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!

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!

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.

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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.

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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 Trooper: A 3LT

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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!

How to be on the Clouds! A Guest Post Offer.

Want to be up on the Clouds? Apply to Guest Post here!

What a superb bit of serendipity that Work in Progress Wednesday (WiPW) lands on the 1st of February! Mainly because, for me at least, it’s about to become Focused February. That’s right, we’re already one month into 2017 and it’s time to kick myself up the bum and get FOCUSED. I’m excited, are you?

As part of my focus of Focused February I’m looking to focus on all of you; the readers, the writers, the photographers, the painters. All of you that are out there! I want to share with you, I want to hear your insights, I want to be invested in what you’re doing and breath in your inspiration.

That’s why I’m advertising the offer to be featured here on the Clouds. There will be a space every Wednesday for someone to talk about their Work in Progress (whatever it may be!). My ideas for the feature are for you to share something about what you’re working on, what you’ve recently learnt, or what’s recently inspired you. I’m happy for you to write a post, share a tutorial, or display a photo… I’m even happy to interview you about your work if you so wish! There’s more information over at the main page, with a few more ideas and a way to contact:

And, here are a couple of the past Guest Posts we had for NaNoWriMo!

WiPW – NaNo Edition: Featuring Cynthia

WiPW – NaNo Edition: Featuring Dominika

If you’re interested, simply let me know! Either comment down below or, preferably, fill out the form!

Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to share this with anyone you know who might be interested! And if that’s you, apply now!

Century: Writespiration #4

He blinked.

“How long have I been asleep?” he asked, his voice croaking and previously unused.

“Exactly one century” answered a voice with practiced calm.

He took a moment to process the news.

“Then, my friends… my family… they’re all…”

He was met with a solemn nod.

Tears broke his eyes.

*****

Many thanks to Sacha for running this challenging over on her weekly Writespiration. The prompt this time was 100 to celebrate 100 Writespirations; a pretty awesome achievement! You’ll also find my entry for last week on there, or you can find it at The Lost Things: Writespiration #3, along with many other wonderful 52-Word-Works!