Such a Simple Thing

Our cover of  “Such A Simple Thing”.

Ray LaMontagne is probably my favourite singer. I feel a bit presumptuous trying to cover one of his songs but he makes me raise my singing game and if I only get a small percentage of the way towards one of the best, I’ll be happy enough.

This is one of my best vocals so far I think..

RejectionRejection

Dealing with Abandonment Issues and Rejection

I have to start with a disclaimer and say that if you’ve landed here looking for a magic bullet answer on how to overcome and conquer feelings of rejection, abandonment and uselessness, you may or may not find it here. But I’ll be outlining my own experiences with rejection and abandonment and how I’ve “tried” to cope with it over the years or at least from when I realised those were the issues I’ve had most of my life. And that realisation only came a few years ago during counselling. I still suffer with them on and off and there are good days and bad. As usual with these semi regular, existential posts of mine, I’m not looking for a medal or sympathy, my hope is that some of it may strike a chord with someone or help them in some way. And of course it also helps me heal to write down my thoughts..

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Online Dating

Online Dating in Ireland 2019

UPDATED Jan 2021

I see myself as somewhat of a pioneer in the online dating realm. I met my ex-wife online back in 2002, not only LONG before online dating became cool but almost before the internet itself! Or at least before broadband became widely available. I had to do all of my online courting via dialup. I’m still paying off the phone bills. I remember hiding the fact that we’d met online for at least 10 years afterwards. The shame! But it seems everyone is at it these days whether they’re in a relationship already or not!

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Life, The Universe and Nothing..ness

I’ve just been out for a 10,000 step, 7.14km walk. A new route which is a combination/grouping of various old routes I used to walk locally. I bit off a bit more than I could chew to be honest. I arrived home in pain and feeling like a hip transplant. The things I do for serotonin hits.

I went for the walk for these reasons – I didn’t have anything else to do, was feeling down and it was sunny…ish. A familiar story these days, except the sun bit, as work is very quiet and I spend four to five days a week totally alone, desperately looking for constructive things to do and the motivation to do them. On the way back, as I flirted with tractors, trucks and cars on a small stretch of the road with no footpath and listening to the unhelpfully morose but brilliant music of Lana Del Rey, I stepped over two bees in quick succession, crawling along the road, nowhere near any flowers and struggling to survive. I didn’t bother helping them like the cool, caring people always seem to do these days before sharing it on Facebook. Gotta save the bees. I don’t feel too bad about it though as I didn’t have a spoon, sugar or water about my person but I suspect that even if I did, I wouldn’t have bothered. Each to their own really, I can’t be taking on bee’s or the world’s problems. It’s a case of survival of the fittest, which is pretty much how my own life struggle is panning out these days. Surviving seems to be getting more difficult but at least I’m kinda fit. A little more so after my 7km anyway. More on the bees later..

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Online Counselling

Online Counselling?

Few are more internet crazy than me. There’s not much I havn’t done online, from meeting people and running a business to self diagnosis and learning. I’ve also had a few breakdowns in my time and sought both clinical and mental help in the form of real life Doctor and Psychotherapist visits. In recent years I’ve seen ads for online counselling services and my initial temptation was to feel suspicious. Surely counselling is something you need to do face to face so your therapist can read you and get to know you properly? But then I noticed some counsellor friends and clients were starting to offer therapy sessions online via Skype etc.. in an effort to reach more people and become more efficient. So I decided to look into online counselling a little more.

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photo by Alan Light

Michael Jackson and Kids: Thoughts

Leaving Neverland

Yeah, no prizes for guessing the context of this post! The Leaving Neverland documentary/film has been out for about a month now and is causing havoc worldwide and dividing opinions. The first thing I need to say is that I’ve seen it! Many have come to conclusions about it without even getting that far. And having seen it I, like a lot of people, immediately thought the game is up for Michael Jackson finally. Finally someone has come out publicly and told their story in detail, confirming what we all suspected for years now…that Michael Jackson didn’t just like kids…he ‘really’ liked them. How could any of us argue with the detail, poise, dignity and obvious heartfelt honesty of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, not to mention the seemingly very partial Oprah Winfrey siding with them both and interviewing them shortly after the documentary release and news/media outlets worlwide reporting the documentary as gospel. Cue practically the whole planet from every kind of news media online and off to the average man and woman in the street siding with Wade and James and demanding we all stop listening to Michael Jackson’s music. Radio stations all over the world even banned his music!? I for one started listening to it again for the first time in years. Fucking sue me..

