Life as a Scapegoat

A lot of families have a scapegoat. It’s the scapegoat’s job to either take the blame for the deeply rooted problems that otherwise the family would have to deal with, or to be the lightning rod for the structural inequalities the family faces but are powerless to fix. Sometimes both. Often both.

Communities, classrooms, workplaces, and friendship groups also often have a designated scapegoat. Usually for pretty much the same reasons. Often groups of people become scapegoats for entire societies. Shall we spend more money on the NHS or just blame fat people? Should we fix the housing crisis or just blame homeless people and millennials?

I know what it’s like to be a scapegoat. I know how hard it is to confront the fundamental unfairness and illogicality of that role when you’re inside it. Let me tell you a story about my family.

I got a phone call from my youngest brother the other week. He told me about a conversation he had with his daughter. She was bemoaning the messy state of her bedroom and he was telling her that it was ok, that he’d been messy as a kid and that he still struggled with being tidy but that it was worth the effort. My mother was there and she contradicted him (in front of his daughter – so rude) to say that he wasn’t messy at all. She proudly said that both her sons had been super tidy and that I was the messy one. Apparently I’d been in the habit of going into my brothers’ bedroom and making a mess there because I was so upset that their room was tidy and mine wasn’t.

Let me be clear – that never happened. Not only did I not purposely make a mess of my brothers’ room I didn’t accidentally make a mess either. I didn’t go in there unless I was in there with them, unless they invited me, and for the most part they didn’t come into my room unless I invited them in. We were brought up to respect other people’s spaces.

It didn’t surprise me that she’d say that though. It didn’t even surprise me that she’d slander me in front of my niece when I wasn’t there to defend myself.

For a long time I thought I’d been a terrible child because that’s what my mother told me. I’d been defiant, unreasonable and a bad influence on my younger brothers. My middle brother’s outrageous behaviour was entirely my fault. He’d been such a good boy until I told him that he didn’t actually have to do what our mother said. So when he was smashing my possessions, calling me names or threatening me it was my own fault.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first realised that this was bullshit but I do remember the exact shift in perspective. I suddenly realised that if an adult loses a battle of wills with a five-year-old then that is on the adult, not the child. Even if everything she’d said about me had been true it would still be on her.

Later on I began to realise that maybe it wasn’t true at all. The ‘terrible twos’ stage happens because children go through a phase of realising that they don’t actually have to do what adults tell them and they start asserting themselves and pushing boundaries. I’m two and a half years older than my middle brother. I would have been coming out of that phase right as he was going into it. I can see how it might have looked like I was communicating some kind of behavioural contagion to him. But only if you don’t know about kids. If you don’t know that it’s a stage all kids go through. If you’re not, say, a fully qualified children’s nurse with experience of caring for younger siblings and cousins, like my mother was.

I don’t know what she thought she was doing. Maybe she just really didn’t want to admit that there are some bits of parenting that aren’t much fun no matter how much you love your kids. Or maybe she just doesn’t like me very much and never has.

And this is the point at which I realise that I’ve been typing for a while but I don’t actually seem to have a point. Don’t scapegoat people, maybe? That seems like a thing we should agree on. Spend less time looking for people to blame for stuff and more time fixing the things you can fix.

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Sunday Update 13/01

The first Sunday update of the year.

As I mentioned very briefly in the last update of 2018 I did get a new writing chair. It’s a proper rise and recline chair that allows me to write with my feet up and will help me to stand when I need it. Writing has been so much easier with it. Everything has been easier.

The chair was super expensive. I was only able to afford it because years ago I had a credit card with a somewhat shitty company that got in trouble with the Financial Services Authority and was recently forced to send refund cheques to a bunch of people. I spent mine on a chair that I absolutely need but could not otherwise afford. I should have been able to get one on loan from the Occupational Health department of my local council but there aren’t enough to go round.

