What a great name for a band! 

June 25, 2017

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the notion of cognitive dissonance, which is that melty brain feeling you get when you try and hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time. The example that is often bandied about is smoking cigarettes, we know they are extremely bad for us and yet people keep on doing it. There are a number of ways that human beings cope with this phenomenon, the first is to drop one of the ideas, in this case is would be to discount the weight of scientific proof telling you that cigarettes are bad for you and write it all off as so much scaremongering or to listen to that evidence and throw your cigarettes in the dustbin. Then there is the third option where we invent an explanation that deals with the problem in some other way like,  “well, something is going to kill you.”, “my auntie Ethel smoked thirty a day and lived til she was 100” or “I don’t want to get old and senile anyway!” There is always some way that people will cognatively reframe something if they want to keep doing something that they know deep down is bad for them. It’s easier to believe anything, no matter how bizarre or how convoluted than it is to try and hold two opposing thoughts in our heads. We are all guilty of it to a certain extent, we know something to be true and all the evidence points to it and yet we refuse to face it, sometimes we don’t want to rock the boat, sometimes through fear of change, sometimes the consequences that the truth might stir up, sometimes out of sentimentality and sometimes out of love. 

The lengths some people go to to not deal with a truth can be astounding, from people who ignore the abuse of their own children to hold on to a partner or parents who cover up the crimes of their children out of misplaced love. One way of rationalising a decision that causes cognitive dissonance is to normalise the problem thought by finding others who hold the same abnormal idea. From paedophile rings, hate groups to extremist political or religious groups, it’s easier to hold an idea of a bizarre nature when someone else is telling you that it’s ok. Sadly, in many cases it is an easier option than to sort your life out. 

One of the most common ways of managing cognitive dissonance is to constantly defer choosing what thought to go with ad infinitum as many smokers do. They will give up tomorrow, a tomorrow that never comes, it works for other things too but as we stretch out that process and avoid making that decision we often find it gets made for us. Options close down, things blow up in our face, the consequences of decisions not made catch up with us and make themselves known in the most unpleasant of ways. Although in most cases those consequences are never that dire, suffering daily from the weight of all that brain noise is a harsh enough punishment on its own.

Oh! And there was a metal band with that name, they were rubbish! 


The moving on conundrum.

June 10, 2017

I hate that phrase ‘moving on’. There is an assumption of a forward direction being taken, where the reality is that you can just as easily be going backwards or simply standing still and stagnating. Moving on suggests progress to a better state of being. In reality ‘moving on’ rarely is to something better, just something different. Moving on from a cliff onto the rocks below isn’t progress, moving on from adulthood to old age and then death isn’t progress, moving on from a sense of happiness to one of sadness certainly isn’t. And yet, here I am… moving on… It’s certainly wasn’t through choice and I put everything I could into not moving on…. But here I am… What has put me off more than anything else is the thought of the other party moving on and just how far they have moved on already I shudder to think as I have a self imposed blackout on what they get up to, mostly because all it seems so bloody dismal and depressing to me. What I have been avoiding though is the idea that if I acknowledge that I have moved on, I will need to face the sad fact that they have too. The reality is even sadder than that though, they had mentally moved on when we were still together but didn’t have the guts to tell me. I think the hardest thing I have had to do was to separate my own self worth from someone else’s action. When all you can see is string pastimes chosen above you that could have been devised by one of lucifers minions as an especially cruel torture for really nasty sinners, and people that Roald Dahl would throw into the waste paper basket as characters too vile to be believable, it’s hard to comprehend what kind of dispicable creature you must be to make your way down to the bottom of the pile with that sort of competition But however hard it is for me to wrap my head around, that lowest of the low, bottom of the caste system is what I became to another human being and that really isn’t a good place to be.

It not easy realising you mean less that zero to someone you care for  but I have to remember that other people’s choices have no bearing on who I am as a person and that all we ever really are is responsible for ourselves and our own happiness. The truth is, everything I have ever achieved, I have achieved on my own and that having to portion off parts of my life to others has only ever slowed me down or ground my progress to a complete halt, I have never felt like someone has had my back and of late they were probably as likely to be sticking a knife in it. That said, a life for creative success alone is a bit of a poor do and is certainly no way to live a life. That, I guess, brings me back to the moving on business again, and here is where I am in danger of sounding really arrogant if I phrase it wrong but, being as idiosyncratic as I am, the chances of finding someone suitable drop massively compared to someone living a run of the mill life and it really doesn’t help that I don’t trawl around the pubs and clubs, or that I am not a joiner of things to meet people , be they evening classes, groups nor dating sites. It took many, many years to find what I thought to be that special person and many more before that to make sure that I was mentally and emotionally well enough to be in a relationship as I felt it would be irresponsible to be anything less. Like most clever dicks who think they have got every angle covered, I discovered that I hadn’t because while I was worrying about my own mental wellness, I failed to take into account that of everybody else. Whoops! 

