Mind Over Body

James Proclaims (4)

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As I’ve mentioned in one or more of my previous ponderous posts, I’m currently in the process of attempting (but not really succeeding) to write the dissertation bit of my MA.

In truth it’s not actually my MA.

Not yet.

I need to write a dissertation first.

I also have a full-time job, because I haven’t yet worked out a way of not having a job and still being able to pay my mortgage.

Even for someone who is motivated and academically inclined, writing a dissertation alongside having a full-time job is quite hard.

And it would certainly be a stretch to describe me as either motivated or academically inclined.

I’m not stupid (or possibly I’m so stupid that I don’t realise that I’m stupid) but academia and I have never really gotten on too well.

Occasionally I have shown the potential to be an academic. Throughout school, my undergrad days and even at times on this MA course, I have demonstrated that, when I put my mind to it, I can achieve grades at the more impressive end of the scale. However, these flashes of brilliance are all too often followed by mediocrity and in truth I’m far more likely to flirt with grades at the less impressive end of the scale. I normally do enough to pass, but quite often I do ‘just enough’.

Throw in a new(ish) baby (not literally obviously – I’m still a relative novice at this parenting malarkey but I’m given to understand that throwing a baby is not generally considered wise. Especially if bathwater is involved apparently) and time is a commodity I don’t have much of.

I do enjoy looking after my daughter. She can be a little demanding, often in the early hours of the morning, but she’s mostly delightful and for someone who hasn’t actually mastered the art of speaking, she has quite a lot to say, and she says it with such feeling and passion that I’m not sure actual words would add much to her soliloquies.

In order to be able to do my job to an acceptable (but rarely  exceptional) level and to be able to grind out a dissertation (that will achieve the minimum pass mark) by April, and to be able to enjoy the company of my daughter (and sometimes my wife, although in truth Mrs Proclaims are currently operating on a shift pattern with regards childcare and are rarely conscious and in each other’s company. We do enjoy a regular verbal exchange at around 3am when debating over who gets the honour of listening to our offspring’s latest early-morning orations) something has had to give.

And that has very much been exercise.

Not that I’ve ever been any more athletically inclined than I am academically inclined. But I generally do try and keep fit enough that my tendency to indulge in foods that might be considered insalubrious do as little damage to my long-term health as possible.

I’m not sure, even at my fittest, that I’ve ever really managed to get the balance of diet and exercise entirely geared towards optimum wellbeing, but in normal times I do enough good to at least mitigate the bad.

At the moment, though, the balance is swaying very much towards the bad. In attempting to secure a qualification that I don’t really need (and at this point I’m not even sure I want) I am sacrificing the short-term health of my body for the long-term benefits of my mind.

Although it’s not really clear that having an MA will bring any benefits to my mind.

Other than the fact that, assuming all goes well, from April onwards I’ll able to smugly boast to anyone that will listen that I have an MA.

When all is said and done, it’s not actually that much of a boast.

Nonetheless, and in spite of a total lack of comprehension as to what it is I’m bragging about, I’m sure that my daughter will greet the news with her usual infectious enthusiasm.

 

 

 

Definitively Depressing Democracy

James Proclaims (4)

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Today is Blue Monday. Apparently, this is what the cool kids now call the third Monday in January.

It’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year.

And it’s absolutely a real thing and not just some concept originally made up by a travel agent in 2005 to sell more holidays.

So, if you’re feeling depressed today, that’s absolutely fine and you don’t need to seek medical help.

Conversely if you woke up this morning in a relatively chipper mood, there is definitely something wrong with you and you should absolutely seek help at the first opportunity.

One would imagine that the premise of Blue Monday is that Christmas is now a relatively distant memory but we’re still all paying for it in terms of trying to shift excess weight gained during the festive period, with the added problem of having no money thanks to pay day still being over a week away.

And it’s Monday.

Which is always a bad thing.

But this January seems to have given some of us even more reasons to not be cheerful.

I’m vaguely aware of something called a Government Shutdown happening in the US, which is seemingly attributable to the normally even-handed and flexible Mr Trump.

It doesn’t seem like a good thing, but it hasn’t really been headline news over here.

This is not because we Brits like to mind our own business and don’t care about the comings and going of the POTUS. Indeed, such is the coverage normally that you’d be forgiven for thinking that he is actually president of here too.

