New Year’s Post 2014

This is my New Year’s post. I’ve been chipping away at it since September, but hopefully I’ll get it up by the end of 2014 – which was a mixed bag at best, as you’ll see.

So I started out the year on a low. I returned from the UK, where my Nanan, who had been like a mother to me was taking her cancer diagnosis better than anyone else in the family.

I returned to coup de gras a relationship which had been in its death throes for months, and failed to end at length at a friend’s Yule party before I left. The relationship’s ratio of fun to drama had been weighted the wrong way for a while, but we ticked along for at least a month longer than we should have.

After that, I fell into an obsession with a different girl who channeled how messed up she was much better than I do. In more recent months we’ve come out of it with a decent friendship. In hindsight, that’s exactly as it should be. I don’t really want to discuss it a lot. Basically it was a thing for a while, while I was going through some stuff. I wanted it to be more of a thing, and it went badly as other things in my life went badly, and I was looking for a lifeline.

My Nanan passed away in mid-February. My main memory of the news is taking a few days off work to cry and drink over Skype with the male members of my family. It was a gut-wrenching loss. It had been a long time since she was a daily part of my life (though I called her every Sunday), but knowing that the person who always supported me – my number one fan – despite everything I did or said now no longer existed just tore something out of me. I’m still struggling with it, to be honest.

My Nanan and Grandad from my dad's wedding almost 10 years ago.

My Nanan and Grandad from my dad’s wedding almost 10 years ago.

I went home for the funeral and even spoke along with my dad, and met some of my Nanan’s friends and talked about who she was and the things they had done together. It was nice. My grandad was struggling. He couldn’t believe she wasn’t there, and between the shock of that and the creeping dementia Nanan’s very structured personality could no longer ward off, he was a bit helpless. Nonetheless, I stayed with him as I usually do when I go ‘home’. Probably for the last time.

It was week two in England where thing got bad. I was living with grandad trying to deal with stuff, while trying to take care of him, ‘but not too much’, and also try to get some time out of the house, enjoy England a little, whatever. Well, some things were said. I was called a lot of things, criticized in several ways – some new and creative – and on one memorable night advised to kill myself. I’m sure I deserved some of it, rubbed people up the wrong way accidentally. Someone I work with says that I have a skill for pissing people off. Well, maybe. Still, overall it wasn’t a happy visit, for reasons beyond the obvious.

Moving swiftly on, I spent the intervening months just trying to find my equilibrium again. I have to admit the I struggled pretty thoroughly, and got into some trouble at work when my personal problems started to affect my performance. There wasn’t much understanding there, so I just added it to the list and kind of dealt with it. I also failed the Delta (teaching diploma) exam around this time.

There were some good points to the first half of the year, though. I spent some of that time dating without anything serious to come out of it. I also came to terms with being a kitty-daddy, with all the trials that come along with that. There were nights out, trips to the canals and lots of little victories that kept me ticking along.

Then, in late June, some random girl messaged me on OKCupid. She was cute, and a Doctor Who fan and had a similar sense of humour to me. Looking back at the conversation, it was a pretty easy decision to meet up.

We met, and had a date that lasted well over six hours, all-told. We’ve been together ever since. Aida is awesome, and had really turned my year around, even as we’ve awkwardly gotten to know each other, navigated lots of early relationship obstacles, and come out of it with something good, strong and a bit weird.

Early on in our relationship, I went home to England for the summer. It wasn’t as negative as the last time as I was there, but didn’t feel great. I made the decision to stay away for a while – probably something we all need.

Grandad went downhill. He’s been between hospitals and homes since not long after the funeral. At time of writing, he’s in the hospital with a chest infection, but seems to be on the right mix of drugs to keep him present and aware. The new home that Dad and family have found for him seems great and very comfortable. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle there and be happy for a good long while.

Back in Mexico, Aida and I have done all kinds of things together. We saw Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat when they visited Mexico with the Doctor Who world tour. We dressed up. It was fun. We’ve helped each other through rough patches, and we’ve shared a big portion of our fun stuff together too.

We recently took a holiday together to Tepotzlan, Morelos, where we climbed a mountain to see a temple (yes, really!), ate shrimp on a stick and pointed at hippies. It was awesome, and the best holiday I’ve had in a long time.