Whilst only hiding under the duvet every third day might not seem much progress to everyone, to me it is a godsend. It is allowing me to slowly get my mojo back and throw my paint on canvas rather than words on the digital page. I am my own worst critic and given the chance I will put the boot in on myself at every opportunity. Every so often though I catch myself and have the strength to point out that I devised a way  of turning the drawings of people with learning disabilities into marketable soft toys that can be ethically manufactured just a couple of months back and produced reams of artwork and am working on another show, I achieved more tangible good in six month than some do in a lifetime. If that sounds arrogant then fear not, because in a couple of minutes I will have forgot all that again and be back to kicking myself up the arse. The point is though, that I always manage to acheive, despite the self loathing, despite the illness and exhaustion, I always seem to pull a rabbit out of the hat from somewhere, and sometimes the very things that slow me down become the emotional rocket fuel to power the next thing I do. Is this me moving on? Or is this just me being me? I guess it’s all just a question of me making a choice where there frankly isn’t one. It this the future for myself I chose? No! Is this the future for myself I wanted? No! Can I take this future and make it my own? Probably. I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see.


One way conversations in my head.

June 8, 2017

For a while now, I’ve been exhausted in my head before I even managed to roll out of bed most days. I keep having imaginary conversations or more accurately imaginary arguments in my head. Am I the only person who does this? I know I’m not the most stable person, I will happily admit, but I’m not sure just how far on the weird spectrum this goes. It’s not like the devil is telling me to do something or that I think I am being bombarded by a thought control machine and am in desperate need of a tin foil hat. This is more like the version of my father that I carry around with me, the odd little comment or look I can remember, usually when I’m getting a bit big for my boots and I catch myself spouting some ludicrous explanation for whatever I happen to be doing at the time. The really weird thing is that this person is still alive.

One of my siblings has said precisely one wise thing in their life and it was this. “when someone you love dies, they have no choice, when someone you love leaves you they do.” Being abandoned by a loved one is the dog shit cupcake of berievment with and added rabbit poo cherry on top, and when you are left for things that seem utterly insane and self destructive to you it is the same but with added diarrhoea icing for good measure.

So there is this voice that pipes up in my head and as I am cursed with a ridiculously good memory and a really good imagination it is really no fun at all. I can be cheerfully minding my own business and off it goes and there I am trying to get answers to things I will never get a straight answer to, particularly when it is me basically talking to myself. It’s like Frost / Nixon, Paxman / Howard, Blair and, well, everyone. Squirming and sliding and half truths and misdirection… Exactly like in real life basically, except without the nice moments to break it up.

There are distraction techniques that are useful, the new Zelda game has been a godsend as is the act of painting, reading is a total pain though as all that passive intake of words just allows things to creep in… There are far more ruthless techniques to forcibly eject some from your psyche but that would just seem cruel, swapping out someone’s image for something grotesque or giving them the voice of something unpleasant in your head.  It seems so cruel though, and I don’t do cruel, I leave that up to…. Other people…

Well hopefully, in time, this will fade and it will be as easy to ignore as the tinnitus in my right ear, but until then I’ll have to put up with my brain lodger and try not to start another argument.


Crazy makers

May 31, 2017

Ok…

Take a day, any day, what do you do with it?

I have such expectations for every day, all the proactive things I will do, the organisational feats I shall pull off, everything I shall achieve. Of course the reality is that what I achieved on any given day will fall vastly short of what I wanted to do, but I usually acheive something even if that progress is infinitesimally  small and painfully slow.

There are some people that seem to wake up every day and think “So! How can I make my life that little bit worse today?” before proceeding to do just that. Whether it be handing their contact details to someone absolutely awful, agreeing to be involved in something time consuming and destructive or actually thinking up something nasty to do themselves and going out and doing it. Whether they mean to do that or not,  is neither here nor there, they don’t take care not to and effect everyone else in the process. 

There is another term for this, much used by self help writer Julia Cameron, and that is ‘muddle maker’ it describes those people who will totally distract your focus and suck away your energy. She uses it in a series of books called The Artist Way, the irony being that if someone has read the wretched thing, they are likely to suck the energy out of others themselves in persuit of their own creativity. Being an artist as far as I’m concerned is mostly about being slightly out of phase with the rest of the world. Just enough to see its workings and its patterned but not enough to go completely mad. A book can’t teach you that, something has to happen to kick your world off its axis. Oh dear! I can hear those lawyers beating a path to my door right now.

