Matt Marshall

6 Posts with Tag Labour (All tags)

Routine is a tool, not the point

I seem to have given off the impression that my routine is the most important thing in the world to me and while this is partially true on the surface; it is for wholly different reasons than most people think. I think folks might view me as having this rigid, highly-disciplined, approach to constructing my day. And that deviation from it causes me severe distress. From my perspective, I've developed routines as a tool to ensure that I manage to fit in the things which are important to me.

Contrary to what neoliberal "self-help" books say to you, we don't each have the same 24 hours a day. The ruling classes have staff and people they pay to do labour. Beyoncé has a staff to deal with mundane things so she can focus on what's important to her either personally or professionally. This means that within a given rotation of the planet some people have several hundred hours of other people's time feeding into their lives, and 24h to do what they want. Some of us (probably most of us) don't even necessarily have a full 24h or even 18h to ourselves (18h presumes only a 6h sleep by the way). We work (notably for others), we have responsibilities of care, to feed ourselves, to provide for a family (whatever shape your family has).

Not all of this work is drudgery, and is an essential part of being human. The work that we enjoy naturally energises us and the work we hate naturally exhausts us. I'd also argue that sometimes it's more complicated than that and something we hate doing under certain combinations of circumstance becomes something we look forward to doing under different conditions. For example; I thoroughly enjoy cooking for myself and others but if I've had to work late I often dislike the fact that now I need to spend some of my previous evening time just feeding myself to be able to work the next day.

Often it's little things that can keep us going. Small moments to take for ourselves to feed our wellbeing. We're told this all the time through the class-war that is self-help, and even through well-meaning interactions with others (usually Liberals).

What is not often talked about is the stress that comes about when you've done the reflecting and have arrived at a bunch of things that you know make you feel better; but you've been unable to fit them in because of X or Y. You then get to experience the underlying problem of not having the space for feeding your well-being (which was the problem in the first place) but now you've got an additional level of stress caused by the fact that you now know you could've felt better and what you could've done to achieve this if only things were a little different.

In my experience something about knowing this makes it feel worse; you can now imagine how you could've felt just a little better as you deal with the next round of things-you-have-to-do. Does eating spicy pizza once a fortnight/week/month make you feel good? Does meditation, running, or strength training? Maybe you like to go to the pub for a quiet drink at the end of week, or a local gig. Good on you for knowing this (seriously) but now you also know you haven't been able to do these things. Ignorance wasn't bliss, but this now feels a little sad and you can feel yourself fraying at the edges.

Routine is the way I manage to actually fit a few of my favourite things in. I'm not inflexible at all and in fact, given the appropriate space, will fall into more of a natural rhythm than anything resembling a routine. I know that exercise is one of the foundation stones to making myself feel well. I get up at an early hour and don't stay up late because that's what's necessary to being able to fit it in consistently and in a way that makes me happy. I know that spending some time alone during the week reading or watching a movie on my laptop is essential to keeping me sane, so that's why I've drawn a line around some of my evenings.

It can come across as rigid, as if the routine itself is what keeps me going - but it's the activities within it that I care about. The routine is the tool, not the point. In order to do what I love and feel non-alienated from certain elements of my life I need to feed my soul. In order to feed my soul I need to create the time to do so. Except we cannot create time. So I draw a line in the sand based on my needs.

For some things it's not even about time but just scheduling things on certain days to ensure I get around to them. I have a bunch of favourite foods and while I enjoy most things, there are certain things that transcend culinary pleasure into a joy. Sometimes it's pizza, or sometimes it's sushi. You get the point. I seem to have a rough schedule of eating these things on particular nights to the point where it seems quite funny to outsiders. Friday, for example, is spicy-veggie-bbq pizza night. Sunday lunchtime is veggie-sausage-wraps. Every second Thursday I give up my evening to do activism, so I buy in some sushi. It's not that I need to have these things on those exact days - it's just roughly the best time I've chosen to fit them in and ensure I get around to eating my favourite foods. Is it weird to make sure you eat your favourite foods? I hope not. I enjoy most food and actually only eat things I like; but certain foods just make me feel warm and fuzzy inside and I kinda like feeling warm and fuzzy.

