Feedback Loop

It’s been a strange few weeks since my appearance at the the national poetry day. I’ve had quite a few people recognise me and talk to me about the event, and asking how it went. Some people have even given me some very encouraging feedback on the pieces I performed. This has helped me no end; it lets me know where I’m going wrong and where I’m hitting the mark, so to speak.

The advertising for the event has also helped people to find my website and to see my ramblings on here. Yet again, I’ve had some very positive and helpful feedback about the blog, with a number of people actually taking the time out of their day to read my thoughts and to tell me that I’ve really helped them. I’m very grateful for this.

I must also say this – please don’t be surprised if, when you speak to me, I seem a little off or quiet. I’m not used to people talking to me about my scribbles or my ramblings in all honesty. Like many people, I suffer from Imposter Syndrome with regard to my poetry. So I can find it a little overwhelming, and to top it off, I’m also an extremely shy and nervous person too.

Please don’t let this stop you contacting or speaking to me about it, though. I am very grateful for all of your love, support & feedback – so thank you.

Stay Safe X

Daisy’s On Fire!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Daisy Burton, she’s the guest poet from my last book Scribblology and the author of the new novel Sensible.

As you can see it’s getting some great reviews. I’ve read it and can agree with them – it’s a fantastic read. I’d like to shout out for my partner in rhymes and her amazing new project. If you’re interested in reading it, the link is below.

Stay Safe X

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sensible-Daisy-Burton/dp/1717239447

Mental Health Awareness

As I’m sure some of you who know me will agree, I’m a very outspoken advocate of mental health.

As such, I’ve decided to share a little scribble with you as it’s World Mental Health Day. This is from my upcoming anthology, Alexithymia, so please enjoy and let’s try and raise awareness of mental health issues.

Stop

Please stop for a minute.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Don’t do what it is that,

You’re planning to do.

Let these words reach you

While I have your attention.

I won’t try to say that I know

The things you’re going through.

Just know that this pain

You’re feeling right now?

I’ve been there – reaching

For the solution in whatever

Form it might take – cold steel,

Booze or pills. So, even though

I don’t know you, we have, at this

Point, something in common.

I was twenty-seven the first time

I felt I was out of options. Taking

The ultimate step that day

When I tried to put myself away.

I felt like I was screaming inside.

Remember, I’ve been where you

Are. I’ve walked that mile in those

Shoes; I want you to know this:

You are stronger than you realise.

This is a fight you can win, even

If your doubts drown everything

Out, hold on a little longer. Stay.

Let me talk to you. Let my words

Through, even if you don’t

Think you can do it. I’ll share

This pain; be a voice of reason.

You have better times ahead

Believe me, try to see, I beg of

you. Don’t take your life. Instead,

Take my hand – we’ll do this together.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Stay Safe X

The Small Cogs

This weekend has been a very hectic one. After the hectic and somewhat heady high of Thursday evening’s poetry slam, it was back to the normal routine of my daily life.

This weekend was a little different from my usual weekly routine though because the owners of the company I work for were away on a little vacation over the weekend. So, alongside a few extra hours, which I’m always happy to do, I was left in charge of running the pub and locking up. No pressure then.

The weekend went fairly smoothly, with the occasional blip, like changing a real ale barrel when the bar is busy, only to find a second barrel had gone just after the first one. These things are sent to try us, I guess. The weekend drew to a quieter close than normal as no live music or pizzas were done on the Sunday evening. This was a nice thing, because due to an admin error, I was the only front of house staff on during Sunday. This meant that instead of my usual split shift, when I get to eat, shower and spend some quality time with Mrs Bob, I was on from open til close. Not that I minded, as it’s what I’m paid to do and chef was nice enough to put me some food through just before he went home, so I could sit at a table next to the bar and eat. When it came time to clear and restock the bar, I was ready to go home and looking forward to a couple of days off. On the Monday, yesterday, I had nothing to do but buy a comic book and see where the beautiful yet unseasonably warm autumnal day took me. Today, however, I have a very long and nerve wracking lodge meeting, but that’s another story for another day.

This week at work is going to be a really busy one, with a table of 40-ish for two of the evenings night, but it keeps me busy. One misaligned cog no matter how small can stop the biggest of machines causing it to fail. I know that, like this weekend, no matter how busy it gets, if you have a great team working alongside you, instead of for themselves, things will run like clockwork.