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Intermittent Fasting

Food, Intermittent Fasting and Me

Food Rocks!

We need to eat to survive of course but I also like to eat for fun. I always have. From the eating competitions I used to have with friends and on blind dates even (don’t ask) to indulging in take away regularly, I just love eating. I love the variety of food available these days. Indian, Italian and Lebanese are some of my favourite cuisines. I love the ritual of cooking (I recently took a couple of cooking courses) or going out to a nice restaurant. I adore Buffets. All my Christmases come together when I’m at a buffet and I eat until sick almost. Is that bad? Gluttony is a sin of course but I’m a militant atheist luckily. Right now you’re probably imagining me as a bed ridden slob, dangerously overweight and a ticking, heart-diseased, diabetes ridden time bomb but I’m actually only a couple of stone overweight and probably not noticeably fat. Unless you look real close. Those who’ve seen me naked know best. I have height, a good metabolism and pure luck to thank for that possibly. However..

Why Diet?

I’ve recently become middle aged and have an assortment of mild middle aged related conditions such as back pain, joint stiffness, high blood pressure, etc.. Middle age is a time when shit starts to deteriorate and go wrong so you really have to keep an eye on things to keep yourself functional. It’s a time to get more regular general medical checkups, get that free eye test and dental checkup, get active, stop smoking, drinking etc.. Lowering weight is one thing that I think I and a lot of people would benefit from. It makes sense to think that joint and back pain could be reduced if there’s less weight acting upon your frame and there’s known benefits to high blood pressure from weight loss. Thus I entered the depressing world of dieting. But..

Enjoy Food, Just Eat Less Often

I wasn’t about to give up my life long love of food. Rather, I’d continue to eat well and eat pretty much whatever I like within reason. I do try to avoid eating food with little or no value of course but the odd take away or desert is fine. Instead what I’d do was just eat less often and be patient until the next feeding time. I’d heard of “Intermittent Fasting” before but never really looked at it properly. The word “fasting” put me off. And in truth, I only got a renewed interest in it kinda by accident recently when I forced myself to not eat for a day, just to see if I could. I like to test my resolve in these ways occasionally. I tried and failed a few times first until I got angry with myself then finally carried it through properly one day. It was a long day..

My Intermittent Fasting Experience

So the first day I fasted went like this. I skipped breakfast. I’ve done that before or had very late breakfasts, so no big deal there. I don’t normally bother with lunch either (I guess I’d probably been fasting intermittently already considering my no lunch and late breakfast habits) but by lunch time I was becoming a bit twitchy. I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner time the previous day at about 6pm. By mid afternoon I was becoming ravenous and very, very nearly gave in. Then something strange happened around 4/5pm, just before normal dinner time. I can only describe it as like “hitting a wall” then finding a second wind. Hunger seemed to disappear a bit and become more manageable. I felt as if some weird internal, metabolic, survival process had kicked in. I joked that my body and stomach had started to consume itself for vital sustenance. Having researched intermittent fasting a bit since, I realise that wasn’t a million miles from the truth. The body looks within itself and processes existing stores of fat, carbohydrates etc when starved of food. For the rest of the evening and even next day I didn’t feel terribly hungry. I ended up having breakfast around 11:30am. No bigger a breakfast than usual.

The Results

I carried on my intermittent fasting for the rest of that week. Having two no food days in total and that’s what I’m trying to stick to now. I think two is plenty. Especially when you consider that by two days I mean no eating from say dinner at 6pm one day until brekkie at about 11am 2 days later. That’s a total fasting time of 41 continuous hours and do that twice a week! So what benefits did I notice and how long before these benefits showed exactly? Well I was quite surprised to find that I lost the best part of 3kg after the first fast, ie- within days. At first I thought my scales were broken. But seemingly not. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and havn’t lost anywhere near the initial amount since. I think this is normal for any kind of serious diet, you lose a lot at first then it balances out. I’m still losing weight, just a lot slower. Here’s my weight spreadsheet below. You can see the start of the fasting process and big weight drop the first week in October:

