Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reflections (11)

2008 is almost over. I, for one, will be glad to see the back of it.

I'm still living in the same house as my ex; Housing benefits are continuing to give me grief over my claim and haven't paid me anything since October; the kids are still suffering the after effects of the divorce; All the business ideas I try go nowhere; the economy has just gone tits-up.

One platitude that I have taken a particular dislike to over the years is 'it could be worse, you might be starving'. It's usually spouted by those who don't have the particular problems that the sufferer is enduring, or believes that all problems are easy to solve. The worst kind of person to utter this nonsense is the do-gooder who believes that something has to be said to try and cheer the person up.

If you're one of these people who likes to utter this platitude, here's some advice: read the book of Job...the one in the Bible.

Job was not the cause of his problems, but suffered them anyway. A fact that applies to most people's problems today. Then his 'friends' turned up. For several days they kept quiet, just keeping him company. Then they started giving him advice and telling him that he must have done something wrong for all this to happen to him. Ever done that to someone who's suffering misfortune?

I won't spoil the story for you, suffice to say that Job's 'friends' were roundly condemned by God for their arrogance and 'misinterpretation' of the situation.

I have spent most of the year suffering one disaster after another, none of which were my fault. I have caused other problems myself, but not the ones listed above.

Things could be worse. I could be starving, or on the streets, or have no support whatsoever. I could be dead, but I'm not convinced that would be worse for me. It would certainly be worse for the kids, but I'd be at peace.

2009 should be better, but I enter it with trepidation. I cannot see it getting much better at the moment and it could get a lot worse. I'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reflections (10)

Illness still stalks me, though it is fading...but not fast enough.

It's sometimes sobering to realise that less than 100 years ago, the diseases that we treat and cure so easily would have killed people. The cough that I have battled against could well have resulted in my death, as could any number of illnesses that I have had over my life.

In some parts of the world, and even in some parts of Britain and other western nations, these diseases still kill people. Bad housing, bad healthcare, bad diet, can all contribute to early or unnecessary deaths.

We can sit back, look at the statistics and say that things have improved over the last 100 years. Have they?

200 years ago, the diseases that killed the poor would also kill the rich. Money made no difference to whether you survived childbirth or cholera.

Now, if you have money, you can survive most diseases. In the west, more people have sufficient money to pay for treatments or a National system of healthcare, though that is not guarantee.

Is our western wealth blinding us to reality? Is humanity really healthier?

In Africa, AIDS medicine costs too much to be made available generally. In the west we spend millions each year on non-critical plastic surgery.

People are living longer, but is that a real guide to our health? Given that most of the rise in lifespans is due to the lowering of the deathrate amongst the under 5s, I'm not so sure we are healthier or better cared for.

Unless you have lots of money.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reflections (9)

It's surprising how debilitating a cough is.

As a consequence of my illness, I've been coughing virtually every minute for the last few days. One cough doesn't feel like much of an energy loss and isn't. But every minute of every day wears you out.

A constant tinny noise in the ear of someone with tinnitis; a tiny, nagging pain or headache that just won't go away. These are things that some people live with for their entire lives and cannot just be dismissed as a nuisance. Can we really see through the eyes of someone who suffers these afflictions? Is the reason that so many people want to dismiss these things as small problems that they don't want to have to do something about it?

Just because we can stand things for a moment or two, or even an hour, doesn't mean that we can stand it constantly. To be miserable is a horrible feeling, but one that passes with time. Depression never goes away.

Next time we see someone in constant pain or anguish, even if it is small, let's be more considerate.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reflections (8)

We rarely see the past with clear eyes. Depending on our mood or outlook, we may see it with a pleasant sepia-tint that hides the harder reality, or we may overstate the horrors. How we look at our past is a reflection of who we are.

More precisely, it is a reflection of who we are at the moment.

As I look back I can see very little but misery. Try as I might, pleasant thoughts don't get a look in. That reflects who I am now.

At other points, I have been able to see and remember happier times and moments.

When I think of the past as miserable, I also see the future in that light.

What I see as I look forward and backwards is a reflection...of who I am now.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reflections (7)

Our world is obsessed with good looks. Those who are perceived as ugly (or old) had better be very talented, or able to fill someone's pockets with money.

It's not just the entertainment industries where this applies either. It also applies in the application of the law and morality. Attractive people are more likely to be found not guilty and we almost fall over ourselves to forgive good-looking people for their 'minor' moral indiscretions.

What kind of world are we building when we judge people mostly on how they look?

