Birthday Reflections and Being Happy About Being Alive…

Pa-zow! Yesterday it was birthday. It was a really good birthday, and I celebrated by reading comics and going for a curry with my Blood-Clan (erm, family). They got me an electric razor and my daily-mutilated face thanks them so, so much. I’m now 27 years old and this website advertising an upcoming Nick Cave film tallies that up to 9,862 days on Earth. I’m really happy to be alive on Earth right now. (Though, of course, I’d like to leave Earth eventually, but now I’ll comfortably settle for this planet. There’s still a lot I’d like to see and do here…)

Times past – especially birthdays past – I didn’t want to be alive or, at least, alive as me (James Clayton). I woke up on my birthday to find that, the night before, a pretty significant figure from my childhood had decided that he didn’t want to be alive anymore. I was – and still am – devastated that a great man, the kind of man I’ve always aspired to one day be in so many ways, decided that his life wasn’t worth it. A considerable number of my heroes and inspirations throughout history have made the same decision and some of them didn’t come out of it alive. It’s shocking and sad, and I felt that even more so as I woke feeling certain that, yes, I am 27 years old today and I’m so happy to be here.

As I say, that hasn’t always been the case so to actually consciously realise – I mean, really realise and acknowledge – that I love being alive is quite surprising. Recently, I’ve had a lot of life-affirming moments – some subtle and some explicit – that have really rubbed that realisation in and made me re-appreciate myself, my life, life in general and the wider Universe. Birthdays are milestone occasions that hammer it home hard and that makes sense when you consider that it’s the anniversary celebrating the fact that you’re a living being who was, at a precise point in time, pulled from a womb (or some special magic clay) to join the party. Woohoo! I was born and I’m still here and that’s brilliant! Let’s have music, dancing and curry!

Birthday whoop, 27-years' XP achievement and level-up mini-celebration moment…

A post shared by James Clayton (@jamazingclayton) on

Compare that with me of ages gone and it’s a stark juxtaposition. I remember being utterly miserable. I remember (barely) existing in a world of depression, despair, fear, frustration, hopelessness, self-hatred, anguish, anger and, yeah, all kinds of epic moop. All kinds of overwhelming negativity and self-destructive unpleasantness, where life isn’t enjoyable or even desired at all. Birthdays were especially bad times: sharp reminders that I was born as me when I probably wished I’d never been born. Furthermore, time was passing by and from there you can really go to town on worry that you’re wasting your life and that you’re a waste of life anyway and, aye, you can see the vicious runaway crazy train of thought here that drives you deeper down the dark tunnels…

But here I am, the day after my birthday, laughing and casually poo-pooing that boo-hoo backstory, feeling very sure that I don’t want to join the 27 Club. There is no magic wand/burning bush moment, wonder drug (no drugs at all), superhero mutation shock or anything like that. Mainly, I think it’s just living and maturing that instils gradual change, and life is constant gradual change. Experiences and encounters shape you and I can reel off things I’ve done, things I’ve been through, things I’ve read and watched and people I’ve engaged with that have had small-yet-significant impacts on what I feel is a seismic shift. I’m grateful to all of those people, whether I know them personally or not and whether they know it or not. (If you don’t know it yet, wait for me to finish writing this and I’ll come over there and King Kong-hug you into a coma) The same is true for all the ‘things’ and experiences, even if the ordeals have been hell to go through at the time. Things pass, you learn, you absorb something, you grow and life goes on…

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Upheaval, and ‘How to Self-Diagnose a Severe Case of Idiopathic Cerebrinunsensia Dysfunctilia in 13 Relatively Simple Steps’…

By the bushy tail of Ratatoskr! It’s been aeons since I uploaded something onto this blog space so, feeling the need to rectify that, here I go. Some context first: I am currently in a state that’s best labelled as ‘Upheaval’. ‘Upheaval’, as a matter of fact, sounds like a really good name for the summer house I’m going to build in Asgard at some point. “Good morning Odin! How do? Would you lie to come in for a brew?” “Mornin’ kiddo! Aye, grand! Don’t mind if I leave these here dead Frost-Giant bits on ya lawn f’ra bit d’ya?

Anyhoder, coming back down to Upheaval on Midgard, erm, Earth and this is where I’m sitting. I’m in the middle space between working at Italian summer camps, in the middle of family home total redecoration/overhaul and, altogether, in the middle of a great deal of confusion. It’s just about several shades less chaotic than Ragnarök. Still, in spite of all of that – in spite of the fact that all my junk is in boxes and that I’m sleeping on the floor and feeling out of sorts and out of order – creative action has still been happening and is happening. Den of Geek columns have been manifesting themselves and I was fortunate enough to get away for a week’s retreat in the Shropshire countryside recently. While there I got chance to focus my mind on creative projects and get a clear sense of certain secret things so I am now very excited about certain secret things which I will not talk about because they are certain secret things.

