Monthly Archives: January 2016

What is going on?

What is going on? It’s a question I should ask more of myself than I do. As it stands, it comes up only occasionally, fleetingly. Things have changed over the last year, not for the better. What things? The intangibles inside, the things that were “fixed” before, or so I thought. 2015 was an odd year, a year of conflicting extremes. Somehow, someway, through the course of it, I switched off. Looking back, I feel like this was a response to losing 3 people that I cared for to cancer, instead of grieving appropriately, I just switched off. I wonder if in a way I felt that my grief was undeserved, it sounds like something my subconscious would do, it was just a colleague, an old friend from England, a family friend, not someone really close like family, so why would I need to feel grief? That is unfortunately all too often how my mind works, yet I don’t realize it is working that way until much later.

My current state of not really feeling is similar to the way I used to be, before I got help, before I made progress & got healthy, before Jesus completely transformed me. It is completely different yet in a way it is just the same. I find myself today living life on auto pilot again, not thinking or feeling so much as I did only a year ago. Not caring like I did, only a year ago. Most troublingly, the desire, the drive, to be better, to create, to be all that I can be, it’s gone. Ok, maybe it’s not gone, but it is certainly not driving my life like it did for a few years. Most troubling I think, is that I feel so distant from God these days, so far away from my Jesus, yet I don’t do anything about it, I’m like a ship drifting on an ocean with no sail, no engine. Or at least I’m not hoisting the sail, not turning on the engine, it makes no sense, yet thats where I am.

There are 2 questions I need to asks myself with regards to this, firstly, am I ok with this & secondly, what is going on and what am I going to do about it?

the first question on paper is easy to answer, no I’m not ok with this. Yet, I kind of am, I live a comfortable life that is generally enjoyable. I get to be part of a family that is pretty great. I do a job that I am good at, I watch and play my sprouts, play my games, just you know, live life. To any “normal” person tat should be enough right? The thing is, I had a taste of something more, I want that more, I have always wanted that more. Yet the life of “more” requires effort, commitment and most unfortunately discipline, most likely sacrificial discipline – yuck.

If you want to get in good physical condition you have to eat well and exercise regularly, there is simply no other way to get there. That means you have to give up some time on your couch, not eat that burger, drink a few less beers a week, sacrifice the things that you want in the moment, to achieve the “greater” thing that you want. If you really want it, then you will do it, if you don’t you will eat burgers, drink beer & buy bigger pants. The beginning is always the most difficult, skipping that first weekend of eating out, not having that end of the week reward beer. Going to the gym when you’re tired, getting up early to go for that run. That whole thing sucks at the beginning but if you commit to it, after a while it is not so sacrificial, after maybe a month, you’ve made progress, you feel way better than you did & it all starts to make sense.

This is relevant to the current situation because not only have I switched off mentally, I gained 15 pounds in a couple of months at the end of last year, I am “trying” to lose it & get back in shape, yet somehow eating well 3 days a week and working out once a week has not yet magically turned me into the athlete I was a year ago.

Why write this? Why share this? I don’t know, this once helped, this once worked. Maybe I need to find something new, but for now this is what i have. Maybe if I can just sit down and write, not a I should write moment, but let whatever is in there come out, heck with the consequences, then maybe I can find some answers. Maybe those answers will help get me back on track. Maybe acknowledging that I have a hard time praying right now, or opening the bible, maybe I can find something through that, that maybe, just maybe, can help me get that back. You see, I really do want that, at the core of who I really am, I want to be close to God, I want to be a good husband, I want to be a good man. I want to be creating things, even if its just for me, but hopefully so that someone else can relate and feel maybe not so alone in this awfully depressing planet that the world of 2016 appears to be. I don’t know what I am say or where I am going. Hopefully this is the beginning, or at least something, because I need to feel alive again.

Paris day 2 – Le Tour Eiffel

Our first full day in Paris was a Wednesday and it was quite a contrast from the previous day. Tuesday had been a day of many contrasting emotions, the sadness of leaving my Dad & my home town, then the joy of seeing my sister for the first time in almost 5 years. We added to that the stress of traveling a journey not before completed, making sure we caught the right trains at the right time, the metro, the journey around the metro, oh my it was an adventure.