Some people seem to get comfort from the chaos they create, they feel unnerved by silence or peace and need to destroy it at the earliest opportunity. They surround themselves in a security blanket of chaos and mess and other messy people and that’s how they like it. There are others though that are unaware they are even doing it, sadly, these people often pass their chaotic ways onto others and create new generations of messiness to help make the world fall apart that little bit more. 

Two of the messiest people I have met are dead now, they died much younger than they should have  and were younger than I am now, but not before creating children who are now as bigger mess as they are. But then, when I think about those people they grew up in chaos themselves.

It’s a curious thing, you can’t legislate again messiness of the soul and yet it probably causes as much damage as the alcoholism, drug and or gambling addiction that often go with it. You can’t pin it down, you can’t find a line where being a free spirit or being fun turns into a life wrecking disaster. We need diversity, we need a bit of fun in life but there is a point, like in my uber messy cousin Joy, dead at fourty four leaving a thirteen year old son on his own, where the only fun left is the first three letters of funeral.


Utter Bedlam

May 29, 2017

I had a “five years old today” thing pop up on Facebook. It was a call out from me for people the have their initials scratched on a cell wall in my version of William Hogarth’s Bedlam. By some odd coincidence I am currently ‘doing’ his election series in exactly the same way right now, biro on cartridge paper. Looking at it now, I can see a few initials of people who actually should have been locked up in bedlam or the modern equivalent, but then, maybe, so should I. 

I have been to the actual Bedlam or to give it its proper name, Bethlehem Mental Asylum, you probably have too, at some point, you probably don’t even know it, it’s now the imperial war museum. It’s quite fitting really that a place used for the mad is now used to store the artefacts of the most senseless and cruel things that humans do. 

I was there a couple of years ago, during a major refit, the cafeteria had been moved into an area that wasn’t usually open to the public. It had the same, tell tale, curved roof that you can see in the drawing and as I sat there, nursing a very disappointing coffee, I tried to image being back there amongst the screams and whimpering of what was a dumping ground for London’s mentally ill. It was still filled with tourists, strangely enough, people would pay to come and gawk at and mock the mad. Now we just put them on talent shows it seems and do it from comfort of our living rooms. 

Looking out on the beautiful kept grounds, it was hard to imagine the misery it contained, well the original misery it contained as the killing devices of war were everywhere, having been mad myself and revisiting that terrible land occasionally, I just sat and thought, “this could be me.”

Looking at it now, with the prospect of five more years of some of the most hateful and cruel people running the country, all I think today is, “this probably will be me.” Soon.


Green eyed monsters

May 19, 2017

I’ve been pondering about the damage jealousy can cause in relationships, mostly in romances but also in friendships. It’s one of those poisonous things that never makes anything better… Quite the opposite in fact. 

I was reminded of this last night when I was rooting through old photos on my computer. I found a lovely one at a little garden / dinner party a friend threw. It’s a lovely photo of a newly formed couple, both parties very clearly and very much in love. I look at it now and I can’t help but feel very sad about it because that was the night it all went wrong, because that was the night the jealousy started.

I haven’t had many romantic relationships in my life, I guess mainly because I am a very atypical man. I was brought up by women and have always got on far better with them than with most men. I respect women, I don’t see them as sex objects, I like talking about how people feel rather that regurgitating facts and figures about cars,sport and stuff and I am bloody good to go clothes shopping with and I can even alter what was bought. Most women I spend time with become my friends, nothing more and they appreciate a male perspective on their love lives. 

It can’t be easy being romantic partner walking into that but there is a point where you have to trust people, I mean, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

I was jealous once in my life, back in my early twenties and I learned the hard way not to ever be again. To my knowledge, I haven’t been since but I try and stay aware of it, just in case.

There is a danger, past a certain age, for single people to maintain friendships with almost solely other single people or those whose partners are so ineffectual that they may as well not exist. This leads to the misery loves company, “crabs in a barrel” scenario where the second one person actually meets a potentially promising new partner, it is scuppered by subtle and not so subtle hints from their ‘friends’ that they are changing, not seeing their friends enough and other such things. Then, inevitably, things go wrong and wedges are driven, problems are magnified until everyone is back where they started, only a little bit sadder. This, of course, is another form of jealously, your friends can’t be happier than you are, they must sink down in the mud and the misery until everyone ends their days all sad and lonely.

