I was watching the Channel 4 News the other night and, to my complete amazement (read: shock, horror, disgust), Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Jon Snow started talking about celebrities “with attitude”. My first reaction, as you would imagine, was my gag reflex, quickly followed by ten billion brain cells obliterating themselves at the thought of listening to any more of that quantifiable bullsh*t. Did I really hear some of the finest news anchors in the land describe Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver as being overflowing with sass? If there’s anything that proves there isn’t a God, it’s that. Then I took to my thoughts, and specifically about the concept of attitude, but in a more constructive and meaningful manner than KGM and Lord Snow (‘King in the North’) were describing.
‘Attitude’ is ‘a settled way of thinking or feeling about something’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Then I got carried away, fuelled by the drug of intrigue, and the several G&Ts and a packet of Tangfastics I’d knocked back. Where does attitude derive itself from? Character. ‘Character’ is ‘all the qualities and features that make a person’. Deep. Brian Cox-deep. Heath Ledger/Jake Gyllenhaal-deep. Within seconds, and all down to the fact that I am an inverted, selfish, self-absorbed sh*t, I turned the thought inwards; what does my attitude and my character say about me? Namely, about my situation? If there’s anything that can pass a fairly generic but comprehensive judgement on a person, it’s an analysis of their attitudes and their character; do that, and you have a fairly good template of who, how and why someone is, and how they’ll choose to act out their lives, and the impact that has on others.
Phwoar, even deeper. Strap in, boys and girls. This profound, philosophical vomit you’re about to be drowning in is going to blow your collective pants off (read: waste the next five minutes of your life).
Because I’m so learned, sophisticated and humble, I soon found myself scrolling through an academic journal on psychology, and an article that broke down the structures of character, from formation to later-life self-alteration through experience. The general crux of the piece was that there are several forms or correlations in which characters manifest themselves, but can overlap, akin to Venn diagrams (GCSE Maths; I was listening Mrs Edwards…), when you have enough wherewithal to analyse and adapt your character to better suit your environment, or who you want to be. Good God, academic crack, if you’re asking me.
That made me think; where do I stand in that analysis? Am I a one-track mind, or am I the Venn diagram to end all Venn diagrams? I’m not in the business of sitting here to preach that I am holier than thou, but that said, I would like to think that, in a good portion, I have tried to live out my life with characteristics of kindness, consideration for others, and a healthy dose of self-deprecation – at least in the most part. We all falter in these ideals, and I am no exception. We falter regularly, I falter regularly, and that affects others on levels we can never truly know, whether that be minimally or in grievous quantities. Our responsibility, in that, is to assess our character, and make changes for our own betterment, as well as for those around us. That is our capacity for self-reflection, and surely it has to be one of our greatest qualities, if we exemplify it. By constantly looking inwards, and making changes for the better, we create a better environment for us as individuals in how we live our lives, and outwards for how that affects those around us, whether they be our closest and dearest, or the man in the street. But has cancer affected this? In reality, it’s railroaded it; I am drastically more of a dick, especially with the ones I love, and that hurts me as much as it hurts them, an act I’m acutely aware of, and actively look to rectify. The behaviour is exacerbated by the pain of chemotherapy, and the pain my tumours exert on me, but still inexcusable when there are others in worse situations that are better, bigger men than I. It humbles me, and allows me to self-reflect on my character and my attitude. The principle, however, applies to anyone, not just those with cancer, or those going through medical treatment of one form or another. Whatever hardships we find ourselves under, and in whatever form they reveal themselves to us, we mustn’t allow them to override the better aspects of our nature, of our character, because they will inevitably affect others, and who knows what struggles they may be facing themselves. We must constantly strive to help the self, to help the others, whatever demons we face. The one is not bigger than the many.
