Sunday, 30 July 2017

London Is My Girlfriend

Pret (Soho)
In Pret there is coffee. That means there are people. Or is it the other way around?
A man hunches over a table, smiles into his cell phone. With his free hand he picks up the leftover packaging from a hot wrap, sniffs it, puts it down. Spins it. He twists a finger in his ear, rubs his face.
Behind me, Spanish girls pick at pots of fruit. They eat like they don’t like the food, pinching it between forefinger and thumb. The guy with them talks loudly and throws his head back when he feels he’s made his point.
Noise rumbles through the place, the noise of things that don’t matter, and those that do. Posters declare, ‘rainforests are cool’, and, ‘freshly roasted Arabica beans’, as if people were in the habit of knowing (or caring) what their coffee beans are, or how the rainforest is doing. This isn’t Shoreditch.
Two men and two women sit; the one closest to me is a man in a blue cardigan and movie-style hair, perfectly coiffed. Every time he nods it bobs up and down a little. His cardigan has leather elbow patches, and when people talk he’s not really listening. I would be a bad person to give superpowers to. I would punch that guy in the face for the hell of it. I wonder if Superman ever got sued for destroying Manhattan – sorry, Metropolis.

The woman in front of me wears full winter regalia in a hot café. Hat, scarf, North Face jacket. She sits with her arms pinched in, like she’s afraid of attack at any moment.
On the wall a paper rack announces tube strikes averted – for now. In England, the papers turn even good news into a threat.
People leave, and I can see that perfect-hair-guy has another perfect-hair friend who I also dislike. Why? It can’t be hair. Who gives a shit about hair?
Children climb around on chairs. The girl with the bunny sweatshirt cries for no reason; her brother drops a kinder egg and scrambles around on the floor, collecting the pieces. Ten seconds later the girl is happy again, bouncing around on the chairs like she can never be hurt, or even understand the concept. I can see how such an attitude would have merit.

The Asparagus
There’s a woman with birds-nest hair, grey and white; she rests her cane against the table, digs through a ‘durable’ Asda bag, places half a pint of milk on the table. Inside the plastic bag is another plastic bag; she rummages, picks things up and holds them jealously in her claws. They’ll not be things anyone wants. She folds the bag up tightly, places it back in the other bag, takes out another one, repeats the process.
To my right a man orders Carlsberg. He doesn’t sound like he belongs here, but then again, neither do I. I wait for my burger, ignore the strange wafts which come past me. I wanted all-day breakfast, but they only serve breakfast here until noon. The humanity.
The food is exactly what you’d expect: watery BBQ sauce, chewy bacon, chips lukewarm but crisp and fluffy. I’ll eat it all. I need salt and mayonnaise.
A man sits at a bar but not at the bar, dressed like Steve Jobs, cellphone call after cellphone call; but if you’re at a Wetherspoons at one pm on a Saturday, Steve Jobs you aint.
The knife and fork sit by, unused. I scoop up the last of the mayo with a chip and lick my fingers.
A girl approaches the bar, leopard print top and ugg boots distorted out of all shape from being worn places they were never designed for. I look at her until her boyfriend walks up. Jeans and wheat-coloured timberlands, or an imitation. She has a nice face, and she doesn’t talk too loudly. Half the voices in this place pierce the room like feedback.
A plump woman approaches the bar, orders, wanders back to the table, comes back again with what she’s forgotten. The girl behind the bar stands around for a chat – she seems nice, genuinely interested in these people and their lives. Regulars.
Cellphone guy is still talking. He has a dark black baseball cap with red lettering. I can’t see the brand. I check my watch, consider ordering another drink. The table is splashed with salt and grease, as are my hands. 