I do not subscribe to such poisonous theories, I want my friends to be happy and successful and well cared for, even if that means I never see them ever again. Shouldn’t that aways be the case? I dunno, maybe I’m just weird… I guess that’s why I’m single. If you are happy to help your friends of the opposite sex it can cause friction in relationships if your partner is even slightly jealous. I’ve never really understood any of that. I mean, I could have a secret gay lover, I could be seeing prostitutes in my lunch break, I could have a deeply perverted relationship with a donkey called flossy. (Please note! I do none of these things). People can get up to all sorts of things, the point is that you should know them enough that they don’t. 

Jealously becomes a constant erosion, it lessens us as people. It chisels away at the jealous person and the relationship they are so obsessed about protecting until it’s either crushed, smothered or worn to the bone by all the unnecessary pressure on it. Jealously never ends well, the person on the receiving end either accedes and lessens their contact with their friends and even the outside world in general until the person the jealous party fell in love with is barely a shadow of their former self as they become frightened that any action that they take will be viewed by their hyper aware jealous partner as anything they do being a choice between them and the imaginary version of the world that they have cooked up. Sometimes they get to a point where they are so sick of the lack of trust that they just walk out or away. There is a third option though, where the accused just thinks “sod it!” and has an affair because they are already being treated as if they are having one.

What makes matter’s even worse is when the jealous party refuses to acknowledge their own jealous feelings and they spend all their energy trying to find excuses for their actions that do not properly match what they are feeling inside, all that anger, all that mistrust, has to find a point to ground and comes out as pettiness and spite and forcing people to make ridiculous choices and comparisons, just so that they can find something more legitimate, however petty, to be angry about. It’s easier for people like this just to find partners they don’t love and don’t care about, perennially shallow relationships of convenience where their buttons aren’t pushed. It’s a way to get through life, but a sad, shallow and pathetic one, but that is all that some people can only cope with. It’s a life, but only just.

Like I said, jealously, it never ends well. All you can do is hope that next time around the jealous party doesn’t do the same thing again with someone else… They probably will though. 


Lost in your thoughts.

May 17, 2017

I have to admit that I’ve lost my way a bit over the last month or two, culminating with an event last weekend that knocked the wind out of my sails. I am usually very focused on what I want achieve and how I need to do it but the general stupidity/insanity of the world and indeed my own personal integrations left me feeling like a giraffe on roller skates. After making a decision I didn’t want to make, I was at my lowest ebb and there is only so long you can hide under the duvet before the world starts to tug at the corners and demand attention. After way too long in my pyjamas I was so muddle headed and I think a actually muttered out loud how badly I had lost my way… 

It was then it came to me, it was simple, I needed a map. Unfortunately a map to your own mind is not the sort of thing you can find online, or even somewhere like the amazing map shop Stanfords Nr Covent Garden. I used to love that place, particularly for its maps of the moon. So in the absense of that, I thought I’d best design my own. How do you begin though? 

I’ve met some utterly amazing people in my life and also some complete disasters. The thing is though with people who have fucked up their lives, even the most mad and ruined of the homeless that I know, it so rare for them to admit it. Having had to face that hurdle myself though, I know the utter relief that comes when you finally face how badly you have messed things up as it is only then that you can take steps to remedy the situation. Of the people I know who have been brave enough to admit what a balls up the have made of their lives, you hear the same story.  It is never just one thing, no one ever wakes up one day and goes “Do you know what? I am going to completely ruin my one and only go on this planet!” It’s almost always a slow accumulation of actions and circumstance. Sure, there may be one pivotal occurance that knocks everything off kilter, but it all will have been building up beforehand. 

We make one bad choice and that leads us down a path, a bad friend, drugs, wrong relationship, wrong job, this bad choice sets us up for the next thing, the bad friends of the bad friends, criminal record, long term illness, missed opportunity and that puts us in a place where we are vulnerable to more bad things. It’s often a long, slow process, there are no sign posts, no lines in the sand, we may in hindsight be able to look back and be able to pinpoint the exact moment where it all went wrong, but, when it was happening, it was just another day. Often, when we are in an awful place, we won’t even know it, our perceptions dictate our reality and trying to point out to someone who is fucking up that they are indeed fucking up is just like explaining the existence of dolphins to the ants at the bottom of your garden. 

What I’ve been trying to do is work out where the drift is, which thought, feeling or emotion leads to which. What I have done so far is only a first go, there is plenty that is missing or needs to be tinkered with. It serves its purpose though as I now know roughly where I am again. I’m somewhere around the mountains of self awareness, it’s not an easy path to take, but sorting yourself out takes a lot of hard work. It’s worth it when you do though as you end up in a better place than when you started, but whilst you are there, you often wish your were somewhere that involves less effort, the woods of avoidance say.

I will sort it out but I won’t bust a gut over it. I’m getting very tired now and the place I am definitely not in right now is the forest of sleepless nights.


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