Today I turned 40, which is no bad thing if you consider what my life was like at 20, which we’ll get to in a bit. Before you start reading, take a look at the photo above. You’ll find out why shortly. Nice hat though, right? Found that jaunty little head-piece on Cambridge market today.
I was planning to visit the London Science Museum today but a grotty head cold placed that pan of sciency soup goodness on the back burner until next weekend. Instead we took a stroll around Cambridge and drank in the eclectic cosmopolitan atmosphere in glorious May sunshine.
Forty at 40?
I had thought of making some kind of list, a 40 Something Something type of deal, but after mulling it over I figured that was a tad clichéd so I’ve decided to go with a comparison between me at 20 and now at 40.
I could wax lyrical about how I don’t feel any different now than any other birthday, but that would be bullshit. Okay, sure, I’m a year older, and you could say I’m half way through my life (if I make it to 80 that is) but that’s somewhat negative. It’s hard to imagine I might only have 40 summers left!
It could be argued that middle age of 40 (viewed by those in their 80’s) or old age (to those in their teens) is the part of life where Old Man Age starts knocking on the door to hand out wrinkles and grey hairs. Personally I think I look pretty good, and perhaps a little younger if I shaved the grey stubble off my face once in a while. I hate shaving so that won’t happen any time soon.
I do feel different. I’m better.
Bold statement, right dear blog reader?
Ah, but not if we take a look at my life when I was 20. Remember I said to take a look at my mug? Okay, then get ready for a shocking and embarrassing photo from when I was 20.
Yeah. That was me. Head like an inflatable ball. If I was any fatter I’d be blind due to my eyelids and cheeks trying to merge together. That’s one yucky photo. Feel free to scroll up and check the difference.
But it’s not just physical differences that have changed.
Let’s do a comparison.
Life at 20.
At 20 I was an idiot. A complete waste of space. I was unemployed for long stretches. I treated my body like shit. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life (to some degree I still don’t) other than writing. It’s taken 20 years to learn that craft and I’m still learning now.
Between 18 and around 24 my weight ballooned to over 26 stone, that’s 364lbs, which is just insane. And it stayed that way until a few years ago when all of a sudden it just dropped off fast, really fast. I had a nasty hernia caused from being a huge fat turd, and being a moron it didn’t stop me shovelling crap in my mouth and not exercising.
There was no direction in life. I drifted and did nothing, or as close to nothing as possible. I sucked at managing money, being sociable, keeping a job or even finding one. In an alternate sc-fi-esque reality I would have been euthanized for being a drain on society.
If I had a time machine and went back to my 20 year-old self, I’d look me up and down, shake my head in pity and check the following off a list:
I can recognise now why I was like that. Weight played a big part in my lack of self-confidence. I was very aware of people looking at me and judging everything I did. I was never sure if I was doing or saying the right thing and more often than not I’d keep my mouth shut in case I was ridiculed, and then abused for being a tubby lard butt.
Memories of people laughing at me for my size and shape are still there, not that I care these days, but that sort of thing caused a blight of introvertism at 20, made me shun what I could have been. Life sure is cruel, but only after you’ve walked a dark path can you can enjoy that which is filled with illumination and happiness.
Life at 40.
I’m glad to say I’m no longer an idiot. I’ve shed 11 stone in weight, 154lbs, and though there’s a little to go, damn, do I feel good! There’s the hip issue that I’ve blogged about before, What A Pain In The Hip, and though it still hurts like a bitch now and then it’s much better these days.
I’ve gained plenty of confidence, and that isn’t only due to weight loss. I believe that has also come from life experience. I’m more pragmatic in my thinking, and though I’ve always been laid back I now lean toward thinking way before acting.
I have a good day job, one that I truly love and take great pride and satisfaction in. That alone is a blessing and often on the drive home after a long day I wonder how many people are doing the same thing, but are also very happy with their day’s work.
