What I’ve Learned the Past Month

When pain becomes more constant, fear of anticipation goes, and everything starts to get better. For the first time in months, I’ve spoke with clarity and eaten sitting up/standing, at times. 

Helping others makes me feel better about myself, and the motivation can last longer than a few moments. It doesn’t have to be tied to a reward. I’ve contributed beyond myself in a way I never have before and my relationships have improved as a result. 
By the same token, if you completely ignore what you want, and spend no time focusing on it, you’ll feel deprived and can’t be the best version of yourself, in the best place to think about others. As is often said, there’s a reason why airlines tell passengers to fit their oxygen mask first before helping others. 
I’ve seen how much my oldest daughter is like me in her developing personality. I see my strengths in her, I see my weaknesses; I’m in the best position to help her to shape those, hopefully to avoid some of the mistakes I was unable to. 


The Detail of the Declutter

Last year, I went through my Agatha Christies, unsure why I loved half and cared nothing for the others. It wasn’t to do with the plots, it wasn’t whether I’d been immersed in a televisual adaptation. Finally, I realised, trivial as it may seem, it was the font. The ones I loved had a particular look and feel that the others didn’t. 

I accepted this, quite proud of how I’d drilled down to the detail, and the decluttering and donating continued, my Christie books half in number. 
What are some of the stranger factors that have helped you to keep or discard?

Why All-You-Can-Eat-Buffets (can) Suck

Over recent times, I’ve ruined several meals by overeating, when, according to the setup, you can’t overeat. 

There’s an impressive-sounding phenomenon known as the law of diminishing marginal utility (the first bite is awesome, every bite thereafter is a bit less pleasurable than the one before). When the law meets a desire to get maximum food for your money, what you’re left with is bloating and nausea, disappointment and regret. 
And none of it makes sense. I don’t go to a buffet because I’m starving and need to eat seven platefuls as if I’m giving up eating for Lent. If I was starving, I’d buy a couple of 50p loaves of bread and load up. 
It’s time evolutionary psychology – I better eat all I can as I don’t know when I’ll get to eat again – got to grips with our age of plenty. 
By not sabotaging the meal in a fit of greed, I can eliminate the superfluous. I can be more selective, I can enjoy a taste of different cuisines, in good company, and relax, having to neither cook nor clean. Increased intention unlocks the higher-grade experience. 

The Quiet Atrocity of Collect Them All

Inspired by a recent poster’s suggestion that the everyday phrase ‘collect them all,’ “gave them the shivers,” I explore these three words which embody the thoughtlessly-excessive mindset cultivated by brands and perpetuated by the folk that buy them.

Following the Industrial Revolution, costs of production fell with more efficient methods of manufacture, and the advent of cheaper, lower-skilled labour. By the time of the Great Depression, over-supply had been a significant problem facing society and the birth of the throwaway age was born. To use that produced, we would have seasons of fashion, such that even if the car or skirt still performed its function, it would be discarded as owners wanted something newer. Keeping up with the Joneses in full swing, product quality began to dip to encourage rapid consumption and replacement.
Collect them all is the legacy of this movement. Rolling off the tongue easily, accompanied (in my head at least) by Tony the Tiger’s enthusiastic tones, it enters through the back door of the mind – without the slower-thinking frontal lobe having the opportunity to assess the toxic consequences its acceptance entails. 
From attempting (and never quite managing) to collect them all in my younger days, I’m attuned to the onerous obligation undertaken by the would-be collector. How many times have I wasted money and attentional energy in buying a packet of stickers or box of cereal in the aim of getting something new? Not too many more than the number of times I felt a crushing disappointment (remember, I was young!) in unpacking a(nother) duplicate. At what point do you realise the expenditure of additional resources is an exercise in futility? 
Often when people find themselves in debt – and I’ve been there, I assure you – it is the little day to day purchases that take their toll. Tiny, repeated, bad habits of over-expenditure and unthinking consumption, day in, day out, produce mountains over time. We can shift them, but it is never easy. 
Advertising’s tripartite phrase is the industrial capitalist’s utopia, encouraging us to buy things we don’t need, things we probably already have – under the illusion that we’ll use them all up and it will be okay. It makes sense; there’s no additional cost, right? In reality, our minds are so programmed to chase materialist novelty that a new thing comes along, persuading us to part with our hard-earned cash and relegating our part collections to needle-in-a-haystack-flea-market-tat, if not the bin, let alone a stressful I’m-going-to-complete-that-one-day-display positioned alongside all the others. We end up with more than we can use, adding to a culture of excess, and, doubtless where novelties from food purchases arise, the obesity problem. 
The choices thus far have been shown to affect us as purchasers, and us alone. There is a wider impact, that on the environment. 99% of the things we use involve the production of waste: effluent from factories, harmful pesticides and landfill, in varying ratios. As an advocate for minimising waste responsibly, the amount of resources caught up in frivolous, unnecessary purchases is scarcely imaginable. And even if it is recyclable, because of the manufacturing waste and the transportation pollution, recycling will never be better than not using resources in meaningless ways in the first place. 
The movement is long underway – if you’re reading this, you’re probably a part of it – to extract maximum value from our resources, to determine expenditures which will maximise joy, purpose, or both. Increasingly these arrive in the form of experiences. It is my hope that over time ideas such as ‘collect them all’ will be relegated to the scrap yard, first as unnecessary, and, finally in their resting place as parodies of an archaic system in which consumption appeared compulsory. 