It Gets Better

Once you get past that initial hunger wall, it gets a lot easier and you get used to the regular process of fasting then. Apart from the obvious benefit of losing weight, one other thing I’ve noticed is that, when I do finally eat, I don’t over eat or seem to eat as much as I normally would. It’s as if the stomach shrinks in some way. Also, I don’t seem to be in quite as much pain as usual. This could just be in my mind though. Speaking of the mind, there’s obvious psychological benefits too. I’m happier that I’m in control of my eating habits and losing weight. My blood pressure seems to be down too. See below (last reading today on the right):

Blood Pressure Readings

If anyone is interested in trying Intermittent Fasting, I found this website useful:

Healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide

Next up…Facebook addiction!

Leon

The Self Employed Penny Drop Moment

Since I left college in 1995 I’ve worked in either full time, part time or contract work for other people or companies for a combined total period of less than 2 years. That’s about 5 or 6 different positions and companies. In the same time period I’ve been officially self employed in about 3 different positions, a Musician, a PC Technician and now a Web Designer since about 2003. Now, I’ve always seen those stats as a source of pride, I’m doing my own thing in life, figuring things out as I go, my own boss, time is my own, etc… and I would have also thought that others might be impressed by the initiative I’ve shown, the quick learning, the multidisciplinary skills one needs as a self employed web designer; design skills, people skills, project management skills, sales, etc, etc.. Aren’t the words “Good Initiative” on every damn job description there’s ever been!?

So recently I’ve considered trying to find a job, part time and remote ideally so my business isn’t affected too much and so I have a regular income for when self employment doesn’t cut it, like right now with the great weather we’re having! I’ve been sending CVs off, doing everything right (I think), customising the CV for the position, cutting out anything not relevant, adding enthusiastic cover letters, etc.. I’ve had career/CV guidance, I’ve got Degrees and other qualifications the last year or 2 and I feel my CV is fairly strong. But….nothing. I feel lucky to even get a reply.

Last night I attended #TechLifeBalance in Sligo, a kind of meet new Employer’s in the region type of event. The 4 CVs I brought were still in my back pocket when I left..

All IT companies or with IT roles on offer including: LiveTiles, Overstock, E3, SL Controls & Pramerica. A few days before the event I’d sent a CV off to LiveTiles for an IT Admin role through a  friend who recently started working for them and got a pretty quick, copy & paste no thanks. I was impressed with the speed actually! Last night a representative from the same company said something that made the penny drop for me….finally! Although, in the back of my head, I’d suspected as much for a while. She said that she’d been going through a lot of CVs lately for roles they had in their new office and the one issue she seen across a lot of them was that while they all showed great skills and qualifications, very few had the actual “industry experience” they needed. By industry experience I’m presuming she meant, considerable experience working for a large, corporate, multinational company and all that that entails. I don’t really have that with my 1.5 years work experience for other companies in the last 23 years! The night left me fairly deflated if I’m honest. The location was a trendy digital hub in Sligo, the attendees were all beautiful, young, talented people, the food was hip and free, buzz words and phrases abounded. It was all over my head a little. I think I’ve missed the boat..

So my conclusion..I guess I’ve thrown my oars out of the self employment boat. I’m in it for the long haul, so I better make it work!?

Discussion appreciated below.

Leon

Is it time we stopped respecting religious beliefs?

This blog post has been inspired by the murders yesterday in Paris by Muslim fundamentalists at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in the name of religion and also by the response of Salman Rushdie who said this:

“Respect for religion has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

I don’t know much about the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Seemingly a lot of their most religiously controversial stuff is a bit vulgar, smutty and just silly rather than smart satire that makes us think but no matter what they say or print, coming in and murdering some of them, including a fellow Muslim policeman is just fundamentalism gone off the scale.

Salman’s quote above sums up how I’ve been feeling about religion in general for a few years now. Having been an atheist most of my life, skipping baptism, communion, confirmation etc, no easy feat in Ireland in the late 70’s/early 80’s, I’ve never really had time for any religion. To me it’s been plain to see for a long, long time that it has no place in a modern, secular and scientifically enlightened civilisation. But still it lingers like a disease infecting, sickening and killing people. Religion is still all around us, from events like yesterdays in Paris, to imposing churches around every corner, to pressure from grandparents to christen our kids, to baptismal certificate requirements when starting school and religion being such a big part of the education system.