Fortunately, he’s been largely kept out of our news because our own behemoth of badness has been rather dominating the headlines of late.

That behemoth is, of course, Brexit. If you don’t know what Brexit is, then I’ll refer you to an explanation offered by a number of its proponents:

“Brexit means Brexit.”

Hope that’s cleared that up for you.

The same people also regularly offer a definition for the word ‘leave’.

Which is:

“Leave means Leave”.

Indeed, if the exponents of exiting Europe ever release their own dictionary it will be quite a slim volume, bereft as it will be of any actual definitions of any of the words therein.

Which isn’t to say that it won’t sell well.

Because you can’t argue that Brexiteers don’t know how to market their crap pretty well.

I, of course, am a certified remoaner. I’d rather we hadn’t voted for Brexit. But don’t mistake me for something I’m not. I’m not especially a fan of the European Union.

To be a fan I’d have to understand how it all works.

And I don’t understand at all.

I think, on balance, I’d rather live in a world where we’re all a bit more connected and I think the EU probably represents that.

But I’m hardly an idealist.

If someone could have persuaded me that I, personally, would be significantly better off with Britain leaving the EU, I’d have gladly ignored my principles and voted wholeheartedly for Brexit.

But no-one could.

It was all a bit vague really.

And two and half years on, as we hurtle towards the definitive date when we cease to be part of Europe in an economical and political sense (although remain very much part of it in a geographical sense) it seems no-one has any idea what is going to happen.

Perhaps I’m being a little idealistic, but it kind of feels like we should have known what we were voting for (or against) back when we actually voted on it.

Some people are suggesting that, now we do know a bit more, we should maybe have another referendum.

Other people seem to be of the view that to have another referendum, which could potentially undermine the first vote, would be undemocratic.

I’m not sure another vote would solve anything, because I think we’re all still as clueless now as we were back in 2016, but I really would like someone to explain to me how another referendum would be undemocratic.

Because I’d have thought having another vote would be the very definition of democratic.

Then again, I’m probably using the wrong kind of dictionary.

 

 

 

 

Time Mismanagement

James Proclaims (4)

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Sometimes I wonder if I am the personification of procrastination. If I were to look up the definition for procrastination in a dictionary, I would genuinely not be surprised to see my own face grinning back at me.

If procrastination were an Olympic sport, I would probably win the gold medal. If I ever got around to competing of course. Which I wouldn’t because I’d be too busy re-organising my sock drawer. I’m just that good.

If it were possible to make a living from procrastinating, I’d certainly consider getting around to one day applying for a role doing just that. I’d be a ‘pro’ crastinator.

Today (or rather yesterday, for that is when I wrote this) is absolutely a case in point. I have spent the last year or so avoiding writing the dissertation which will finally see me complete a MA course, which I have been doing for longer than is remotely reasonable. Because I’ve been doing it part time, I’ve been able to take my time, but I actually completed most of the modules several years ago and have been delaying the dissertation for as long as I could. Mostly because I didn’t want to do it.

But I couldn’t put it off forever and so, a year ago, I committed to starting it.

And then I ignored it.

Until it was really too late to complete it by the deadline.

I did have some mitigating circumstances – not least the arrival of my beloved (but very distracting) daughter.

There were other things too. Nothing massively interesting, but quite a few things happened last year to create a perfect storm, which prevented me from being able to give the dissertation the time it deserved.

The university agreed that I had a quite a few extenuating circumstances going against me and so they granted me an extension.

Which was nice of them.

But really, since December, I’ve had plenty of time to look at it.

And I haven’t.

And it’s getting a bit embarrassing now.

Thanks to the extension I still have ample time left to get it done, but my lack of progress is starting to get more than a little worrying.

My daughter remains the primary distraction. She’s genuinely adorable, but she’s quite loud, which can make focussing on academic literature quite difficult. Academic literature is rarely a compelling read and I can think of lots of things I’d rather be doing than ploughing my way through reams of journal articles on a subject I’m only claiming to care about for the purposes of getting a qualification that might help my career (but in all honesty might not). In contrast spending time with my offspring currently ranks as my absolute favourite thing in the world to do. It would take a lot of willpower to sit in my makeshift home office (aka the spare room) and ignore her if I couldn’t hear her, but if’s she awake, she’s generally making some kind of noise.

