It has been over a year since I last posted to this blog and a lot has happened since then. I went from running one D&D game constantly with one or two occasional side games to running 3 weekly D&D games with one or two occasional side games. I have also gotten good at cancelling D&D sessions when I need a break. Additionally, I have moved entirely from D&D 3.5 to D&D 5e and have zero regrets about doing it–in fact, I wish I’d done it sooner. I got really into podcasts via The McElroys and The Adventure Zone, watched ALL of Critical Role in way too short of a time period, and left my home country a couple times. I said good bye to my grandfather, started prioritizing my own well-being, and realized a lot of things about myself that I’d been ignoring. I’ve taken steps to distance myself from toxic family members, disconnected from almost my entire family online, tried to have a conversation with my parents about my life and their part in it (past, present, and future), revealed some well-kept secrets to my adult sisters, had my depression get quite a bit worse, and invested heavily in Lego sets. It has been one year, three months, and about a week since my last blog post but it feels like a lifetime has passed. I feel more like myself than I ever have before, processed some unresolved trauma, and somehow feel even less sure of myself and what I want than I ever have before. Turns out if you spend your entire life defining yourself by what you can provide to other people and then start to challenge the unhealthy mindsets and the various traumas that taught you your only value is in what you can provide to other people, you might need to spend some time figuring out what you want out of life. Or, you know, what reason you have for living.
Needless to say, that’s some pretty heavy stuff there. I try to juggle it, but I still drop one or more balls pretty frequently. I’ve rewritten this blog post about a dozen times because more time keeps passing without me ever hitting Publish or Schedule. Still, I’m keeping on. I’d rather be alive than not and I’d rather be here (literally and metaphorically) than anywhere else, so there’s not much else to do than make my way through the difficult days until a better one comes along.
I’ve been writing sporadically again. Mostly small things that don’t take prolonged effort since I can’t really count on my energy levels and mood from one day to the next. Back when I was doing better, before the holidays that involved unearthing the focal point of my largest childhood trauma and the realization that I’d actually have to talk to my parents about it, I managed to participate in National Novel Writing Month. And, you know, succeed in it. My extra challenge for 2019 was to write only 50,000 words, get at least six hours of sleep a night, and avoid worsening my caffeine dependency. This was my most difficult challenge yet and I wrote 100,000 words in a month in 2018 so that’s saying something.
In retrospect, I can see now that giving myself that level of challenge (100,000 words in a month, 50,000 words plus running a support group for writer friends, updating my blog every day for a year) is a way for me to apply a high degree of stress to myself since I apparently have difficult functioning without some degree of heavy stress. I spent my entire childhood in a state of constant stress and it turns out that I’ve been seeking that in my adult life because I associate times of low or no stress with waiting for something new and awful to happen. That’s why I always get twitchy when nothing bad happens and spend all my time looking for the next shoe to drop instead of enjoying myself or actually recovering from past stress.
Sorry if that’s a bit heavy, but I’ve been doing a lot of heavy lifting over here and it turns out that resolving/integrating/processing the trauma that caused your inability to self-advocate can lead to being a bit frank and blasé about some difficult topics because they’re suddenly comparatively easy to think and talk about.
I’m not really sorry. You knew what you were signing up for when you followed a blog called “Broken Words.”
When you’ve been a writer for a while, you come to recognize the things you just need to work through in a short story or a piece of flash fiction. The ideas that, strong or weak, just need to be let out. A lot of my poetry is the same way, just a single idea I need to get out of my head for a while. Once all those things are gone, you start to notice everything left behind isn’t so much a single idea to be caught, pressed on a page, and release so much as a web of thoughts that reaches all the way down into your soul. These are the ideas that you’ll be writing about and thinking about for years or maybe even your whole life. The great big questions that have no single (or simple) answer.
I’ve doubled or tripled the number of those last kind of thoughts, the ones etched into my mind and soul, in recent months alone, never mind since finding out my grandpa had two months to live at best. I think a lot of these new ones will only be around for a couple years as I work through them, but I know a couple are probably here to stay. It’s a little hard to say, though, since I’m dealing with two new kinds of grief I’ve never dealt with before: loss of the person who made my biological family feel like Family and then loss, by my own choice, of my biological family. Abandonment? Rejection? None of the words fit just right, which is exactly why it is one of those giant thoughts, unanswered questions, I’ll be needling at for years.