I awoke pretty well refreshed on the Wednesday, despite yet another uncomfortable bed, it turns out I am utterly spoiled with my nice mattress at home & traveling in less than great beds causes poor sleep & an aching back, this night though I think I was so tired I could have slept on the floor quite happily.

Our apartment was in a great location, just a  few blocks from the Louvre & the Royal Opera house. Yet rather interestingly the nestle of back streets we were on seemed to be some sort of little “China town” as there were a host of asian restaurants of all nations. We had determined that we would go get breakfast from a patisserie, the one closest to the apartment was also recommended by Olivier on our arrival so we went there. For the quintessential multi-cultural experience it was a traditional Parisian patisserie that happened to be operated by some people of Japanese descent, meaning there were 2 languages we could not understand in the window. I was all set to try and bumble through ordering in French, but the assistant – who spoke perfect English, obviously overhead us talking & started the conversation in English. So with a little less excitement than I was expecting, we returned to the apartment with fresh Cafe Creme, pain au chocolates & a real French croissant, all of which were delicious.

IMG_3134I’d love to tell you that we came to Paris to do more than the most cliche of tourist things, that we went exploring little know treasures (other than a Japanese / French patisserie). But I don’t want to lie to you, we came to Paris to do the things people do when they come to Paris, on the first visit at least. Today was going to be all about making some little girls (who happen to be cousins) dream come true. Today we would go to the Eiffel Tower.

Following our delicious breakfast, we began the rest of the day’s adventure. We decided to start with the park at the Louvre, it would give the kids a much needed opportunity to run around & burn off some steam & also allow the adults to relax and enjoy the surroundings while stretching our legs. It was in easy walking distance so no need to use the metro, we were all a little gun shy from the previous day’s excitement. The streets were lined with 5 story stone buildings, it would be easy to imaging the roads having been carved out of the buildings rather than the buildings being built around them. Just at the end of our street there was a magnificent statue of some gut that looked like he had escaped from the Musketeers stories.

Once we got to the louvre we fort the first time saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance past a rather grand arch which we would head through into the park. The tower even from a distance is quite a sight, standing almost regally over the city, even with all its fame, actually seeing it was somewhat breathtaking.

It was an impressive beauty of a park, long, wide and well manicured. Sculptures strewn throughout, interesting plant life and some trees that were oddly cut flat at the top with impress levelness. We found a little playground within the park & the kids set about having a good time, while I tried (in vain) not to stare at the crowd of men practicing some form of martial arts, seemingly the older gentlemen were instructing the younger ones. We moved on from the playground after a while to let the kids ride the merry-go-round and then have a go in the trampoline park, My daughter had a blast with all of this, her soccer fitness helping her never even remotely get tired.

 

We decided to grab lunch before catching the metro to the tower & exited the park on the north side, no plans or destination in mind, just somewhere to eat. Right where we exited there were 2 restaurants on the main road either side of side street junction which had a third restaurant for us to choose from. For some reason i declared that we should go to this third one, being a hundred years from the main road seemed preferable to me.

The Brasserie called Flottes was just perfect. It was a long but rather thin city bar / restaurant. At least 3 floors, we were seated on the main floor at a corner table. Oddly I had a taxidermy’d polar bear towering over me in the corner. The place was not particularly busy, but there were folks there doing life, conversing in French, the ambiance of the place was just right, maybe because I was so relaxed and enjoying our stay, but I really felt like I was traveling here. I ordered a salad that came with cheese and ham & potatoes, making for a quite substantial meal for a salad. My wife enjoyed real French onion soup & my daughter had a sandwich with an egg on top (I forget the name) & was most excited to eat real french fries in France (although they are apparently of Belgian origin).

