Lessons in Dedication from Meat Free Mondays

What is commitment without dedication?

I do something called ‘Meat Free Monday’, because you know me I love a good alliterative occasion.

Basically, on Monday I am, for all intents and purposes, Vegetarian. Now the point of this post isn’t to try and sell anyone on the idea of vegetarianism, nor is it’s point to boast and claim I am setting some form of example at all. Many people have their own reason for being Vegetarian/Vegan; be it the treatment of animals, the industry at large, simply not liking the taste, or all of the above. Personally, I completely agree that the Meat Industry is doing more harm than good to our world, but I’m a fussy eater who just happens to love the taste of meat… So, what am I going to do?

Well, ‘Meat Free Monday’ for a start. It’s a small window into the life of a Vegetarian. It makes it easier for me to imagine a future as a vegetarian, and it opens my eyes to the food options out there that I actually quite like (or, at the very least, could get used to). Stocking my fridge and freezer ready for a Monday actually means I have more options in during the week and, what at first was almost a punishment to me, has just become a way of life. I’ve also discovered I actually prefer Spaghetti Bolognaise made with Quorn Mince, rather than beef! Something I never thought I’d say. Not to mention it’s far healthier! All that said, one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from this isn’t simply “How could I be vegetarian?”, it isn’t even  “What options are out there for me?“, it’s about dedication.

See, without being ‘fully’ vegetarian, ‘Meat Free Monday’ isn’t exactly set in stone. What’s to stop me, say, moving it to Tuesday. I’m still doing my one meat free day a week, even if it does upset my alliteration obsession. This cross-roads actually occurred the other Monday when Kirsty was going out to a gig and had very little time to eat. She wanted a McDonalds (a Non-Vegetarian option, no less) and so my mind began to consider putting off ‘Meat Free Monday’ and simply doing it Tuesday, or Wednesday. Then it kind of occurred to me that, I really am just a Vegetarianism Tourist, sampling a lifestyle that some people make as a truly moral choice and a great amount of effort into doing. What first started as an activity to simply cut down on meat, albeit one day at a time, now means a bit more to me. By flippantly moving the day about I am completely undermining my dedication. Vegetarians can’t move their days around, can’t have a little bit of meat here and there as they choose (well, they can, nothings stopping them, but you get the meaning…). I decided that, even with Kirsty going out (always a weakness for me when it comes to my eating habits), even when faced with a McDonalds (which smelt, SO good and I love Chicken Selects with that spicy BBQ dip), that I had to stick to my guns and eat a meal that my vegetarian friends (of which there are many – and it’s multiplying) would be proud of.

The true lesson here isn’t about eating meat; eat what you like. The lesson I’ve learnt here is about commitment and dedication; it’s about staying on a path you set yourself for. As soon as you skip one day of something, you’re likely to skip another, and another, and another; you undermine yourself and you show yourself that your goal can be put to one side when it becomes slightly hard or it doesn’t quite fit your plan.

You can apply this to anything you’re trying to do; if you’re trying to write every day, go to the gym three times a week, or trying to eat a little healthy. Of course, there are genuine reasons to put a hold on something, sometimes you’re required to give yourself a little leniency. Often though, we can talk ourselves into giving up for ‘just a day‘. That one day when you’re that bit too tired for the gym… when really it’s more that you can’t be arsed. That one day when you’re in a rush so might as well have a McDonalds, when really you could just as easily grab a salad or some soup. If you’re anything like me, you can talk yourself into giving up these things fairly easily. If you’re anything like me, all the best intentions in the world can be put off for an extra hour in bed, or an extra takeaway, or an extra box of chocolates. However, the more we set a good example to ourselves, the more we power through those moments when we really could stick to our goals, if only we pushed ourselves a little bit more, if only we didn’t give in to ourselves… the easier these goals are to maintain and take forward, and the harder they are to simply put off in the future.

How about you? Have you set yourself any goals you struggle to keep? How do you manage it? Let me know in the comments below!

Go Go, Power Rangers 

Wow, so this was a surprise…

*** WARNING: Spoilers Ahead ***

Due to our Cineworld cards, Kirsty and I go to films I wouldn’t have paid a single pound to see, let alone ten of them. It’s safe to say that Power Rangers was one of these films. At the end of the day, it looked like an overly gritty reboot of something nobody was asking for, and whilst that’s probably what it still is, I was surprised by how good it actually is.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my taste hasn’t gone out the window, but I was willing to call this a good film… At least until the third act.

