I’m Ill

I’m ill.

I need some internet sympathy because I’m ill! Two weeks ago my wife developed a bit of a cough, a day later she had completely lost her voice, a weekend of feeling ill later, and a few days off work at the start of the next week, and I was feeling pretty safe. I hadn’t been infected. I was fine…and then the coughing started.

One of the many things I’ve been blessed with in life is a good immune system. If my wife has been sick for a week, I tend to catch it, get sick for a day, and then the next day I’m back to normal as if nothing has happened. Most things run through my system, and disappear again within a day or two, but not this.

So I’m now on day six of feeling pretty horrible, and it would be easy for every day to be like yesterday was, after a night of no sleep, crashing, and spending most of the morning in bed feeling rotten. But for the most part that’s not what’s happened.

By the time my wife had woken up on Monday, I had already spent half an hour job hunting, a couple of hours writing and I’d done the washing up, I felt pretty rotten that morning, but for some reason I pushed through, refused to allow the summer sickness bug to take control and fought back. I almost gritted my teeth, proclaiming “I will be useful today!” And that’s how I woke up this morning as well, determined to push through, and get stuff done, despite feeling awful.

But this isn’t particularly a blog post about me feeling ill. It’s not even about pushing through when feeling horrible, this is about my Dad. My wife, Rowena, never got to meet my Dad, he had died from cancer, around six months before I first met her. Yet from the descriptions she’s heard from my friends and family, and from me, she strongly believes I’m very much like my Dad. I have the same (annoying) habit, of my mind linking what someone’s said to a song, and belting it out off and on…key. I tend to prefer my own company, or the company of those close to me rather than a large group. And most importantly, at least, the thing that hit my mind this morning, was that my Dad absolutely refused to be ill.

I remember being petrified, of him taking sick days off work. I remember being about 13 or 14, and coming home from school one day. It was a Monday, and I knew Dad hadn’t gone into work, because, well I can only guess my Mum had outright forbidden him to go to work, probably with threats, as that’s probably the only way she would have kept him at home. Mum had been out all day, and so I returned home, and as usual walked upstairs to my room, intending to throw my school-bag to the floor, and chill out for a bit. I opened my bedroom door, and there was my Father, in my room, with graph paper, pencils, tape measures, and a spirit level.

He turned and looked at me, and his expression was the same expression I turn on my wife, when she gets home, and asks “What did you have for lunch?”

“Lunch? It can’t be lunch time,” I reply, “I’ve only just sat down to work, and anyway what are you doing back from work…so…early…” As the realisation sets in that I’ve spent the whole day writing and forgotten little things like food, drink and going to the toilet. My Dad looked at me, as if he couldn’t comprehend what I was doing there, or even who I was. I was tempted to prompt him, “Kieran…your son.” but thought that was probably pushing it.

After his initial confusion wore off, he told me that he had been signed off for the week, so he was going to redesign my bedroom. Now, some would think I should have used the word redecorate instead of redesign, and if you’re one of those people you obviously didn’t know my Dad. By the end of that week, I had full fitted wardrobes, where there had been no wardrobes, a full room length desk, with cupboards, and shelving for books, as well as a computer slot, and sliding keyboard/mouse tray. I even think it went as far as new carpets and curtains, but that could be my memory acting up. This was someone that was too ill to go into work, that would have had to have been forced to the doctor’s surgery for a sick-note, and here he was redesigning my bedroom.

The worst thing was…I wasn’t surprised. My Dad being ill was the scariest thing to happen to our house, because it seemed that every time it happened, another room was ripped apart and rebuilt from the ground upwards. Whether it was my room, my parent’s room, the living room, or the downstairs bedroom that became the train track to end all train tracks.

When my Dad died, as part of the process, Mum wanted to change a lot of the rooms. Every room bore his mark, pretty much every piece of furniture that could have been, had been built by him. One of the many ways I haven’t taken after my Dad, is in DIY, I’m useless at it, he was not…not by a long shot. The way he’d built things was…unique, they were never meant to be destructed. So long afternoons, my Mum and I, sat in rooms, surrounded by his handiwork, trying desperately to work out how he’d built the bloody thing, and if there was any way to unbuild it without picking up a sledgehammer, and starting to hit things. Incidentally it’ll surprise no one that my solution was to start hitting things with something heavy, but my Mum wouldn’t let me try…something about being worried, about the structure of the building, in case my Dad had really built it well.

He would have been 70 today…and probably still would have been building indestructible furniture…I miss you Dad.