All of these things serve to put fuel in the tank. If I have enough fuel in my tank it means I can enjoy very spontaneous things or have energy to work really hard in a given direction for a while. If I'm enjoying myself and I've built up a good foundation, it doesn't matter to me that I skip a single workout or don't get to eat pizza for a few weeks. But every time I don't, I lose a little bit of what I know makes me serene and happy in a particular way I need. It's not that I don't enjoy heading out to the Philippines for work, or staying up late at a pub quiz with friends -- I just need the energy to do it. To get that energy I need to make time for things that put the fuel in the tank.

So yeah - my routine is my tool, not my point. I kinda just want to keep doing things I enjoy and in a world where I own less than 100% of my time I'm going to need to schedule them in. Thank you to everyone who's patient with me when I say I can't come out to play because I want to stay in and eat pizza before getting up for a 0600 strength training session in the park.

capitalism life work alienation Labour self care mental health routine

GE2017 Reaction: I feel the sun

Note: This was written on the Friday morning (9th Jun) following the result of the UK General election

As I write these words I have been awake for 28 hours. I began with some strength training; then did some writing at the lab; then I went to a meeting with my fieldwork partners; then I got tattooed; then I stayed up all night following the election; then I showered/dressed; then I left my flat and smiled as I felt the sun on my face.

This is the first General Election that I've ever stayed up to watch. I've voted in three now. The previous two, I've woken up to disappointment. I've seen the Tories sit and dismantle the futures of myself and my generation, whilst the Liberals sit impotently in the corner watching. I've listened in horror as my older relatives of both blood and association have actively revelled in denying us opportunities that they enjoyed throughout their lives, and I've been downtrodden when I've heard that others of my age bracket admit that they don't vote because they don't care.

Since casting my first vote, I've grown from naive Liberal, to idealist Green, to diet Socialist, to Marxist-Leninist. A tale as old as time. To me, the Labour Party was always the party of Blair. The party of war, who brought terrorism to our nation. I was always told that not voting for Labour was voting in the Tories. I saw this in action in 2015. I watched as a small ray of hope when a democratic socialist by the name of Corbyn showed promise as Labour leader. I watched as I saw the theories of media control and Murdoch-puppets became flesh before my eyes with the echoes of sound-bite smears ringing in the voices of those I interacted with daily.

Last night changed all that. I watched my generation mobilise. I watched the stirrings of socialism become enacted at the ballot box. I saw my peers come together and defy our elders, and I saw us begin to unite as a species. I watched as a man that everyone said would destroy the party galvanise a people -- members of my species! -- and begin to wrest back control from those who sustain themselves through exploitation, lies, and fear.

I get this isn't over. I'm not silly. The Tories are still entrenched, and now they know they've got a fight on their hands. The Murdoch machine will be working at full steam to swing public opinion. I won't be surprised to find that UKIP make a comeback with Farage to split the working class vote again.

That said, this morning I left my flat an entered the street of a country that showed me its potential once more. I felt a faint sense of unity and connection with the land that I'd spent my life growing inside of. I looked towards the sky, red eyes blearily adjusting to the daylight, and I felt the sun on my face.

Labour GE2017 Corbyn socialism hope memorableevents

Strength Training, Fasting, and Emotional Labour

It's that time of year when I get really reflective around my strength training. I've been going through somewhat of a slump for the last few months; this has manifested as only performing one work set per training session, instead of my customary two or three. There's a whole bundle of reasons for this I could pin it to: poor sleep hygiene, Summer (I'm a winter creature), poor diet, boredom with my routine, etc. I've also noticed that, as a trend, the more emotional effort I expend on playing around with crafting/making/materials/whatever, the less energy I've had for physical training. It doesn't quite make sense, physically. I only really craft on the days that I'm not training, yet when looked at through an emotional lense it becomes a lot clearer what's happening. One need only look at my Web habits over the last year or so to notice the change in focus. Where once I spent all of my free time lapping up information around physiology and being inspired by the feats of performance from my Strength idols; those idols are now replaced with a pantheon of craftsfolk, makers, and hackers as I immerse myself in a world of people making stuff.

