How Some News Changed My Week

Ever had some good news out of nowhere that just blinded you?

This week was going to be a right off, if I’m honest. Similar to last week, we’ve had a bit of upset, a lot of stress, and some of those moments where you sit back and think “What am I even doing with my life?”. It’s a case that I don’t think my life is where it wants to be, I don’t think I spend enough of my time doing what should be important, and I make excuses as to why – a lot of my excuses are “I’ll do it when I have my study”, as though that is the great solver of my problems.

However, sometimes life springs up to let you know that some things are going in the right direction, and it’s because of the effort you’ve put in to it.

As you may be aware, if you’re a regular up here on the Clouds, that I also run a Photography company: Level Up Photography LLP. Well, we weren’t official. We were two guys who did a few Weddings/Events on the cheap for Friends and Family with a distant goal of one day ‘Making it’. We got together before Christmas, we filled out our Paperwork to become a Registered Company, with the Companies House, we sent it off and… Nothing. Lost. No word on it. We were frustrated.

But we tried again, we filled it at the end of January, sent it off, and this time had it tracked by Royal Mail. We eagerly watched the tracker over the weekend, no real movement, but no problem! It’s the weekend, right? Monday came, Tuesday came, the scans never came. The letter didn’t move, we were at a loss. Greg asked if it was a sign from the universe, I told him to sit down, shut up, and we’ll do it again! We’ll do it a million times if we have to!

Then comes today, just as we’re about to fill it all in again, send it all off again, wait patiently for a delivery that never comes again, Greg has a last check on the Companies House.

AND THERE IT IS.

So, now I can proudly say: I own my own Company! More importantly, I can also proudly say, Level Up Photography is now taking your bookings!

At the end of a shit week, where nothing seems to have been going quite right,  this has been a message to carry on; this has reaffirmed my passion, straightened my back, and sent me headfirst into the future.

If you’d have asked me my mood at the beginning of the week, I was deflated, disinterested, and didn’t really know a remedy; I was more concerned with wallowing in all I felt was wrong in life. Now? Well, now I think my goals are achievable again, and the most important lesson is… It was through our own effort.

How about you? How was your week? Had any signs from the Universe recently? What keeps your Clockwork oiled? Let me know in the comments below!

Why I Don’t Hate Valentine’s Day

What is Valentine’s Day? Waste of Time? Sign of Corporate Greed? Pagan Festival rebranded by the Romans?

Valentines is one of those days people either seem to love or hate. People either buy into the overly romantic nature of the holiday, or dismiss it as nothing more than an excuse to claw money away from society. In truth, many holidays follow a similar suite.

Christmas, is often advertised well in advance, making sure nobody misses the memo that we have to spend money to enjoy the season, that we have to buy our loved ones the best gifts to show them we love them the most. Even Easter, which will soon be upon us, joins its festive brethren in advertising and cost; you must buy Chocolate Eggs, you must cook a big dinner.

Valentine’s gets a big brunt of this though, with statements like “I don’t need one day a year to show someone I love them”, “I don’t need a gift or present just to show love”, and “it’s just another meaningless day”. The thing is… I get that. The thing is… I agree.

But why so cynical?

When I was younger, when I was at the height of my ‘down with the system’ beliefs, I couldn’t have agreed more. Then I realised something, I realised that these things are what you make of them, and only what you make of them.

In the true vein of Capitalism, Corporations are going to do everything they can to push things onto us; they’re going to offer sales, deals for couples, breaks away. That’s what they’ll do, like with every other day and every other reason they can find to make you spend money. It’s up to you, though, if you buy into it… and hell, maybe you’ll get a cheap deal for something?

My biggest argument is when people say “I show someone I love them all year round, why should we have a day to it?” and my argument is simple… “Why not?”. If you show someone just how much you love them as often as is possible, every moment of every day, that’s absolutely great. In our busy, hectic lives it’s sometimes easy to forget things though, it’s sometimes easy to take people for granted. Why not utilise one day a year that really does say “I love you. Nobody is saying you only show love on Valentine’s Day; that’s a terrible argument. See the day as a reminder, just a little memo, that maybe you should tell/show someone just how much you love them.