I know where I’m going. I have purpose. I have an aim to reach for. My day job boils down to a simple sign.
I think on Monday I’ll print one of those out and put it on my desk at work.
Just a reminder that even when things get busy and the to-do list seems never-ending, I do indeed love every minute.
In November last year I published my first novel on Amazon called The Range – give this a click to take a look – which I had worked on for way too long, and am now working on the second in the trilogy called The Holt. That’s taking longer than I planned due to my day job, but hey, I’m really enjoying writing it when I can! My previous estimate of finishing in May 2015 has been binned in favour of November time, maybe. Fingers crossed.
I’m just better!
The fact is that at 40 my life is so much better than at 20.
Health – I’m no longer a fatty, though admittedly there’s still a bit to shift before I’m where I want to be.
Wealth – meh, not wealthy by any stretch, but I’m not in debt, so all smiles there.
Happiness – plenty of that, thanks. Hips aside, I smile a lot. I laugh and enjoy every moment.
Personality – I believe I still have the same ideals, only now I favour pragmatism, empathy, charity, reflection and positivity over inner rage, anger, self-confidence and self-loathing.
Just a number, right?
You must have heard some say that your age is just a number. Yeah, it is sort of, as the mind doesn’t seem to age as fast as they body. In truth I’ve not given the actual reaching of 40 years of age much thought. It’s not a big deal to me.
Some folk worry and stress out about this number. They make bucket lists and complain or moan. Not me. So what if I get grey hair? It’s just hair. Wrinkles, meh. It’s skin. It will get wrinkly. Failing eye sight? Yeah, already wearing glasses at times, no big deal.
Life isn’t too bad at all. I have my health, a good job and I’m happy.
Rather than run through a deep and thoughtful summary, I’ll leave you with some nice photos because life is indeed rich with colour in all aspects.
That is a dish of Spicy Squid Tempura I enjoyed today at YO! Sushi in Cambridge, along with extremely tasty Japanese Seabass.
Here’s a lovely photo of the punts on the River Cam, always a good spectator sport.
And finally, a funny pub sign in Cambridge that agrees with my sense of humour!
In my recent post, My Zombie Christmas, I whined about how the flu virus made me feel like a zombie. There was some dark humour in there, but essentially it was a complaint about how much I detested feeling like crap.
Boo-hoo, right? Poor Dave, feeling sorry for himself. Get over it man, it’s just a virus.
After reading Sarah Potters January Guest Storyteller post featuring David Milligan-Croft, I visited his blog and was astounded at David’s dedication to writing 365 posts in 2014 about what he was thankful for.
And that got me thinking.
I’m not the most dedicated blogger around, and often leave it weeks before I remember to post anything new. Sure, my posts tend to be quite long, but they’re not frequent. Whereas David showed he could write one every day, often short but rich in quality and worthy of time spent absorbing his message.
Now, there’s no way I could hope to write one every day in 2015, it’s not in my nature to be so dedicated. But I felt inspired more by David giving thanks than his actual posts.
Plus, I wasn’t entirely happy at how I started the new year with a massive moan. So why not turn that around and strive to be more positive this year? I feel I’m a pretty positive chap, yet I am drawn to the dark side of life, in a twisty and broken kind of way.
I can be positive, I’m sure of it.
So why not offer up some thanks to things that make my life what it is? I’m not saying I’ve turned over some wretched new leaf and have decided to fill my cup with icky positive vibes, posting colourful memes with disposable messages.
You see that? Yuk.
The interweb is riddled with that kind of filth. Does that really make people happy? Does that image inspire you? Or does it make you feel a little bit sick because yet another unnaturally happy person is trying to ram hot throbbing positivity down your throat?
That sort of message makes me angry.
I’ll be positive in my own time, thanks very much Mr Pointless Meme Creator.