Let’s start from the top. The films first act starts by setting up its main characters, you have the high-school jock throwing away his career, the picked-on and bullied nerd, the hot, popular girl being abandoned by her clique, and two characters who don’t get fleshed out until later on. On paper it’s very run of the mill, paint by numbers, teenage drama. The only difference is, for me at least, I started to believe that these teenagers could actually be the Power Rangers… It actually made me take seriously a premise I fully expected to snidely chuckle to myself about, whilst simultaneously looking down my nose at the rest of the cinema going audience (Who turned out to consist purely of children and parents, by the way, Kirsty and I were the oldest people there that didn’t have kids). Sure, these teens were fairly cliché, but I could get behind their journey of ‘overcoming personal differences, internal conflicts, and coming together as a team’.

That first act, in my eyes, works. I found myself enjoying it, and what more could you want? I was enjoying it enough that I laughed at the silly humour, that I could accept and overlook the teenage angst. I enjoyed it enough that when the second act rolls round with training montages, lessons in comradary, and a dumping of heart-felt backstory I was invested in the film. Then the third act comes along…

The films third act is undoubtedly its weakest, and it’s sadly also that act when the Power Rangers gain their costumes and fight the big bad. It’s literally the climax of the film and it couldn’t feel more… Anticlimactic.

As I said before, if I’d left after the first two thirds I’d have actually said this was a good movie, but the final fight, the big battle, was just so bland. It wasn’t even passable, it was boring. There was no weight to any of the martial arts, no intense music, no peril, and when the ‘Zords’ are used they suffer from Michael Bay’s Transformers Syndrome, in that they’re trying to be so realistic they just look messy and uninteresting. This is the part kids have sat through two thirds of the movie to get to, and this is the part that simply fell flat. There were little nods here and there to the old series I remember fondly, a couple of locations and sound effects, but they were barely noticeable in the sheer dullness of this battle. The film spent almost two hours basically saying “This will be the fight to save the world; this fight will be awesome” and it just wasn’t. It was entirely forgettable, it was badly executed, and it soured what was actually going to be a very surprising hit for me.
Let me put it another way. The thing that lets Power Rangers down is actually the part where they are the Power Rangers… Yeh, let that sink in. The premise they’re trying to sell you on, the namesake of the whole entire franchise, is its weakest part. Unlike Marvels’ The Avengers, which is at its best when the Avengers are Avenging, the Power Rangers is let down when their cast don their costumes and get to the fighting. In fact, the Power Rangers just don’t have much ‘Power’.

I also have the to give the film credit for trying, even in a somewhat heavy handed way, of dealing with acceptance of some important issues and opting to make the Power Rangers ‘team’ an inclusive one. The cynical side of me thinks it’s trying to tick too many boxes, but I think it’s heart is in the right place and, hell, if it puts examples of Autism, and non-heterosexual relationships into a Hollywood film, good on it. It’s overall a good thing that a film attempts to diversify its main characters; it’s potential role models.

In fact, it made me proud that something kids were seeing was willing to tackle some difficult issues and sell a message of acceptance. The main issue is though, as much as I was enjoying the film, it didn’t really seem to be for kids at all. There was no action, as what little there was got saved for the end battle, and the film was undoubtedly too slow for younger audiences (A fair few in our screening upped and left). Surely that begs the question… Who was it all really for?

If this film was for my generation, the more serious nature, whilst still balancing the campier moments, would be a decent if unremarkable attempt to reboot a nostalgic franchise, but were we really asking for a high school drama about angsty teenagers? Couldn’t we have tipped the balance in favour of the campiness and had a film purely full of cheese factor? So, say the film was intended to sell a future generation on a ‘new’ franchise, did they want to sit two thirds into a film before getting to the, for want of a better word, ‘action’? Wouldn’t they want to spend more time just watching people kick ass and have the character arcs written in around it? I don’t know, maybe I’m speaking on behalf of a generation I’m out of touch with and kids these days have better attention spans (though it definitely didn’t seem that way for audience members around us).

