about work- do you think about whether another challenge may be out there? Is this the time for that?

On top of all this, I have to deal with an unprecedented (for me, anyways) spike in work which is leading to long long days and those jolts in the night that one suffers on occasion when you remember things that you have forgotten/neglected/failed to do. In fact I just had one of those moments right there, whilst typing this. When the volume of what is expected of you is beyond the level that you can cope with, what are your options? Your mind holds as much as you can cope with, and some gets shut out. Its probably the brain’s way of telling you that much like your Sky box, it has a capacity and after a certain point nothing else is capable of being stored in there. But also rather unhelpful I find. If I could remember at 10am the things that enter my mind at 1:30am, my life would be far more efficient and my complexion less grey and sallow.

I should be taking some comfort from my exercise regime. I emphasise the should. It doesn’t comfort me as, alas, I am not so much exercising for body and soul but I’m training for another darn marathon. I’ve begun training early this time, as otherwise I shoehorn it in to a cluster of weeks and lack confidence and conviction in my own ability come race day. And plus a plan that says I should run 5 days a week is helpful to someone like me, as I have a constant fear of failure and the guilt that follows from me missing a training run makes me less inclined to skip a midweek 5 miler. You find me typing this whilst off work. An unexpected and unwelcome bout of some rather epic vomiting bug has temporarily floored me, and as such today’s scheduled 4.5 mile run can’t take place. I also haven’t left the house in 48 hours. I cannot tell you how hard it is to be effectively housebound knowing I have a desk full of work that needs to be done, and miles should be being pounded into my legs. I immediately worry about calorie intake and weight gain, the consequences of it playing in my mind. In all honesty, in two days I’ve eaten 3 pieces of toast, a few dry water biscuits and a baked potato, so really we aren’t in a place where calorie counting is really of concern. And the spectacular bout of spewing on Sunday evening and Monday morning must have been the equivalent of an abs class at the gym.

Exercise does create a bit of balance for me. I feel better about myself holistically if I have done something, moved, pushed myself. Two lazy sick days are terrible for my step count on my Fitbit. The best thing about a Fitbit is it teaches you that you can lie to yourself very easily. If I have an office day, I tell myself “I’m up and down all the time, hot desking does that to you”, yet every hour it will vibrate to tell me I’m a massive chunk off doing my 250 step minimum per hour. In a working day, its very hard to keep moving and stay active when whomsoever wants you tries to get you via a phone or a screen. But when exercise changes from choice to obligation again, it can be hard to even take the benefits from it. It becomes another thing that I have to get done in my day. What I am happy about is that it pushes me on, and stops the rut from being trodden in more, which in turn leads to a bit of weight loss. I’m already able to see as smaller belly and little less overhang when I squeeze myself into skinny jeans. I mean, I’ve still got a lot of junk to unpack from my trunk and my saddle bags, but a bit of payoff from the hard work is always a plus.

I cannot wait to go on holiday. A break from the routine. The only thing that seems to make these circumstances I find myself in manageable is by occasionally escaping them. Disruption and upheaval is so hard to live with, and the consequences which I have been juggling, that escape is not so much welcome more a requirement. It cannot be a coincidence that at a time where my anxiety and stress levels are high, I’m sucker punched with some sickness bug despite having the same diet as Pete at that time and he’s as right as rain. I can’t live at that level throughout this process, I have got to have the odd escape plan. My shopping trip to Bicester was a great little break from the routine, and did result in me buying two sweat bands which in themselves were the highlight of the trip. I have to keep these things coming in the calendar, otherwise I may never smile again.

Life can’t always be sunshine and roses, and I worry this is quite a sombre and moody period in my life. I wonder if this has been inspired by my TV habits of late. Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Line of Duty, Big Little Lies- all rather serious and dark at times. I just finished 13 Reasons Why today, which was so very powerful and moving, but sad. Very sad. No one needs my two penneth worth on this show, nor asked for it, but heck I’m offering my views anyway. Life can be ugly. People can be ugly. They can be cruel, judgement, isolating, angry and hurtful. They can also be warm, well intentioned, kind, misguided and flawed. Most people don’t exist in silos, they are neither one thing nor the other. They are a bit of everything and can surprise you at times, delight you at others and then seemingly strike you down on others. This drama shows the consequences of all this. The guilt in the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s suicide is hard to watch, the consequences sad to see. The sadness at times swamps you. You hope against all reason for the ending to change, despite the storytelling here being comparable to Columbo- you know what happens and who does it, the question is why does she do it.

Is 13 Reasons Why graphic? Yes, it is. Is it hard to watch? Very. I often paused when I was overwhelmed. Did I wonder if it was perhaps too easily accessible given its subject matter? At times, I did. I wondered about my own teenage self. Overweight, chronically uncool, unpopular, unhappy with every aspect of myself. The dramatic premise here appeals to teenage angst, and I’m sure that is its core audience. The dramatic effect of the emotional smoking gun, as those responsible one by one discover their role in the demise of a classmate, is compelling. I can completely see its allure. One just hopes that compelling nature draws each and every viewer to the end, where they can see the full aftermath of the choice Hannah made. The biggest issue here is that the TV is no longer in the living room for communal viewing. The concern is that perhaps parents, who would absolutely benefit from seeing this programme and its depiction of how inescapable life can be for a teenager in the smartphone age, may not see it nor know their child has seen it. It may not come up on their parents Netflix account as watched if the kids have their own profiles, hell lets face it they won’t need Netflix if they stream it from an illegal site elsewhere. It will be there, free of charge in beautiful HD. If this were on TV, it would be on after 9pm. It absolutely would. We would all talk about it at work. The final episode would leave everyone heartbroken. Alisha Boe’s performance would break everyone in your office’s heart. And if we all watched it like we did Line of Duty, every parent would become watchful, concerned, and a bit more aware.

It’s odd to recommend a show that deeply upset, disturbed and affected me. It’s a hard sell. But it felt important as I watched it. It sent a message to my root about actions and consequence. About community, about responsibility and about love. Interspersed with episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, I see the polar opposite of this. In this weeks episode, Scott hooked up with a girl in Dubai. Kim was upset about this, despite Kourtney dating someone else, and called the girl a whore and a slut and screamed abuse at her and had her thrown out by security. The gold standard of slut shaming right there. When this girl and this man had probably had consensual relations as consenting adults. Immediately after watching 13 Reasons Why, I found this ugly. Firstly, why is she receiving the vitriol, when the party you are most likely annoyed with is your brother in law? Secondly, why would someone who has had all this said about her and worse have so little empathy that she would believe its ok to use these words? And finally, why would you do it on camera, for broadcast, so as to scar this person for years to come? Sure they blurred the girls face, but since when does that stop the rumour mill fuelled by social media. After watching words, rumours and actions cause so much misery and despair, I am alive to these things. Heaven knows, there are so many things I can’t control around me and in my life which cause so much sadness, I cannot stand that someone else, far more fortunate than so many, cannot hold their tongue and seek to inflict this guilt and shame on someone else.

And that, I suppose, is how I spent my sick day off work. Call it personal growth. I worked on myself, just not on my cases. Now if you excuse me, I’ll be the person tomorrow in an office somewhere pulling my hair out then every so often muttering “I ought to go for a run in a bit”. Send fruit baskets. Just don’t send chocolates. Or biscuits. Or cake. They’ll just make it so much worse.

 

 

 

 

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