If you like that shit, go Google “positive” and stare at the image results. I’m all for spreading good vibes, smiling and the paying-it-forward malarkey, but these days I’m more of a pragmatist and prefer to accept the world in a more balanced way.
Too much of one thing and you become a bit weird.
The Glass – half empty, or half full?
Everyone has an answer to that question, and everyone knows how to argue the toss over whether their answer is the right one.
Some might argue that the way I wrote the heading above is very telling as to my state of mind.
I could have written it as:
The Glass – half full, or half empty?
And you may have had a different reaction to the question.
It doesn’t matter which side you take, you’re wrong in someone’s eyes. As for me, I prefer to consider the glass as none of these things. The glass will always be in a different state, ranging from empty, a drop in the bottom, a quarter full, half full, almost full, to full.
And if you can accept that idea, I think you’re more likely to be a better person for it. Life will often hurl a shit sandwich at you and drain your glass, though I’m not saying life jams a shit sandwich in your glass and replaces the water. That would be weird.
At the other end of the spectrum, life hands you golden moments and your glass is overflowing. The water of life ebbs and flows because there has to be a balance.
Okay, Dave, about these genes, yeah?
Right, back to my point. I like looking at the dark side of life, and indeed explored it in my novel, The Range, yet despite my characters chowing on some serious shit sandwiches, they were touched by positivity. The themes of chaos, rage and violence were balanced by love, loyalty, friendship and courage.
I like that about life. The fact there’s always a balance between things.
So, just because I like the dark and twisty, doesn’t mean I live there all the time. And giving thanks to stuff is my way to actively remember how much good there is all around me.
I’m not promising a vast post once a week on the reasons why I’m giving thanks to stuff. I am indeed grateful for so much in my life, so why not share that with others?
Just like how I shared my ice-cream with lovely Ben here.
Giving Thanks to my genes.
I’m grateful to my parents for combining their genes to create me. I am here because of their DNA and I wouldn’t want to be any different.
Some people say they’d like a nicer nose, smaller belly/bottom/ears/boobs, longer legs, less/more hair in certain places, and a million other combinations that make me think: “Really? Can’t you just be happy with who you are?”
Okay, there are plenty of people in the world who aren’t lucky, who have very good reasons for wanting to be different. And I sympathise and agree with them.
However, when normal people bitch and moan about their lives, it makes me think how ungrateful they are. My life isn’t perfect, but I don’t wish I could go back and change any of it because everything that has happened to me, from conception to the nasty zombie virus over Christmas, has helped shape me into the good person I am today.
One tiny adjustment to my genes and I’d be a different person.
I don’t want that.
I like me. I’m comfortable with my physical oddities – weight issues, eczema on my fingers in hot weather and too much hair in places. In my youth I was overweight, lazy and raged against nothing. But right now I’m happy where I am.
I guess there is a good argument for nature versus nurture, but I like to think that without my genes, without that inherited set of instructions, I’d be a wholly different person. Sure, experiences shape who we are and guide us on the path of life, but it’s the building blocks we’re given that make us who we are.
It’s funny because right now I want to argue against myself, and insist that every tiny experience shapes our moral and ethical compass. And that can lead down the path of arguing about causality, a topic I love to debate.
Nevertheless, my genes are who I am, first and foremost.
And I’m grateful for being coded just the way I am.
This has to happen. I have to write this here because I need room to express my views and you need to take time to read and digest what I’m about to say. Forget that it’s in the public domain and focus on the meaning and purpose of this letter.
What I need to say deserves, no, demands to be longer than a throw away text message, and right now I cannot bring myself to speak to you over the phone.
This is my platform where I speak my mind and to do otherwise goes against my nature.
I hope you’ll read this to the very end.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to word this in my head since I heard the news. Trying to sleep, running the words over and over, and distracted throughout the day over your decision, so many questions without answers. Not that I expect answers, but your wife deserves them.
I won’t lie to you, my hands are shaking as I write this, and I promise you I won’t pull any punches here.
