Christopher Hoult

Software engineer, actor, speaker, print designer


Image credit: Ross Vernal

It kind of feels redundant to say, but I hate death. It rips me apart. I haven't experienced the death of a loved one - yet - but having seen the impact of that loss on others around me, those I love and respect, I definitely do not relish the day.

Instead, I experience that loss vicariously. I see the emptiness in them, that sudden void that once was filled with someone important to them opening up and sucking in their happiness, their hopes, their safety. A black hole, yawning and destroying them from the inside.

And that breaks me. As a Rescuer I see their pain and I can't fix it. As an empath, the sudden darkness in someone's eyes flashes through me and overwhelms me. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it - no filling in the hole, no telling a joke to cheer someone up, no promises about the future that don't feel vacuous in the moment.

So that pain transfers to me - and because of my own relationship with sadness I reject it totally and bottle it up. Tears leak out, but ultimately I swallow up that sadness and it eats away inside me. It feels like there's a big dam inside, holding back a flood of sadness, and this just adds to it.

Having struggled at times over the past couple of years with considering my own mortality, the one thing that kept me going was thinking about the horror of such a loss being visited upon those who love and care for me - the fact that there are such people is something I've had to drill into me due to my low self esteem. And so I carry on.

And so wounds will heal. And so hope will return.

And so we all carry on.

Image credit: Christopher Hoult

Part of my work on self care is to try to cook for myself - from scratch - at least one evening per week. I'm always really happy to cook for others, but I find it hard to cook for myself - there's probably something in there about not considering myself worth cooking for. So here is the first in a series of recipes (I hope) that I use to treat myself.

I've recently been playing with risottos - I've got a couple of friends with vegan or FODMAP dietary needs who I like to cook for. Risottos are excellent in that they're really easy to prepare and make tasty, and the rice provides a great base for all sorts of flavours.

Here's a recent recipe I've been using - like a lot of my cooking, it's formed from an understanding of how something is prepared, not necessarily from a formalized recipe from another source. I'm sure I do something wrong, or miss a trick with it - but this one works for me!

Today marks two years since I wrote to a counsellor and said "I'm not happy." Since then, I've seen Jo pretty much once a week for fifty minutes at a time.

I'm not going to lie. It's not been easy. As someone who spent 33 years of his life not talking about myself - not really anyway - I almost resented it. I dodged some appointments, dreading it. I was combative with her; closed. I wanted her to drive the conversation and ask all the questions - I had to plan what I was going to say on the car drive over, panicking that I had nothing.

But the fact remained that on some level I knew I was hurting, that something was pretty wrong - that for some unknown or specious reason, I was unhappy, and had no way of identifying or fixing it on my own. I knew I'd be resistant to the experience, so I set up an obligation. I'd go and see her, because otherwise I'd disappoint her.

As time went by, this experience didn't change - I'd be stand-offish, double- guessing every suggestion of hers, trying to out-silence her. No progress, no openness, nothing. Sure, I shared some big news pieces with her, frustrations etc. but it was all just something to get done and get over with.

So, in the past couple of days, a well-meaning friend posted the following image into a chat channel populated 50% by software engineers:

A white mug with pseudocode (perhaps Java?) on it;
its handle is blue, and there is a blue spoon slotted through holes in the top and bottom of the handle so that it is readily available for use

What they assumed was a nice nod to the coders soon became something of a nightmare as we all just... code reviewed the mug.

I'm sure if you've worked in software development for a while, you've seen this kind of effect before - someone publishes code or pseudo-code on a promotional item or in marketing material as a way to establish geek cred, or perhaps to attract talent for a hiring campaign. If you've worked with teams actively hiring, you might even have seen your own employers attempting this - and are probably aware that the exact same reaction to my friend's mug shot is bound to happen both internally and externally around such efforts.

Well, in the pursuit of purity - and perhaps as a way for me to explore my own thinking about how code should be reasoned about - here is a brief attempt at code reviewing the mug; in future posts I hope to refactor it...

On Loneliness

I started this blog hoping to be a lot more profilic than I actually have been. I have quite a few topics to cover. But my lack of motivation has stymied that, although I take some slight comfort in this blog fulfilling the fate of numerous others. My piece of writing On Hills has been quite important to me, so here's another very personal piece.

I have had, for me, a rough couple of years. I've been through redundancy, death, breakup and more. All have taken their toll on me enough that, at the beginning of last year, I started counselling.

This was not easy for me. I am quite a closed person, emotionally; I rarely share and I always concentrate on how the listener will receive my words rather than on the expressing of them. As such, I hold things in. And they eat away at me.