All in all, it’s a hard film to truly recommend. It’s a film that adults will have undoubtedly seen done better elsewhere, telling stories they’re now too old for, whilst also being a film kids might find too boring, with messages that, while important for them to hear, aren’t made in an interesting enough way. It’s a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be and, like with it’s mixing of tone, tries to balance too much to no avail. In the end, it’s a film I’ll be telling my friends to check out, at least when it’s out on DVD, and it’s a fairly ok Sunday afternoon watch.

Also, the Megazord looked pretty cool, so props for that.

7/10

The Hiding Place: A Monday Motivations

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Behind the fireplace in the drawing room, once you’d moved the book case slightly to the side, lay her safe space, her sanctuary; a place where the rest of the world just didn’t exist.

It served her those nights when her siblings were squabbling, when her mother had been drinking, or when her father was crying; those times when the world seemed so wrong and made no modicum of sense.

Recently, though, she had found need for it more frequently, as though things were slowly breaking apart, and her once sturdy sanctuary walls were now permeated more easily… the outside world was getting harder ignore.

*****

Two prompts in one day! Aren’t you lucky?

Like with this mornings Writespiration post, it’s been awhile since I’ve took part in one of  Esther’s  Monday Motivations; so long, in fact, that I didn’t realise we were now using Photo Prompts too! I really need to stay better up to date. My last post was At The End: A Monday Motivations

The themes here was: Hiding Place!

If you want to see my previous entries,  you can read Creation, The Musician or Gold & Misery!

The Switch: #Writespiration #12

The Switch pulsated; bright, rainbow light breaking into the pitch black room.

Everything about it was as exciting as it was mysterious.

Still, some part of her resonated with it, as though her life had lead her to this moment, and, deep down she somehow knew that it had to be pressed.

*****

This prompt brought out a nervous twitch in me, as I’m still lamenting not buying the Nintendo Switch… May can’t come soon enough! Still, it was nice to partake in another wonderful challenge posed by Sacha, in which we had to write a 52 word piece using only the prompt of “The Switch”.

I’ve been a bit lax in my entries of prompts recently, my last entry was The Juice Thief: Writespiration #5 which was… well, a fair amount of time ago!

 

My Lens: Part 3 – The Power of a Lens

What is your perspective of the world? Do you ever consider how much it changes?

It’s a post I’ve written before and one I’ve been thinking about more and more of recent. Coupled with Throwback Thursday I’ve revisited my two earlier posts, My Lens: Part 1 – Seeing the World in Pictures and Words and My Lens: Part 2 – A Happier Perspective, and, besides from realising how my writing and blogging style has changed since those earlier days here on the Clouds, I’ve also realised just how true it still is.

Part 1 deals with how our hobbies and interests shape how we see the world; the more we write, the more things that present themselves to be written about, the more photos we take, the more opportunities we see. I’ve found this to be fundamentally true as I’ve gone on. The “My Lens” series was one of my first blogs written to be read my a bigger audience, a less personal post. It was around a time when blogging was new to me and one of my fears was that I’d have nothing to say. Recently, I’ve had a lot of blogs scheduled way in advance, I’ve been proud of that, but it also meant I’ve rested on my laurels a bit. Due to this, I’ve actually noticed I’m far less inspired by things around me. Blog posts aren’t sitting around in my head waiting to be written, and my 9-5 is leaving me exhausted and too tired to write.

Part 2 of the My Lens series dealt with Mindsets; the more you practice positivity the more positive things will be. Written like that, it sounds pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the opposite that most people tend to ignore; the more negative you are the more negative things will seem. I know a lot of people who are negative, who’s believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever goes right. They spend so long focused on the negativity, that not only does every new experience seem negative to them, but they’re ignoring and glossing over the positive too. When something good happens to them, it’s only a matter of time (in their eyes) before life is going to go to shit again. In this way we curse ourselves to a damned unhappy existence.

So, what’s this part 3? Why has it taken so long?

Firstly, it’s took so long because I’ve just spent hours writing a blog that, in actuality, was really waffley, self-indulgent, and had no real baring on anyone else. It had a message, certainly, but it took ages to get there. Stay with me for a bit though, let me see if I can break down to the true meaning of Part 3.

Power.

Part 3, is ultimately about the Power of a Lens. Like Skills, the Lens you don’t practice with is lost. The less writing I do, the less I see to write about. The less photographs I take, the less shots I see out there in the world. The less positive my outlook, the less positive things seem. It can become a somewhat self-fulfilling cycle and one you may have to consciously break or you’ll feel all hope is lost.