Choices and Character Formation

Choices

 

We each have to make a choice as to how we conduct our lives. What kind of people we are going to be both towards those around us and when we are by ourselves? No one can make the choice for us as to what kind of person we are now, or who we are becoming. That is up to us.  Punch in the numbers and see what plays on the jukebox of life.

There are much smaller choices that impact us and change us thereby forming who we are. Starting with the language we use, or how we communicate. Each person grows up in a unique environment, with parents from different backgrounds (even if they grew up next door). Each family has an identity, the way as a group it looks at the world. This is one of the choices people face, ‘Is this how I want to be?’ At this point there may be a group with a more interesting outlook, and a different set of language that appeals more than the one that was imposed. So, a trade takes place, a conscious choice to be with the people I now agree with and fit in with. Unless there is either no group to move to, or just someone who already has the same general outlook on life.

There are small trades that take place, for what is acceptable behaviour within this new framework fighting the ones from the past. Some kind of compromise may be reached, or a new group found to join. I’ll give a small example: swearing. A huge amount of people swear every day and often all the time. That is until they are placed in a work situation where that is not acceptable behaviour. Some then just hold on to it until they are ‘off the clock’, whilst others find more subtle ways to be offensive. Even those that don’t swear outside a work scenario can be offensive or rude. Perhaps even worse, those that have their perfect lives and then look down at others as if they were less than human. Attitude is the choice we make, how we interact with those around us. How we treat those we disagree with. What language we use. Once you’ve said it, you can’t take it back.

People around us are impacted all the time by our choices. Do you give up your seat on the bus? A choice to be made. Stop to check on someone who doesn’t look happy. Sometimes these choices become habit-forming. This is the choice I always make in this situation. How to treat people you don’t want to speak to. It becomes part of our character and who we are. Hanging up on people who cold call. Some of our tolerance is lost when we don’t even think about the choice we are making. All people who talk to us are people, whether they bug us or not they should still be treated like human beings.

If we are forever negative, or indecisive, it can rub off on those around us. Especially with negativity, it is a difficult outlook to counter. It just hangs around and broods taking on a life of its own. In the same way skills rub off too. People will pick up easy ways of doing things, and if instructed gently will become better at the things they are shown. A choice to help others to gain confidence, or a choice to show off and put them down for not being good enough causing discouragement. Many people falsely believe that by making those around them smaller, they themselves will look bigger. This actually results in proving a lack of confidence in themselves, and will isolate them, as no one can get close enough to repair issues, or build them up whilst fighting off the put-downs. By building others up around you, enabling and lending strength and support builds relationships and trust. These choices can have long term impacts on those around us, as they speak to the core of humanity – people believe how they are treated shows what they are worth. This is the biggest lie humanity can tell itself, that the choices others make should dictate the worth of another. It works the other way around too, people believe the lie that if someone is being treated like that, they must deserve it. We should really value people, treat them with respect, because regardless of how they start, the more we give people, the more they will grow.

There is not a single person on this planet who can choose where they are born. Coming back to the circumstances we grow up in, there is no choice. It is only after that, the forming of choices and character comes. There are people who have grown up in the worst of circumstances who choose to be positive in the light of it all. There are people who grow up in the best of circumstances who can’t seem to pick themselves up. The hardest choices are the ones that don’t seem to matter, but I assure you that every one forms part of our character – even if it is only how decisive we are at choosing our food. It is a shame in some ways we can’t do what we do in many RPG games, where you can put the number of points you want into the category you want and hey presto ‘the perfect character’. Only you find out later, the one thing you forgot… and you keep dying. *coughs*

I have no control over the choices other people make, even when they impact me. I can however control my reaction. Sounds good. I wish I could always control my reaction. In the mess of humanity these things called feelings get in the way. Even if we can rationalise something, it doesn’t stop us feeling a certain way. I almost posted a blog last week about losing my voice. I was really irritated and annoyed that someone just ignored me because it was too much effort to talk to me. That is my take on it. I don’t know that was the case (I couldn’t ask). This lead to me writing something that I later realised was more negative than I had intended. I wanted to say that people should make the effort to communicate with those who can’t, and I’ll say it now. However I don’t want to become irate over something that shows I perhaps ought to grow up. I will not blame others for my reaction to a situation. When you are ill you sometimes become over-sensitive. This is where you realise that choices are so important when it comes to fixing things. For in order to change for the better I have to learn from my mistakes, my reactions, and not discard or dismiss them.

