Archives: Navel Gazing

Faith pours from your walls

I woke up this morning and took the dog for a walk and came home and checked my email and looked up to see that the house was as dark as midnight.

I had a legitimately eerie moment. Was it earlier than I thought? Had I dreamed already walking the dog (you know those dreams, when you’ve hit snooze a couple of times and during that half sleeping period you dream you’re brushing your teeth, changing, only to wake up still in bed?) and it was three am? But no, it was 7:30, so I checked the radar to see that we were under a huge storm. “Seek shelter! Away from windows! DO NOT DRIVE!” it said. “Widespread wind damage expected!”

Well ok. I got in the shower, which YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO IN A STORM DO NOT DO AS I DO. I only learned recently that thunderstorms are dangerous while showering. But I’m alone on the floor today at work and could not be late, so I said a prayer and took the quickest shower I could, listening to the wind roar.

Storms always bring it out in me, but I feel full of potential these days. I just can’t quite harness it yet, it’s all wild in my blood and making me restless and unsettled and also, kind of excited.

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In the fall, in a space that’s mine, with that gorgeous autumn light. So close I can practically reach out and grab it.

Update.

I had a breakdown when I was cleaning the stove about a week ago. I’d used bartender’s helper and they didn’t seem to be coming clean and I was working so hard at them and there was NOTHING TO SHOW for it.

It was apt: I spend a lot of time cleaning little fiddly bits (the lamp shades above the stove for example) that DON’T SHOW. Yes, I notice the clean shiny glass of them, but no one else would. The thing is, those little fiddly bits add up to making the house feel clean, and I know this. But in the moment, it was a full on temper tantrum.

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(on the left the glass is clean, on the right it’s HORRIBLE)

And then mid last week I just. Well, I had a hard week, and Thursday came and I decided it was time for a break. Four days without exercising, to do lists, no net nights. Four days where my only chores were walking the dog, giving him pills, and working. And on Sunday I felt so much better. Then yesterday I got up at 5 am and took a swim in the cool water and muggy air of Flax pond. I was all by myself (well, besides Baxter) and we swam peaceful laps and I stared at the sky a lot, at the birds crossing it, at the messages they seemed to be sending. And I came home and cleaned a bit and used technology almost not at all and to ensure a good night’s sleep took some unisom and slept for 10 hours.

I feel better. In some ways to-do lists keep me functioning, but I hadn’t taken a real break from them (a day here and there, wherein I felt guilty). And I even had to basically ask someone to tell me that it was ok to take a break.

In the meantime, I finished two hard books — Catch 22 which was as amazingly funny as I remembered and also much more heartbreaking. Turns out that when you read it as an adult with some pain behind you, it reads far harder than it does as a high school student with only a little pain. That last Rome chapter stole my breath with the brutality of it. Then I followed that up with Darkness at Noon, which is a book about Russia under Stalin (specifically one former party leader who has been imprisoned as a subversive); it’s oppressive and bleak and amazing. Towards the end, there’s this indictment of Communism (and possibly other political systems):

So the question now ran: Was such an operation justified? Obviously it was, if one spoke in the abstract of “Mankind”; but, applied to “man’ in the singular, to the cipher 2–4, the real human being of bone and flesh and blood and skin, the principle led to absurdity.

Easy to be cruel to be kind when those you are cruel to aren’t humanized in your mind (see the way we treat the poor and minorities here in the US) but tougher when you look at them as breathing people, people you face. That some people can still be so inhuman is horrifying: to look at the suffering you cause and think “that’s ok. it’ll be better in the long run.” No.

Anyway. Next up is The Just City by Jo Walton which I’m already halfway through. It’s a lighter read, but uncomfortable with issues of consent and history and freedom. She’s an amazing writer.

 

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

I consider the state of sleep to be delicate. I am a deep sleeper, but I suffer from occasional insomnia, and when more than one night passes with poor sleep I start getting worried that its about to flare up again.

She was already learning that if you ignore the rules people will, half the time, quietly rewrite them so that they don’t apply to you.

One of my secret weapons in the fight for sleep is audiobooks. And one of my favorites is Terry Pratchett books. They’re perfect. They’re funny and familiar and kind and smart and point on satire. And I’ve read the series so many times that I can recite along with them till I fall asleep, comforted by Nobby Nobb’s lack of humanity or Granny Weatherwax’s excess of it.

Granny was an old-fashioned witch. She didn’t do good for people, she did right by them.

And now Terry’s gone, and I have tears in my eyes. Those books are an overwhelmingly detailed world, full of PEOPLE. Carrot comes the closest to being a perfect hero — but that doesn’t make him the most likable. I love Carrot, with his steady, simple outlook: arresting the head of the thieves guild for stealing, putting the city ahead of the woman he loves with the note that

Personal is not the same as important.

But given the choice between him and Vimes, I think Vimes is the better choice a thousand percent of the time. Carrot may be the perfect hero, but there are a lot of flawed ones. Moist Von Lipwig, an conman to his soul, rises up. Even Rincewind, eternal coward, is often threatened, bullied and manipulated by fate into being a hero. In Discworld, anyone can rise above.