While there I spent some time going through ze process of revisiting abandoned ideas and old projects and, as part of that, I rediscovered things that I’d completely forgotten about. One thing was a surreal piece of writing that I’d had fun with and submitted to a literary journal. Having browsed the internet a bit to check, I’m pretty sure that this thing didn’t make the cut, so I may as well share it here. It may entertain you or enlighten you (or save your life!). I’ll leave it here and go back to dancing through this Upheaval – here’s a handy guide for you titled ‘How to Self-Diagnose a Severe Case of Idiopathic Cerebrinunsensia in 13 Relatively Simple Steps‘…


 How to Self-Diagnose a Severe Case of Idiopathic Cerebrinunsensia Dysfunctilia in 13 Relatively Simple Steps

Are you feeling unwell? Do you have a sense that you are not quite yourself? Are you harbouring acute suspicions that you may be a victim of Idiopathic Cerebrinunsensia Dysfunctilia – the increasingly common albeit unexplained malady vexing the medical establishment and respectable-and-unrespectable society?

If so, do not worry excessively, for a diagnosis can be made effectively by the patient herself/himself/itself. Simply follow the following steps and follow up with a visit to your local professional general practitioner or verified witchdoctor if you feel that, yes, you have come down with a severe case of Idiopathic Cerebrinunsensia Dysfunctilia.

Step 1

Look in the mirror. Does the reflection look like the reflection that you recognise and would identify as yourself?

Step 2

Cut your fingernails, your toenails, your nostril hairs, your pubic hairs and your belly-button hairs. Can you distinguish any trace of exposed nerve endings in the trimmed and depilated areas? If you do spy exposed nerve endings, would you describe their condition as “harried”, “agitated” or “German Expressionism”?

Step 3

Touch your nose. Touch your toes. Touch your clothes. Are you finding this simple rhythmic touching sequence in any way difficult or painful, either physically or mentally? (If you are not wearing clothes, try the test again once dressed or, at-least, half-dressed if you are having problems locating your full wardrobe.)

Step 4

Breathe in and hold the breath for ten seconds. Now breathe out and hold for ten seconds. Repeat several times and then, when ready, reduce the time allotted for the holding of inhalations and exhalations to five seconds. Repeat five times and then hold the inhalations and exhalations for three-and-a-half seconds. After five repetitions of this breathing pattern, hold in-breaths for two seconds and out-breaths for six seconds. After seven repetitions, reverse so that out-breaths are two seconds and in-breaths are six seconds, then equalise after forty seconds so that all inhalations and exhalations are five-and-a-half seconds in length. Are you finding breathing difficult?

Step 5

Pass urine into a small vial as a sample for close scrutiny. Is it a colour outside of the conventional Flat Champagne-Meyer Lemon spectrum? (Retain this urine sample for a future step.)

Step 6

Reflect upon your recent behaviour. Have you noticed any troubles when asked to observe and fulfil simple requests, obey orders or comply with clear demands? For example, did you discard the urine sample you were asked for in Step 5 (see above) in spite of the explicit instruction that it was to be retained?

Step 7

Pour yourself a glass of water. Empty the urine sample collected in Step 5 into another glass. Place on a solid, level surface. Observe both closely and wait until you receive communications from the liquids before you. In your experience, is it the urine that appears to express the message “DRINK ME” first? (Note: it is not advisable to drink the urine, no matter how persuasive said urine may be.)

Step 9

Walk backwards for a distance of at least one country mile. Do you have the sensation that you are walking forwards with your head on back-to-front?

Step 10

Check your internal compasses. Are they pointing to somewhere other than the True North? Are you finding it impossible to locate your internal compass or, likewise, are they finding proving to be incapable of finding you or True North?

Step 8

Observe your relationship to the imminent environment and the chronological unfolding of reality around you. Does it seem like you are experiencing things in the wrong order?

Step 11

Check your chromatic sensory perception. Are you seeing a lot of indigo? Are you smelling a lot of indigo? Are you tasting and hearing a lot of indigo? Are you feeling indigo? Indigo?

Step 12

Sit still for several moments and attempt to scrutinise your faculties of logic and reason. Do you illogical feel that trouble life having jumbled and because sense don’t make are you comprehending jumbled appears it all to be and understanding having up are you things?

Step 13

Ask yourself the following critical life-changing question. Would you like to suffer from a rare, interesting, definitely-spurious psychological disorder?

If, having attempted all the steps, you feel satisfied that you are a victim of Idiopathic Cerebrinunsensia Dysfunctilia, congratulations!

As advised in the introductory paragraph, please take this opportunity to consult with a medical professional and/or accredited witchdoctor for a confirmed diagnosis so you can proceed with your condition appropriately.

Enjoy your illness* responsibly.

