I mean, it’s a human trait to be afraid to fail, I know. And countless TED talks, inspirational books and earnest celebrities will tell you that the only way to move forward is to fail & learn from that failure. Me, though, I’m pathologically afraid to be bad at things. A friend once offered to teach me to play guitar and I refused because I was too scared of being bad at it. I avoided multiplayer online games (with the exception of WoW) because I was sure I’d be terrible at them. That is pretty much the reason I never played LoL, after all, despite friends good enough to be playing in tournament leagues, offering to teach me. I assume the worst about all my skills, real life or online, because that way I don’t ever have to do anything with them. And then I get stuck in a place where I feel competent but not amazing and nothing changes, nothing.
“You know what the greatest tragedy is in the whole world? … It’s all the people who never find out what it is they really want to do or what it is they’re really good at. It’s all the sons who become blacksmiths because their fathers were blacksmiths. It’s all the people who could be really fantastic flute players who grow old and die without ever seeing a musical instrument, so they become bad plowmen instead. It’s all the people with talents who never even find out.”
I’m hanging around in Ft. Rapture in Bioshock, right. And I’ve got Sander Cohen in my ear giving me attitude about being a moth to the flame and also just generally being a madman, and there are corpses covered in paper-mache everywhere. With blood coming out of their fatal wounds and staining the white. And Sander tells me that I have to track down his enemies and kill them and then take photos of their corpses for his masterpiece, so I figure ok, no one in this whole godforsaken city is a good guy, including me and DEFINITELY including Atlas, so I’ll do what the mad man wants since I’m fairly sure he could snipe me. He’s got spotlights following me everywhere. So I go and kill the folks, getting stuck into a frozen sculpture by one and attacked with splicers on fire tumbling out of the ceiling like some sort of monstrous waterfall by another. (Misplaced modifier, -10). There’s a strip club habited by ghosts, and there are houdini splicers throwing flames at me from the theatre rafters, and some poor fool on a piano wrapped with explosives who can’t seem to play to Cohen’s liking. (Spoiler: he gets blown up because he can’t play correctly). Plus the big daddies wandering around without their little sisters who I have to stalk until they find one, and then I kill them. And save the little sister, because I like Tenenbaum more than I like Atlas. And so I finally get to the end, and I kill Cohen because of course I do, I’ve killed everyone I’ve interacted with except for Ryan, Tenenbaum, and Atlas (or the ones that Ryan killed himself). It takes me a couple of tries because Cohen comes with about 10 other splicers who set things on fire (nice reference back to being a moth to the flame), and I figure ok, that was the creepiest place so far, it can’t get worse. I have nothing to be scared of.
I took Baxter for a walk in the woods this weekend. Across the street from my grandparents’ house were a pair of cranberry bogs fronting Harwich conservation land, and on holidays we’d bundle up after the meal and go for a long wander, a huge mix of people and dogs and kids. And of course, there are a million other times I walked them, with my friends, with my dog, with myself. And I guess that kind of imprints itself on you. We won’t be in those woods this year, and that’s not my grandparents’ house anymore, but I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be, walking under the familiar trees. They’re still mine. I still know the paths and turns and views and sounds and the feel of the dead leaves and thick mulch. I love the other walkers and the dogs that come rocketing up and down the path, happy as … um, dogs. The big wood bridge that goes over the marsh and river. The little wood bridge that goes over the run. The smell of fresh water & the smell of trees and dying leaves and really cold air. The herons that stalk the shallows. Fragamites choking out the marsh grass but looking lovely as borders to the road. The herring that spawn and die in the run, the swans on the lake.
I need to live near the ocean so that I can feel it and see it and hear it. But I guess I forgot how much the woods mean to me, and how much walking them makes me feel like I’m all my ages at once. I felt so peaceful when I got home.
