On Grief

Sometimes the light can just be blinding. Today, was one of those days for me.

The first proper day of spring/summer with an uncharacteristically bright and warm day for Dublin. In an attempt to take advantage of this glorious day, I decided that for IMG_20170505_125248_619my walk day that I was going to spend some time in my local park. I was surrounded by families and friends taking advantage of the weather by sharing their time and presence with each other.

Critical life events were held this beautiful day, and lovers were meeting in the sunshine, toddlers were learning how to use their tricycles, young children were learning how to rollerskate. Even a couple of elderly couples were out in the sun making slow paced loops around the central lake of the park. It was a symphony of noise and sound and life.

I got asked to take a lot of photos today – walking on my own I was more often than not stopped by new mothers asking me to help them capture a moment. I would oblige taking a couple of shots of them before moving on. There were a few shots that I dare will make it onto a few mantle pieces in a few weeks. It is hard to take a poor shot today! It impressed upon me the importance of days like today in the scheme of life. You need moments of reprieve, moments of light, moments of life.

Even if you don’t feel you have any to give right now yourself.

My Father passed away suddenly on the 1st of Septemeber 2015, and my Brother had died on the 18th of September 1995. My mother still lives with the grief of this on daily basis. AIMG_20170507_130457_920fter all, no parent should have to bury their child. Nor, should a widow be made so young. Today was not one of her better days, but none the less
I found her out in the sun.

She asks me like she always does if I’ll join her at the Chinese. To which, I alway reply a No. She now maintains a tradition from my childhood of going out to dinner at the same Chinese with her mother and her brother. How she copes with her grief is by wrapping herself around her memories and burning them into her memory. Enduring in her memories is her weapon for keeping her grief at bay.

I’ve seen that grief be a double-edged sword, providing solice and paralysis. I watch her battle daily with her sadness through her good days and bad. She goes out on days and is around my father’s family when I know deep down she would prefer to howl. She does it to maintain a connection because that is how she keeps her memories alive.

My grief has been a different experience for me.

My grief has challenged me with my emotions and my sense of self. There were times in the early stages of my grief – particularly after the first year where everything I had previously known had come into question. I had a lot of other life events that happened in those two years; moving home to care for mam in her darkest times, moving out into my space again, getting jobs and leaving jobs. It’s taken until now to appreciate my grief and how my grief is a tangled knot. A sadness of the loss of a key figure in my life, the physical and psychological exhaustion of dealing with emotions I’m not used to feeling like rage and resentment. My personal relationships with the people who I cared about became deeper ensnared in that grief, some of my long term relationships with people have survived this while other haven’t.

It’s made me afraid. I would have considered myself to be quite fearless, but nothing changes you quite like grief. Suddenly I found myself not just grieving the loss of my father but friends, lovers and myself.

It’s made me more reluctant to trust myself and any new relationships I may wish to seek. Simply because life is complicated, and right now I can’t articulate my needs in a way that doesn’t feel selfish. That may not be grief, but it is fear. I need to start getting used to putting myself out there again, and to accept that rejection is a part of the process of life. This is also an acknowledgment of the element of grief in that; that longing for something that hasn’t happened, or the fear of doing something immeasurably damaging to the people who are new in your life who don’t know the reasoning. That fear of judgment. The not wanting to drag people through it, because you do care.

That is one of the biggest juxtapositions of life, is that even surrounded by all of this light and all of these moments with people who we know will love us and want to be there for us, we refuse to let them in. Today was one of those days, not just for me, but for an acquaintance of mine who is going through a battle with her grief.

Her pain is acute, and right now for her intolerable. I understand her grief, and I understand that the psychological burden on her right now is insurmountable to her.  What’s worse is there is nothing I can say to her to ease her pain, there is nothing I can do to protect her. I, like so many of her friends and loved ones, want so desperately to protect her. But, there is no amount of coaxing her to the sun or consoling her with motivational themes about her purpose or with assurances that things will get better that will make her realise this until she can face the light.

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Helpless and worried, we do what we can by gathering together. Today we went and painted. We gave sound to concerns for her husband, as he deals with the unknown of what’s to come. Painted walls like canvases with our shared grief and found comforted in each other shared colors as we prayed in the shade.

