Happy Anniversary: Has It Really Been Three Years?

Author's photo 2013
Sitting here recovering from being forced off the road on my bicycle Tuesday, my Internet came up briefly to show I’d gotten a trophy from WordPress. My connection then disappeared for hours so I hobbled around and did dishes and continued to put frozen vegetables on my swollen legs and ankles. Later, it came up long enough to reveal a Happy Third Anniversary award had been bestowed upon my little blog and the first thing that came to me was, “Has it really been three years?”

Really??

So much has happened in that short time span. Injury at, my then, work, returning to work, heart attack, ill-health retirement, Guardian Liberty Voice, South Africa, USA, Las Vegas, Arizona…

Sadly, throughout the Guardian Liberty Voice and Vegas time frame, I ignored my little WordPress baby. There were so many people I met in the business that should have been written about here. Stupidly, I put too much effort into an organization that was never going to amount to its owners’ claims.

This is about my blog, however, and not about shysters conning writers into over producing articles in a sweat shop content mill that pays less than nothing. I did take one thing away from my experience that hopefully will make my little blog a better place to hang out, I’ve gotten better at coming over here and posting.

While I’d like to say that I am also a better writer, my ego will not let me make a claim like that without laughing so instead let’s just say my confidence level has increased exponentially and leave it at that. And as you can see, I still have a tendency to write paragraph long sentences, so that has not changed!

But at least one thing has. My profession has gone from Prison Officer to professional writer. While I never made a fortune writing for my former employer I was paid to write. On the same token, it tickled me to death that I was paid to watch films and review them, something I did for free before and I also got to interview some awesomely talented actors, like Tony Todd, Tiny Lister, Terry Kiser, Stephen Bishop, Jordan Hayes, et al.

I got to meet some great folks at conventions and I was not paid to do that, it was expected that I attend all the con’s scheduled days, meet and greet and write a minimum of three articles a day. That never happened, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, despite what had been agreed upon, which was one article per day, this was not where the publisher saw the paper going, it was content mill or nothing.

All the fun I was having being duped into believing that what I was doing was crucial in building up a solid entertainment section kept me from my own “words and music.” My reasoning was that if I was getting paid to write, I had no time to write for free.

This from a guy who was writing, for quite a while, 8 to 10 500 word-plus articles a day. Now I have made up my mind that the only thing which will keep me from stopping by daily will be lack of Internet or death. Although I probably should make an allowance for healing time, as I just now put another bag of frozen broccoli on my leg.

I will say, again, how much I appreciate all those folks who have come along for the ride. Those who started off with me, only to leave through frustration, and then came back; I thank you for returning. You must have been checking up on me occasionally. That pleases me no end. For those who stop by to comment I also thank you. I have learned a lot from folks who took a moment or two to let me hear another point of view.

I raise my metaphorical glass to you all and I will try to never desert you, or my little blog again. Oh, and if the editors of WordPress ever feel the need to award my little blog another Freshly Pressed, I wouldn’t say no.

Just saying…

Cheers!

21 March 2015
Quartzsite, Arizona
USA

Happy Heart Attack Anniversary…Almost

English: Skull and crossbones
English: Skull and crossbones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As it gets closer to the one year anniversary of my heart attack and near-death experience, I find myself  in that state of cautious anticipation at night before sleep. The one where any little twinge in the chest or forearms – it was agonising pain in my forearms and hands that presaged my heart attack – and I will lie awake for hours waiting to see if I am going to have a revisitation to the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life.

Another anniversary date is also approaching, it has almost been a year since my blog was Freshly Pressed. An event that occurred just four days before my heart attack. Interestingly enough, that anniversary has none of the wariness and fear that the other one has.

I was lucky in a sense that after my two emergency surgeries – that for the record, kicked my ass – I was in such an exhausted and doped up state that I had no problem sleeping. I was so messed up that I found that one night I had squashed a good sized spider to death by apparently rolling over it. When I found the poor critter’s carcass the next morning my only reaction was to dispose of its body.

The first few months of my recuperation are a blur of pain from a lower back injury sustained at my previous job as a prison officer and the subsequent steroidal injections just a week before the heart attack that made the pain worse instead of alleviating it.  Shambling to the bus stop that is only a 20 second walk from my front door, stopping no less than seven times, heart pounding and head swimming from the pain.

The slow process of increasing my walking distance each day and feeling like I had a sign on my back that said,  “Mug Me I am Helpless.”  During that time period I was given an early retirement from my job with Her Majesty’s Prison Service and was in financial dire straits. It was not a great time, but apart from the stresses from my life changing event, I was shocked to find out just how close to death I’d actually been.

I had come to grips with that a little while back. I was sleeping like a baby at night and had increased my “usual” sleeping time from four hours a night to eight and over. It is only recently that I have had problems dropping off and fighting the panic that these unknown twinges evoke.

In my old job, the mental health folks who dealt with the prisoners (aka psychiatric types) used to talk about triggers and anniversary dates as being a normal thing for people to experience and in-turn, these two things affected how people reacted to things. While not a prisoner, I’m finding myself back to the time when the terror of an unknown pain could keep me up for hours.