It’s nearly Thanksgiving, and if you had told me this summer that I’d be looking at this holiday with more thankfulness in my heart than I ever have before, ever, I would have laughed at you. It’s the things that seem big at the time phenomenon — I couldn’t conceive of a time when things would feel better. I wasn’t sure they ever would, even a month ago, even two weeks ago. But oh my god, I’m SO thankful. And I’ll be with my family on Thursday, and I’ll get to hug my nephew who is a million reasons to be thankful all by himself. And then all weekend we’ll be cozy and warm, against the cold outdoors, with fires in the wood stove and fireplace, a snoozing dog, movie nights, games — wholesome fun that I didn’t think we could have anymore. And a burden lifted.
I haven’t stopped fretting yet, because it takes a while for that to go away. But the fretting is less, and all of a sudden my brain has time to think about other things, to devote energy to other things. And I’m really very grateful for that too, because I feel more like myself. I’ve been worried for years — first my grandmother, and then the latest crisis which has been happening for so long that I didn’t even realize. Years of worry, and they’re slowly starting to melt away.
Life’s been giving me a lot of attitude lately and I don’t seem to have the required sass to … sass life back. That sentence got off track somewhere in the middle. It probably got off track when I started it. I’m trying to convince my brain to think like Cave Johnson (who was full of sass). DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I’M THE MAN WHO’S GOING TO BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN. WITH THE LEMONS.
I’m still kinda wading in the crisis mode area of living and that saps your energy. It would probably shock no one to know just how much energy fretting takes up. Even on a slow day at work by the time I get home I’m almost completely drained, because when it’s slow I have time to worry.
But this weekend, this lovely, much wished for weekend, I have nothing planned. I have nothing I have to do. Of course there are things I probably should be doing, but I’m giving myself a break and I’m not going to feel guilty about it. My last few “free” days weren’t really free — they were filled with good things, mostly, but I really need a couple of days where I don’t talk to anyone. Maybe not even the dog. (He doesn’t require a lot of conversation but he does require some. He gets huffy if you ignore him and REALLY huffy if he feels he hasn’t gotten his required pets for the day, which equal about as many pets as you can pet before your arm falls off).
Everything I ever learned about gaming I learned from Zelda. I paused in my Bioshock play because, honestly, the idea of sitting in front of a computer for more than ten seconds at a time is abhorrent to me right now. Well, I say abhorrent, but what I mean is I have no focus and all my energy is still being used up on the whole surviving and taking care of myself thing, and less so on anything that requires thought. Which isn’t to say that I’m down in the dumps or anything; things are improving and my mood is ok but I haven’t shaken myself out of crisis mode, and there are still times when I feel overwhelmed by unreasonable panic. So I’ve focused all my energy on taking really, really good care of myself, and right now that includes not shouldering any unnecessary tasks — things that feel like a chore. But curling up in bed with a 3ds and Ocarina of Time, that I can do. It’s five minute play blocks followed by half an hour of reading twitter. It’s GREAT.
The Zelda series rewards exploration, non-linear thinking and checking everything. Twice. Three times. EVERY TIME YOU PASS BY THAT SPOT TRY TO PUSH THE GRAVE AGAIN. That statue you see might not move now, but down the line it’ll open a dungeon. The rocks you can’t blow up you can pick up and toss when you get the special gloves. Eventually, you get so familiar with the small world Link travels in that you could walk it in your sleep. In my Ocarina replay, I could probably make the trek from Lon-Lon Ranch to the palace without looking at the screen. I could certainly make it to Lake Hylia and back to Death Mountain in a brisk and efficient manner, and the timed quests present absolutely no difficulty. Because you spend so much time in each location, the excellent music imprints itself on you, until the Lost Woods theme soothes you and the Forest Temple theme makes you feel uneasy. I can understand why video game concerts are so popular. Music can elevate a game completely.*
Plus, Zelda has one of the best creepypastas out there: Ben Drowned.