Up until this week, I've been concerned with this. I adore strength training, and it greatly upsets me when I cannot perform how I know I should be performing if not just for the emotional bankruptcy I'm undergoing. I also adore playing with materials (I hesitate to use the words 'crafting' or 'making' as I feel they're very loaded), and the joy that these things bring me is on par with that of calisthenics. In fact, on the surface, they're arguably occupying the same slot in my brain -- forcing me to operate on physical, mental, and emotional levels. The intersection of those parts of my being, when activated, very clearly brings me the most joy I receive in my life wherever it appears. I was concerned up until the other day, when I was re-reading some Marxist philosophy and was duly reminded how Labour is the life essence (Marx says species essence) of humankind, and that it takes Labour to perform any task; including recreational activities. I then began reflecting on how I was expending my time, what activities I was engaging in.

I personally have a finite amount of energy for things which can hold my attention or to which I can invest myself emotionally. This is not just on the micro, 'things I can do today' scale; but on the larger 'this is what my life comprises of at the moment' scale. Everything from Strength Training, to making stuff, to my romantic relationships, to which books I want to read, to which tv shows I'm watching currently seem to draw from the same well. Like any water cycle, the energy from this well eventually returns but like how we're running out of water globally, I feel that I'm drawing too much out of the well at a rate that means it's often dry when I need to invest some time into something -- like my training. One can only do so much, pay attention to so much. This is without getting into how this same well is being robbed by advertisers demanding attention everywhere I look (trying to stop myself from getting sidetracked into a rant).

Another key issue that I feel I've been having is that my diet isn't really working for me at the minute. It's a lot better than it's been historically -- my bean chili thing has done wonders for my fibre intake and my wallet, and my morning eggs are wonderful too. The issue is that they sit in context alongside the ill and weary part of my diet that drags me down. The evening. I'm always prepared for breakfast, and I'm pretty solid and making sure I'm sorted for lunch, but the evening meal has always been risky for me. The evening is a dangerous time for my gut, as it's a time where my willpower is at a low from the day's strains. It's a time when I'm tempted by takeaways (mostly I manage to resist) or the shortcut of just stuffing a pizza in the oven. It's the time when I'm tempted to snack. It's the time when, where once I had plans to spend the evening doing something, I spend my efforts consuming media. When I eat terrible food, my gut becomes inflamed and if I have training the next morning, I'm not operating with strength in that part of my being. Maybe I haven't slept well due to poor food and media consumption providing the wrong forms of stimulation. In short -- I feel that my evenings are the weak links in the chain between the instances of my Labour that hold together my life. It's where it all goes wrong.

And it's where I'm going to put things right.

For me, the solution is Fasting. This time, on two fronts. Two concurrent Fasts, dealing with two different facets of my poor consumption habits. First, the Dietary Fast. This will deal with the weak link of consuming poor nutrition at the end of the day. It'll take the form of an Intermittent Fast; wherein I consume my daily calories within a given time frame, and then fast the rest of the day. Usually this is achieved by 'skipping' a meal at the beginning of the day, and breaking the fast after a training session. Since I train early morning, I will be taking the opposite approach, and skipping the third meal of the day. If I give myself a fairly standard 8-hour eating window, this effectively means I am fasting from around 1400 to 0600 the next day.

The second Fast is a media one. At first, it's simply going to include all forms of video and web content in the evening. No TV and no Movies except on a night where I'm with my partner and it forms part of our bonding. This leaves me free to read or listen to podcasts whilst working on some crafty type project. This is the Fast I'm most excited about, if I'm being honest.

I'm out of time now and need to start my work day. I'll go into the details of each Fast in separate posts. For now, I'll briefly outline what I want to achieve from their execution. At the core, I wish to rebalance my well of emotional Labour by removing things that demand my attention, as well as tinker with my gut's health to improve the digestion of food and transfer of energy into my neuromuscular system. By removing the ability for certain forms of input at a recurring time period I've identified as 'at risk', I'm also disallowing the harmful habits I've formed from gaining further purchase on my destiny. Maybe in time my needs will change, and I will have left my poor habits so far in the dust that I'm no longer at risk for them -- but until then, Fasting is my way of cutting out the rot I feel has set into my daily existence.

Labour strength training making stuff fasting energy daily routines emotional energy

At any rate, the only thing to do with the announcement is to ensure that #Labour is a strong, socialist, voice of the people.