As the sun passes behind the hills, and the moon rises I’m reminded and reassured that while the sun might be blinding, the stars still shine. That gives me hope.

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Hope for me, and hope for all of us who walk a road to dawn.

Should You Care? People Edition – Part 1 (2017)

Here is a list of people who are doing really awesome stuff that should be aware of!

I’ve had the privilege in the last while of being around some incredibly talented and wonderful people who I don’t get enough love. So, I’m going to do something to change that. If you’d like to get on this list, feel free to tweet at me what you’re doing or drop me a comment down below.

Needless to say, none of these is sponsored or in any way paid for. These are just some people and causes that I believe are worthy of your notice.

With that out of the way, let’s get to it!

Gaming

Final Horizon – Terror Beyond the Stars

 

My friend and mentor Alan O’Dea have created a Patreon for his new game Final Horizon – Terror Beyond the Stars. Think of it as a cross between FTL + Darkest Dungeon had a twisted nightmare spawn child. Alan is someone who gives a lot of himself and a lot of his time to the Dublin community both regarding his presence with startups and his gaming and designs influence.
You can be guaranteed that something that comes from his brain will be well worth investing in.

Patreon

The Bears Black Heart

Developed by Abban Dunne (one of my fellow members of ITC) in Unity with art by Bob created in Affinity Designer. This 2016 Wizard Jam game is slowly taking the indie world by storm, gaining the attention of big Youtubers like Markiplier. Needless to say, this story of a bear who is just trying to survive the winter is a roguelike that all ages can enjoy.

Download

Tech Books

30 Things Every New Software Tester Should Learn: A Guide To Getting a Kick Start in Software Testing

Heather Reid is one of Ministry for Testings finest, her book is an excellent beginners guide to software testing.  Software testers are always learning but they cannot always quantify it. It’s their combination of skills from learning abouta product to dealing with its stakeholders that makes this guide relevant and practical. At £1.99 on the Kindle Store, it’s a must have for those who are looking to getting into software testing.

Kindle Store

 

Take Better Photos: Smartphone Photography for Noobs!

Juan Carlos Bagnell has been in the photography game for a long time. His expertise now ranges to giving Real Camera Reviews on Smartphones on PocketNow. So this is the guy you turn to when you want to make the most out of the camera of your smartphone. While it can be considered by some to be an essential guide, it goes through all the core elements of how to take good photos. So should definitely be looked out for to get you going, and at $3.93 on the Kindle store, its a no brainier!

Kindle Store

 

Services

Koko Bot

Koko was started as a PhD Students dissertation in MIT Media Lab it is a support network for people using a Twitter DM to the bot. Where they detail out their particular situation and then have to give their most positive thought and negative thought about a situation. This is a discrete way of getting support anonymously through a community of people who offer support through the same system. So, you are never going to get a response by a bot but a member of the community. For full disclosure, I’m a member of the Koko Pro team. What being a member of the Pro team means is there is always a few of us to answer a message every day or two, and it helps the community run smoother. So, for those who are looking for a little bit of support, you can find it here.

Koko Bot Twitter

The Happiness Planner

I have used the hardback editions of The Happiness Planner for years now. For me, it is an excellent way to keep focused on the positives in life.  The Happiness Planner® is a calendar & to-do list app designed to help you cultivate happiness by embracing the power of positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and personal development. Now that there is a digital edition of it I’d encourage you to have a look at it and see if a subscription would be worth the investment for you.

Happiness Planner IOS

A Note on Bots, Admins, and Being Brave.

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[Context to this post: I’m an admin for an online community, and I had a very public blow up with someone over a bot I created after repeated instances of negativity. This is the blog post I made to the community after the incident.]

I figured this was going to be longer than an average message that I leave on this topic and I wanted to respect the fact that not everyone is going to want to read it. So in keeping that, I’m going to be leaving this in #general and #admin for those who want to know it. I would appreciate that people do take the time to read it, as the more time I take to think about it, the more I feel I have to say. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way; how I went about dealing with the criticism that I’ve received from the bot was not mature or acceptable. I don’t make any qualms about it. I know I’m better than the behaviour that I rose to and I did rise to it. Not entirely, but I did give it my time and energy. More than, what some of you may think was required or acceptable owing to the nature of the complaints. Which is what they were, complaints.