When I still had energy for MMOs, I was a total achievement chaser. It was that same Zelda trained urge — do everything. Get every heart piece. Kill every skulltula. Buy every special piece of gear. In non-MMOs, I finally broke the urge to get 100%, but I still spend a lot of time exploring nooks and crannies, hoping to find something cool. Exploration helped me find the Turret symphony in Portal 2. It helped me beg mages and warlocks to get me underneath Stormwind back in BC. I still wish I had taken the time to explore under Kara and see the Hall of Upside Down Sinners in person. I also have a huge amount of patience; I’ll spend an hour wandering four rooms to figure out a puzzle before I’ll consider looking it up online.*
I’m still relearning my way into single players. I played WoW for long enough that non social games felt a little empty and I didn’t have the attention span for them. But I’m enjoying them now, enjoying the way I can play when I have time, even if it’s just five minutes. I’m sure when things settle down again I’ll want to get back to those social games, but for now single player is the distraction I need.
* FTL is a charming game with lo-fi graphics and an AMAZING soundtrack. I would never have made it through the first few plays without that music. Also, Final Fantasy — I think those of us who didn’t cut our teeth on Zelda probably did so on FF, which had an equally amazing soundtracks. The chocobo song still makes me twitch as I remember the hours spent breeding ’em.
* In Portal 2 co-op, there is a hellish level. This level involves light bridges, platforms and slanted walls, and the solution is so blindingly simple that I have never felt dumber. But my partner and I spent an absurd amount of time on this level, banging our heads together and wondering what the hell we were missing. If I had looked up the solution, I would still be hating myself today. The moment we figured it out it was like sunshine coming out.
I keep writing and abandoning things. Half an email to a friend, forever left in the drafts folder. Tweets edited to be under 140 characters, and then edited again to not exist. Texts pending to people (do they see the … of a pending tweet and get annoyed?). It’s such a hard line between letting everything out and also respecting the privacy of people I care about and also also not hurting anyone any more than they are already hurting. Since I don’t feel comfortable spilling details out, I am not writing at all — and I don’t want to do that anymore. It used to be that I wrote all the time, and I like going back and reading about the things that seemed enormous and all consuming at the time that have since faded away. Welcome to Night Vale, in between all the weirdness, sometimes is comforting:
“But, and I’m going to get a little personal here, that’s the essence of life. Isn’t it? Sometimes you go through things that seem huge at the time, like a mysterious glowing cloud devouring your entire community, and while they’re happening, they feel like the only thing that matters, and you can hardly imagine that there’s a world out there that might have anything else going on.
And then the Glow Cloud moves on. And you move on. And the event is behind you. And you may find, as time passes, that you remember it less and less. Or, absolutely, not at all, in my case. And you are left with nothing but a powerful wonder at the fleeting nature of even the most important things in life, and the faint but pretty smell of vanilla.”
Towards the end of my grandmother’s illness, when the comfort pack from Hospice was already in the fridge and helping her walk from one end of the hallway to another left me shaking every morning, I learned that I handle crisis pretty well. I got frustrated and selfish and annoyed in my head, but I could push it aside for when I had time to be a bit of a baby. I also have a fairly deep well of patience and compassion to draw on when needed. Right now, though, I’m really struggling to get anything out of that well, which doesn’t make me feel too good about myself.
It’s especially hard when the people you love are all in the same boat. You worry about them and then you worry about yourself and you know they’re doing the same thing, this web of worry (and love, which is the silver lining) connecting us all. And that silver lining is pretty big; I’m lucky to have the family I do.
In other news, I finished Half Life 2 and was filled with incoherent annoyance at the ending (due to the absence of a Half Life 3, not due to a poor ending. Although the mechanics of that last fight made me roll my eyes). Now I’m on to Bioshock, which I am playing poorly.
But enjoying. I have enough play recorded from my first two days with the game to take a second video. I’m very carefully not calling it a let’s play because I don’t play on a let’s play level. Yet. Maybe when I make it through my current game backlog (which somehow keeps growing…)
I keep seeing glimpses of other people’s lives (“I was at Panera for a leisurely lunch on Saturday when the military helicopters flew overhead,” “Do you ever just sit and watch the canal go by?”) and I get this strange burst of longing to know what that life is like. It’s fuzzy thinking I try to avoid, but sometimes it’s irresistible. I have endless curiosity about people’s lives — the things they think, the things they do, how they parcel out their time. That’s a) why I read insatiably and b) why I find things like A Day in the Life so fascinating. And twitter*. Because what is twitter but an endless update of how strangers (in my case) spend their time?
