Sunday, January 03, 2010

Reflections. 2009

My blog has charted the progress I've made in my life.

The passing of one year into the next is always my time for reflection. Perhaps it's a little self-indulgent, but I enjoy it. I think it helps me.

This year has thrown up a few ideas...and of course from these I'll be thinking about 2010.

Here are my standout moments from 09.

1. I Can Follow A Recipe
Until this year, I never experienced being in the kitchen as something that was particularly enjoyable, or even relaxing. This year I've enjoyed getting on with stuff. I don't really care that I like to follow instructions. I don't care that perhaps it's 'anal'. I'm not bothered about being a great chef.

But I like making something that tastes nice!

And I really indulged that this year with cakes and sweets. I don't think I could have predicted making a pavlova for family Christmas celebrations! I've always felt that doing something like that is a bit like opening yourself up, only to be stomped on. Families are brilliant at that because they know everything there is to know.

I'm just glad it went down well and met with a few seals of approval.

I made other stuff through the year - it wasn't all just desserts - but I think the wider aspect of the cooking was the entertaining. It's not just about the food, but about making people feel at home. The fact that we created the food ourselves is an added bonus, and makes the whole experience more personal.

When I eat, I'm not that fussy - I enjoy most stuff. I know people who cook what tastes nice to them. I've always felt nervous about cooking to what I like because I don't think others would eat it. By sticking to the recipes, it at least keeps the stuff I've made vaguely edible for other people around me.

But perhaps they're able to do that because they have 'good taste' in the wider sense of the meaning. They know what works together to create something. I'm not so good at that with cooking, but I can do it in other areas of life. Who knows.

Food has been enjoyable in 09.

2. Achieving 192 bpm using downstrokes for Master of Puppets
This is actually quite a big deal because it demonstrates progress to myself. Ever since I was about 17 when I first learned the song, I always played it with alternate picking. James Hetfield plays the song with downstrokes only. Whenever I've tried playing the song with downstrokes, I've barely managed above 150bpm. But - nothing succeeds like practising - and I'm now up much higher!

This achievement indicates a wider improvement in my ability with the guitar. I thought I had reached a plateau. This proves to me there's no such thing - there's always the next level. It's becoming more and more about how I express myself using a guitar.

The actual song is around 216bpm. One day I'll get there.

Guitar has been good in 09.

3. 333 days of the Shaolin Workout
During 09 the workout I learned in 08 became habit. The 333 days of the year included 93 consecutive days.

Obsessive? Perhaps. I don't give a fuck because the mental, physical and spiritual benefits are worth it.

And like playing guitar - there are never-ending levels of progress to work towards.

Flexibility has been fine in 09.

4. Chocoholism
Ok I'm only half serious about this. But I know I have a sweet tooth. And I do love chocolate. I could quite easily eat chocolate all day.

I think it's probably quite similar to any drug. Perhaps I associate a particular emotional state with the consumption of chocolate. Or maybe the taste itself stimulates a section of my brain that leaves me wanting more.

Whatever it is, during 09 I became more aware of my own desire for chocolate. I don't think it was strongly apparent previously. I've just made it more dramatic for attention-seeking purposes probably.

Chocolate revealed itself as my Dark Side in 09.

5. Android
Forget the iPhone. My piece of technology this year has been my HTC Hero. Not so much for the phone itself but more for its OS. I loved Palm and its simplicity - it was my first PDA and Smartphone. Making the jump to Windows Mobile felt like a retrograde step - especially after acquiring my Macbook (which is still functioning adequately after two years!)

But watching and reading all the information was interesting. An iPhone was never quite my thing - it just wasn't customisable enough for me. And the Palm Pre wasn't available quick enough for my impatient mind.

Of course the truly interesting thing about the Hero as I've mentioned is the Android OS - which was built from the ground up as open source with Google behind it.

Say what you want, but I'm a fan of Google's products and I use them for getting things done.

The ultimate endorsement of my phone came in the form of someone I know getting the same phone as me - and them enjoying using it too.

Geekness vindicated in 09.

6. The Year of (Not) House
Frustrating, annoying and disappointing. Difficult circumstances. But that doesn't mean shit really! The Year of the (Not) House meant the mini-D'Souza plan is also on hold. As I've said before - I/ we march to the beat of my/ our own drum.

It's gonna happen - just never conventionally. (See number 8. below).

No House in Oh Nine.

7. Affirmations Work
This has surprised me a little. Reflecting on 09 has made me understand just how powerful they are. And I mean affirmations in the Louise Hay sense of the term. I use them every day. And when I don't - all sorts of nonsense occurs!

Someone I know used them to great effect this year.

Affirmations effected change in 09.

8. Trusting the process of life
Tough one this. Something I explored in 09. And was challenged everywhere. Looking back on the difficult circumstances earlier in the year, it's possible to say that it benefited me in the long run.

Easy to say with hindsight. Fucking hard when you're in the middle of it.

Some part of me kept looking beyond. The edge of my consciousness kept a nudging little thought that 'there has to be more than this' like 'a splinter in my mind'.* That's what kept me going. Steve Jobs refers to this as 'connecting the dots looking forward'.

Some people call this fate or 'everything happens for a reason'. This doesn't quite explain it for me because it smacks of abdicating responsibility for oneself. I made a conscious choice to at the beginning of 09 to trust the process of life. IMHO this only has an effect if one is clear about what one is creating...and that's the hard part.

Do you know what you want?

Or said in a better way - do you know what you're creating?

Or said in an even better way - 'Use the Force'.

Trust was out there in 09.

9. Growth at Work
This is also the most obvious area where 'trusting the process of life' showed up. I'm getting to take on a greater accountability at school, and I got to mentor a trainee teacher. These are things which I'd talked about a few years ago, but hadn't really done much about.

As it happened, the first involved specific actions: conversations, appraisals, demonstrating my own skills etc. The second involved taking on an opportunity that presented itself - and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps I took the 'Master' and 'Apprentice' thing too literally, but it had me up my game, and I'm pretty sure it had a positive effect on my 'Padawan learner' (not sure he'd appreciate that...but he knows I'm a [Star Wars] geek).

Aside from that, I organised 'Enterprise Week' at Ewell Castle. It wasn't necessarily agreed that I would; it wasn't promoted that I would - I just went ahead and pretty much did it. And got some feedback from everyone involved (good stuff and bad stuff!) It was a good experience putting something together that affected the whole school...it just meant that the run-up to Christmas was particularly mental!

Work was good to me; I was good to work - in 09.

Hah! I've actually just realised - that's 9 moments for 09.
A fortuitous piece of writing? Fate? The Gods communicating with me? The Language of the World?

Whatever it is...10 will be interesting - because I'm not going to write 10 for 10. Ten is too much. Perhaps I'll do Ten Moments from Twenty Ten at the end of the year. For now...well I'm still thinking...something will emerge from the ashes of this post. Or should I say, from the shinings of these reflections.

Here's to an unwritten future.

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*to paraphrase Morpheus