Usually, and has been evident by my previous behaviour I have been fine with such criticism. But for those who believe my lashing out was due to lack of context, let me provide some that may not be a hundred percent abundant. I do not, and cannot code. Not in the “I’m a network engineer” or an “I’m a UX designer” kind of code. I do not code, it is not my day job nor my hobby. I used a tool that was designed to let non-coders like myself script something that would work within an environment like Slack. I filled a demand that was asked for by a community of technical people. I was so proud of myself for that little bot. It was something that functioned in the way I had designed it to after testing showed that DMing didn’t work. (mainly because the full details when someone creates an account doesn’t get to the bot, so it doesn’t go to @newuser) For those who still don’t understand the monumental achievement of this for me, I’m dyslexic and very dyslexic. This was a step forward for me. Personally, this was progress. I have been bashing my head off a wall of basic programming for a while and god it felt good that something I did finally work! For all those who have told me throughout my life that I have been “overselling myself” or put boundaries in my way, this was another piece of myself to encourage me that I’m always improving. That’s something I want personally for myself, to show all of these people that I’m better than that.

Don’t misunderstand me though, proud of it as I am, I know that it annoyed people. I was open to it changing, I did understand the hassle it caused, I did understand the perceived irritation it caused. However, it served a purpose, a purpose that was requested – not something I created out of my own volition. I filled a gap. I have always run by the philosophy of “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So this whole thing of people complaining about it, and yet not doing anything about it…after a few months, it really begins to grate on your nerves. It doesn’t matter if you’re just “voicing your opinion” at this stage – several months down the line – if you still don’t have a solution to the problem that you’re complaining about you really need to address your priorities. For me, that goes for everything if something is bothering you that much and you have the power to change it why don’t you? I can’t answer that for the people who did the complaining. Only they can, and I hope this serves as a point of thought for the individual who has. I hope we can learn from this that just complaining about the sake of complaining gets us nowhere. We are far better than this to be a digital Joe Duffy show.

It took me blowing up at someone over their behaviour to instigate change, and I really wish it hadn’t. I wish that you had just acted on the change that you wanted to see rather than insisting that the only way to get your point across is by belittling and degrading the work of others. Some of you may not see it that way, that “providing feedback” is the only way things improve. That I agree with, but only when it’s constructive and what happened that night was not but negativity. Which is something I don’t encourage here? We all have far more potential than just our complaints, and it really disheartens me that it took this to make a change. Change, that arguably for someone as skilled as the people reading this – took a max of 5 minutes to create.

I want to provide some insight into why I admin here and what my daily admin tasks are like. I admin here because I care about you. Every single one of you reading this and everyone that isn’t. I said to Colm once, when he asked me why I try so hard around here is that I care about the potential of this place. I care about the people in it, and I care about the sanctity of this location. I haven’t come across a community quite like this one (and I’ve been moderating and Admin adult forums since I was 14), and I want to ensure that what is right for this place always is put forward. This means, occasionally, getting in the way. I always try to be as level-headed and understanding when it comes to the many complaints that I get in this places daily maintenance. Not always daily, but due to the fact I’m nearly always here and very much present makes me both the go-to person and the person who is the biggest target.

There have been plenty of instances on here, where people have been trying to publically berate me for making an example out of me. Which I find more humorous than anything else because conversations usually stem from a “don’t you know who I am?” frame of mind (In fact, someone did say that to me once!) and I have to laugh. Sure, I do. The difference is I don’t care. If you’ve broken the ToS or been open harass, I’m gonna be on you like dip on a chip. Most of my time is taken up with the #jobs channel, which I do my best to keep as safe and as diplomatic as possible. Sometimes that isn’t always possible. Recruiters have always been a big hitting point for people. For reasons, I have endeavoured earnestly to understand, and I honestly can’t say that I do. However, my stance will remain with what I said before. I will not let anyone pass through here fearing that their profession, race, gender, sexual preference, hobbies will be used against them. It infuriates me. Those who have been in #jobs will know this. That I don’t get in peoples faces, but if I need to, you will know about it when it happens.