Clapham Junction
On the platform, a wedge of sunlight warms my back. There is nothing better than having time.
Having the same idea, others stand alongside me, in defiance of the yellow line. I see Mr White Trainers, Blue Jeans, Plain T-Shirt, Gold Chain. I know a hundred like him, but I do not know him. His face is whiskered and wants to be tough. He clutches a heavy jacket with both hands.
A stout woman with long hair, and cheetah-print trainers hold a small dog on a leash. Her son has black jeans, ripped at the knee. The dog shivers in the shade.
Across from me a girl fusses with her earphones; trusses thick hair above a bored face. Her red bandana represents nothing. The music she plays is of a type I cannot hear.
The train arrives and people jostle. From years of experience I can tell there’s no need, but stress is a feedback loop. I stand in the entrance way and watch people, debating over seats. An elderly couple pluck up courage enough to sit down.
Beside me a man hangs bright blue sunglasses from a thin sweater. He shuffles his suitcase about. The man and the clothes and the case are the same boring grey – even the shoes. He looks like he’s preparing to film a commercial for blue sunglasses. In his left hand is an empty can of Sprite. In his right hand, a cell phone.
The girl with a bandana is reading an article on her phone. I try, unsuccessfully, not to assume it’s an article about the Kardashians. She is content, smiling softly at no one.
We stop. A woman with a pram gets on; people shuffle to make room. She’s a bright red top, relaxed demeanour. Trainers green, blue, day-glo yellow. You can tell she’s been doing this a while. The child squawks, and receives a face full of mashed rice. I am reminded of baby birds.
I check my phone – I have one notification. As I check it, my signal disappears, so now I am angry and alone.
The baby mewls again, unsatisfied with sshhh for an answer. The sun cuts sharp shadows on to a platform as we squeak to a halt. The girl with the bandana helps the lady with the pram off the train. As if to fill the void, a child further down the carriage begins to complain about something undoubtedly insignificant.
The strap on my bag digs into my back; the train rocks and weaves. We stop at Gipsy Hill. The doors open but there is no breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Let’s talk about Affirmative Action

The issue:

In some areas, primarily employment and work, in some countries, systems have been and are being trialled, with the goal of addressing historical and institutionalised inequalities. These systems involve what has been described as ‘positive discrimination’, e.g. deliberately selecting minorities for opportunities, sometimes despite superior non-minority candidates, or providing educational subsidies to members of ‘underrepresented’ groups in various fields.
The argument:
Listen, I understand the motivation behind these programmes, I really do. And they’re all very well and good, but it seems to me there are a few fatal flaws. I mean, how can you try and destroy something by using the very thing you’re trying to destroy? How does using discrimination to fight discrimination do anything but create more discrimination? And this applies to issues of both ‘race’, and sex. It doesn’t seem logical.
Furthermore, there’s discrimination within the discrimination. It is well known that men are underrepresented in fields like literature, nursing, and even babysitting. No one is screaming for affirmative action for those areas, are they?
And here’s where it gets tricky. How do you count? How do you know when you’ve been successful? Is it always logical to expect a fifty-fifty split of men and women in every role? For some professions this doesn’t make any sense. We might logically expect to see more men in professions requiring physical strength, like construction. We might logically expect to see more women in professions requiring empathy, like nursing. It’s also worth considering that there are differences in the way men and women think, and approach problems.
Though it’s controversial to say it, the same may be true of ‘race’. (I put the word in quotation marks because it’s a problematic concept at the best of times, but I won’t go into that here.) It may be true that certain peoples are better at certain things. We know this from the Olympics. Koreans dominate archery, eastern Europeans rule at weightlifting. There are stereotypes for a reason.
There’s also the problem half-raised by Chris Rock. In one of his shows he talks about the fact that in the US, slaves were bred to be strong and stupid. They picked the biggest ones and forced them to have children. He points out that this is why African-Americans dominate many sports in the US today (and again, there’s no call for action here, even though you could argue whites are underrepresented, given the ethnic make-up of the country). What he doesn’t point out though, is that if slaves were bred to be stupid as well as strong, does this explain both black overachievement in sports and underachievement in academia?
So, the real question is, what do we aim for? What’s the goal? If a country is half white and half Hispanic, do you have to have a fifty-fifty split in all areas? And it is an important question to consider, even at this stage, not because of a danger of becoming ‘too equal’, but because you don’t build a car without building the brakes, too.
Finally, there’s a form a racism/sexism which is now socially acceptable, and this is to blame the white male for the world’s problems. Again, I don’t see how using prejudice to fight prejudice makes someone any better than the person they’re criticising. But also, it’s just not true. You think there are many white men in charge in China, Africa, the Middle East? I’m not denying that in some places privilege exists, but I am saying, if every time you see a problem, your first reaction is to scream ‘blame the white man’, then how are you any different from the racists and sexists you claim to despise?
The rebuttal:
I want to talk first about the car analogy, because it’s simply not accurate. A better way of looking at it would be that certain people have cars and others have to walk, and the people with cars sometimes stop to pick up their friends who happen to look like them, and then they wonder why everyone else struggles to get around.
We’re not aiming for specific figures here. We’re not aiming for fifty percent women in every job, or thirty-five percent Hispanics in every board room. What we’re aiming for is the paths and opportunities to these roles to be the same. If we take care of that, the numbers will take care of themselves.
We’re not saying, every construction site should be half female, or every hospital half male, but that those who want to be nurses and builders should be able to have the same opportunity to do so, regardless of sex or skin colour. And at the moment that simply is not the case. So we’re not expecting specific numbers per se, we’re looking at the numbers as a symptom.
Currently, the numbers illustrate the problem. The question of what to aim for is logical, and the argument for understanding the goal makes sense, but the idea behind all these systems is that if the paths are clearer, the numbers won’t need to be dictated.
ere’s the thing: people need to see others like them in roles they aspire to, or they automatically (and subconsciously) assume the roles are not available. Even if the paths are ostensibly open, if they cannot be seen or understood, what use are they?
Like it or not, a bias exists. If you feel threatened by a loss of opportunity for ‘your type’ (which secretly many do), then your only recourse is to become better at what you do, so that when the choice is made, it is made on ability. Don’t you want to be selected because you’re the best, not because you happen to look the part? If we persist long enough, things will balance out, the systems we are using will no longer be needed, and merit will become the criterion by which all are judged. If you don’t like feeling like you may be undercut because of who you are, now you know how the rest of us feel. It’s time to take away that feeling for all people. And you can help.
Finally, yes we get that prejudice doesn’t defeat prejudice. But try being disadvantaged your whole life and see if you don’t get a little angry at the people on top, too. We’re not fools, we know that not all problems are caused by white men, we don’t think that all white men are bad people. But it’s easy for you to accept the status quo, for obvious reasons. And you need to understand that the rest of us aren’t going to put up with it any more. And neither should you.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Let’s talk about Casey Affleck