After this weekend I’m more appreciative than ever of my downtime and those moments spent with my loved ones (and Doggers the cat) even if it’s just sitting doing our own thing alongside each other or watching some trashy TV show while crashed out in bed with Mrs Bob. They are the truly lovely times.

Stay Safe X

Choke Slam?

Well I’ve finally done it, I took part in my first ever poetry slam. I had spoken to the owner of my local comic book store about my scribbles and the idea of an event on #NationalPoetryDay was born.

The week before the event I must confess I was really not feeling my usual self. I wasn’t sleeping properly and began to get very nervous about the whole thing, more so than the last event I spoke at. This might have been because there were some very talented poets on the bill, and I felt I would be the kid at the grown-up table. This is probably down to suffering from Imposters Syndrome. Anyway, after a talk with Mrs Bob and my cousin, I decided that all I could do was prepare myself. This meant that the week of the event, I would go and see my stylist Marc Nichols – I would say barber, but I have no hair! I see him to get my beard trimmed and sculpted, and we usually have a gossip about comic books and computer games. I then took a detour to a clothes store for a nice new box fresh tshirt so that I’d look and feel good on the night

Then came the fun part of working out a set list, so to speak, then rehearse it and time it, so I knew what I was doing and how long it would take. I was really struggling to fill a 20-minute slot and began to feel stressed, until the store owner emailed and explained the format. We would have four minutes to perform each piece and we would lose a point for every minute we went over. This was just what I needed as it played to my strengths big time. I was now feeling so much better about it that I forgot all my nerves and everything else….. well, until the day of the event. I was really very nervous on the day and felt physically ill, but I knew I couldn’t back out and had to push forward. I did the only thing I could to relax – play video games and watch superhero TV shows until late on, then relax with a Masonic podcast while having a bubble bath. Might sound odd, but trust me, it works.

Then I got my beard oiled, my outfit ready and made sure I looked ready to play. We hit the road while listening to one of Detroit’s most prolific verbal illustrators/poets, Marshal Mathers III (Eminem) and I was then totally chilled out.

The event itself was really enjoyable. I was a little stressed at the point of standing up and reading my work in front of such verbally skilled peeps, and I didn’t sell myself or my book very well. My eyes even leaked at one of my own poems, but all in all I managed to do it and I’m taking that as a win for me.

I wouldn’t be able to do this event or any other if it wasn’t for Mrs Bob and her skills as my partner in crime and Scribblology. She is my everything. She’s also now known as the “Aspie Whisperer” so before I sign off I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for all the love and support she provides me.

So that’s my first major milestone down and here’s to many more.

Stay Safe X

Invisible

I’m a middle-aged guy with Asperger’s Syndrome and I’ve started to realise something about my diagnosis. Autism presents in many forms, some of which make life very difficult indeed. It’s irrelevant how impressive my memory is or how ‘high functioning’ I’m considered to be, because my brain doesn’t work in ways that other people take for granted. On the surface, people like me – with Asperger’s – simply don’t ‘look autistic’, which leads others to assume I’m not badly affected and I’m then expect me to be able to fit in.

But my world is black and white, right or wrong.

To the outside world, I might not seem to have any problems when compared to others on the spectrum. I’m able to verbally articulate and communicate with the world, unlike some Autistic people. I have a somewhat socially acceptable NFF (narrow field of focus) in my love of comic books and the related movies and collectibles. So, to all intents and purposes, to the man in the street, I’m just a geeky comic nerd. I have a job that comes with a little responsibility as a front of house manager and I have always managed to sustain employment, unlike many on the spectrum who would kill to have a job of any kind. I’m also happily married to my wife, Mrs Bob. Again, this is something that lots of people on the Autism Spectrum struggle to do. I have a small group of friends, who treat me as a neurotypical person. So, to the outside world, I’m not autistic – I’m just maybe a little different. Eccentric, even.

Yet in reality, I have never felt more alone. I’m not considered ‘autistic looking’ enough for the world to actually give me a break and understand that, despite my appearance, I am really struggling to make sense of lots of things. I often feel very lost and alone in a world that most of you take for granted.