Now, bare in mind that your perspective doesn’t just have the power to shape your view, it has the power to shape your whole world. By practicing something like writing I will get better, I will also see more to write about, I will find more opportunity. Now consider if I practice love. By practicing love we will find more love reciprocated in the world around. It’s this that Part 3 is about. That there is power in the way you see the world.

This power that perspectives have over our lives is both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it enables and opens our eyes to the wonders around, perspectives also denote your blind spots, if you practice counting your money, you start to only see the world in monetary gain. You’ll  be more blind to the things money can’t buy, the things in life like love, gratitude, support. I’ve spoke before on what value truly is in How We Misinterpret Value. and I feel the need to point out how that is very much a perspective, a lens. After all, the old adage of “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” works well here. Those who are so money focused will be the kind of person to think money solves everything; that their problems stem from too little of it, and that they can solve them by throwing their hard earned dough that further away. Similarly, those who haven’t ever seen love, and therefore don’t practice love, will be blind to its presence; may even scoff when you talk of its ability in changing the world.

We need to all be aware of how our perspective is shaping the world around us; the good and the bad it can do. We can shape the world to be more aware of the special, photo-perfect moments, we can shape it so we can see love, kindness and gratitude, or our perspectives can make us blind, they can act as narrow blinkers blocking all but that which we want to see. Our perspectives also let us see where others have blindspots, when people don’t care about others, or about society, or about the world at large. Our perspectives can show us the society-induced blindspots. The more we open ourselves to these more accepting viewpoints, the clearer the narrow view of the world at large can look.

I think the point I’m making clear here is… that after a rewrite this post is still pretty waffley. (Evidence I haven’t written something in a while… evidence that I’m on Day 9 of 13 shifts at work…) But the actual point I’m trying to make here is that it’s worth reflecting on your own lens, the behaviours you practice in your life, and thinking about the power they have in shaping the world around you. Is something you’re focused on shaping your world? And if so, is it for better or for the worse?

So, as homework, what would you say your ‘Lenses’ were. How do you see the world? And, on reflection, are there any lenses you’d like to switch out? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking Back at Fizz Free February

As I write this I’m drinking a bottle of Pepsi Max… I wish I could claim it is some sort of experiment I am conducting, but really I’m just thirsty and it was the only thing available (besides plain water, bleh!).

Last month I was doing Fizz Free February: A Fight with Caffeine Addiction and I thought that, after my first post and since it’s now March, that it was worth checking in on this subject to see how I was fairing a month down the line. In the interest of accuracy, it is worth noting that, dispite ‘Fizz Free’ being the title, I wasn’t 100% Fizz Free. In fact, it is probably more apt to call it ‘Reduced Fizz February’ instead. That said, even Kirsty will admit my habits are completely and utterly changed.

So, when have I been drinking ‘Fizz’ (in our case, Pepsi Max). I’ve drank the dreaded Fizzy Pop when it’s been a bit of a treat, i.e. with a meal out, or with a takeaway (might as well, since I’m ruining my body with grease anyway, right?). That said, there have been a few moments where I’ve had a bottle, one of those 600ml, 20% Bigger** bottles, and I’ve drank them fairly slowly. I used to drink these constantly, I could finish them in a few minutes, but now? Well, I can make one last. Not only that, but they sometimes leave me feeling a bit naff. They make me feel bloated and yuck… this one certainly is!

Of course, I used to notice this before, but I think I was just that conditioned to filling up my body with them that I’d accepted it as a standard feeling. It wasn’t until I felt better that I began to realise the body shouldn’t feel this way. That’s a lesson for life right there, sometimes you don’t realise how naff you feel until you feel better.

For some people this might be enough to never touch it again, but like a kid (or, lets face it, Grown Ass Adult) who keeps eating his weight in chocolates despite the awful repercussions afterwards, I’ll still continue to drink it; I know I will. I also know, though, that my addiction is broken.

I certainly don’t find myself craving it as I used to. When faced with the option of a drink of Pepsi Max or a drink of Water (with Cordial, thanks) I would always opt for the Pepsi Max, it always seemed the most delicious. Now though, coupled with the bloating after effects, I realise it just doesn’t quench my thirst, and I notice I actually prefer to reach for my cordial infused water far more often.