And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.

I mean, take Vimes. Sam Vimes is passed out in a gutter when he first appears. He’s depressed and alcoholic and stripped of all real power or authority because he won’t stop speaking his mind. The Night Watch is comprised of the dregs of humanity. And yet by the final books of the series (final — god, my heart) — he’s risen to Commander of the Watch and a Lordship. Part of that is his marriage to a very rich and powerful woman, but part of that is because of him. He rises because of who he is, despite myriad circumstances that won’t to pull him down.

Down there – he said – are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any inequity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathsomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don’t say no.

And that’s the beauty of Discworld for me. There are HUMANS who are amazing and complicated and who COULD BE ME. I can be more like Granny Weatherwax, or Tiffany Aching, or Polly Perks. There’s such beauty and good will in these books, such a love for the madness that is being human (or dwarf, or troll — take your pick). And, such an understanding of what it is to be a person.

Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.

It’s satire that’s full of heart.

The enemy isn’t men, or women, it’s bloody stupid people and no one has the right to be stupid.

And mine is broken, because it’s the end.

Don’t talk about reasons why you don’t wanna talk.

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Yesterday was awful for about thirty different reasons. It bumped a couple of other days out of the top ten awful days list. And then it snowed.

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It happens, especially on the Cape where weather is hard to predict — they say you’ll get a foot and we’ll get 3″, they’ll say 1-3″ and bam, over a foot on the ground. It’s alright, although the fact that they stubbornly stuck to 2-4″ at 11 am when there was already 5″ on the ground and it was going to snow all day was annoying.

And then I got stuck in my driveway. And not just stuck, but STUCK. Stuck where no shovel was ever going to get me out. So there was a call to AAA this morning to winch me out of my own driveway.

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All this is to say that I collapsed into bed at 8, feeling sorry for myself and unfit for company, and I sulked myself to sleep. Then I woke up at 3 am worrying about how I was going to get my car out (before I gave in on the whole AAA thing) and all the other 3am worries that descend at that hour of the day.

It’s Friday, though, and my car is free of snow and ice and they say it’ll be above 40 next week so we should see some melting and maybe someday I’ll be able to take my dogs for walks again.

 

In other news, we’re still playing the hell out of Minecraft. A combined effort by Yozzy and I got Choo to at least try it. I went the soft sell route, Yozzy went the “legos!” route, and he loves it. I knew it! My AE2 system is almost up and running — Yoz hooked it up to the nuclear station and now I just need to build some additional storage because those drives fill fast. But we’re going to take a vacation in the Twilight Forest (or possibly the End) first. You can’t build all the time instead of exploring. There’s a lot of cool stuff to see in this mod pack.

Tonight I have to try and be a server admin and play with turning mods on and off. They say its easy, but getting this far (a useable server with mods preinstalled) was horrifically hard for my poor little brain, so I’m terrified that I’m going to break everything. And if I break everything, Yoz will actually kill me. He’ll kill me dead. With knives.

 

Now, if only I could everyone ELSE to play. Stupid stubborn friends.

Ice upon the water.

My dog has cabin fever. For a long time he was getting two walks a day and then winter came and it dropped down to one walk a day and then the snow came and it dropped down to zero walks a day because how can you take a walk when snow is waist high? I couldn’t even park where we normally walk.

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Yesterday was relatively mild and although it was spitting snow it was nothing to be concerned about. My boss let me go home early so I threw on snowboots, said a quick prayer to the winter gods and went to the Indian Lands. That place hops year round so I was hoping that enough fellow cabin fevered folks had trodden a path and so they did! It was deceptive. The path was hard and frozen and then all of a sudden you’d sink to your knees and remember how deep the snow was, exactly.

IMG_1559I mean, that looks like just an inch of snow, but in fact there’s a bench there buried. BURIED.

IMG_1571Poor Baxter kept forgetting that the snow was deep and he’d go off track and suddenly tip over. He’s not graceful at the best of times.

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It’s been cold. The river (tidal) froze mid wave. I feel uncomfortable thinking about that — a sudden realization at just how big the world is brought home by the freezing of a wave, mid curl.

 

I finished Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man last weekend and it made me feel uncomfortable too. The language was lovely because it’s Joyce.

But the Christmas vacation was very far away: but one time it would come because the earth moved round always.

-child logic.

He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.

-yes.

But I felt unsettled. I’m still happy. But unsettled. The new moon is under my skin or the dripping icicles are messing with my rhythm or the piled snow stripped away my comfort in stark white. I don’t know.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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It’s surprisingly hard to find a game that all of my friends get excited about. Except LoL, and I’m sorry to say that I’m the party pooper there. Mobas just don’t do it for me.

Evolve, though, everyone was excited for and I was on board because if everyone wants to play it I’ll at least give it a shot. An expensive shot in this case, but luckily it paid off. I quite like it!

I recorded and this weekend will edit, but actually, the thing I noticed most?