Buckaroo in a Ghost Town

Last week, my iPod shuffle finally gave way. Eighteen months ago, it was around £20 and honestly, the temptation to throw it away was strong. The idea of returning it to store so they could charge it and try to find a fault didn’t seem like the best use of my time; I just didn’t want to do it. That said, it has a handy clip so it stays on the waistband of my shorts as I run. I love that it shuffles songs too; gone are the thousand decisions that made suffering possible by virtue of a screen. Considering it is under warranty, I waited until I had to visit the bank also, and took the time to return it earlier. The testing period quotation was half an hour. 

Half an hour to spend in the city centre of Wolverhampton. I’ve not done that in some time and had no interest in it today. Some time ago, I may have careered here and there, out one storefront and into another with a slightly embarrassing, shallow buzz I’d inevitably regret later; pointlessly moving from shop to shop was a five-days-a-week habit for my ex-wife and I. And even if I had managed not to waste money, I’d certainly wasted time. 
Not today. Today, I was oblivious to the bustle of the shopping centres and walks; buildings I’ve stepped into one hundred times or more held not the slightest motivation for me to do so again. I scarcely remember seeing a single one of them. Wolverhampton has become a ghost town to me. 
And so I passed the time peacefully, walking leisurely in the sun, stopping for a brief sit down on a deserted bench and enjoying a podcast. This wasn’t the mere absence of want, it was the absence of wanting to want. The search for pacifiers and novelty, gone. I am entirely content with what I have; I am Buckaroo, loaded up, threatening to spring if I’m laden with further possessions. I felt tranquil, similar to how I feel after meditation. 
As I returned to store, they quoted a further half an hour. Smiling, I replied, “No, thanks.” At the girl’s request, I jotted down my number. They keep things for two weeks apparently. I’ve a feeling they’ll keep this for some time longer. 


I really wanted you to sit on me or me on you or you next to me and me next to you like we used to and look into your eyes and ask when could I see you again because it’s important to me. But it wasn’t to you. Lost in the urgent glow of your smartphone screen, we each defined our priorities; where once they met, today they don’t. With each passing day they become strangers, perhaps the perfect metaphor for our hearts and minds. 

When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Work

I love to get things done ASAP. It reduces stress. No longer do I walk past things with the nagging internal reminder that I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that. That’s draining. 
My ex-wife used to cook wonderful casseroles, and I’d wash up. A casserole dish which needed soaking, a couple of pans for vegetables and potatoes. A serving spoon or two, knives to chop, sides to wipe. I’d do all of this in five mins before I’d sit down to eat. That meant then I’d have only the plates, cups and utensils afterwards. It made me just a little bit happier and it’s something I still do today. 
When there’s a little job to do, do it. Get it done. And experience how much lighter your mind feels.