So, what I’m trying to say is: please spare a thought for people like me. Too normal-looking to be accepted by the autistic community, yet too weird to be accepted by the neurotypical world.

Please try to remember that not all disabilities are visible.

Stay Safe X

Back to the Future

I’ve been looking back at the last twelve months of my life and it’s amazing the difference a year makes.

This time last year I was struggling with my mental health. I was a very angry person, trying to get my head around things. I was trying to put a second book together while also working on a very emotionally draining autobiography that covered my younger years. This was probably not the best of ideas, in retrospect, as it covered some very traumatic events in my younger life and the resulting suicidal ideas that dogged me for my 20s.

Going over those memories in detail brought up a lot of bad stuff, and while I tried to focus the anger and hatred into my scribbles, I don’t think I managed my emotional state very well. To top it off, I was putting a huge amount of pressure on myself to get my next book published and Mrs Bob had some physical health problems too. As a result, my physical health suffered, and my mental health declined. It was a recipe for disaster, and the time from November to February was a truly dreadful time for me.

Fast forward to the present, and things have really changed, I’m healthier than ever, and less stressed than I can remember. I’ve learned to relax this time while I put my next book together, and alongside this I’ve achieved so much. I got to perform at the poetry breakfast at the Ways With Words Literary festival, and got some nice feedback. In a week’s time, I’m doing my very first personal appearance where people are paying to see me and two other poets perform.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that no matter where you are in your story, or the world, and however you are feeling, time does make a difference. So even if your life doesn’t seem to be going the way you want it, step back give it some time.

Tomorrow may be just the day you’re looking for.

Stay Safe X

Memento Mori (posted in May)

There are moments in everyone’s life that you will look back on and realise they were some epiphany or another. This weekend, I had a massive one, but before I tell you that, let’s start at the beginning.

For a few days now, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather. I have been having sharp, stabbing chest pains near my heart, but being a typical bloke and apparently quite stubborn, I refused to call the doctor and make an appointment. Finally, on Friday, I listened to my wife and decided that I really needed to see my doctor about it, so I made the appointment and thought nothing more about it.

The following day while I was at work, I began to feel very lethargic and my left arm and leg didn’t quite feel right, they felt weaker, and I was feeling slightly out of breath. However, I had a job to do so I said nothing, and decided to push on with the first part of my Saturday split shift. I left work and met Mrs Bob (who picks me up when I’m on a split) I said to her I didn’t feel too well and I tried to relax and not worry.

When I got home I decided to try and cool off by jumping in the shower, while Mrs Bob got my lunch ready. It was during this time that I became worse and started to find my breathing a struggle, so Mrs Bob called 111 for some advice.

They decided that my symptoms indicated that they should send an ambulance out to give me the once over. Unfortunately for me, after the paramedics had wired me up, they said I needed to be taken in to hospital for further tests. This meant a trip to A&E on a Saturday afternoon.

Once there, I had a couple of cannulas placed in my arm and it was bandaged up. I was wired up to machines, having bloods taken and finally an X-ray of my chest was taken before the results came back. It was thankfully not a heart attack or angina, but more likely it was pericarditis, which came as a relief to be honest. That means the sac surrounding my heart had got infected and possibly fluid had accumulated around it, putting my heart under pressure.

I was very happy to be released from the hospital and a very worried Mrs Bob drove me home. I was happy to be home with my family (Mrs Bob & Dog) as it meant I could sit in my recliner, do nothing and relax as instructed by the doctors. T’was while I was relaxing at home that I had this epiphany.

Even though I’m sure I was in no real physical danger, it’s events like this that make you realise a number of things. I am not getting any younger, despite my efforts to the contrary, and life is too short to hold grudges and hatred. The only person that gets hurt by that stuff is me. I want to look forward, not back, and not ruminate on things that have happened before. It’s also made me really appreciate what I have and not take it for granted. I want to live my wonderful life Mrs Bob and Dog, and enjoy every minute with them. I want to forgive and forget anyone who has hurt or wronged me and leave that in the past.

We all think that we are going to last forever, which is again, sadly, not true. Finally, when that final bell does toll, and we are reunited with loved ones that have gone before, I wondered how I will be remembered by those I hold dear. Have I done the best in life I can with the gifts and talents I have been given? How about you?

Stay Safe X