The issue:

Ben’s kid brother won an Oscar, and people complained. Not because of his performance, but because Affleck is a man accused of sexual harassment on an earlier project, by two separate women. Both cases were settled out of court. The criticism is that yet another man has been able to use money and power to get away with demeaning (and possibly criminal) behaviour towards women, and not only move on with his life, but rise above the clamour to win fame and critical acclaim. This sends the wrong message, many say.

The argument:
Let’s be clear about one thing, here. Casey Affleck has been convicted of no crime. He has been accused of actions which are possibly criminal, more likely simply ill-advised. The line from many seems to be that this should make him ineligible for an Oscar, or other awards. Ignoring the fact that awards for acting talent are not based on the moral character of the actor, it seems a little heavy-handed to condemn a man for the rest of his life, for actions he may have committed. Do we want to live in a society where the very act of accusing someone constitutes a life-long black mark? Is this the type of judgment we aim for?
Now, since the cases were both settled out of court, there can be no way of really knowing what happened. We cannot know whether the claims were completely true, completely false, or a mixture of the two. We cannot know whether Affleck is a lecher, or whether the women spied the chance for a quick buck and took it. Or, again, some combination of the two. If the women involved had cared enough about the integrity of the matter to eschew the settlement and proceed with their cases in a criminal court, it’s probable that by now we would have a much better idea of what went on. But they didn’t. They took their money and went away. What does that tell you?
Now, I am not saying that absence of proof means nothing ever happened. And I am not naïve enough to be unaware of the problems with the court system. But to simply give up and walk away – how serious could the actions have been?
I find it disturbing that a man who, as mentioned, has not been convicted of anything, has yet come dangerously close to being crucified by the court of public opinion, as has happened to others before him. To assert that he is now no longer worthy of praise for work well done, because of allegations which the accusers took money rather than push forward, seems excessive and dangerous. 

The rebuttal:
First of all, it needs to be stated that the kind of action that Affleck is accused of is criminal. It is sexual harassment, and should not be tolerated by the industry. Until more is done to punish those who do things of the sort, there will be no disincentive for them to keep doing it.
And Affleck is the latest in a long line of rich men who have been accused of harassment and other, more serious crimes against women, and lived to tell the tale, careers intact. Admittedly the claims are not as serious as those levied against Cosby, Allen, or Polanski, but that doesn’t mean they should be trivialised. From all these case, though, we can see one thing clearly: wealth allows you to make problems of this nature go away. Wealth provides a security net. And the settlement process allows this whitewashing to happen.
Here’s the thing: cases of rape and harassment are under reported. Those that do make it to trial do not achieve a high success rate. Add to that the trauma of the proceedings, as well as the stigma which inevitably and unfairly attaches to the victims, and you can easily understand why the women involved would choose to settle rather than push their cases forward.
The settlement doesn’t imply that the actions never occurred, merely that the women involved were probably too unsure of success to believe that pushing things further would be worth it. The whole system, which should support the victim, often works against them. And make no mistake, women deal with this shit all the time, to a greater or lesser degree. There’s an argument to be made for that fact that these women deserved their settlement, for putting up with what they did.
I’m aware I’m assuming guilt in a lot of what I have said above, and as stated, there’s no real way to know that without a trial. But the way the world works points to some kind of inappropriate action having happened, and it’s be foolish to think otherwise.
The final kick on the teeth is that society accepts it. Life goes on. Mr Affleck gets his Oscar and his praise, and from an artistic point of view, maybe he deserves them. But what sticks in the craw is that even if he is not the type of man to do the things he was accused of (which in itself is hard to believe), there are many more like him who are, and who continue to get away with it while the world looks on and claps politely.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