In much of the same, attitude is affected by cancer, but not in the manner in which it is commonly perceived, or the extent to which it is commonly believed (at least in my case). Life-changing illness shouldn’t be an epiphany, like seeing The Matrix. This implies, in no uncertain terms, that you were a bit of a prick prior to your illness, and a reflection on your own mortality – the most drastic experience you could conceive – has been what was required for you to be, in short, just a little bit less of a prick. Attitude changes in small doses, and in finer aspects of our existence; the smaller, seemingly less-significant elements of our lives, like walks with the dog, bumping into old friends, and appreciating the relative luxury we’re often oblivious to, become somewhat more palpable, we become that little more aware of, and grateful for. Equally, there are things that fall away, and pale into insignificance, simply because they aren’t worth worrying about, which you might imagine is a lot of things for someone with limited mortality. Once again, the underlying principle of self-reflection comes into play; our attitude to all things is linked to our perceptions of the situations we find ourselves in, the experiences we have and the views we form of them, which affect us in later, similar situations. This clearly means that we have complete and undeniable control of our attitude to all things, and we only allow the actions of others or the actions to affect that if we let it, and if we don’t have the strength of character to take ownership of our challenges, problems, situations and viewpoints. If we’re able to do that, we’re able to find workable solutions, through self-reflection, and through working on our character, to approach our difficulties with the right, positive attitude that we should be approaching all things with. Once again, this is not only a mechanism that applies to terminal cancer patients, because frankly, it’s a panacea to all challenges. The choice to adopt the correct attitude to every perceivable aspect of our lives, in stark reality, is entirely ours. Sometimes it just takes a pontifical, self-righteous arsehole on the internet to tell you.
Allow yourself to be flexible with your characteristics, and your attitude, like a Stretch Armstrong (remember those?). That flexibility allows you to adapt yourself to new situations and challenges. That flexibility allows you to become a better you. Rigidity is for people who have no desire to improve on their state, and as a consequence, improve the lives of those around them. Do you want to be that person? Cancer doesn’t stop an individual from constantly striving to become a better person, nor does it provide the epiphany of goodness and light (!) that is often perceived about brushes with thy mortal coil. Which, at the end of it, means only one thing; how different are we to any of you? All of the above, evidently, applies to all.
A very happy new year to you all, ladyboys and girls. Since my last post, we’ve kept the momentum up with fundraising, thanks to your boundless festive generosity. We’re up at £52,000 now, including gift aid, which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, pretty f*cking mad. Once again, I’m humbled and touched by the generosity shown by all, from the pocket change to the huge corporate donations. Every little truly helps. You’ll be seeing, much to my social media disgust, plenty more posts on the two marathons in the Spring, as well as the Annapurna Circuit Expedition, over the coming months, but the most pressing concern for your diaries is our Sportsmans’ Luncheon, with former England Rugby head coach Stuart Lancaster, Premier League referee Jon Moss, and all being well, an additional high-profile speaker from the cricketing world, with whom I will be asking questions regarding my snub for the Ashes squad (#StillNotOverIt). In addition to the speakers and the three-course lunch, we have the obligatory raffle, alongside a sports memorabilia auction, which as it stands includes:
Framed & signed display of Haile Gebreselassie, the greatest distance runner of all-time
Signed Jonny Wilkinson Newcastle Falcons shirt from 2003
Signed gloves from Wladimir Klitschko, two-time heavyweight champion of the world
Signed equipment from Jonny & Alastair Brownlee
Signed shirt from Wasps Rugby from 2017/18
Two VIP Box tickets for a Leeds United game of your choice
£200 hotel voucher and free flight to anywhere in Europe
Signed Leinster Rugby shirt from 2017/18
Signed Yorkshire CCC shirt from 2018
All being well, there’s more to come on that front, too. The event is at Sand Moor Golf Club in North Leeds, on Sunday 18th March 2018 (the day after the final round of the Six Nations). Tickets are already going like hotcakes, so please do get in touch ASAP if you’d like to attend, at firstname.lastname@example.org and 07411305802.
Muchas gracias once again for your generosity, and all the very best for the year ahead.