More to the point, use the day to just say “I love you” to more than just your partner. Love is such a strong emotion, yet it’s one we don’t show as often as we should. Tell your partner you love them, tell your parents, your siblings, your friends and your colleagues.

I suppose a summary to this, and to my thoughts on all the holidays, is to use them as reasons and excuses to show someone your love. Don’t want to buy cards and gifts? Don’t! Why not make something or do something instead? Don’t want to go out for an expensive and busy meal? Don’t! Cook something nice or have a cheeky takeaway together. Kirsty will often say one of the best things I can do is tidy up, do chores that she’d normally do, and just show I’ve thought about her in some way. That stuff is free!

Things can be pushed onto us all we like, and it’s true that everyone will try to make a quick buck, but see the occasion for your own reasons. I love Christmas, because it’s a reason to see all my family, it’s a reason to show them how much I love to spend time with them; but I try to do that as often as possible too. I treat Valentine’s the same. Kirsty and I show each other our love Every. Single. Day. but this time of year we also just make an extra effort to make a bit of time for each other, or maybe cook something a bit different, or to bake/make/craft something. The day doesn’t have to be a waste of time, it just depends on how you treat it.

How will you be spending Valentines Day? Do you hate it? Or do you celebrate it?

 

Last Week: A Friday Feeling

So, I’ve been a bit lax on the blog this week, my motivation has pretty much dried up, and I fully blame the caffeine (or lack, thereof).

Work has also been super busy, with my manager away I’ve had to step onto the plate, and it’s left me tired, drained, and a little bit moody.

That’s not the attitude though is it?!

The purpose of Friday Feelings was to discuss something positive; it was to be a reflection of the week gone by and find the good in it. I think one of the best things you can do to promote gratitude and positivity in your life is to reflect and give thanks for the things/people/events in your life. It’s the purpose behind the Happiness Jar.

So, after a crummy week of too much stress and too little play, I want to tell you all about last weekend, because as I alluded to on Tuesdays blog,it was damn good.

Friday Night

Friday Night was Date Night for Kirsty and Me. We may live together, we may spend almost all of our free time together, but we still insist on having a Date Night. Much like a reflection, a showing of gratitude, it is a way for us to make a moment of time be just for us. Sure, we eat together almost every night, sure we go to bed at mostly the same time and sleep next to each other, but to take a moment where we get a little dressed up, and sit with phones off and eat good food… that’s pretty perfect to me. This Date Night had been a long time coming, but we’d been saving it till Kirsty passed her qualification at work… another thing to be proud of this week!

Saturday Night

Escape. Live. Birmingham.

I don’t need to say more, but I will. EscapeLive, for those of you who don’t know, is a team based game where you’re trapped in a room with clues to solve; don’t solve the clues, don’t escape, simple as that. Think Crystal Maze without Richard O’Brien. So, Kirsty and I, armed with two friends Andy and Jess, took on Time Machine. This was the second time we’d ever done an EscapeLive and it was just as fun as the first time. There’s always that slight worry that it was a novelty, something that when you’d done once, you’d done them all; but it’s not the case. The first room we’d done, Dr Wilsons Office, was a brilliant introduction to the concept of the Escape. Time Machine kind of spun that on its head and kept it fresh. I strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

So there you have it, the week might have been a bit crummy, but last weekend was strong. This weekend is looking great too, with my first ‘night out‘ in ages (I’m getting old) and an early Valentines Day meal tomorrow… What’s not to look forward to?

See you on the other side!

Fizz Free February: A Fight with Caffeine Addiction

Do you drink a lot of fizzy drinks? Consume a lot of Caffeine?

I do; I’m addicted. Here’s what’s happening as I cut down.

I had a brilliant weekend this weekend just gone. Kirsty and I went out for a Miller and Carter on Friday, to celebrate an achievement with her work, then Saturday we went out with two friends for Food and to “Escape the Room” at EscapeLive in Birmingham (Second time we’ve been; Highly recommended!), then Sunday we just relaxed together; she played games and I read. However, Monday morning I realised I felt… down. I was tired, for a start. My Fitbit said I’d been awake/restless 22 times during the night and now, during the day, I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  Then, couple that with the kind of lethargy that hits when you realise the fun weekend you were looking forward to is over, and now you have a full day at work where you don’t feel fulfilled on a good day… It all adds up.