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Some of you may ask Why? What gives me the right to tell other people what to do? Or from a more empathetic side why should I care so much?

I’m gonna quote something that my mentor shared with me recently:

Make decision even if they are wrong,

Make promises.

Make promises to yourself now.

Big crazy signs.

To help others, care about things, never apologise, try new things and most importantly be the person that people can rely on in the future someone that cares.

Promise that you’ll be the person that is there to share your skills and expertise when the next group of awesome people need help.

Those promises and the time you spend on yourself and the things you care about are the only real things under your control.

So why? Why am I trying to guide? Why am I trying to protect? Because I should. Because no one else is going to. Even though its right to do these things. Protecting people is correct. It is good for them to want to feel safe and equal. It is fair for people to want to search and discover themselves. People preach so much here about being vegan/veggie/wasteful/first world problems/privilege. Yet you can’t even be civil people in your own circles. I want to show you all that there is nothing to fear by showing kindness and encouragement of others. This isn’t some SJW bullshit either, it’s humanity 101. A lot of people here have a serious problem with empathy, apathy and hope. If you look for everything that is wrong with you constantly, of course, you are going to get cynical. It is far harder to inspire and be hopeful. I deliberately choose the more difficult path, not case it puts me on some sort of moral high ground. But to show others that it can be done and it can have an impact.

There is, of course, a time and place to be cynical and pessimistic. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohrQCzZsgIw&index=5&list=PLwxNMb28XmpckOvZZ_AZjD7WM2p9-6NBv) (there is another magnificent school of life video around the importance of being sad and how not everything can be resolved with being cheery) I’m not claiming I know everyone’s story here or what has brought them to this point. The same way you all don’t know mine. All I know is that for that negative and pessimism; it is important to listen to it unconditionally and support its origin. In that way, we’ll try and hopefully find it in ourselves to not push that onto those around us.

In saying that, I pull a lot of aggro around here. I have my own theories behind it. Like the way, I notice Colm and Oisin tend to be listened to a lot quicker around here than me. For those reasons, I’m happy to keep pulling the aggro. I’m glad to keep being vocal and keep being me, because how can I justify to the women and men to come that I didn’t do anything for them? We, as a community, have a problem with diversity here. I’m 1/3 active admin both men and I’d say that a high stat for the actual levels of conversation here. Bar one or two other women I see here on occasion, I’m the only active one. Is it representative of tech in general? Who knows, that’s a bigger conversation. But my gender was always going to be brought into this, so I’m going to take it up first. With this confirming statement.

They may fear you, but I don’t.

I don’t want to stand in the year where so much has happened in the world for everyone to sit back and remain the same. I will eventually get asked by people: Where were you? Did you fight? Was I fearful or fearsome? What did I regret not standing for? What did I do, not just for women, but for people in the year that it was time? The path I’m helping to forge, what did it cost me and did I do enough? I know the answer to most of that is no, and I’m working on changing that.

I want to be able to help change your thinking too, not just for how many dollars you have in your bank accounts or your RAID arrays. But, what did we do for each other when it really matters. Are you going to stand at the sides in silence? Or will you speak?

It’s what I’m afraid of. After all, that happened, not that voices weren’t heard cause they were and I’m glad. But on the side that was under-represented, did you feel harassed by it? For those who didn’t speak at all, more importantly, I implore you to consider why you didn’t? Did you believe people spoke for you? Did you believe what was said was enough? Cause I can assure you, from the bottom of my heart, for those who didn’t speak, I wish you had. I wish your voice were heard. I wish you spoke with truth and honesty, with all the noise you have to give because your voice is just as strong as mine or anyone else in this place. Don’t let what happened here deter you otherwise. It’s so important to speak if you disagreed with either side or didn’t think anything about it at all it’s important.

Cause this is a community full of people, and your voice matters.

I hope that you’ll use your voice to impact the individuals and communities you care about in 2017.

With love and sincerity and all that I have to offer,

Specious.