After lunch we rode the metro to the tower, a much more relaxed metro ride given that we were without suitcases and it was not rush hour. Rather than going the long way around on the metro to get to the closest station, we got out at Ecole Militaire metro station which put us at the entrance to the gardens leading up to the tower. This allowed for some great photo opportunities and also gave the anticipation of the climb chance to grow amongst both the kids and the adults as we strolled towards the imposing structure.

Once we reached the base of the tower we were faced with the choice of riding the elevator or climbing the stairs. A combination of long lines & significantly higher prices made the choice to use the stairs a fairly easy one to make. Once through security we began the climb, our surroundings were as you would expect, lots of exposed metal all joined together in a very industrial revolution kind of way. We were climbing the east side, the elevator there was closed for repairs, a rather amusing sight was the 2 engineers working on the elevator car situated either side of a model of a man who looked like a train driver. It took a second to realize that 2 of them were real, or maybe that one of them was fake.

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We reached the first floor fairly quickly, my daughter excitedly leading the way as I straggled behind taking photos. The first floor was quite the tourist center with restaurants, a gift shop and even a small ice skating rink.  There was also one of those awful see through floors running around. I actually didn’t realize how much I do not enjoy them until this day. My head knew it was safe, they wouldn’t put it in if it were not, millions of people have walked safely on them, yet as I told myself they were safe, my legs said no, not moving. I eventually managed to get myself to walk in it, rather week kneed and certainly not enjoying having to overcome some repressed fear of falling to my death. Ok at that point in time it was not particularly repressed, but think about it, if by random chance that thing were to fail while you were stood on it, you are going to die, absolutely no other options, there’s also a good chance you are going to land on someone & take them with you, it just …. yeah.

After some souvenir shopping in the gift store my sister informed me that she would not be going to the top, nor her husband or my nephew, I guess theres a family thing here haha. My niece however did want to join us & so we headed up the stairs to the 2nd floor, just the four of us now.

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If I remember correctly it was a total of 670 stairs from the bottom to the second floor, that’s a lot of stairs (they were numbered by the way, I didn’t count). The view from the 1st floor had been pretty good, but the razzmatazz of the surroundings took away from it a little. The 2nd floor was all about the view, the platform was smaller (as I’m sure you know, the tower gets thinner as it goes up) which made it quicker to walk around and see the view from each side. It felt as though you could see forever, the sprawling city immense and beautiful, the air was cool, but not cold, not like it had been in England & certainly not like Scotland. The breeze was pretty good up there though. After spending some time taking photographs etc we to some tickets to rid the elevator to the top, the stairs only go to the 2nd floor, but the elevator add on from there is way cheaper.

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The elevator was cramped due to the number of people in there, I wonder what the capacity is, surely it must be significant. The place must be awfully busy in the summer, early December crowds were enough for me. The ride up was fairly quick, the elevator wobbled a little & if I allowed my mind to wander towards what would happen if the cable failed, well, my knees went a little week. I’m not sure where these thoughts of falling were coming from on that day, it was rather bizarre.

The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is one that will stay with me forever, it is beyond spectacular, words really cannot do it justice. The girls were just as blown away as I was, my darling nice particularly proud of herself for not being too afraid to reach the top of the tower, I’m sure she will remind Mum of that for years to come. I took many photos & some video. If even took some panoramas, holding my phone through the fence to get an unrestricted shot. That was until my wife pointed out the signs that I had somehow been oblivious to telling you specifically not to do such things. I guess a cell phone accidentally falling from 300 feet would probably not be such a good thing lol.

I am not sure how long we stayed at the top for, we did not hurry, but it was getting crowded so we decided to go back down. We rode the elevator and then hit the downward stairs which did not feel particularly good on my knees or legs in general (yay getting old). We exited the tower just in time to see a guard of armed soldiers passing, a stark reminder that we were then only 3 weeks removed from the terrorist attacks that shook not only Paris, but the world. It was reassuring to see them as it helped to make us feel that we were in Paris at probably the safest time in history. Yet it was also heart breaking, that such a thing would be necessary in a place of beauty, a place of civilization, a place where normal people aspire to visit, to make dreams come true.