I didn’t assume I’d be bad because I haven’t been playing shooters my whole life. I didn’t assume I’d be bad because I’ve never played this sort of game. And when I was clumsy and, ok, bad (you’ll see the video) at first I realized that it would pass and if I played more I would get better. Even within the first few times of playing, I improved — instead of just using the healing gun because I was too frazzled, I got good at tags and even marking.

And that’s such an obvious thing, right? That’s the way everyone everywhere has always told me to play games. And it took all this time for it to sink in.

I’ll never be mlg. But after all these years, I finally realized I’ll also never be truly terrible.

 

Horray!

 

Snow days.

I have this image, right, of winter vacations. Of sitting in front of a fire with a mug of something hot and really thick woolen socks on and a blanket and a snoring dog. Snow hissing against the windows. The light gentle and warm. And, most importantly, a video game in my lap.

The amount of times that that has actually happened since I was a teenager are minimal because real life doesn’t usually allow for days like that.  There’s shoveling and work and chores and always other things to do.

This year feels different, though. Not that I suddenly don’t have other things to do, it’s just that I’ve realized how many of them are false busyness, distractions. And I have trained my concentration back up so it’s not five minutes at a time, look at my phone, back for five minutes. And also? I have to say, I’m pretty happy right now.

So I have a lot of fun games on the radar, just to give you a sense of what I want to do.

– Finishing DA:I (this is looking like 100 hours of gameplay, I’m glad I didn’t try to record)

– Evolve – Giving this a first go tonight, including recording, and I’m expecting to be laughably terrible at it.

– More Minecraft!

– Possibly Dying Light

– Mobile games. I may have to throw in the towel on freaking Limbo — or buy the steam version and just finish it, because controls are the worst.

 

And you know what? The very first snow day I have, I’m going to make that image a reality. I might replace the roaring fireplace with a roaring stove, and I might struggle to not stress about real life things, but it’s going to be a thing. I had such a tough few years and suddenly things are ok, and I just need to grab that with every bit of my being while I can.

February, you’re doing me RIGHT.

Sunday updates, the long dark teatime of the soul.

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Even though Sunday is technically the start of my weekend, it’s never lost the solemn air Sundays always have — the day I grew up going to church on, the day before the start of a new week, the day of fires and newspapers and donuts. I LIKE Sundays, usually, although I agree with Douglas Adams about some Sunday afternoons:

 

“In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.

But I’m more than an hour away from 2:55 and the candle is jumping in its holder, the rain is falling, and I have a dog snoring next to me. In a few minutes I’ll dive back into Dragon Age and I have so much to say about Sera who I can’t have in my party but whom I adore.

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It’s the kind of day I wish I was reading a cozy mystery — I am reading a mystery (the Silkworm) which is very page turning but not quite the same. I wish I was reading Sherlock Holmes for the first time, or that I hadn’t read every Agatha Christie ever already. (Holly, in Red Dwarf, agrees with me — he has Dave erase the memory of Christie books from his database to help pass endless space time, and I’m sensing a theme here). Ditto, actually, with Wodehouse which is often set in summer and rarely has a mystery but very neatly fits the cozy side of things.

IMG_1507Anyway. A check in before the start of next week. It’s been a nice one — I love winter, the cold light (and the cold air) and the big snow moons and even the grey rain. I love it for its very bleakness, because it hones your attention and your work and your thoughts. I love the way candles seem warmer and any sunlight seems like a gift and the way that I try to catch its reflection everywhere. I love the piles of blankets on my bed and curling around a book and everything about this season except for the fact that I can’t give the dog daily walks after work. But soon. If the snow melts enough to let me into the woods, that is.

 

Oh winter.

I’m back. No, really I am this time. Honestly. Back.

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This has been the oddest start to a new year I’ve ever had. But honestly, it’s also been one of the best. I won’t go into details, but in January I tried something terrifying, learned something about myself, and grew into myself just a little bit more. It feels odd to say I’m growing into myself at the ripe old age that I am, but I am still. Every day I feel more like myself.

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And after doing that scary thing, I find myself much more willing to jump headfirst into other scary things. Turns out believing in yourself makes a difference. I am in my 30s. This is a new lesson, apparently.

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And after making a choice that felt best for me, I’m find it easier to trust myself.

Basically, what I’m saying is this has been an amazing month, a month I’ll keep in a special place in my heart for the rest of time.

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Now that I have all this excess of energy, I’m diving back headfirst. Also, we had a blizzard. There’s nothing like forced, snowy boredom for hatching schemes. And a happy soul infects other people with its mad schemes. Sorry, friends.

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Lately I’ve been playing Don’t Starve Together with Jordan, Pay and E4 — one of the hardest games I’ve played in a while and I take a lot of joy in burning down forests as a spooky ghost. More on that later.

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I’ve also FINALLY convinced someone to play Minecraft with me — a lot more on that later, but for now (and forgive me, please, for taking a picture of my screen, I am NOT that lazy but I am playing on the xbox and I … ok I am that lazy, I haven’t figured out screenshots or twitch).

 

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