At the moment I’m working on Project Kindness – the sexy spies and Celtic gods novel that I’ve was working on for most of last year. It’s been interesting to get back to it after some time working on other stuff. I’ve realised that there’s two massive scenes that need complete re-writes to change them from novel equivalent of a floating camera to the novel equivalent of a following camera and a voice over.

The annoying thing about the change is that I don’t think the new version of the scenes will be as good. I’m doing it partially so that they’re more consistent with the rest of the novel and partially because narrative conventions have changed and I’m unlikely to hook an agent if the first 40 pages of my novel contains the sort of sweeping ‘camera shots’ that used to be fairly standard narrative devices.

The other thing I’ve been working on is planning. I’ve been pouring over my two (2) new diary/planner things. One is focused on writing, the other is more generally focussed on setting and reaching goals.It’s too early to tell if I’ll be able to stick with either of them or if they’ll be any good to me. In theory structure and order are the best thing for someone with ADHD but they’re also the absolute hardest things for someone with ADHD to impose on ourselves. Kind of like how the best treatment for eating disorders is moderation. If we could eat in moderation we wouldn’t have eating disorders.

Welp I’ve hung around depressing myself for so long that this blog is now late. I’m starting this year as I mean to go along.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update 3

I am continuing to write. I’m well ahead of where I need to be to hit the official target of 50,000 words but am slightly behind on my personal goal of 60,000.

My story is feeling really episodic. Not so much a coherent plot line as a series of scenes that don’t really connect to one another. That failure to transition properly from one scene to another is something that I can fix in the edit but I know that it’s going to be really annoying. I’d like to save future me from that soul destroying task but I can’t do that without slowing down. And I cannot afford to slow down.

I’m also having trouble with one of my characters. I have a character that I’ve described as a ‘trans boy genius’. Throughout the story everyone treats him as a boy and I always use male pronouns. How do I show the readers that he’s trans? My main character is meeting him for the first time at a point in his life where he’s already on puberty blockers and everyone he knows has got used to using his male name and male pronouns. You could argue that I don’t have to bring it up at all, trans boys are boys, but if I don’t then I’m concealing a part of who he is and denying my trans readers the representation they deserve.

I’m also having intermittent problems with my finger joints. Following my last appointment with the doctor I now have anti-inflammatory gel to apply when they start to swell and hurt but it’s not magic. It doesn’t work instantly and it’s not fixing the underlying problem. Can the underlying problem even be fixed? Is this just another example of life kicking me in the teeth? My continuing existence is going to be more unpleasant and there’s nothing I can do about it?

The worst thing about the finger pain is that it feels like a betrayal. I’ve never been pretty or fit or anything but I used to be able to rely on my hands. My hands were always steady and quick and strong. I could touch type, and crochet, and make jewellery, and I could learn new things to do with my hands quickly. My hands looked good too. They looked considerably better than the rest of me. And now my little fingers are crooked and the joints are swollen and it’s probably only a matter of time before the rest of my fingers look like that. Eventually I won’t even be able to paint my nails to cheer myself up.

I’m going to finish this post with some pictures of that time when I accidentally co-ordinated my nails with my iPad case. I don’t know how many more pictures I’ll want to take of my hands.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update 1

For the duration of November I’m going to be focusing this blog on NaNoWriMo because I’m focusing everything else on NaNoWriMo and I like things to match.

As I write this it’s day 4 and I’m on track to hi 50,000 words early and hopefully get to the approximately 60,000 that I think is a good length for the first draft of the story that I’m trying to write. Things are going well. I don’t hate my characters yet, the plot still works and my body hasn’t started rebelling.

This year my support team (by which I mean those of my friends and family who are not taking part in NaNoWriMo) are being unusually supportive. So give them a quick virtual cheer. It’s pretty thankless being an unpublished writer’s support team. They get most of the hassle of NaNoWriMo but they don’t get the creative rush or the potential feeling of accomplishment and it’s not like there’s any money in it.

Good luck my fellow writers. May the words come easy to you.

Everything is terrible.