(* “Illness”? Whoa now, sugar. I think we need to have a conversation about labels and stigma…)

No NaNoWriMo, Yes Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’…

Oh! November! NaNoWriMo? The answer is ‘No’ for NaNoWriMo where NaNoWriMo means ‘National Novel Writing Month’. (Though the fact that it’s an international phenomenon makes the ‘National’ part a bit suspect and has me me wondering whether it should be WoNoWriMo for ‘World Novel Writing Month’. Note the apposite “Woe!” or “Whoa!” homophone in there.)

I want to write a novel. It’s a creative challenge I’d like to apply myself to. So why not now? Because I also want to do everything else. This, as I keep on finding, is a conundrum that causes a hell of a lot of creative frustration and feelings of inadequacy. When you want to do all the things all the time you find that you inevitably can’t do all the things all the time. You realise that you are not superhuman and that you are, sadly, a flawed mere mortal meatvessel with limited ability to master time and space and, boo hoo, that’s not what you want. Then you have stompy feet and grindy teeth and self-beaty-up shadow-boxing moments as you ‘fail’ over and over in your constant impossible pursuit of some unobtainable perfection or sense of Universal mastery.

You then collapse into multiple existential crises and succumb to fear and loathing, ripping your skin off and howling desperately at the malevolent gods who are laughing at your pitiful humanity. And then we wrap up the pity party and go about pursuing perfection and attempting to conquer the impossible all over again because we just do not learn and those gods and the cosmos are indifferent to our lamentations. At least they are if you’re going to be so overly-melodramatic and wretched about it. Mostly, everyone – gods, animals, other humans and other humans who want to be gods and/or animals – prefers you with your skin on and a smile on your face.

So, yes, enough sorry shadow-boxing because there are better things to do and one of those things is writing (or at least shadow-boxing with a smile). Getting back on track, I’m not going to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because I need and want to focus on other creative stuff (like these and this and this and trying to prepare more stuff for this as best as I can before it happens). I want to do all the things all the time but I accept that it isn’t the right time to be doing this, as much as I’d like to have a crack at it. High five to me for working that out all on my own and acknowledging that I just cannae take it right now, Captain! Maybe I am learning! Whoop whoop!

What I’m going to do though is continue to want to do everything and work hard at doing everything as best as I can in hope that I can transcend my tragic humanity or, at least, be highly productive and juiced up on constant creative mojo. I’m going to channel some of the underlying principles of NaNoWriMo – daily writing, prolific mojo-a-go-go, creating without hesitancy or doubt – as I go through November and into months beyond. I’m embracing an an attitude of Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’ which means ‘Nah! No! Write More!’ which basically means “You should be writing more and more and more and more.” It doesn’t necessarily have to apply to writing – generally, I’m all about creating and having an upbeat, proactive creative mindset.

Rockin’ with that energy means I may have a chance of doing about 1/27th of all the things I want to do and I’ll feel good about it instead of getting downbeat about not achieving anything and being a fallible human who can’t master space and time. It’s a matter of mindset, shifting poor mood (too much of that lately), the sense of slacking and going through the motions and punching out Demon Apathy, Demon Pity and Demon Procrastination (The Unholy Trinity that terrorise us all into insidious inertia). Cut down those killjoys, quit the kvetching and crush creative frustration whenever it rears its irritating and ugly head. Get working. Get writing. Follow that Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’ groove and there will be more writing and momentum and, thus, more creative energy and good feeling and thus more writing and so on, so on, so on…

All I’m doing is harking back and holding on to the same philosophical ideas expounded in manifestos like Less Talk More Rock,  Making Things Fast and so many other motivational self-help articles, blogs and suchlikes that are out there. Long story short, moop is unacceptable and writing makes me happy and is so much fun so let’s do lots of that and enjoy it. Positive Mental Attitude, zealous determination to kick out the jams, remembering the fundamental inspirational mantras (Nah-No-Wri’-Mo’ at every pause point) and yeah, having fun.

No NaNoWriMo for me, then, but yes to writing more and more and mo’, mo’, mo’. The start of November is a perfect, auspicious time to think “Yeah! Write on!” so I’m flicking an internal switch, refocusing and rebranding this ‘Yesvember’ as I rumble on into bleak winter. I’m punching the air with plucky determination to defy the gods and my own limits! I’m going full gusto at my hopeless dream of mastering the Universe and doing everything all the time even though these things are unachievable! I’m in manic uptempo Positive Mental Attitude mode and it’s do or die and I’m a doer!

Yay writing! Yay right attitude! It’s Yesvember and the action is go! All is righteous because I’m writing and if I’m not writing I’m doing something to generate extra creative enthusiasm and energy to fuel more writing. Hey! I may even end up writing a novel! Write on… *Beats chest and burns up his keyboard, laughing maniacally all the while as he goes about conquering all the impossibles…*

(As a footnote, high fives to anybody reading this who is taking the NaNoWriMo challenge this month. Write on…)