It was so bad, in fact, that I didn’t write. Normally Monday would be a #MondayBlog, but this week I just didn’t write one. Sure, I should have had one planned in advance anyway, scheduled to go, but in any event if I don’t I would always write one on the day; not so this time. Oh well, maybe Tuesday would be a better day?

Only Tuesday came, Today came, and I’m still tired. I’m unbelievably tired considering how long I’ve slept. I remember, vividly, how often I was awake last night, and I’ve spent all day rubbing my itchy, tired eyes, counting down until I can be in bed again. I’ve spent the day in a melancholy bubble, surrounded by a deep desire to, not only not be at work, but to not really be doing anything. I feel so apathetic. I feel my drive gone. I feel the need to just cuddle up into a ball and waste my day under a duvet, watching rubbish on TV and adding zero value to my life. That’s how Today feels. However, Today I also discovered the reason for it.

Caffeine Addiction.

Or more to the point; Caffeine Withdrawal.

Here on the Clouds, I’ve been doing Fizz Free February. I’m not sure it’s actually a thing, it’s something I’ve just invented for myself. Whilst I’m sure most of you know the negatives of drinking fizzy drinks, and you probably get preached to as often as I did, what they don’t often tell you is what you face when you stop.

You see, Fizzy drinks were my main source of Caffeine. My addiction to Pepsi Max saw it replacing all other drinks in my day. Morning drink? Pepsi Max. Drink with Dinner? Pepsi Max. Quick sip of something before heading to bed? Pepsi Max. About the only drink I didn’t replace was Beer, which is unhealthy in its own way. I never claimed what I was doing was right, but I’d never admit my problem was getting a little out of hand. So, as part of a healthier eating routine I’m doing, I thought I’d cut out my addiction; Lent’s around the corner anyway, I’m just a little early.

Let’s just say it’s left me feeling rough; far rougher than I thought.

Pepsi_Max.jpg
The cause of my Caffeine Addiction

It’s amazing how something I’d slowly been filling my body with has taken an invisible toll on me. Whilst I was consuming Pepsi Max, I never really noticed just how much caffeine I was putting into my body, and now that I’ve stopped my body is in a withdrawal I never expected. In fact, I didn’t even immediately blame my symptoms on withdrawal, I thought it was just me being me. I struggle with anxiety, I struggle with apathy, and maybe it was just another of my cycles… It wasn’t until I started looking up caffeine withdrawal, after a moment of thinking “Damn, I wish I could drink some Pepsi Max on this awful, tired day”, that I realised the thing I thought could cure me, was the thing that made me worse in the first place, and there we have addiction.

I found a site called the Caffeine Informer that listed the symptoms of withdrawal.

  1. Headaches
  2. Sleepiness
  3. Irritability
  4. Lethargy
  5. Constipation
  6. Depression
  7. Muscle Pain, Stiffness, Cramping
  8. Lack of Concentration
  9. Flu-like Symptoms
  10. Insomnia
  11. Nausea and Vomitting
  12. Anxiety
  13. Brain Fog
  14. Dizziness
  15. Heart Rhythm Abnormalities

Do these sound familiar to you? because they sure did to me. Headaches? Check. Brain Fog? Check. Irritability? Just ask Kirsty. In fact, the site went on to explain some of these in further detail.

  1. Sleepiness: This just isn’t your normal tiredness, this is sitting up straight but still can’t keep your eyes open tiredness.
  1. Lethargy: Forget about productivity at this stage because you’ll be unmotivated to do anything from the feeling of the lack of energy.
  1. Lack of Concentration: Forget school, studying, brain surgery, or jet engine repair during this stage of withdrawal.

Reading this page I had a lightbulb moment, shining a golden glow into the shadows of the unknown. This was me, here on the page, and these were the things I was thinking/feeling.

caffeine-chemical-structure
The Offending Chemical via Caffeine Informer

So what am I going to do going forward?