It’s not just my imagination, is it? We are all fucked. And not in the good way. Politics is fucked. The climate is fucked. The economy is fucked.

In theory it’s not too late. All these problems are fixable. Even the climate. We’ve fixed similar problems in the past. London fixed its killer fogs. China fixed its population growth. Europe fixed its acid rain problem. The world reversed the damage to the ozone layer. It’s not too late to reverse some of the damage, reduce some and prepare for the rest.

But that’s not going to happen. Have you seen the people in charge? Those that are competent enough to do something either lack the will or the power. Our politics is so badly fucked that it will take a generation to fix it and by then it will be too late to do much about the environment.

I don’t think we’ve destroyed the planet. We might have made it uninhabitable for humans but I don’t think so. As a species we’re pretty adaptable. I do think we’ve destroyed our current civilizations though. We might be facing a huge collective loss of technology.

Most of us alive today will probably live through horrible and traumatic change. Our lives are going to be a lot harder and much shorter. I say ‘our’ but since I’m reliant on modern medicine I don’t expect to live through any kind of societal breakdown.

Of course I could be wrong. We could turn it around. We’re pretty smart when we’re not being incredibly stupid. There is still time for someone to come up with something brilliant.

I wish I could believe that it would happen.

All hail the Internet.

There’s a lot of horrible stuff happening on the internet. It enables a lot of terrible behaviour. In the developed world most of us have come to rely on it as a distraction in ways that can’t possibly be good for us. The Internet also connects us to each other. We don’t always use those connections sensibly but they can be very powerful. So let me tell you a story about connections.

The other day a friend of mine posted a link to a music video on Facebook. He’d found the band online and been so taken with their name, The Church of the Cosmic Skull, that he’d checked out their music on youtube. He said that their music wasn’t really his thing apart from one song that had really got under his skin. I was intrigued (and it is a really cool band name) so I watched the video.

This video.

It has a gloriously understated note of all pervading doom. It’s like the soundtrack to the Scarfolk website.

Afterward I turned to my spouse (who I met via the Internet on the message board of the Fortean Times magazine back when meeting via the Internet was still weird) and I suggested that we listen to more of The Church of the Cosmic Skull. As we listened to the music I gave myself a gel manicure, using materials ordered on the internet and shipped all the way from China, and skills that I learned watching youtube tutorials.

We loved both their albums instantly and as my spouse was posting a link to the video for Black Slug to a Tumblr blog I returned to Facebook to thank my friend for his link.

Seriously though you should check this one out. It sounds like a lost Hawkwind track from back when Lemmy was still playing the base and the video looks like it they sneaked onto the set of ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and shot it when everyone else was asleep.

He replied “This is why the Internet is more often than not, the best thing ever,” and reminded me that if it weren’t for the Internet we would never have followed each other on Twitter and never have become real life friends. If there was no internet then there would be no NaNoWriMo and no Aberdeen NaNoWriMo group having meetings. I wouldn’t have been able to persuade him to come out to one and he would never have met the woman who is now the love of his life.

The internet allowed me to meet my spouse and most of my friends. The internet lets me stay in touch with friends I would long ago have drifted away from.The internet keeps me connected to my family. The internet lets me do detailed research for my novels. I don’t even have to stop writing to do the research. I can do a google search then read all the relevant stuff while I’m taking a five minute break to drink my coffee. The internet allows me to learn new skills.

Without the internet I might not be a writer and you certainly wouldn’t be reading this. So thanks to Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and all hail the conquering internet.

I’m not dead I just don’t have anything to say

I’ve been so quiet recently because I don’t feel like I have much to say. This is unusual for me but then these are unusual times. It’s hard to find something to say when just looking at the state of the world makes you want to scream.

I try not to be distracted by all the horrible stuff that I can’t do anything about but I can’t pick something to focus on. I’m drifting. I was working on a novel but then I put that on hold to work on something that I could pitch at Bloody Scotland. I’ve submitted my short pitch but I’m not working on that novel just now because I don’t really expect them to want it. I started work on the prep for a new novel so I’ll have something to write for NaNoWriMo but shouldn’t I go back to finishing the one I was working on?

