MEN TO HELP

As most of you know, it was International Men’s Day over the weekend. Much like the female equivalent earlier in the year, it is there as a platform to highlight those specific issues that are weighing heavily on the genders. Suicide rates, education, work, all these things are up for discussion and I read articles that delved into the topics with gusto.

Now this post isn’t going to be a piece about anything too controversial but I heard the song ‘Crybaby’ by Paloma Faith during the day which she herself has said is an attempt to highlight the dangers of ‘toxic masculinity’ and that men don’t have to always maintain the stiff upper lip. Now I have a few issues with some details of the song and how it goes about what it’s trying to point out but the central message of asking for help is crucial.

It’s a vital point to highlight that suicide is, certainly not a men only issue, but that there has been shown to be a much higher proportion of the suicide stats being filled by men. Not being a burden is regularly highlighted as a driving force for the choice to end a life so everyone has to recognise that there are ALWAYS options out there when you need help and that no-one with that option in mind will EVER be a burden, male or female, young or old.

It’s too easy to see men as the brutish oafs we are so often portrayed as and just think that we have the collective emotional intelligence of a house brick but that does us all an injustice. It can become easy to write off the films we watch, the programs we watch and the books we read, as being all about explosions and guns and pretty much nothing else but I’d like to present a couple of examples where it shows just a little more.

I don’t think that anyone would suggest that ‘Predator’ is in the same bracket as ‘Citizen Kane’ but I think it shows a powerful depiction of friendship between two men. Mac and Blaine are trained killers and big guns and explosions and chewing tobacco and ‘I ain’t got time to bleed’ etc. but we have the chance to recognise that they discuss the importance of compartmentalizing their emotions when in action for the sake of their own mental health. We have the view of one mourning the other, with the way Mac won’t let anyone else prepare his friends body for transportation or the way that he admits to his commanding officer Dutch, Arnie himself, that ‘He was my friend.’ Dutch had told Mac that Blaine was a good soldier preceding this line and it’s not one that we hear given to anyone else as they are picked off. Indeed, Blaine isn’t the first of the group to perish yet he is singled out for praise to a colleague. There is a recognition that there is great pain being felt by one of their number and Arnie’s character is acknowledging that pain with the comment about Blaine’s prowess. Mac then responds in kind with the muted reply which may as well have been his roaring in tears as he beat the ground and cursed the gods for his loss. That was all that was needed to get the point across.

Clip uploaded from YouTube user Jordan Mac.

Lethal Weapon, beyond the gun fire and fighting, is how one man with fears about his value as he ages (I’m too old for this shit) works with a partner with serious unresolved grief and mental health issues, to give each other the stability and help that they are so badly calling out for. Riggs had explained the details to Murtaugh, of what he was going through and he does attempt suicide in front of his friend, Murtaugh being the one to intervene at the very last second. Riggs, in the instant of explaining the detail of his pain, is reaching out for help and from there, disaster is averted. Murtaugh’s friend in the first film, the father of the girl who falls to her death at the start of the film, admits that he made mistakes but only after the heroes have identified the connections. His death, immediately after the revelation that he could have gone to Roger much earlier, stands symbolically to show that not asking for help from the people around you can lead you to a darker conclusion. Indeed, the final battle is concluded only when Riggs and Murtaugh fire together to kill the bad guy, a problem overcome by two people together.

Storytelling can be used for so many things. Tales of the grandest scale can unfold in any and all directions but very often, the smallest actions between two people, the littlest thing said by one person to another, can prove to be of the most vital importance.

Everyone asks for help in their own way, everyone feels what they feel in a very personal fashion. What we all need to do is make sure that we keep our eyes open for all of the ways those calls for help could come, especially the one’s that don’t even look like calls for help.

Advertisements

THE LAST STRAW

When I work on the characters for the stories I write, something I’m really always doing my best to maintain, is the thought that their mentality is the result of all of the things that have gone into their lives up to that point.

It might sound like a silly point, but it can be all too easy to work on the idea that the characters start out in the story as almost being ‘perfect’ and the problems that crop up along the way are what does the damage.

In the real world, it’s not that easy so I need to always make sure that fact finds it’s way into what  write.

We’re all a product of the lives we lead. We’re a totality of all of those things that have nudged us along the way and as such, can’t always say that we’re all going to react to any given situation in the same way. What one person will look on as being a bump in the road can become the most brutally crushing event to another. One persons Earth shatteringly amazing event is just another day at the office for another.

All of the characters in the books that we read have flaws. That the characters that we know and love aren’t perfect is one of the main reasons they can reach out to us.

We all see reality with the very slightest differences. I have my individual likes and dislikes in exactly the same way as everyone else but, just like so many characters, I have my weaknesses. I know that I have to fight against my very own Kryptonite, defending my metaphorical thermal exhaust port, on a daily basis and not every day is a success.

Each one of us is fighting to protect ourselves from all those things which are out to get us. Every day we do everything we can to safeguard who we are and make sure that we can keep on moving forward and having that quality on show in the stories we read means that we’re not alone. Somewhere out there, someone else has recognised that these troubles exist and we don’t need to feel as utterly terrified and alone as we might do.

In everything I am, everything I do, I want to make the world a little bit brighter for everyone. I do my best to write stories that make sense and are enjoyable. I want to make each day better for everyone in the tiniest way I can so I need to make sure that all those people in my books show that not every day of darkness needs to be the thing to grip to.