The greatest choices we make are the ones that involve deceiving ourselves or others. Exchanging the Truth for a Lie won’t change the outcome, as the choice will remain. You have to read the terms and conditions before you get to opt out. Choices still remain even if we put our fingers in our ears and claim otherwise. Naked we enter the world and naked we will leave – there is nothing physical we can take with us. We need to make the choice of our lives – who will we be? Who will we follow?

Good Weekend?

Warning: This blog contains gratuitous amounts of comment about sporting events you likely care nothing about…Those that have ears to hear…skip to the end!

So I’m just about getting used to having weekends.  In my previous job, whilst my day off was usually a Saturday, I spent so much of my emotional energy protecting it, making sure that I actually rested, and took time for myself, that I ended up not resting, or taking time for myself most weeks.  Sundays were usually heavily busy, with morning service, followed by cooking lunch followed by evening service, with possibly a short break in between to catch breath…or more likely prepare the evening service.

So when I was made redundant, one of the first things I thought I would enjoy was a nice weekend.  Getting to spend time with my wife, chilling out, just basically enjoying myself.  However that didn’t happen.  A mixture of family events, other jobs, generally feeling manky due to the humidity, trying, and mostly failing to settle into a new church environment, left my weekends just as draining and difficult as they’d ever been.

That changed this last weekend.  I don’t know what comprises a good weekend for you, but I still very firmly believe an old room-mate, when he tried to explain to his wife how the week was organised.  The week, he said, went like this: “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sportday, Sunday.”, his basic message was that she should get used to the fact, that Saturday was important, and that it wasn’t about her.  And although the only sport I actually watched on Saturday this weekend was a couple of hours of cricket before it was rained off, there was more than enough throughout the rest of my weekend to make up for it.

My weekend started on Thursday night.  First of all, that’s a pretty great time to start your weekend, and it started with Association Football (or soccer, or just football dependent on your point of view), and the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final.  My team, Derby verses Brighton & Hove Albion.  Now the danger was that this could cause tension.  My wife, Rowena is from Hove (always from Hove, never Brighton…never ever Brighton!), but apart from a brief comment, along the lines of “Sucks to be Derby then.” she didn’t push too hard.  Which was probably good for her, since Derby, in line with my prediction beat Brighton 2:1, which playing in Brighton was a pretty solid result.  I and most other Derby fans I spoke to/heard from were pretty happy with it, and that was just the start.

Next up was the event I’ve been looking forward to for a few months now, and anyone that followed my Twitter feed, over the weekend, it’s going to be no news to you that it was the NFL draft.  One of the many reasons I love the NFL, is the strategy involved at every level of the game, from player recruitment, through to preparation and planning, and into game-day.  The draft especially pushes a lot of my buttons, the complexity, and pressure of making the pick, the confidence warring with the anxiety in the prospect’s face, and you may as well insert the obligatory Johnny Football reference here, just to stay current.

I watched the whole of the first round live on the NFL website Thursday night, and for a change over the last few years, I didn’t have to wait until the very end until the Ravens picked, and I was shocked that they didn’t move back either. Mosley, while not my first choice, the Cowboys stole Zack Martin the pick before, and probably not my second or third choice either, is still a fantastic pick, and great value to get a top 10 talent at 17 .

Friday was spent mainly recovering from staying up all night…I must be getting old, a night of no sleep doesn’t usually hold me back much (in fact most of the time it improves me!) but that coupled with the humidity made Friday a bit of a wearing day, I didn’t stay up and watch the second and third round of the draft, partly because I didn’t think my body could cope!

Saturday was spent watching the aforementioned Cricket, playing Torchlight II with Rowena, and then watching the final rounds of the draft. Even though my wife got a Legendary Item, and I didn’t it was still a thoroughly enjoyable day.

 

Which one is Crockett Gillmore?
Which one is Crockett Gillmore?

The Ravens had picked Crockett Gillmore, the night before, who as far as I’m concerned has the second best name in the Draft this year behind Ha Ha Clinton Dix, and sounds as if he should be a steam-punk cos-player instead of a monstrous (6”6′, 260lbs) blocking tight end with great hands. On Saturday they got John Urschel, who I’m now desperate to make the roster, as having a 6”3′ 313lb Guard, who used to teach undergraduates Integral Vector Calculus Trigonometry and Analytical Geometry, as well as having a paper published called “Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three Body Problem” in a scientific journal, playing for the Ravens makes me smile every time I think about it.