As for Caffeine, the major feature of the previous article, I’m not entirely sure I’ve fully recovered. I have days where I wake up as though I haven’t slept, where it feels like the time between my head hitting the pillow and my alarm (Kirsty’s hairdryer) going off were instantaneous. I think these moments are just symptoms of life, though, rather than symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Same goes for me being moody, having a foggy head, or being demotivated. These are just my usual cycles, previously enhanced by withdrawal, and now settling into a norm. Who knows, though? All I know is I don’t need it anymore, and that’s good. Too much reliance on anything outside of prescribed medication is a bad thing.

So, has Fizz Free February been a success? Damn right it has.

At least, I think it has.

Let’s Recap: No more addiction, no more cravings, saving a ton of money (who knew Water was so cheap?), and functioning with minimal withdrawal.

That’s a success right there!

How the Nintendo Switch gave me a Moment of Adulthood

Adulthood keeps sneaking its way into my life, unseen until a moment of sudden clarity.

When you’re younger, I don’t think you ever fully understand what an Adult is; you go from day to day, week to week, year to year, and you just accept that one day you will become an ‘Adult’. That never happens. You’re still the same, you’re just suddenly making slightly more adult choices and, depending on your living conditions, this can happen slowly or rapidly before you even realise.

You may know by now I’m a huge gamer; I LOVE games. My monthly pay cheque is always spent before it arrives, preordering the latest releases or picking up a new board game to play… at least it used to be.

This weekend saw the launch of the Nintendo Switch, the latest Nintendo console complete with the latest Legend of Zelda game: Breath of the Wild. Zelda is one of my personal favourite series of all time; it fills me to the brim with utter excitement, it pulls at my stomach with nostalgia.  As normal, I preordered the Switch as soon as I could and watched it sat there in my Amazon basket.

I love buying things on day one. I love being part of that exclusive club; those playing it first, discovering it first and being able to experience something ahead of spoilers and ahead of other impressions. When the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 released within a week of each other, I took a week off work and bought them both. I’d just started a new job, with a considerably higher pay cheque, and by saving enough away for two months I had them both in my hands. It only seemed fair that I bought the Nintendo Switch and took a day off work to celebrate its release.

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Eugh, it looks so fucking glorious!

Only, I’m now a homeowner. I now pay a mortgage, I pay bills, I pay expenses. I’ve just had to replace my oven, I’ve got a leaky Kitchen ceiling, and we’re looking at getting a new bed. We’ve got a lounge which is half done, we’ve got a garden which will soon be in the correct season to tend, and, most importantly, I’ve got a Study I want to fit up so I have somewhere to write. I could simply shirk all this; I could simply ‘treat’ myself. I didn’t, though.

In fact, as I write this (a few weeks ago from ‘now’; check me out being scheduled in advance!) my finger is hovering over the ‘Cancel Preorder’ button of the Amazon page. Part of me is hoping that some news will come out, some exciting new announcement, that might justify this Day One purchase to a my sensible adult mind. I know that’s not the case though, I know I can buy one later, I know it’ll be better value later, and I know my money is better off elsewhere. EDIT: This is a particularly painful edit, as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now receiving absolutely stellar reviews and being regarded as an absolute masterpiece… and here I am without it… begrudgingly trying to find some silver lining… I’ll try to go on, but life is looking bleak…

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Be still my heart.

The point I’m trying to make, I guess, is that Adulthood sneaks up on you and it shows itself in a variety of ways. It affects some people earlier than others, situations and circumstance have a way of moulding us, of helping us mould ourselves. You might argue that getting a mortgage was a bigger symbol than this, you might argue that my post is very much a “first world problem” and it undeniably is. I think it’s an example though, nonetheless. A few years ago, I couldn’t picture a Shaun who didn’t own the latest games, the latest consoles, and didn’t keep up with the latest news. That’s me though, that’s me right now. I’m still a gamer, I’m still spending more money than I should on games, but I’m a bit more sensible now… and I suppose that’s part of being an Adult.

Written by Shaun, age 27 and still not sure if he’s an ‘Adult’ yet.

Do you still struggle with the concept of Adulthood? What were your biggest lessons in making the transition? Or are you still waiting for it to happen?! Let me know in the comments below!