Category Archives: Life Challenges

A new year and a new hope

Happy New Year!

What do you plan to do with the year ahead? It’s traditional to look back on the year gone by and to work out what you want / need to do for the coming months. It’s a time for planning, for resolutions, for looking at yourself, I’ve done my share of introspection, and thought I’d share my findings with you.

It’s been very apparent over the past year or so that we’re living in an angry society, where so many people seems to be railing against so much. The slightest thing seems to set them off, and there seems to be little thought given to care and compassion for others. You don’t need to look very far to see examples of this, and I wrote about some of our experiences earlier this year.

If I have a resolution for this year it is to be kinder to and less judgmental of others. It’s to be more thoughtful, more caring, and to do more for those less fortunate than myself. In other words, I need to be more mindful of all I say or do, and how that affects others. In order to do that well, I need to show myself compassion, and set boundaries where none existed before.

To that end, I need to let go of the last of the toxic relationships and friendships in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort over the last couple of years trying to explain what issues I had to those who were causing me pain, and I thought that they would take that on board. I thought that they’d try to find some sort of common ground, some way of resolving those issues, but I have been mistaken.

It’s taken me a long time, but I have realised that those people will never change, and they will never even try to see things from my point of view. For the sake of my own mental health, I have to accept that there will never be a happy resolution with these people, and that I need to stop hoping for one and get on with my life.

My “new hope” for 2018 is therefore that people will start being kinder and more thoughtful, that rather than descending into something from Lord of the Flies, we can help ourselves and help other people.

At the risk of diluting this message, back in 1989 Bill and Ted hit on the right idea, and I thought I’d leave you with a reminder…

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Work as a crutch

Some time ago, I wrote a post about how I’d realised that I had been using music a way of hiding my true emotions. I also wrote one about having a strong work ethic, which I attributed to my upbringing.

Maybe I’ve been looking at things wrongly, and the first post holds a clue to the second. Just as music helped me deal with my emotions when I was a teenager and beyond, what if work did the same?

Thinking about it, why would I be so happy doing 80-plus hours a week if not to avoid thinking about things, or to avoid being at home? Why did I spend summers in a different country to my parents? Was it to learn how to be independent and to sample different ways of life, as has been discussed at length at home? Or was it to enable me to deal with (rather, that should be avoid) what I now know are negative influences?

When I was older, and married, I used to put in long weeks, often working 15 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. When I realised that was physically bad for me (and, to a lesser extent, my relationship) I did something about it. (Admittedly it was my ex who pointed out how that level of work was affecting our marriage and my health.) But was I working ridiculous hours in those days because I was subconsciously unhappy in my relationship?

Is this just a version of the fight or flight response, where throwing yourself into work becomes “flight”? Did I really develop a powerful work ethic through the example my parents set, or did I develop it in order to spend less time at home? As I get older, I’m tending to think it is the latter.

If there were 100 people on Earth

I came across this video on LinkedIn today. I think it has some incredible statistics. Many of them don’t seem fair to me.

The fact that 1 person of the 100 ie 1% of the population controls 50% of the money is one.

The facts that nearly a quarter of the worlds population doesn’t have somewhere to live, or that an eighth don’t have clean water are appalling.

I guess the question is, what can we do about it? How do we make the world a better place, a more equitable place, for everyone, not just those around us?

Sober for October


I’m fundraising again, this time for Macmillan Cancer Support. My challenge is to get through the 31 days of October without having any alcohol, and I’m very confident I can do it. Last year I managed 31 days without caffeine which I think was much harder. 

I know that a lot of people are doing a lot of fundraising, but I hope you can find a couple of pounds to spare to sponsor me too. Just go to https://www.gosober.org.uk/users/steve-mair and give a little, please. 

Thank you in advance, you’re helping change the world. 

Shame on who?


Earlier this week I finished reading Jon Ronson’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. It was a really fascinating read, which traced public shaming back a couple of centuries to the use of floggings and pillories, then quickly brought it right up to date with a number of cases, some of which I’d heard of and some I hadn’t.

I’ve not exeperienced anything like the “sport” which some people seem to enjoy, but I have been on the receiving end of some unpleasant comments / posts online recently. Nothing that’s upset me and certainly nothing that would be called shaming, but there was an amount of personal invective involved.

Dee and I have both had reason to ask people recently why they are being so nasty, so unkind, or to ask for evidence to back up statements they’ve made – some of which have been quite appalling.  We’ve had a lot of unpleasantness directed at us as a result. We’ve also started reporting racist, bigoted, homophobic and other abusive comments / behaviour to the organisations that run the sites where we’ve seen comments, because we’ve decided that standing by and doing nothing is no longer an option.

The press here in the UK seem to have developed a version of this over the last 20 years or so, where they build someone up and up, saying how great they are, then seem to take delight in tearing them to bits in a matter of hours and days.  In my opinion it’s part of the same problem.