As crowded as my mind is, as much as I’ve got spinning around my mind, I knew that anything I write is going to change to accommodate these ideas. I’ve tried out a few different project ideas until I realized there’s no way to really untangle these thoughts from my writing right now. Instead of trying to do that, I’ve figured out a project that would should be expansive and diverse enough to contain them all. An idea I’d tried last spring that ultimately fell apart because I wasn’t ready to get back to writing again. Something with multiple points of view and a group of protagonists who are constantly near each other so that their problems become each other’s problems and the problems facing them all are handled by everyone working together. That was the only way I could think to address how I’ve been feeling, even though I’m not confident I can truly, FULLY, address it all at once.
All of my thoughts and problems are too much for a single person (I’m not even tackling them on my own. I’ve got a therapist, two sisters, and three friends I rely on to help me untangle this web so I can straighten things out) so they will be handled by this group who happen to represent various specific characteristics of myself. Writing them during National Novel Writing Month was incredibly helpful, and I’m hoping writing them will continue to be just as helpful. If they wind up helping with this other stuff too, that’ll be a bonus.
I need that feeling, of being in control and prepared, because even my best days can be completely washed away in a tide of grief over what I’ve lost this year. My grandfather passed on, of course, but my reflections in the wake of his passing opened my eyes to a lot of things I was ignoring (that whole toxic family members and unresolved childhood trauma thing) and now grief or mourning seems to have become a part of my every day life. The grief for my grandfather is like a ball bouncing around a box with a button in it (I’d attribute this metaphor to it’s source, but I can’t find it and I’v heard it from multiple people at this point). Over time, the ball shrinks so it is less likely to strike the button and trigger a wash of grief, but it never completely disappears and it never stops. Some days I miss him more than others and some days I get completely overwhelmed and subsumed by the loss of him and what he represented to me.
My other grief and loss, a bit more metaphorical than the loss of my grandfather, is like a hole in your sock. You can forget it’s there most of the time, but part of you always knows that your sock has a hole in it and all you need to do to be reminded of it is to step down in a particular way or walk on a bit of thick carpet. There are so many ways you can be reminded of the hole that the knowledge never fades away, but they’re very rarely worse than a minor annoyance or a moment of discomfort. Though, when all your socks have holes in them and you’re not quite sure where you can go to buy new metaphorical socks without holes in them, you find yourself beginning to wonder if you’ll ever know what it is like to have warm feet again.
Still, I am putting myself back together again. Or maybe I’m doing it for the first time. I don’t really know yet and I’m trying to maintain a sort of “progress without direction” attitude toward my mental health right now since I don’t really know where I want to be when I am done. For now, being better than I was last week is enough. Instead of being anchored in the stormy seas of my mental health (my usual metaphor for how I handled 2018), I’m back to building rafts. This time, though, I was able to build a strong one thanks to my time being anchored in one spot and I’ve learned from the past. Running out the sail during a storm gets you places quickly, but it also wrecks the shit out of your raft. Now, I’m letting myself drift with furled sails and a paddle in hand to push myself a little bit this way or a little bit that way whenever something interesting pops up. I guess we’ll see how it goes. Maybe someday I’ll get somewhere.
In blog-specific news, I’ve made some alterations to my schedule so I’m not using all my time just to keep up with this blog like I did in 2018. I’ve got a story to continue writing and three D&D campaigns to run.
I’ll be updating sporadically, no more than five days a week, Monday through Friday, I’ll only be updating when I’ve had time and energy to write. When you see an update on a Monday, it will always be Musing posts. Tuesday updates will always be Flash Fiction, Wednesdays will still be reviews, Thursdays will be Tabletop Highlights (which will now probably include some amount of Campaign Journaling), and Fridays will be poetry. You’ll probably see a lot more Musing posts than poetry since poetry is difficult and time-consuming but Musing posts are simple and honestly pretty therapeutic. Serial Fiction has gone by the wayside since it took so much work to produce every week and video game posts will just overlap with everything else as I see fit. Mostly reviews, but maybe other stuff.
At some point, I’ll be taking all of the Coldheart and Iron posts down and posting a completed work somewhere else. Maybe on it’s own page here? Maybe I’ll e-publish it and sell e-books of it. Who knows. I’ll let you all know when I figure it out. All I know is the frequent comments and messages I get about it being a pain-in-the-butt to navigate through the story are 100% true, so I’m going to do something to address that.