We're an odd couple

We’re an odd couple

I’m feeling happy with the way things are going now (finally), and I hope that this trend continues. Aida and I are doing great – really great – and things are settling down at work, though there is some general bad feeling about the usual office politics type stuff that I won’t get into here. That said, there are some great new people working there, so that has upped the energy and atmosphere a bit. I refuse to borrow problems from the future during my winter holiday.

The only thing left to do is think about New Year’s Resolutions (before our trip to Guanajuato to celebrate!)

1) Travel more – this was my resolution from last year, but it didn’t happen until I met Aida really (not counting trips back to the UK). So this year I’d like to spend more time doing that, now we’ve discovered it’s doable. I want to see Pueblo Magicos, beaches, weird-ass sculptures I can’t remember the name of, and a camping trip organised by Aida and a friend’s partner in crime…

2) Write more – I got 30,000 words out of NaNoWriMo.org’s 50,000 word goal for the month of November. I’m not planning to do it at the same pace, but if I want it to happen, I have to make it happen. I have a word document open right now titled “write something, bitch”. Hopefully I’ll take this advice all year long.

3) Lose some weight – again, this was a goal in 2014, and I have done that (to a minor degree). I’d like to go back to it being more of a focus this year. Aida has promised to help me – I can go a bit paleo again, use my bike or ecobici again – all that good stuff.

4) Stress less – there has been a lot of crap this year, both personally and professionally. I need to learn to take time away from the city, from work and from all the nonsense that has been getting me down (and is still affecting my sleep, to be honest). Less time for bullshit, more time for me.

5) This is a sillier one, I suppose, but I’d like to record what I read throughout 2015. I keep meaning to do it, and never get around to it. So, yeah. That’s something I want to do. No deeper meaning, really. Just think it’d be nice to look back on.

(If you’re interested – “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks is my standout – realistic, stressful and actually quite educational. Honorable mentions go out to George R. R. Martin’s short story anthologies “Rogues” and “Dangerous Women”, S.M. Stirling’s post-apocalyptic pagans and the “Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher as always.)

Okay, that’s all for now. Hopefully it won’t be a year between this post and the next. Have a great New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2015!

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Addendum: I got a call from my dad after I finished writing this. It seems my grandad is in danger of passing away in the next few days. It seems that his body is just giving up; brain, lungs, heart… My dad told me he’d been asking to die – to be back with Nanan. He hasn’t been with us completely since her funeral – and was only with us before that thanks to her influence.

I’d like to believe he’s going to be with her. I really want to believe that. It’s what he deserves after so many years of loyalty – loyalty that has continued after she passed. Whatever happens, I hope he finds some peace. This last year has been torture for him. Hopefully 2015 won’t be – however that comes about.

On Inaction, Depression and the Way Forward

My favourite image to represent insomnia.

My favourite image to represent insomnia.

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from depression. I’m lucky enough not suffer to the same extent that I know others do, but I am also aware of the effect it has on my life. It affects my relationships, habits, diet and any number of other things.

I’ve just returned to Mexico after a pleasant if uneventful visit ‘home’. I’ve spent more than my fair allotment in my three days back being utterly inactive and catching up on my TV-viewing and video gaming.

Beyond external stimuli (including but not limited to workload, dating dilemmas and familial guilt) there’s one thing that’s murder when it comes to depression, and that’s inactivity. Your body doesn’t work off any energy, your mind has the time to roll and roll through your mind, and you get the opportunity to spend 18 hour days watching TV and getting very little sleep. I expect that to be my situation tonight. So, I’ve decided to come up with a few “New Week’s Resolutions”* with which to occupy my mind:

  1. Finish typing up my novel so it’s all electronic. I’m at a stage now where I’m between half and two-thirds finished on the project and I’ve completely lost faith in it. I realise that when it is finished it will take so much editing as to make it a new book completely. Nonetheless, I’m determined not to give up on it. This is stage one in getting back to work on it.
  2. Write 3 new things. That’ll either be fiction or blog posts, I think. Today I dug up some old dabbles I can play with if needs be. Whatever I write,  they need to be of significant length and should hopefully get me back into the habit.
  3. Stop angsting about dating and stop acting on my angst. This one is a little more difficult and much less measurable, and therefore shouldn’t really be a resolution. Nevertheless, it’s mind blog and my head so nyer. 😛
  4. Lastly, I’m not going to sit in the house all day next Friday. What with the friends I have here, I’m sure this won’t be an issue as we all return to the country and get back to the work. That said, I want this to be my last weekend of inaction for a while. I’m giving myself tomorrow in response to the insomnia I’m anticipating for tonight.