This trigger will pass, just as surely as the anniversary of my heart attack will come and then go.  While time rushes on in the greater scheme of things, the minutiae of our lives trudges along with all the intensity of a turtle trudging resolutely against that fast footed rabbit that is our life. I, like many others have to fight against that irrational fear of the grim reaper calling again so soon.

For as resilient as the human body is, like the old Timex adverts it can take a licking and keep on ticking, we all have a limited warranty in the area of the body’s  almost magical ability to heal itself. As we get older, besides the obligatory aches and pains that increased age brings about, the parts of our machine get worn, old defects that we never noticed before suddenly leap to the forefront screaming, “Look at me!”

As we all reach that age where our mortality is shoved, sometimes brutally, in our face we have to accept that, like everyone else in the world, we owe a death. It is a debt that we all must pay, as Katherine Hepburn used to say, “Of course life is hard, it kills you.” But I have not yet reached the age where I can look back over my life and say, “I’m okay with dying right now, I’ve lead a good life and won’t complain when it is time to pay my dues for a life lived.”

I do not think that such an age exists for the average person. I believe that none of us are ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. Most people fight the grim reaper with whatever strength they have left. Some, who have been in pain for so long that they welcome it, are of a different ilk. Suffering for any amount of time is tiring and soul destroying. I thank God, or whoever is in charge, that I have not had unbelievable pain for longer than the 5 hours  or so that I was conscious before my heart surgery.

I admit that it is only at night, in the quiet hours, that I’ve had a revisitation of the alarm that came once I’d gotten out of my exhausted stage of post surgery. The daytime is full of more things to do than I have time for and that is a blessing. This anniversary heart attack trigger, my almost one year anniversary, will pass soon enough. Until then, I’ll lay in bed at night listening to my body and sweating every time something feels “wrong” in the areas that my body remembers from the heart attack.   During the day, I’ll keep writing the articles for the paper, doing posts for my blog and trying to fit everything else in around the two.

Happy heart attack ‘almost’ anniversary to me.

Thumbs up!
Still here and damned glad! Self-photo

Michael Smith

United kingdom

22 August, 2013

Happy One Year Anniversary to My WordPress Blog!

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The 1 year anniversary logo.

It has taken me all day to decide on what to write after WordPress told me of my one year anniversary this morning. I will admit a certain amount of astonishment. I thought I’d been with WordPress much longer than a year. But after looking at my old posts and remembering that a goodly number of them had been first posted with Blogspot.com my amazement diminished pretty rapidly.

I have written before about how much I like the WordPress set up and the fact that I have loads more views per post and followers here than I ever managed to get on the old Blogspot site. I’ve been accused of being a “view” junkie and I will admit that I am hooked on my view numbers and also pretty excitable about my follower figures. Aren’t we all, to some degree?

But the nicest thing about having been on WordPress for a year is the great folks I’ve met and interacted with. Folks (aka fellow bloggers) that I never would have met on my old blog site. These are people who I, rightly or wrongly, feel are friends; some more so than others, but friends nonetheless. My daily interaction with them has been a boon, especially since my heart attack last August.

Of course, view counts and followers aside, the very visibility of WordPress is what has made this such a great ride. I actually started blogging in 2010.  A short timid two sentence entry that laid dormant for an entire year. Then in 2011, I began in earnest and tried to pretty much write every day. This wasn’t possible at that time, but as my input (or output) became more frequent and I discovered Tumblr and then WordPress I kept leapfrogging to each site looking for a blogging home.

It did not take me long to discover that here was where I wanted to be. The support from the staff is phenomenal and the themes are fantastic. I guess that the reason that I thought I’d been here longer than a year was twofold. Firstly, I manage to upload two or more posts a day. I have also managed to get 254 followers on this blog alone. I guess in my mind the culmination of blog posts plus followers equals a long time, i.e. much longer than a year.

Still, I’ve had fun here and as I start to reach more people I feel like I’ve been blessed to find so many folks who feel like I do and not just about films and books, but life as well.

After being “ill-health” retired from my job at an obscenely early age I had a lot of time on my hands (I still do actually) where the days could have stretched into a depressingly long time period of too much inner reflection and fears about health. The people who I’ve met via my little blog have made my days interesting and (in some cases) challenging.

I am not much of a “joiner” preferring instead to be on the outside of the social circle instead of actually being part of it. For the first time that I can remember, I’ve enjoyed being part of a community. One that shares kudos and publicity and awards with one another.

The other great thing about WordPress’s visibility is the contact that I’ve had with people in the entertainment and literature business that I never had with my other blogs. I have directors, actors, producers and authors who comment on my reviews and I can honestly say that I’m “blown away” each and every time it happens.

As my blog continues to evolve and grow (I’ve just done my first ever interview!) I look at the fruits of my labour and the community that I’m a part of and I think how lucky I am to have discovered this world of blogging and the folks who inhabit it. It is the people who I’ve met and interacted with combined with those  who have paid me the ultimate compliment of following my blog who make this so worthwhile.

So I raise my glass high and I’ll make a toast to you all: “Thanks WordPress for making this a great first year and thanks to you all who stop by and read, like, comment and follow. You guys are great!”

Happy anniversary to me and my blog!

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