I’m going to keep #FizzFreeFebruary going; despite the symptoms. I hate the idea that something could take this much toll on me and draw me back with invisible strings; it was my choice to drink Pepsi Max and it’ll be my choice to cut down on it. Caffeine Informer goes on to say, “Even after the withdrawal period is over, many still never feel quite as good as they do when they’re drinking caffeine all of the time”, and whilst this has put a pretty big fear into me, I’m going to try not to let it be that way.

The thing is, I know the cause now and that makes me feel more confident. Knowledge is Power, after all, and it’s given me a power to keep going. Sure, I’m still at the start of my journey, I’ve seen that some symptoms get worse before they get better, but I know why they’re happening now and that gives me strength to disassociate with the negativity. I may not sleep well tonight, due to the withdrawal, but I’ll sleep better due to the knowledge.

The Juice Thief: Writespiration #5

 

writespiration-2017

The odds were stacked against him.

He knew the patterns, the signs, and, when it was time, he spread his wings and fell; dive-bombing downward.

Moments later, the stall owner returned to find his jug was no longer full of his famous grape juice, but full of a wobbly, hiccuping pigeon instead.

*****

Seems today is the day for humorous stories? I started this one yesterday, had the idea, but not the execution. Still, I’m happy with it and it made me smile imaging it as I wrote. Another wonderful challenge posed by Sacha, in which we had to write a 52 word piece using only the prompt: Time, Stack, Juice, Pigeon.

The Trooper: A 3LT

tltweek53

He looked at himself in the mirror beside the easel and sighed; his visor steaming up in front of his eyes.

Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a painter? Maybe there was a reason he’d been designed as a Stormtrooper™ and that was all he was meant to be?

“Fuck it!” he shouted, splattering paint against the blank canvas, “I won’t have my decisions made for me!”

*****

I may have just finished listening to John Scalzi’s Redshirts (Narrated by Wil Wheaton) so that may have been having an impact on how I saw this picture… Once again, a big thanks to Sonya and to her prompt. I always enjoy these but I seem to have lost the rhythm recently and keep missing the prompts… Glad to catch this one though!

In 5 Years Time: A Thursday Thought

Where will you be in 5 Years time? Can you visualise it? These are the questions being asked today.

I’m doing something a bit different this Thursday, by answering the questions posed by Shelley’s Blog in her post January in Review!

Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?

In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.

The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more! Write more! Greg and I over at Level Up have been meeting this week, we’re getting the paperwork sorted, the website sorted and we have a client meeting in a few weeks. Things are running smooth there. As for my writing, I just need to write more, as I always need to, but thankfully I’ll finally be getting my study set up this month so that should create a dramatic increase in productivity.

Q2. What does a day in the life of your dreams look like? Write your perfect day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed. Where are you, who are you with, what would you do?

I wake up next to Kirsty. We snuggle for a bit before getting up.

We go downstairs and feed Toby (our Cat) and, if Kirsty has it her way, the dog (She’s Pug-Obsessed).

We cook breakfast and call down the kids (I’m assuming this is the 5 years’ time, scenario)

I leave for the studio, and drop the kids to school along the way.

I work on my latest novel, or read the latest manuscript, or edit the latest clients photographs.

When all my appointments are done I drive back home.

I spend some time with Kirsty before we have to pick the kids back up.

Then in the evening we all eat together, we watch TV, read, or play boardgames.

The kids go to bed, Kirsty and I snuggle on the couch, Toby tries to squeeze in between us as always.

We go to bed together, I read for a bit, then we fall asleep to begin the day anew.

Q3. If money was not an issue what career would you have or what lifestyle would you adopt?

Studio! Studio! Studio!

Writing, Photography, Publishing.  They’re my main aims; they’re how I want to make my livelihood.

That said, “if money was not an issue” I’ve always said I’d love to run my own small games company. It’s a daydream of mine that, when I win the lottery, I’ll hire a bunch of students and create video games… Put my writing into that form as well as books and blogs!

*****

So, there we have it. That’s where I will be in 5 years… Give or take. As always, thanks to Shelley for those reflective questions, was great fun to fill out! Why not give it a go? Feel free to ping back here so I can see yours too!