Freedom

woman-bird

For The Sunday Muse prompt #40 and The Sunday Whirl Wordle 388. In The Middle of Freedom, Image Source.

***
My fingers mould the pliant clay
beneath the surface of this puddle
into an image of a memory; each
mound of earth rubbed round between
my fingers a portion of a story emerging
like birds set free from a gilded cage.
The memory is a chain anchoring
the fluid present to the stable past.
It pulses like a thing that lives –
somehow more alive with freedom
than at first it would seem.

Call of the Wild

 

zebra

For The Sunday Muse #39 and Wordle 387 from The Sunday Whirl. Image Source.

***
Here in the shadow
Of despair, loneliness
Hangs in the air like
A wet coat, the silence
Like the weight of pebbles
Beneath which which one sags,
Broken at the knees.

Each step towards
The distant light is a prayer
Of repenting, for forgetting
What love in the wild
Feels like.

Step by step, walk after walk
We are making this world
Whole again, heeding the
Inner call to become
Wild and free again.

Full Circle

***
Dragging myself out of bed to begin the motions that will end in my lining up at the starting point of this week’s Aberdeen Parkrun, it strikes me that it is just over a month ago that I shipped myself and a couple of bags out of town for an extended holiday season. In between there have been pit stops in various parts of Surrey, East London, Chelmsford, Kent and an extended traipse through several towns within the Valencian Community. A second full week of work has beaten any remnant of festivity out of me, which heightened the sense of finality of the park run. I have come full circle, back to the grind of life. Wash, rinse, repeat. The run itself was hardly memorable – three minutes slower than my PB from last year putting the surfeit of Christmas pudding into perspective.

It is one small first step though. Here’s to many more in this year of Living Intentionally.

Guardian

guardian

“Guardian” by Chie Yoshii, for The Sunday Muse #37 and The Sunday Whirl Wordle 385 prompts:

***
She perches on your shoulder
This invisible guardian of the night
Her voice a quiet word
Whispered in your ear
Barely heard above the din
The way text, lightly etched
On a slab of stone would look
In the shimmer of dusk.

A dream deferred cannot slip back
Into a sleepless mind.
Once a butterfly’s eyes
Have seen the light of freedom;
Once its kicks have set it free
From the caul of the caterpillar
It cannot become a larva again.

The prophecy is guidance promised;
That when, in the heat of the midday sun,
You beg a drink of clean water
From the store, you will return in peace
Because her word has gone before.

Horizons

horizons

For Sunday Muse #36 and The Sunday Whirl Wordle 384

***
The call of the future
comes from across the border
bringing hope to this poor, tired pilgrim-
slouched beneath the weight of an open promise
and the remains of failures past.

Tomorrow is uncertain, not promised
but staying still wastes today
so with intent I risk safety to seek
the joy beyond the flood plains of seven rivers
and the welcome of a home where
hypocrisy is no more.

2019: The Year of Living Intentionally

The Year of Living Intentionally-2

***

If I had to boil down the essence of the year of being thirty eight into one word, it would be coasting. It felt like I lurched from one crisis to the other, my actions driven more by the need to fight whatever fire glowed brightest than any form of plan or structure. As I stand here on the cusp of turning forty, I feel like something needs to change significantly – a fool at forty is a fool forever they say. That, and that there is someone who is significantly affected by my actions only makes it more imperative that I get my SH*T together soon.

I’d like for this year of being thirty-nine to be one of Living Intentionally. By Living Intentionally, I mean living a life that is aimed towards defined goals/objectives and which (by gathering the requisite data and analysing them) measurably improves. Defined goals/objectives suggest an overarching plan for life, various iterations of which have existed over the years. At its core that plan – derived from identifying the roles I fill, clustering them into three interaction spaces (Personal, Professional, Public) and identifying long term goals for each interaction space – can be summarised as:

  • Be the best husband, father, brother, son and friend I can be;
  • Excel in the Corrosion, Materials, Welding and Inspection discipline;
  • Live in and contribute to life in a great church and a great city.