I Miss Obama

It’s only been two months, right? But it feels longer. Soooo much longer. We’ve been subjected to a daily barrage of bluster, ego, and ignorance dressed up as knowledge, idiocy as virtue. It’s hard to escape it. As John Oliver said, it’s like a fart in a Volkswagen.
I yearn for the good old days, the days when the man who was President acted like it, when twitter tantrums were reserved for angry teenaged boys, and when we were blessed with an example of dignity and decorum we got so used to, it was like a slap in the face when the time came for it to leave. Did we even deserve Obama? (And by we, I mean the world. I’m no American, for better or worse, but the influence of the Presidency is felt far and wide.) Maybe we did and maybe we didn’t, but it sure as hell sucks now he’s gone.
It was so refreshing to see a man of principle remain so, despite the years of abuse, the nonsensical tirades and borderline (and outright) racism hurled at him and his family. Despite having to deal with an opposition whose number one priority was essentially to prevent him doing as much as they could (rather than, say, working to improve the country in whatever way possible), I never once saw him stoop to the level of his detractors. Despite the ridiculous nature of the birther movement, which cost time and money better spent elsewhere, Obama rose above.
Now, I’m not saying the man was perfect, but he was the closest I’ve seen in my life to what a politician should aspire to be. And it’s a shame that what followed him is exactly the opposite.
As the man himself said, progress is not guaranteed, and perhaps instead of whining about the past, I should be looking to the future. It seems fair to say that now is a time to focus on what can be done, rather than on what has been done. There is nothing to prevent the powers that be from taking everything that has been achieved and tearing it down, or building something worse in its place. (Some kind of wall, perhaps.) There is nothing to say that all that has been achieved, in the US and elsewhere, will not slowly (or swiftly) be eroded. But there is also hope. There is always hope.
The signs are encouraging, if you chose to look at them that way. The failure of the Muslim ban in court, the mobilisation of state powers against new and planned laws designed to enrich the rich, remove women’s control over their own bodies, and teach our children that if they’re different, they’re bad people with fewer rights than everyone else. These things and others can, and are, being challenged every day, by brave individuals in positions of power and in positions of no power, people of conscience, and people who are plain old tired of being pushed around.
Perhaps what we’ll see in the coming months and years is the resurgence of the spirit which won so many hard fought victories (some would say that spirit never went away), a massive, beautiful, and peaceful uprising which says no to fear, no to division, and no to injustice. And perhaps Barack will come back and join in the fight once more. Maybe after a few more months. Hell, the man’s earned a holiday.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

An open letter from the year 2016 to, the entire internet, apparently

Ok, here’s the thing you guys. I get it. I really do. It’s been a rough one. I’m not going to try and argue in any sense that the year which brought us Brexit and Trump has been without its downs, I’m not going to say that these aren’t things which should make you annoyed, or angry, or crestfallen, or inspire a general dislike for the human race in general and your countrywo/men in particular. I understand your feelings have been hurt. Some of your favourite people you’ve never met and don’t really know on a personal level saw fit to up and kick the bucket, and you’re hurting because you’ll never hear their new music or be excited by one of their new displays of acting ever again. I get it.