So, yes. These are the thing’s I will and won’t do this week.

In other news, isn’t Jenna Louise Coleman cute and charismatic?! I can’t wait to watch the new half-season of Doctor who come my birthday.

Jenna Louise Coleman AKA Clara Oswin Oswald

Jenna Louise Coleman AKA Clara Oswin Oswald

“Sexy Beast” or Just “Beast”?

Couldn’t not reference this pun. Source linked. It’s a t-shirt!

I was going to begin with a Miriam-Webster definition of attractiveness, but that’s not terribly helpful, is it? I guess the truth is, I want to vent about my self-image frustrations.

The thing is, I’ve never been all that attractive. Back in the days of being 20 stone (300 pounds/136 kilos) I look an awful lot better, but I’m never going to be Brad Pitt, however much I work. See the picture at the bottom for a comparison.Even with all this in mind, I’m hurt when a woman says that my body is not her favourite thing about me.

Let me give you a for instance. At a party I met an absolutely beautiful woman with whom I began to talk, flirt and mock. We fooled around and I bullied her a little about a guy who was following her around like a puppy.

Weeks pass and we chat occasionally on Facebook. One time while drunk-messaging, she lets slip that she’s had a crush on me since the party. I utterly disbelieve her and CCQ her about three times before I’m willing to allow for the possibility and agree to a date. The date was wonderful – she was clearly really attracted to me, and wanted to pursue the relationship further. Nonetheless, my body image issue got in the way later and could have seriously messed things up had she not had experience dealing with the crazies.

Unfortunately, my mind seems to see attractiveness (with relation to me, anyway) in a very binary kind of way. Either you think I look good or you don’t. There’s no grey area. Of course, that’s not how I’m attracted to people. I can be attracted to this element and not that, and come to an overall “yes please” conclusion without the bad things being the be all and end all.

I think I need to find some sort of middle ground. I know I’ll never be a swaggering, self-confident fat guy like James Cordon or Gnarles Barkley (yes, random. They’re the two that came to mind, okay?). I also don’t have to believe that I have the looks of a cathedral grotesque. There has to be a middle ground and I need to find it. I need to come to terms with the idea that someone can be attracted to me despite rather than because of my body. I need to come to terms with the idea that that’s a good thing.

Before, after and "as if"

Before, after and “as if”.

30 Days Challenge: Day 29: Future plans/goals

I find myself in the mood to whine and winge at be generally depressive at you. Instead, I’m going to do the next 30 Day question, which is much more cheerful.

Career

Professionally, I want to continue to teach – particularly adults or small groups of children. I’ve become rather jaded towards school teaching and I don’t think it’s really my wheelhouse. Teaching adults and business English, on the other hand, is really something I can see myself doing for the rest of my working life. I’m not a perfect teacher; I have a lot of personal development and growth to do, but that is something I really want to put my time and attention into. Long-term, I see myself going into academic management and/or teacher training.

Career 2

I want to publish a book. I’m about halfway through some British urban fantasy (being that I’m British and I like urban fantasy). Even if it’s not this attempt or the next or the next, I’d like to see a book with my name on it in a mainstream bookstore (assuming they still exist in twenty years’ time, of course). This is a goal I’ve held unwaveringly since I first held J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit at around age 9. Maybe earlier. It won’t change until it happens.

Geography

This is the big question, I suppose. I have no great desire to return to England permanently, and as I begin to lose family members, that need or want will grow less and less. I also have a strong desire to live in  more countries before (and if) I decide to set down permanent roots somewhere. Unless something significant happens in the next nine months or so, I think this will be my last year in Mexico.

Romance

Well, I guess that’s kind of affected by the previous paragraph. I want to be in love again*, but I also know that it makes me make lots of stupid mistakes. It might make me stay in Mexico longer, but not forever. I want to see the world. Whoever I found would have to be okay with that as part of what they’re getting when they say ‘yes’ to getting me.