So on to the focus areas for this year of living intentionally, which is organised around five themes.

Learn continuously (and become proficient in my core skill areas)
For work I pretend to know a lot about rust, which is one element of the wider job family I have spent the bulk of my career in – Materials, Corrosion, Inspection & Welding Engineering (MCI &W). For all the development activity I completed in 2018, it didn’t feel as structured as in previous years, driven largely by the fire-fighting I had to do at work. The goal for this year would be to go back to basics, review the competency definitions, identify my gaps and get a structured plan for closing them by self-study and or specific courses. Outside work, I became more and more intrigued by all the happenings in the data science/analytics/machine learning domain. From learning to code in python, I ended up taking a number of data science courses on Coursera and signing up for a Dataquest premium account for a year. This, and improving my writing skills I believe are the three areas I would like to develop proficiency in in 2019. The small changes identified in support of these goals are:

  • Complete my Dataquest Data Scientist path whilst studying for 5 hours a week*
  • Spend 5 hours per week studying MCI&W related topics*
  • Identify and complete a creative non-fiction writing course

Prepare (for fatherhood, ageing and eventual retirement)
Several elements stand out to me as being critical to being/becoming a good father, the key ones being building a solid spiritual and moral grounding to provide leadership within my personal circle, being more financially responsible so I have more disposable income and am also preparing for eventual retirement. Also as I totter on the edge of turning forty, what has become clear is that my metabolism is no longer what it once was, and downing multiple slices of pizza just won’t cut it anymore. It is also a time when lifestyle changes might yet stave off debilitating problems later in life. There is also the small matter of my life being split between the ‘Deen and Byfleet further down South. To get closer to these ideas, I intend to be intentional about:

  • Developing a daily practice of prayer and bible study (I have chosen to use the YouVersion app for its in built tracking and metrics)*
  • Save at least 10% of net monthly earnings*
  • Reduce weight to 80 kg
  • Run 3x a week (>20km overall) *
  • Improve average sleep to >6.5 hours per day: This is unlikely to be a quick fix as I first have to find and fix the underlying habits/issues affecting my sleep
  • Relocate to the Greater London  Area – another one that involves a lot of smaller changes including finding a job down south (in the same or different industry) or a means of replacing my current income
  • Read 25 books, covering Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, Popular science, The Church Fathers/ Church History, Personal Development (Reading widely and consistently is a habit I would like to give to my future kids)

Engage (family and friends better)
One of the consequences of my year of drifting was a slow disconnection from all non-essential communication. For 2019 I would like to get into a space where I have regular meetups and phone calls with my close friends and family. Specific objectives in this domain for 2019 are:

  • Speak to my father weekly*
  • Speak to my siblings monthly (one each week), in-laws once a quarter*
  • Write to my sponsored (Compassion) children at least once a quarter also
  • Meet up with one close friend each month*

Diversify (Earn Extra income)
They say death and taxes are the only things one can be certain of, which is why I would like 2019 to be the year in which I diversify my earnings. The obvious advantage of extra income aside, there is also the opportunity to insulate myself somewhat from the ebbs and flows of big oil and its effects on job security. Two things come to mind as options for exploring this – developing and then monetising any data science/ analytics skills I pick up and also exploring options for engaging the online gig economy. Lots of work to develop this further this year I suspect but one I intend to be intentional about. My notional target here is to earn >£1,000 from a side gig by year end.

Measure and Improve
They say you can’t improve what you don’t measure, which is why one of the themes for this year is to find ways and means to simplify measuring and reviewing my progress towards all the changes I’m trying to be intentional about. A few of the apps I use (Strava, YouVersion, Dataquest, Garmin) automate the process of capturing performance related data. For the remainder, loop will have to suffice as a repository for tracking data. The idea would be to develop a short monthly review template which will capture key datasets and also include some text/ commentary as a means of self-assessing where I am on the path towards these goals.