I, too, quite liked David Bowie; I’m as partial to a cool lightning bolt as the next guy. And Prince had at least five catchy songs. Besides, the way he kept changing his name was amusing. George Michael had some good songs, too; you know, the ones I never admit to my friends. I liked Gene Wilder and Alan Rickman. They were funny and talented, and although I never went out of my way to watch them, when I did, I always thought, I don’t regret spending that time. And my life is much shorter than (most of) yours, so that’s saying something.
Like I said, I understand why those things suck. But it’s not my fault. It’s yours. You created me. A year is simply an artificially chosen portion of the time the earth moves around the sun. You could as logically count from July 2016 to July 2017. You diced up the days and created the months. I am what you made me.
Also, listen. I didn’t create death. I know that I am a unit of time, and thus deaths will occur within me, but I didn’t cause them. Blaming time is like being angry at the bar graph which shows incidences of car crashes. You should really be blaming yourselves. Death is part of the human condition. If you’d spent more time trying to conquer disease and aging, and less time arguing and slaughtering each other, you could have been free of death by now. It’s your own fault, really; it’s your nature.
It’s also your nature to look for easy options for your anger (see the above-mentioned Trump and Brexit for prime examples of how bullshit works). So I understand why you want to scapegoat me. But I’m not having it.
And here’s the other thing, you guys. It hasn’t been all bad, has it? There have been good things, too; the ups, in opposition to the downs. If you’re reading this, you made it (well, almost; hang in there until that countdown hits zero and you all shout and cheer). All that laughter you had. Those children who were born, the birthday you must have had, all the good movies you saw (by the way: for Rogue One – you’re welcome). You’ve been to weddings, parties, and had great nights all. All those new people you met, all that art you created, all that sex you had. Yeah, where’s my props now?
So lay off me. Don’t it feel good to be alive? Despite the downs, you had a year of pure, unadulterated life. That shit is a gift. And you had your ups. So stop fucking moaning.
By the way, you think 2017 is going to be any better? Statistically, with the prevalence of fame and the increasing awareness of the lives of others, more of your favourite people you’ve never met will die in 2017. There’ll be natural disasters and stupid politicians saying stupid things; there’ll be terrorism and war and disease. But there’ll also be love and hope and joy.
Now, how you deal with all that is up to you. Maybe instead of lamenting the problems of the year, you could get off your asses and set about solving the problems that made it so awful for you in the first place, if it even was that bad. But what I’m saying to you is: this is on you, not me. So if you want to piss and moan and cuss me out, fine. But don’t expect the transition of one arbitrary division of time to the next to solve anything. If you want 2017 to be better than I have been, you’re going to have to make it happen it yourselves.
How does that strike you? You want me gone? Fair enough. I can’t wait to be rid of you, either. I’m going, and I’m never coming back. Just make sure you don’t look back one day and say, damn, 2016 wasn’t so bad after all, I really wish I had that time again. You never will.
2016, out.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016


I sat down at my computer and sighed. I debated with myself whether to write this thing at all. We’ve all heard so much of it already and are sick to the back teeth, and things don’t look like they’re going to change in at least four years, despite optimistic predictions of impeachment, or trial, or the ‘second amendment people’ doing their thing. If this started as a joke, it’s ended as a coughing fit that’s bringing up blood.
I’m tired of it, you see. Tired of having to explain to people how, yes, associating with a racist doesn’t necessarily make you a racist, but it makes you something. Of how blindingly obvious it seems to me that a man who mocks disabled people is not a man who deserves any position of power. I’m tired of pointing out horrors and having them explained away, of misogyny being downplayed or overlooked, of idiocy and the language of fear triumphing.
I can understand it, of course. The failure of successive governments to address economic and societal woes, the ease with which the media are permitted to promote biased and blatantly untrue stories, the fear of the different which is at the core of so much of human action. But still, how a woman votes for a man whose tag line is ‘grab them by the pussy’ is beyond me. How a minority votes for a man who openly categorises them as criminal, or who is supported by the KKK and refuses to renounce such support, is beyond me. How a working class man votes for a man whose entire empire is built on the trampling of the working class is beyond me.
Perhaps I’m tired of democracy, of populations who’d rather believe in magical ways out than search for real solutions, tired of the easy targets of race and immigration being used as political hot buttons time and again. Maybe we should make it mandatory for factual information on key issues to be presented before any vote; maybe we should improve our education before the lack of it kills us.
But it isn’t going to end any time soon. Like I said, four more years, and also the slow drag of Uncertainty in the UK, our new banner. The rise of the far right in Europe. It’s draining, it’s terrifying.
And if that weren’t enough, we have a man who refuses to accept climate change, in a position where he is able to make important decisions about the future of our planet. Without exaggeration, humans face a problem beyond anything we have ever faced, and sound policy and technological advancement are the only ways to effectively address it. If we get it wrong, we’re doomed. As in, literally facing extinction. And it seems we may be about to get it very wrong. But as long as the economy is fine, who cares, right? As long as I don’t have to worry about foreigners coming to my country and taking all my jobs and women.
(An amusing aside is the way the historical parallels are conveniently ignored. Sure, the US was once invaded by people with far more nefarious intentions than any refugee fleeing shells and starvation, but that was all two hundred years ago. Now, the land belongs to the people who stole it fair and square.)
But it’s at times like these that it’s worth thinking of what we can do. President Obama, perhaps my all-time favourite politician, is a man of great eloquence and optimism. Emerging from his tenure into what must follow is like the journey from summer to winter. Even in the face of what we’ve seen throughout 2016, I know he urges us not to give up. Because if we give up, then we are truly doomed. There are fights to be fought, and there are millions of good people still willing to do the right thing.
Of course, flowery rhetoric means nothing. And all the blogs in the world won’t change much, especially not from this side of the Atlantic. I honestly don’t know what the point this blog is, except to say that I need to regroup, remind myself that not everyone is an idiot and that not everything is shit. Not all countries are ruled by demagogues shouting slogans and waving talismans. And really just keep hope alive. All is not lost. At least, not yet.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Monday, 26 September 2016