Firstly, I will say I think it took great courage to do what you did. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. And it’s not easy to tell you that either.
But on the other hand it’s easier to bow out than continue on and struggle through the dark times. And yes, before you say anything, there will always be counter arguments for everything I say, but such is life.
Counter arguments are not answers, not this time, they are a defence mechanism attempting to reinforce your reasons must be right and just. With so many uncertainties in life, how can you be so sure you’ve made the right one?
I have always held you in very high regard, least of all when it comes to your spiritual leanings. And though you may ponder your path in life, either via meditation or random thoughts that keep you awake at night, you are no different from anyone else in terms of doubt, insecurity, faith (or lack of it) and a whole host of emotional states human beings experience.
I can’t be alone when I say I expected more from you when faced with a challenge as brutal and difficult as this.
Two words keep resurfacing in my head that relate to you and your decision.
Selfishness and weakness.
And trust me when I say I would never have previously used those words in connection to you. I have always had the utmost respect for you, along with a great admiration for your attitude toward life and your values. It’s forgone conclusion that anyone who knows you would have said the same, if not more.
I have good reasons for choosing those words, and they are not used lightly.
Considering what I know about you, it seems completely against your nature to up and quit rather than face the problem and find a solution.
You may argue that it isn’t selfishness to abandon what you’ve created, but that it’s act of compassion or love to be honest and as such try to protect your family. Perhaps you arrived at the conclusion that you couldn’t live a lie and the best way forward was to be honest, whatever the consequences.
That aspect is commendable.
However, what you failed to do was speak up long before now. Sure, you may have hoped your doubts would clear over time, that it was nothing but a blip on the path of life. But that’s not a good enough reason to have remained silent for so long.
A union of two people deserves an honest and open dialogue at all times because by bottling things up the problem becomes greater and harder to tackle on your own.
It is wholly a selfish act to think of your happiness above that of your family.
That doesn’t mean you should sit in silence for decades, letting bitterness and resentment eat away at you. You didn’t even try to resolve the conflict within you. Thinking and meditation are not substitutes for talking things through, be that with your wife or through a counselling service for example.
It seems that rather than fight for all that you loved, and rather than face your doubts, you bowed out when things got a little bit difficult. Yes, that’s sarcasm. But it’s true nonetheless.
Yes, everyone strives to be happy, but at what cost is one person’s happiness over those you leave behind? Those whose lives will never be the same. Trust me. I know what it’s like. Your wife knows what it’s like. We shared the same experience when we were kids and neither of us would want such a life wrenching event to happen to anyone.
You can reason with yourself that you’ll make every effort to make your children’s lives special, and show you still love them. And there’s no doubting you’ll try to do as much as you can to prove that. But the simple fact is that you’ve changed the lives of your family, and those who know you, in ways you cannot comprehend.
From this point on you are an absentee father, no matter how hard you try to remain in their lives.
Any parent who abandons their children without a fight should live with guilt and shame forever.
I won’t go so far as to say you’ve damaged their lives. Sure, children are resilient, but there’s no way to know what effect this change will have on their lives. What you’ve done is placed a scar in their memory that will impact on every aspect of their lives until they die.
I know this for a fact.
That change in my life is still apparent today, some thirty years on.
Your wife has experienced heartache before and should not have to do so again.
Both me and my sister regard the meaning behind wedding vows as something more than a promise, a thing you say on a special day, or something you just feel at the time, but hey, when life changes you can disregard what you said way back then because you were a different person.
Removing God or religion from the picture, those words you spoke to each other conveyed more meaning to your wife than to you. Do not argue with me on this. The proof is in your decision.
Like me, my sister will never cease to truly believe in values such as love, loyalty, honour and friendship.
These were not words idly bandied about on a wedding day. Your wife believed in them, trusted them to guide her life alongside yours. For her, they cannot be changed or swapped for other values. They remain at the core of who she is.