I suppose the real problem is that it all feels pointless. Everything seems pointless. I am one of the little people and there’s not much I can do about anything. I’m at the mercy of events driven by people with so much money and power that they don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions. I’d be better spending my time learning more about growing vegetables and stockpiling cans so we can survive Brexit.

Review: Mercury’s Son

Mercury’s Son by Luke E.T. Hindmar

This is my second futuristic detective story review in a row and like False Hearts by Laura Lam it is an easy five star, 10/10, just buy the damn book already rating.*

Sci Fi is the genre of big ideas and this novel is full of them. It’s also a detective novel, and a noirish one at, that so it’s full of enigmas. The story takes place on a future planet Earth recovering from an entirely man-made apocalypse. Humanity has been brought low but is holding on in domed cities, living under an iron central control, committed to fixing the damage to Mother Earth.

The central character is a Moderator, a kind of detective, investigating a murder that goes to the very heart of his society. I can’t say any more about the plot without spoiling it and I would hate to spoil such a beautiful plot.

I recommend this book but it does need to come with a warning. It is a tough read in places. It opens with a suicide and it often deals with horrific violence and the emotional consequences of that violence. It is a brutal futuristic police procedural and it should be violent and terrible in places.

It is absolutely worth reading through passages that you might find painful to get to the deeper meaning. This book has big important things to say about things like consciousness, memory and mankind’s place in the universe and it says them with style and grace.

This is easily a 5 star book for me but if you dislike ambiguity in your mystery novels or violent death in your sci fi then you might have to knock a off one star. But that still makes it well worth the read.

 

*And while you’re buying it in the Amazon store have a look at False Hearts because that’s currently 99p,

And if you want to support this blog you could buy me a coffee with Ko-Fi or visit the shop of doom and buy things.

2018 Diet Update 3

This week I lost 1.3kg (just over 2 and a half pounds). My total weight loss is now 14.4 kg (31.6 pounds or 2 stone, 3.6 lbs). After experimenting with the positioning of my scales I can be fairly sure this is genuine weight loss but of course much of this week’s total will be down to fluid being forced out of my legs by my compression tights.

Wearing my compression tights continues to be a massive pain in the arse. And everywhere else. Just getting them on uses most of my spoons meaning that I don’t have much left over for chores or writing or working on the thing I’m crocheting for my daughter’s birthday. Or even for reading the book I’m reviewing.

More and more I’m questioning why I’m even on this fucking diet. Let us not forget that calorie restriction is not a treatment for lipoedema, that my value is not inversely proportional to my size, and that no level of weight loss is going to magically render me decorative enough to be societally acceptable. I only got on this damn treadmill because weight loss is a hoop that I have to jump through in order to access the treatments that actually do work.

I am trying to commit to more exercise. Not to lose weight but because I want to be stronger. I’m thinking of taking on a 100 squat 30 day challenge. The idea is to work up to 100 squats a day (any kind of squat counts) and then keep it up for 30 days. I have no idea if this is a good idea but I do think it’s important to have goals.

Diet Update 12

This week I lost 2kg. Of course some of that was the half kilo I put on last week so it’s only a net loss of 1.5kg (about 3 pounds). This is for a total weight loss of 11.5kg (25 pounds).

Still not much of a visible change though. In fact there’s so little change in my forearms that I’m starting to worry that I might have lipoedema there as well. At least I now have an appointment for the next stage of assessment for the lipoedema and it’s less than a month away.

With the end of NaNoWriMo approaching I think it’s time to think about a proper exercise plan. Going to a gym just isn’t practical but I do have a rowing machine. Now I just have to work out how to use it. I’ve got a bunch of weights for weight training but no bars to put them on, no bench and no squat rack. I suppose it’s a start.

 

Diet posts.