You cannot be taken seriously in business unless you wear a suit. Actors and actresses are expected to be good looking, as are singers.

We can point to exceptions, but are they really exceptions, or just less attractive in comparison. Who was the last really ugly actor in films or on TV? Richard Branson may not wear a suit, but he is passably attractive.

Why have we allowed this?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Reflections (6)

Life is full of ups and downs, some of which are extreme.

This year I have been thrust between joy and despair, indifference and hatred. I have had hopes dashed and been lifted by a friendly word.

It has been a year of extremes which I hope I never face again.

The received wisdom is 'that which does not destroy us, makes us stronger'. It's message seems to be that hard times are fine. If we die, then we're not good enough for humanity, if we live, then humanity has been strengthened.

If we are little more than higher animals, then that view is acceptable. If we are, or want to be, more than animals, then we need to leave 'survival of the fittest' behind and help each other to succeed.

Who knows what talents have died at the feet of Darwin?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Reflections (5)

Whenever you're ill, positive thinking is hard to come by. As I've been (and still am) ill, most of my reflections are negative at the moment.

I did get some good news yesterday. I emailed, as they are looking for freelancers to write for them. The day after, they called, said good, and can I let them have some ideas.

As a writer it's not often you get a positive response, so I'm going to latch onto that and the other positive rejection I've had this week.

In this regard, it seems as though life is picking up, albeit slowly.

The ongoing saga of Housing Benefits has taken another turn. I received another letter detailing my current standing, which also states that a decision has not been made. I was also told that an invoice would be issued for the recovery of the £1300 cheque they issued.

On one hand, they're telling me I owe them a lot, on the other they haven't made any decisions yet.

On reflection, local government has been designed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats, not for people. That's why it fails to deliver.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Reflections (4)

I'm ill again. Stress related no doubt, but it's still very uncomfortable.

When you're ill you find out who your friends are and who really cares about you. My ex-wife has always subscribed to the 'man-flu' theory and thought I was playing it up a lot. Sympathy was in very short supply.

So why did I stay married so long? Partly because of the kids. I was willing to suffer a bad marriage so they could have both parents around until they were in their late teens.

Mostly, it was because that I believed in the sanctity of marriage and that any problems could be fixed if both people were willing to try. It became clear, after a while, that I was the only one willing to change to fix the problems. That left the sanctity of marriage: at least from my side.

I don't regret it, and I would suffer it again for my kids. They're worth fighting for, and suffering for. They are also innocent in all this.


I had a rejection through this morning, the best one I've ever received.

'Although good, I don't feel that the story fits our chosen categories of fiction; strictly, fantasy, horror and science-fiction. I would urge you to submit your piece to a more mainstream magazine, as it would be a shame if this didn't see print.'

Now that's encouraging.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Reflections (3)

I've spent most of my life being lied to, cheated and misused. This year has been no different...with one or two exceptions.

It doesn't help that everything I touch business-wise seems to fail: PC repair,website design, author etc.

I refuse to think that the future will be just as bad. Don't quit, keep on trudging forward, one day at a time, make it through the rain.

At least the sun's out.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Reflections (2)

There's always a light at the end of a tunnel.

I spent most of my youth alone. It was safer than being humiliated for other people's pleasure. After I left school I worked for Barclays bank and, despite some occasional booze filled good times, I left three years one month and eighteen days later.

I then started work in the pub opposite. That was when I started to emerge from my tunnel. Several years later I was in the light, happier than I had ever been and getting married. I entered another tunnel.

I'm now on my way out of this tunnel and there are days when I want to lie down and quit. It soon passes and I carry on.

The past year has been one of emergence. I still have some way to go before I'm truly out of the tunnel, but the light is brighter now and getting closer. So this past year has been better than the ones that went before.

I am walking towards the light.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reflections (1)

Today is a low point. The sun is out and the rain has finally relented, but I don't feel too good today.

As we enter December and the end of another year approaches, I'm looking back and wondering what has changed for better or worse.

I'm still living in the same house as my ex, though that is compensated for by being around my boys all the time.

Housing benefits seem to be going out of their way to make my life difficult. They've stopped paying me, subject to a review, issued a claim for £5000 for overpaid benefit and issued me with a cheque for £1366 for underpaid benefit.

Some days I get depressed, other days I ignore it. Today I can't ignore it.

The feeling will pass in time and life will carry on. I'll find a way out of this mess and have my life back. It is temporary. But knowing it's temporary doesn't make the pain any easier to bear.