Putting aside the issue of values and keeping silent when you should have shared your doubts, I question your behaviour right now.
Remember this: you’ve had months to come to terms with your feelings and your decision. Your wife has not.
From your point of view it makes sense to keep matters civil and business like when it comes to things like paying bills, organising child care, maintenance payments and so on. You cannot bring yourself to discuss the termination of your relationship with your wife because emotions are still high.
I know why you are keen to distance yourself from that relationship in order to prove there is no hope of reparation with your marriage.
By making it clear to her that it’s over you hope things won’t drag on, you hope she won’t ask endless questions.
I expected better of you. You can raise a barrier around your emotions to protect yourself. And if there are no feelings of love, then that barrier serves to isolate things like guilt, betrayal and dishonour. It is there to serve you, no one else. Your wife deserves more than what you’ve given her.
You of all people I expected to show compassion in such a situation. By acting in this cold-hearted manner, I believe you think you’re doing what’s right. You want to protect your wife and children from further hurt.
Do you honestly think sudden upheaval and change is the best way to achieve this?
Without trying anything and everything to save what you once held dear?
If so then I pity you.
Though you’ve struggled with your doubts for months, don’t you think your wife, your children and your life together to this point deserve more than this?
Why haven’t you even tried?
Why is this such an absolute for you?
Can’t you see the way in which you’ve conducted yourself is unjust, unsympathetic and wantonly uncaring to the one person you claimed to have once loved with your heart and soul?
Don’t you think she deserves more than a quick cut and shut end to what she knew was a solid foundation in life?
Don’t you think you owe it to her and your children to try? Even if it proves fruitless in the end?
The answer is yes.
My sister, your wife, has not had months to come to terms with this.
She deserves more from you. She deserves your time and attention, even if it’s hard for you. You have a chance right now to ensure you give her time and answers, even a chance at counselling, regardless of whether it works or not. How you conduct yourself now will play on your mind until the day you die.
Your relationship can be viewed as the death of a relative. You’ve known about the possible incurable disease for a long time, but she hasn’t. You feel you’re ready to move on, to be happy that you’re no longer living a lie. But can’t you see it from her perspective? She’s had no time to prepare for this, and the trauma is sudden and heart wrenching.
She deserves more than you’ve given her.
That brings me onto the issue of weakness.
A weak man will bow out without fighting for what he once believed in. A weak man will give up when times are hard. He is unable to see a potential future with his family because the struggle ahead seems an impossible task, one that might take more courage than he has.
You could argue that it’s not weakness, but courage that has helped you reach this devastating decision.
Some will be sympathetic to your reasons and tell you that you’ve made the right choice, that things will get better now, that you will be happy.
But it’s weakness not to try.
It’s weakness to give up.
It’s weakness not to give your wife the time and attention she deserves.
The problem with the words selfishness and weakness is that here they go hand in hand. You are not a weak man, George, so why act like one? Nor are you selfish, so why display that ugly side of human nature now when it has never been part of who you are?
You have the ability and means to show compassion, empathy, even love to those you leave behind.
Your family deserves this from you.
Can you really change your nature?
Sure, attitudes and ideals change throughout the course of life, but there are fundamental aspects of our personality that cannot be altered. I know you are still a good person, that you have good morals and ethics. But the manner in which you’ve dealt this sudden blow to your family is beyond contempt.
It is natural for anyone to wonder whether there’s someone else in your life. A secret someone. I want to believe this is not so. The prospect of such infidelity, however slight, fills me with rage beyond words. I truly hope this has not been the catalyst for your reasons to ruin lives.
And yes, they have been ruined.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that in time things will work out, that your relationship with your wife will eventually reach a stage where you can be friends, and that your children will be just fine. To assume any of this is the act of a selfish man thinking of number one.
You can hope, nothing wrong with that, but there’s no way to be sure. Which means that everything you say and do right now will shape the future of those you’ve cast aside, good or bad.