It’s one of the things that keeps me sane at work. I deal with people all day, and since technology is frustrating I deal with people who are often angry or scared or completely unreasonable. But it’s my job, and I get paid, so I try to overcome my introvert personality and be helpful and patient and friendly. and all the while I wonder about them, these people. The couple who is working on an enormous ancestry project, complete with fact finding trips to France and Ireland and Canada? I love the idea of them sitting side by side in front of their iMac, documents in orderly piles around them, as they update trees and talk about their shared history. The woman who takes a yearly safari? I love listening to her talk about sitting down in the winter and going through the photos to create a photo book, reliving every moment. I don’t think everyone in the world is equally interesting, but I find people as a whole fascinating. We obsess over celebrity lives(*) and details because they seem to live so differently on that glittery plane, but I tell myself that if any of my customers were celebs people would find the mundane existence of their lives equally fascinating. For some reason this gives me much greater patience with them.
I’m jealous of the projects outlook; I love the idea of settling into a long term project and actually following through. About the only one I’ve ever done is NaNo, and realistically I don’t ever follow through once November ends. There’s something so cozy in the word project. It conjures up winter Sunday afternoons before football, curled up with a computer. I suppose it says something about my current levels of tech addiction that I think curling up with a laptop is cozy.
Mostly, though, even though my life is ok and things are mostly good, I have sand in my shoes and a desperate urge to escape to something else, somewhere else, and to live a life that doesn’t equal work/home/work the way mine does right now. Someday I’ll gather up the bravery to follow through. That’ll be the day I can shed unreasonable guilt about letting people down if I leave.
*I always feel a little defensive of my twitter usage, because I don’t interact with a ton of people and don’t have a ton of followers, but my family all read it and I mostly use it is a micro diary. I’m sure I could gain followers with better hash tagging and more @ tweets but that’s just not why I use it.
*side note: Speaking of celebs, I was horrified on twitter to read an apparently earnest tweet to an actress I follow: “How does it feel to breathe the same air as [actor]?”. My jaw literally dropped. It makes me so uncomfortable. I think fandom has always had a bit of a crazy edge (screaming teenage girls chasing the Beatles) (I have the opening intro to Hard Day’s Night rolling through my head right now) but social media and instant access to celebrity makes things extra awkward. Actress seemed completely exasperated.
Things on my mind lately:
1) I have listened to Trouble Will Find Me approximately 80 times in two weeks. It’s suiting my mood in all its strange, occasionally dreary and occasionally manic moods. The album’s moods, not mine.
2) I’ve overcome the biggest hurdle in my “Watch what you own/play what you own/listen to what you own before buying anything else” plan by finishing a rewatch of Sherlock that included a first time watching Reichenbach Falls all the way through for the first time. I have a lot of FEELINGS about this show.
3) To my great shock, I’ve found I enjoy shooters; hunting zombies in an abandoned mining town with nary a bullet to be found was hugely satisfying. I got very good at bludgeoning monsters and headcrabs to death with a crowbar.
4) I’m rewatching Nevermind the Buzzcocks, despite the fact that I know probably 10% of the songs/bands they’re talking about and even fewer of the presenters. However, it did introduce me to Sparks, and jesus christ if it wasn’t for the National this would be the only song I’ve listened to for a week, just because of its great bonkers-ness.
5) I’m nearly done with a re-read of 1984, which I last read in high school. In high school, I found it haunting and romantic; I find it much less so as an adult. And while I can see why so many people are making reference to the work now, I think the depressing thing about the book isn’t that Orwell predicted parts of the future so perfectly, but instead that human nature has been so consistently awful for so long that he COULD. That’s very much an unfinished, unoriginal thought, though.
6) I only did this entry this way because the first entry is always so hard to write.