My Life Extra

A meditation on my current situation, and the difference attitude can make.

My life sucks: I have no job, no real income, and I am unable to make any solid plans for doing anything. I am always stressed about money and can’t do a lot of the things I’d like to do. I have no ability to get new things.
My life rules: I don’t have to pay rent, and so am able to subsist on my current savings, without depleting them too far. I get money from the taxpayer just for looking for work, and I am able to do things now and again, using my ‘let me not go crazy’ stash of money. I won’t starve, and I won’t freeze. I have everything I need.
My life sucks: My career has been tainted by a previous role, even though I was trying my hardest to do the right thing, and I am struggling to move forward. On top of that I have to appear as a witness at trials, and it’s never clear when that will be, but it is stressful and takes up my time.
My life rules: My CV is good, I have had a security-cleared job since the aforementioned one, and when I do find work the pay will likely be good. I have helped the police bring people to justice and behaved honourably.
My life sucks: I live in an isolated area, far from my friends, many of whom have left the UK anyway. It takes hours to get to and from the city, where all the action is. The area where I live is quiet and boring, and I have the same conversations over and over.
My life rules: I still have a lot of good friends here, who take the time to make plans with me. I am still able to get into town for drinks, writing group, and other events. I was able to get a bike, which makes travel a lot easier. The area where I live is safe, and I am able to spend time with my Nan.
My life sucks: I have no girl, and there seems little chance of that changing any time soon. The girls where I live are all either in college or married, and the social scene is non-existent, unless you count nights down the pub. Opportunities to meet someone are few, and it’s not impressive to say I’m unemployed and live with my grandmother.
My life rules: Opportunities sometimes have to be made. I am able to go to events and go out with friends from time to time. Despite my living situation, things won’t be this way forever. The city is filled with talented, beautiful, intelligent women, and some of them even think I’m cute.
My life sucks: I’m stuck in a rut. I have achieved very little, and compared to people I know, my life is pretty much a failure. I am not married, nor do I have a house or a stable career. I seem to be caught in a cycle of progress and stagnation.
My life rules: I must examine my life on my own terms, instead of those used by others. I have been the victim of circumstance, but how I respond to it is entirely my choice. I have the means to make things better for myself, and every day I am working hard to do so. I must maintain a belief in the future.
My life sucks: my day-to-day life is boring. I have a routine, which involves exercise, job searching, writing, housework and maintenance. I struggle to find glamour in the ordinary.
My life rules: I am disciplined enough to work every day, exercise every day, write or edit every day. I have been able to complete stories. If I were working, I’d still be stung by the grind of routine, but it can bring stability and purpose. I have access to the internet and free entertainment.
My life sucks: Consistent rejection has the power to diminish my sense of self-worth, in the areas of job applications (~300 applied for), online dating, stories and books submitted to agents and publishers.
My life rules: Consistent striving builds character. Nothing in life worth having comes easy. I am putting in the effort, so I will not die wondering. Odds are, sooner or later, something’s got to give.
My life sucks: I am frustrated, restless, my mood is often agitated or unhappy. I feel as if I am in a situation I do not deserve. I struggle to avoid feelings of isolation, loneliness, and despair.
My life rules: I am (pretty much) healthy. I have the intellectual and emotional intelligence to understand that the situation will change, and to understand that the world doesn’t owe me anything. I have a good network of friends and family who I can turn to for assistance.

‘Better than a dog anyhow.’