The point I was going to make, and which Ronson makes very well, is that the internet affords a certain amount of anonymity and freedom for most people, and it seems that more and more are using it to collude with each other – not necessarily overtly, but tacitly, by joining in – to “have a go” at some unfortunate individual. Even those who try to question the facts or in some way protect the victim often find themselves the target of these trolls.

It seems to me that this is all a disturbing trend. It’s bullying, plain and simple, yet I’m willing to bet that the majority of people who join in would never think of themselves as bullies. It’s also apparent that a lot of people are unwilling / unable to admit when their words or actions are not appropriate, and abrogate their responsibilities as a person. It seems that they would much rather turn their wrath on you than to say “Actually, you have a point, my behaviour was out of order. I’m sorry.” Don’t get mad, get even seems to be the order of the day, but it’s really unhelpful.

My question for you is, what action do you take if you see an online “attack” on an individual?  Do you ignore it (which means you tacitly approve of it), do you join in (which means you actually approve of it) or do you tackle it? In my opinion, only by doing the third option can we make the world a better place, once person at a time.

And a second question: how do you react if someone calls you out on your behaviour? Are you kind? Are you honest? Are you helpful?  Do you hold your hands up and apologise, or do you go on the attack?

Be less judgmental and be more compassionate


It seems to me that there’s been an increase in vitriol and hatred around the world, from the US / North Korea posturing, to the far right protesters in the US, to comments closer to home on Facebook.

I live on a relatively new estate, and at the moment it seems blighted by vandals and antisocial behaviour. Just this weekend, different people have reported, via Facebook:

  • capturing some youngsters (12 or 13 year olds) on CCTV after midnight deliberately breaking trees in their front garden
  • that their brand new home has been vandalised a matter of weeks before they were due to move in
  • that the lights outside their house were stolen and smashed further up the street
  • finding a dirty nappy (diaper) in their garden, apparently thrown there by the toddler next door

The first three are criminal acts, but the last one was probably an accident as the toddler may not have known what the impact of they were doing was.

In all these cases, the comments left by others on the estate have been abhorrent, from suggesting that the youngsters have their legs broken to pushing the contents of the nappy back through the neighbour’s letterbox. Just think about it. Suggesting that children are deliberately crippled for an act of vandalism.  Pushing excrement through a letter box because of something that was an accident, rather than talking to the parents. Really? What is wrong with these people?

As inflammatory comments were left following each report on Facebook, people seemed to be feeding off each other, off the negative energy. With the first incident, I asked if anyone had notified the police and / or got social services involved, but that was met with stony silence. More vitriolic comments followed, but to my knowledge the authorities were not contacted. Instead, the community just got more incensed, conveniently ignoring my suggestion.

We don’t know what circumstances have led to children of that age being out after midnight without their parents. We don’t know what drove someone to vandalise a nearly new house, or to take someone’s property and break it. Maybe it was boredom, maybe it was seen as “fun”, maybe there was a long standing connection between the perpetrators and the victims. The point is, until you know WHY something happened, how can you comment constructively or with any kind of reasoning? To comment without knowing the full facts from all sides makes no sense. It leads to people being judgmental based on their own biases and perceptions. That can’t be right, it can’t be helpful and it can’t be healthy for anyone involved.

Yes the vandalism and other acts should not be tolerated, but the best way to deal with them is to provide evidence to the police and let them sort it out, bringing in other agencies like social services if necessary. Mob rule and vigilante justice is just not on. We as a community should be better than that. We as humans should be better than that. Is this really the way to build a community? Is this really the way people want to live?  Is this how to build a society we can be proud of? Try showing a little compassion and kindness instead.

Why are so many music stars taking their own life?


Another week has gone by, and another music icon has taken his own life. Chester Bennington, lead singer with Linkin Park, hanged himself on what would have been his good friend Chris Cornell’s birthday. Cornell hanged himself in May of this year, and Bennington sang at his funeral. Both of them had gigs coming up in the next few days. 

As part of my TBT posts this year I included a track from Audioslave, one of Cornell’s bands, in January. Linkin Park featured last month, and at the time I was unaware that the two singers were friends.

It’s hard to imagine what circumstances can have led two supremely talented and adored people to have felt that suicide was their only option, their only way to stop the feelings they had at that time. Dee and I have discussed it a lot since the news came out, as she felt a real connection with Linkin Park. We’re still no closer to having the answer, and I guess we’ll never know. 

They join a long list of stars who have died before they’ve got old, who have either deliberately or accidentally taken their own lives. At what point will society stop to wonder why that might be, why these individuals have felt so lost and so alone that death becomes their only real answer? I think society needs start asking those questions sooner rather than later. 

If you’re in the UK and are having suicidal thoughts, please contact The Samaritans using the contact details below. If you’re elsewhere, please reach out and talk to someone, find those people who are there to help.