So far as marriage and kids go, I think they’re things I want in the future, but I’m not there yet. Marriage I could take or leave, but I’d love to have kids one day. I’d love to have polyglot kids one day. The romance thing has to come first, though. And last.

Anyway, those are my plans for the future. I’d also like to further my Spanish and at least one other language. I want to be the kind of man with the kind of life that 12 year old Andy could be proud of becoming.

 

 

*On some days I want it a little too much.

30 Days Challenge: Day 28: What attracts you to someone

Well, I think we’ve discussed before what can instigate a crush, so let’s talk a little about what I look for in something long-term.

I’ve dated different body types and nationalities, so much as it’s a cliché, appearance doesn’t massively effect that tingly feeling in my chest and doesn’t cause me to think about a person at odd times of the day.

I think the thing is chemistry. If we have good chemistry, if we can talk or not talk for hours without being uncomfortable, if we can watch and mock TV together, or if we can share utterly stupid inside jokes. I’m kind of weird, so I really appreciate when someone is willing to be weird with me.

The truth is, although I have a sex drive like anyone else, it’s not the thing I miss most about being in a relationship. Not even close. I like the shared, open and close relationship that’s really hard to achieve outside of a relationship.

To clarify, I think it’s harder for men to have that kind of relationship, as many men are afraid of seeming ‘gay’ with their other friends. Much as I’ve complained about being a gay friend in the past, I wouldn’t trade those relationships for ones with hetero-normative men, because I know that nine times out of ten I wouldn’t get the kind of support and love I get from the close friendships I have.

I posted on Facebook recently that “there are no likeable hetero-normative men in my novel. This could be a problem.” The truth is, I’m far too open, honest and ridiculously emotional to conduct a lot of close relationships with that kind of guy, so I find it rather difficult to relate to them.

Anyway, all of this is beside the point. If I had to summarise this post in one sentence it would be this: I’m attracted to a person we can have honest conversations and silly fun in equal measure. Anything else is just topping.

Relationships, Singledom and Emo…ness

You know that guy on cheesy American sitcoms who is afraid of commitment but loves sex? I never really understood that guy. I’ve been in relationships where I don’t see it progressing further, and that’s important to be honest about, but to be wholly and generally anti-serious? I don’t get that.

Equally, I don’t understand the people who can’t be friends with the gender they’re attracted to. I don’t really understand how sexual attraction can short circuit a friendship. God knows I understand the frustration it can cause – I’m considering hiring out my over-developed gay friend skills* in the Yellow Pages – but it’s never stopped me from being a good friend to those people who I already thought were awesome.

I have lots of attractive, awesome female friends. Many of these friendships began as crushes on my part, but developed into strong platonic relationships. As someone who is primarily straight and definitely single, this can be quite frustrating at times. I suppose this post is to remind me (and anyone else in my position) that sex isn’t what makes a strong relationship, and to be thankful to the people in my life and on my international friends’ lists. It’s also because my complaining about it is both churlish and irritating even to my ears, so I’m trying to get it out of my system.

That said, I am still looking for the right Her (as one of those friends would put it) to curl up with on a too-small sofa or bed to laugh at terrible TV and to cuddle on a bad day.

So, yeah. Line under saying this shit outloud. Suck it up, Dainty.

From my playlist, this song seemed most appropriate:

*Gay Friend: (n) 1. Regardless of gender or sexuality, a gay friend is a very close friend who is never thought of sexually or romantically, but who continues to be surportive.
2. Someone with excessive training in the Friend Zone.
Etymology: from the genderless, supportive friends of cinematic romantic leads.

 

 

30 Days Challenge: Day 18: A letter to someone you miss

To My Family:

Hello from Mexico! I just wanted to let you all know that I’m doing fine (as you know from my weekly calls) and all is well.

Sorry I seem to have spent so much of my time running away from you. I love you all. I love being with you and I miss you so much when I’m away. The problem is, the lives you live are not what I want for myself. Not yet, anyway. I need to be myself, even if it means I can’t be a part of the family in the ways I’d love to.

I hope you can all understand and forgive me. I’ll always be part of you, even from far away.

Lots of love,

Andy.