 

Sunday dawned, which meant the 40minute drive to church. I’m still not sure I’m completely online with the idea of such a long trek to church in the morning, but Sunday morning was different. I think for the first Sunday in a long while, maybe a very long while, instead of analysing the service (I blame my education for that) I actually participated, I engaged, and despite the few things that triggered spiritual twitches in me (there always will be something), it was a pretty fantastic service and really felt God moving through it.

Back home for more Torchlight (still no legendary), avoiding all mentions of what was happening on the final day of the Premier League season, so I could watch it on Match of the Day, and looking forward to the second leg of Derby verses Brighton & Hove. I didn’t put a prediction out for this game, because, to be frank, I couldn’t call it. I thought Derby would win, we were at home at Pride Park (Yes I know it’s called the iPro Stadium now, I’m just going to stick my fingers in my ears, and hum every time you tell me that), and despite B&H being a great team, I thought we’d have enough, just. I wasn’t expecting 4:1, making it 6:2 over both legs. I’ve been saying to anyone who’ll listen, that I’m not really sure I want Derby to get promoted this year. I still think it’s too soon, and that without serious investment we’ll struggle. I’m not especially concerned about the teams that have been relegated this year. Let’s face it even with the wolf at the door Norwich can’t score (Hey Oh!), and with Shahid Khan trying to beat Blackburn’s record of multiple managers in a season, I don’t believe they’re a big threat to the established Championship clubs, despite the money they’ll be flinging around. I think in one of the most difficult divisions in football, Derby can dominate next year, along with QPR, and Brighton & Hove. Yet, it is the most difficult division in football, and there’s now a chance to get out of it, and I can’t help but get excited. I’m the first person to eat humble pie, as someone who hated the idea of appointing Steve McClaren, he’s done a fantastic job, and Derby deserve promotion.

After surviving multiple hours of not knowing the final score in the Premier League matches, my wife then accidentally spoiled the end result for me, before I could watch Match of the Day. As retaliation I’m tempted to design a 6” poster of Crockett Gillmore in steam-punk cos-play bearing the legend “Derby County 6 : 2 Brighton & Hove Albion”. I still enjoyed Match of the Day, and although I, like a lot of neutrals was hoping that Liverpool would get over the hump, and become champions, my brother supports Liverpool so that’s someone else I can point at Derby County 6 : 2 Brighton & Hove Albion, and make the comment that winners get it done, losers choke – and Liverpool, as great as they’ve been this season choked…badly.

Yet despite my incredibly enjoyable weekend I went to bed Sunday night feeling low, I awoke this morning, feeling low, and I knew why. It wasn’t because Rowena had spoiled Match of the Day, or that she had got a Legendary and I hadn’t, it wasn’t because the Ravens missed out on Zack Martin, and it wasn’t even because I had a phone-call from my mum Sunday evening. I had just had the best weekend I’d had since being made redundant, emotionally, physically, spiritually, so being targeted by the Enemy was probably all I could have expected. However I know the antidote. Headphones go on, music gets turned up to 11, and I re-examine the truth.

Because there’s bad news for him: He has no call on my life, he has no authority over my emotional well being, I have absolute victory through Christ who loves me and there’s not a damn thing he can do about it. I’m a child of God, a son of the King, and he hates that…and I love that he hates that, and that’s all the fuel I need to stand – Bring on the week!

Also 6:2!

 

Detail

detail-scaled

There seem to be days when I feel like I go through the day in a flash and I never get a chance to look at the fine detail. This week has seemed to have been very different to most others. It has felt like a never-ending week. I cannot tell you why. It hasn’t been a particularly bad week, just a long one. This week I seem to have noticed a lot of the detail I generally miss. Even to the point of noticing the design on someone’s earrings for the first time (they weren’t new, I asked).

This week I also realised a number of things that will hopefully make my life easier. I finally worked out that some people think in a much more linear way than I do, and if I interrupt that process it might not be all that welcome. Not everyone likes the walls to be bare in a room. I like clean lines, and that must make others feel like they are being forced into somewhere dull. My preferences are very different to most people around me. Once I understand the preferences of others I can then allow for them. This can only happen if I look at the detail, rather than being focused on what I have to do.

When I look through the photos I have taken these past few weeks, and I edit them, it is only then that I see them at the correct size. When they are on a small digital screen they look fine, but when I see the true detail, I know then what I have captured and what I want to do with it. I often get frustrated when uploading photos and they don’t present themselves correctly (the way I want them to). It means people miss the detail.

A lot of life hinges on the detail. A subtle nuance here and there. A small glance, or gesture can change the whole meaning of a conversation. Look for the details, they are there to give texture to our lives and to stop it from becoming bland.