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We spent a little time in a small park near the tower, my daughter and her cousin doing their best to communicate with some of the local children. Kids were playing all around, young boys playing football others chasing each other, the rest of the swings and climbing frames, it was a wonderful sight. Eventually it was time to leave and ride the metro back to the apartment.  however before we settled in for an exciting meal of leftovers lead us into a pleasant relaxing quite evening in the apartment, a quick trip to Starbucks was in order. They had some fabulous freshly squeezed orange juice which I enjoyed much more than my wife did her luke warm coffee. We strolled down the street to get a closer view of the stunning Palais Garner, the national opera house. Then on the way back, we called into the must amazingly delectable chocolate store, it was frightfully expensive, but worth every cent.

The not supposed to be take panoramas 🙂

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Happy New Year 2016

Happy new year my friends, the year is now 2016 which seems a little crazy to me, we really are living in the future aren’t we? I hope you all had a wonderful 2015, yet I hope even more for a joyful 2016. My prayer is that it will be a year of peace, healing & blessing for all.

2015 was an interesting year for me personally, a year rather filled with extremes, I had some truly wonderful experiences such as traveling back to England with my family, making many new friends in my gaming world, seeing a new Star Wars movie that was actually good 😉 There were also some desperately difficult times, times of loss, times of grief.

I feel like at some point I subconsciously switched off, I went into survival mode, the place I escaped form years back, to where feeling is limited. On the outside it might seem like a good thing, but it is not, it is a dark and dangerous place. To be your best you must be fully willing to feel and address every experience, good or bad, you also must be able to find the silver lining. There is always one there, even in the worst times like losing a loved one, or being on a planet with people that would willingly kill innocent civilians enjoying their Friday night.

I don’t do New years resolutions, I really have never understood the point, January 1st is no different to May 17th, other than most people don’t have to work. The bold declaration in public of how you are going to do XYZ this year & be whatever you feel like you should be, it never made much sense to me. Yet this year, the timing is oddly right for change, right for growth. Publicly declaring something means little if no-one holds you accountable for it though. So I guess you now have my permission, to call me out this year if you see me failing in one of the areas I am about to share with you, although you really should be relevant to that area to do so.

Seeing as we are on the blog I’ll start with that, I want to get back into writing, not just occasionally, but frequently. I still have no aspirations to do anything with it other than pollute the internet with my ramblings. However my ramblings in whatever format they take are a good thing, heck some incredibly kind people with phenomenal taste actually read and like them. The real reason I want to get back into writing is basically that same thing that got me started in the first place. I want and need to get more in touch with the inner workings of my mind and my feelings. I also really want to try and flex those creative muscles, it is truly enjoyable for me to create art no matter what form it takes, poetry, music, blog articles. When I do these things, I am a better person, a better husband, a better father. When I am in touch with my true self, the create sensitive, real me, the world makes more sense to me, I see things differently, notice things that i would otherwise ignore. It is just better.

That’s of my plan (resolution) to take better care of myself mentally for the coming year. Other, more traditional “resolutions” for this year for me shall include taking better care of myself physically. I didn’t do too terribly bad with this in 2015, until the last 2 months, when I apparently decided that all bets were off & indulged in everything tasty I saw. Its starting to show on the scales now & in how I feel. No big deal, I will eat healthy, work out a bunch & maybe even actually get on my bicycle this year.

Lastly & this may be the most ambitious, yet hardest to measure. I am going to try and move a little slower this year, do more by doing less, take / make the time to be more attentive to the most important people in my life (my wife and child), make the time to do the things I truly love, like music. I am also going to try and balance things a little better, maybe a little less gaming & a little more reading. Make time to invest in relationships that have been neglected last year due to other responsibilities.

Yes, my goal for 2016 is pretty much just like every other cliched resolution you will probably hear this year. My goal is to be better, be a better version of my so that hopefully those around me will enjoy me more & as a result, maybe I will enjoy 2016 a little more than 2015.

 

 

PS: I’m not done with the vacation journal yet, I need to share my experiences in Paris with you all. I intend to get those written up in the next week so be watching out for them, it was a pretty incredible experience.