Mrs Proclaims, sympathetic to my plight, did take her out today.

Which left the house nice and quiet and gave me the time and space I needed to finally make a start on pulling some of my incoherent thoughts and ideas together and maybe write the few thousand words that I need to convince my supervisor that I might actually pull this off (he’s been remarkably patient thus far but I think he’s pretty much given up on me).

Instead I did lots of other things.

None of which needed to be done.

One of them was writing this.

A Month Of Mondays

James Proclaims (4)
piggybank-472298_640.pngToday is the 7th January, which means that we’re a week into 2019. It also means that we’re almost a quarter of the way through January, which is good because January is an awful month and needs to be over as soon as possible. It’s obviously not January’s fault, you can’t blame an abstract measure of time for where it falls in the calendar. And if you could it would clearly be December’s fault, because without the excesses of Christmas I wouldn’t now be obliged (for both financial and health reasons) to live such a meagre existence for the next few weeks.

But those excesses did happen and now it’s time to tighten the metaphorical belt and strive towards being able to tighten the actual belt again. I’d like to say that for the last seven days I’ve been living a more virtuous existence, but alas there is more than enough in the way of wine and chocolate to see me well into February. I hate to let it go to waste, so instead I let it go to waist.

In reality, therefore, it’s likely to be a while before any kind of regime kicks in regarding my long-term health. I have been exercising for the last few weeks so as to mitigate some of the damage, but alas my ability to consume calories far outstrips my ability to burn them.

Fortunately for my future health, the financial limitations of January do mean that I won’t be able to purchase any more bad food for a while. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to purchase anything else either. Which is depressing and makes me want to drink wine and eat chocolate. Of which I have an abundance.

The good news is that today I go back to work after the Christmas break. I mean it’s obviously not really good news. I hate work (to be clear I don’t mean I hate my job, which has it’s ups and downs like any job, I mean I hate the entire concept of having to work – retirement can’t come soon enough but I’m a few decades away from that according to my bank statements) so I’d rather not have to go back, but when I am in work I don’t tend to drink too much wine – it’s generally frowned upon to be inebriated in the world of secondary education. I can still consume chocolate of course, but I find that when I’m in work, people expect me to, y’know, work. Which leaves little time for snacking. So, I expect January will allow me to return to my usual state of being slightly less overweight than I currently am.

I may strive towards becoming ‘not overweight’ later in the year, but one step at a time.

In a metaphorical sense I worry about taking one step forward and two steps backwards but in a physical sense that would burn at least as many calories as three steps forward.

I think there’s a lesson for us all in there somewhere.

But I’ve got no idea what it is.

My Incredibly Ambitious Resolutions For 2019

James Proclaims (4)

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Happy New Year everyone!

Today is the first day of 2019 and, as is always the case at the beginning of any year, it is customary, arguably obligatory, to come up with a list of ways to self improve.

Because there is no better way to start January, that most miserable of months, than by listing all the ways that we’re inadequate and then committing to unrealistic goals that we have no chance of achieving, just to really ensure that our self esteem is really at rock bottom by the time February rolls around.

In previous years I have not take the notion of New Year’s Resolutions as seriously as I could.

And this year will be no exception.

Last year I set the bar particularly low and set myself some resolutions that were basically quite mundane things I was already planning to do.

However, I feel it is possible to lower the bar even further so this year’s resolutions will be less about changing things to make me a better person but rather committing to ‘not changing things’ so I definitely don’t become a worse person.

I am mildly optimistic that I will achieve all of this year’s targets.

They are as follows:

  1. I’m going to continue not drinking whisky, mostly because I don’t really like it. That’s probably a good thing though right? Although I will still be drinking plenty of wine and beer…
  2. I definitely won’t take up smoking.
  3. I’m not going to start actively using Social Media (aside from this blog, which barely counts anyway) and in particular I’m going to avoid using Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Mostly because I don’t really know what any of those things are.
  4. Thanks to Brexit, I’m going to continue to keep my carbon footprint relatively low by not travelling abroad for the foreseeable future.
  5. I’m not going to commit to a life of crime. Unless I’m certain that I’ll get away with it. 

There we go – I’m sure I can achieve all of those things.

I’m feeling more virtuous already.