In this age of political correctness we are all told to respect other people’s beliefs and leave them to them. We all have immense fear of insulting one religion or another. It’s become a taboo almost just to dare to question any aspect of any religion publicly. Should we continue to respect people’s beliefs or even the people who hold those beliefs no matter how ridiculous they are or what people do in the name of those religions such as murdering, abuse and torture? Is it time we stopped living in fear of religion and stopped respecting it?

The only thing that gives me hope is that most younger generations seem to be giving religion less if any place in their lives and when the current older generations are gone maybe we will be free from religion once and for all. I’m talking about Catholicism in Ireland mostly of course. Religions such as Muslim, Islam etc may not die away as quick unfortunately. Perhaps what we need to do is stop attaching such significance and importance to religion by constantly talking about it, practicing it and making it part of our lives in some way.

Maybe Charlie Hebdo should have found something else more relevant to write/joke about than “a mediaeval form of unreason”, not because of the fear of retaliation but more to help bury religion to a distant memory?

I’m even fearful writing this damn post..

Fuck you religion…fuck you.

Charlie Hebdo
Illustration by Dave Brown for The Independent

Do I Have an Autism Spectrum Disorder!?

First off I need to say that I’m not writing this in the spirit of jumping on the Autism or Aspergers bandwagon, looking for sympathy, support or anything like that. I’m merely feeling a sense of curiosity, relief and the desire to tell the world that there might just be a long overdue “label” or explanation for all the weirdness that has been ME for the last 39 years!

I’ve always felt a bit different to everyone else and found things others seem to find simple a real challenge. Things like making friends, social events, school, large crowds, maintaining eye contact etc.. I’ve also shown signs of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). My family and friends regularly joke about me constantly tidying and organising stuff! I also seem to have mysterious talents doing things I’ve never trained for or studied, like running an IT business for the last 9 years! I’ve often been called aloof, arrogant and cold too but I’m not really. For the whole of primary school for example, I stood on my own in the same spot at lunch time. Every day for the best part of 8 years. I would have done the same in secondary school but preferred to cycle home instead. The school was damn far away and I only got a few mins at home to actually have lunch but it was better than staying among people. All these things are allegedly symptomatic of Asperger’s Syndrome or “Arse Burgers” syndrome as I like to call it. I’ve wondered over the years, although never in any great dept, if I might have some kind of mild mental deficiency. It would have explained a lot.

lalala

So I seen a link on Facebook a few months ago that got me wondering even more! It was a link to a generally well respected online Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) test, devised by Simon Baron-Cohen (not to be confused with Sacha Baron Cohen….Niiiccee!?). I took the test a few times then and again just last weekend too prompted by some autism awareness training that I had to do as part of working with local kids. Stuff mentioned in the training sounded uncomfortably familiar to me. Anyway, having done the test a load of times now, answering as honestly as I possibly could, more honestly each time, I score around the 30 point mark give or take a point or 2 either way. A mark in that range is supposedly indicative of a “borderline autism spectrum disorder and possibly Asperger’s Syndrome.

It was initially a little shocking to think that maybe I might have a recognised mental “disorder” but I’ve since relaxed into a sense of relief that I might now know what has caused a lot of stress in my life and generally made my life difficult. After all, knowing the source of a problem is the first step to fixing or dealing with it in some way? People who score in my range are advised to go to a local GP and request a referral to a proper consultant who can diagnose officially. I may or may not do that. I havn’t decided. I am aware that self diagnosis, especially involving the internet is not 100% wise but I feel that if it’s an explanation that works for me, then fine. Also, who is anyone to say that being different in this way is a “disorder”? Maybe all the normal people without these so called disorders are they ones who have the real disorder!?

I reckon a lot of people in our modern society might score highly on the AQ test so I’m aware this could all be nonsense and I may be nothing more than a bit different or a bit shy and to be honest it’s something I feel I may have under control anyway considering I’ve managed to keep myself alive this long. I have children, I run a business, I drive a car etc.. so I can’t say it’s been a real issue of late but there’s still days or longer periods when I feel overwhelmed and feel like I just can’t function.

Maybe the best thing that can happen as a result of all this is that the people who know me best might think twice about me now and be less offended by my weirdness. But maybe that’s just idealism on my part..

That is the reason for this blog post I guess.

Leon