We all have the baggage we carry through life which can cause troubles along the way. We all have to keep our defences up and recognise that everyone else has the same situation going on. We all have the time where no matter what we do, that brittle shell surrounding us shatters and we get crushed under the weight of our own pain.

Stories should reflect that reality as well as the good things.

And if, as you read this, you feel the need for help in some way, never be afraid to reach out for it. The characters in the books always have someone there to help in some way, and I want the same thing to be true in the real world as well.

If in doubt, I’ll listen to you.

REACH OUT

Just how many of us are trying to get our voices heard?

Every day at work, at school, at home and at everywhere else in between, we all want our voice to be heard.

We want to know that what we say is seen as having value. We need to have that feeling of validation. That our ideas, and by extension, us in general are viewed as having worth.

So why do we all need to be clamoring to be heard?

As the world we live in changes and our interconnectedness as a species evolves with the addition of each new way we can share what we’re up to, there comes with it the new horror. If it’s so simple to connect with anyone and everyone, if any talentless wannabe with a webcam and a silly idea can become the greatest sensation the world has ever seen (at least for a minute), how could any of us struggle to be listened to?

The speed that communication works can make us all feel that the torrent of words is washing us away as we do everything to stay afloat. We need to know that our ideas have been noticed as they’re cast into the rushing waters, that someone out there just happened to be looking in just the right place at just the right time and agreed with us. When we see the ‘likes’ flashing up, it goes far beyond just being a fix to an addict, it can become the lifeline to a drowning man. In that instant when the thumbs up or orange dot appear, just for that second, we can know that somewhere out in the darkness that there was someone who didn’t think we were talking nonsense.

But this brings up another issue.

What if just being noticed is the goal and agreement with anyone is irrelevant?

Why do we see so many examples of people putting forward awful ideas just to provoke a reaction? The negative game of just trying to draw as many people as possible just to pay attention to what you say by being as vile or provocative as you can is a tactic readily used to shine a light on a given topic and all of the anger and blazing outpouring of righteous indignation play directly into the plan. So many people then start talking about all of the terrible things said and all of a sudden, the narrative is spread wider than with just a comment about something ‘positive’.

I have this great fire in me that wants to reach out to others. I can recognise that the world is a place where you can be left to feel as if you’re drifting alone and I’d love to reach out a hand to any and all who need it.

 

DEALING

When life is tough, we all have different ways that we cope.

When the things start to go wrong, how is it that each of us are able to manage the way we react?

The world can be a beautiful place filled with the most amazing wonders but, in the blink of an eye, can become the stuff of nightmares. Stress can build and as each day passes we can feel more and more crushed by the problems we face until, at some point, we could finally snap under the weight.

The human mind has the ability to bend and manipulate as all manner of stresses and sorrows attack it and it’s here that I want to examine the power of the written word.

When you have a terrible time, how do you cope? What are the things that you employ to help defend yourself, to protect yourself and to push back? We all do it. We come under attack from the external trials and tribulations of the world and following day after day of fighting against them, we get to the point of wanting to put the tools down and have a break from the fight. Helping to unwind your mind after a tough day has been called ‘fire watching’ from hundreds of years ago where a person would do just that, watch that fire burn and crackle. Just not having to think on anything and let your mind wander around the pretty shapes and colours gives you the chance to not actively be driving your mind, rather you’re just coasting down the road making the most of the scenery.

A great many people turn to drink, turn to exercise, take a holiday, make snap shopping choices, focus on work or dive into their hobby. I have two things that help turn my mind off. Watching the nonsense videos on YouTube and books.

Watching the contents of YouTube is great. Cat videos and people falling off or into all kinds of things just makes me smile. There’s never any complex narrative to try to wrestle with and there isn’t any need to expend energy on any kind of comprehension of what’s taking place. I can sit and ‘fire watch’ happy in the knowledge that my mind is on autopilot. I’m watching lots of YouTube at the moment.

The situation with books is very different.

Books offer the chance to challenge the mind to keep pace with the story. Rather than just existing, floating in the shallows but not venturing further, stories give you the chance to truly leave your troubles on the shore and escape. When you crack open a book, you’re no longer in the world where job or money worries, family concerns or health issues can get you. Now you’re flying through space, you’re casting magic spells, you’re hunting for the deranged serial killer and the reality just falls away.

I also use writing as a way to get myself through issues. By throwing myself into the worlds I write about, I can slam the door on the brutality of whatever is trying to rip me apart. In any book you read, the world has been laid out for you to explore but when I write, I grasp the added delight of shutting myself away in truly a world of my creation.

We all have our coping mechanisms when the darkness closes in. Whatever it is you do to help keep you ploughing forwards, no matter how small, can be a keystone in keeping everything together. When there’s something awful afoot, I need to close the world away for a while and that time spent in another world, even if just for a short period, can be a lifesaver.

HELP

When the world is ganging up on you, your hobbies can provide a wonderful distraction from the nightmares.

My writing has been where I go to close the door on my own demons but over the last few months I’ve struck a problem.

I may be locking my mind in a small room away from the nastiness of reality, but the walls of that room are proving to be very thin. The monsters can’t get to me but I can hear them chattering to themselves. I can hear a hideous breathing and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can hear them all so clearly that I can’t push my mind past listening to them.

Despite my best efforts to use all the tricks I have to stay on track, the things on the other side are all pressed up against the walls, just making more and more noise until I can’t keep my mind on the page I’m working on.

It’s an easy point to overlook in storytelling but there will always be the chance for the monster to triumph.

Sometimes, despite everything we do, all the countermeasures we deploy, the pain of the real world wins.