I’d like share something with you. Words you wrote not long ago.
In order for us to move forwards in life, we must encounter challenges.
Some are small and easy to overcome but others are more difficult, never-ending and often seem unachievable.
We are faced with difficult situations for a reason; to help us grow through experiencing new emotions or to push our physical boundaries.
It’s these challenges that are like trying to climb a mountain.
Never give up trying to climb your mountain no matter how tough the terrain or how steep the incline.
Believe that you will reach the top and achieve your goal. Keep positive. You will make it.
When you get to the top the view is breathtaking. The reward is a sense of achievement, success and relief.
You can overcome any challenge by taking small steps, onwards and upwards.
It’s okay to rest a while, contemplate or even change which path to take.
Keep facing forward and pushing on with a positive attitude.
There’s no mountain you cannot conquer. Be bold and courageous.
Climb your mountain. The world is your summit.
Do you know what the future holds?
Of course you do.
You can create the future you desire. All life’s experiences are meant to be.
All the challenges you encounter, good or bad, will always lead you to a person, a place or situation at exactly the right time where you are meant to be.
Every thought is an energy which manifests into an action.
Everything around you which already exists originated from a thought process to an action.
You need to believe in yourself, trust your inner desires and send out only positive thoughts about your life and your future.
Right now your thoughts are already carving the shape of your day, week or year ahead.
Yesterday has gone, learn from it. Today is for living, enjoy it. Tomorrow is your future, create it wisely
Based on these words you could argue that your decision is the right one, that you are indeed climbing a mountain of challenges, that you are shaping your future for the better, that all of life’s experiences are meant to be. Everything you wrote can be applied in a positive way to what you have done.
Whilst I might be biased, it now reads to me like the mantra of a selfish and weak man trying to protect himself at any cost because his happiness is more important than others.
They can also relate to your doubts being the mountain, your wife and children being the future you create, and that your struggle is to fight to hold on to what you have, not walk away from it. I would dip my head in respect if I saw you even attempt to fight, if I saw you devote time and show compassion to your wife.
You are not creating your future wisely. Just as it took time to develop your relationship, surely you can see the sense in at least making an attempt to preserve it?
The metaphors are ambiguous at best.
Love cannot be forced.
I get that. I truly do. I want you to talk to your wife because she deserves that much. You owe her your time. Think of it as a debt you must repay.
I want you to go to counselling. And even if things don’t work out, if there’s no way back, then I want everyone who knows you to remember that you tried your hardest to do the right thing.
After all you’ve created, why wouldn’t you try?
Thinking in silence for months isn’t the same as trying.
This letter hasn’t been easy to write, and it shouldn’t have been easy to read either. It’s not only about defending my sister, it’s about my deepest love for you all. I’ve struggled to keep anger out of it, though at times I’ve wanted to rant and rage against what you’ve done.
When all the arguments, reasons and arrangements have been made, remember that everyone will have to live with what has happened.
If you don’t try, if you don’t talk to your wife, and I mean really talk, not just toss out a few clichéd words of wisdom or cold-hearted business like blurb, then you will carry around a burden of guilt and shame until the day you die.
Just as you want to be happy, you must do the right thing otherwise those negative emotions will eat at you. No one on this planet can withstand that level of torment.
I don’t know how to end this without employing a cliché about morals.
George, please see that your wife deserves your time, even if you don’t want to give it. Go and see someone together. You may have come to terms with your choice, but she hasn’t, and with all my heart and soul I want you to consider her feelings as much as your own.
If I could sacrifice myself to repair the damage you’ve caused I would, gladly.
The pain in my chest cannot compare to that felt by your wife and children. But it’s not only about them. I wouldn’t have written this letter if I didn’t care for you too.
You both deserve more than the loss of a relationship because you kept your mouth shut.
I don’t want any of you to look back in many years and wonder what might have been.