A Year in Haiku: The Emotional Arcs of 2022

I haven’t had the time or energy to finish the chapter of Infrared Isolation I’ve been working on, so I decided to collect the highlights of my daily haiku from last year. They’re more of a way to do some daily journaling than a proper attempt to employ the traditional poetry format, but the follow poems are representative of the year I had, each one of them named after the day I wrote it. It’s kind of funny, but looking back through my collection of thoughts of feelings without context, I can’t remember what about a quarter of them are referencing. It’s nice to see that my pursuit of a simple, quick emotional expression has done just as good a job of managing my general anxiety as journaling did, but without all of the frequently frustrating and depressing details attached to it. Now I can look back at what I wrote and not worry about being reminded of specific troubles. Instead, I can focus on reviewing the emotional arcs of my life over the course of 2022.

This is far from a complete list, since I wrote three hundred seventy-six of these and am only showing twenty-eight, but they do a pretty good job of transcibing the emotional peaks and valleys of my year. I’m not sure if they’re going to make as much sense to anyone else as they make to me without a degree of explanation and context that I’m not willing to provide, but I tried to pick only the poems that could stand on their own.

Scattered thoughts collect
In the deepest pits and pools
Of my tired mind.

Softly falling flakes
Decorate the salted earth.
Winter lingers on.

I’m doing my best.
Is that still enough these days,
Or do I need more?

My identity
Is an unanswered question
I still ask myself.

A quiet murmur
Insisting you get it right.
Spring winds in bare trees.

Words echo empty
Of all their supposed meaning,
Yet you keep talking.

My mask is flawless.
Even adults mistake it
For my real visage.

I expect nothing
And still I’m disappointed.
The ode of my life.

The ticking clock beats
Against the indifferent
Chest of normalcy

My heart aches for things
I don’t have the words to name
But know I’m missing.

I have awoken
From a dream of somewhere else
I wished I could stay

What do I owe to
Someone who would deny me
My identity?

Everything’s the same–
Laughter, jokes, and warm coffee–
But nothing’s the same.

I can feel the weight
Of this moment in my life,
But not what it means.

Sometimes I wonder
Why I bother doing this?
Will it be worth it?

I can feel myself
Connect to something bigger
And it feels like love.

Grief takes a moment–
One moment that never ends–
To upturn your life.

Waffling, I joke
About food prepared poorly:
Cut tension with mirth.

Warm sun, quiet hum–
I wish I could be care free–
Soft breeze, shady trees.

“All but the waiting”
As I tell myself to breathe
While counting hours.

It shattered my heart
To see someone so ignored
The way that I was.

Summer has returned
As Fall’s cold gives way to heat.
What is happening?

I pace through my day
With measured steps and intent.
Precision and care.

My community,
Something I took for granted,
Is drifting apart.

I’m only insane
If I expect the results
To be different.

Maybe I’m insane
If I still repeat myself
This much anyway.

I laugh through my mask
And tell the made-up stories
That I wish were true.

I’m afraid of change.
I make jokes and excuses,
But I know the truth.

Fire Emblem: Engage Is Anything But

While I did not manage to finish my most recent Fire Emblem: Three Houses play-through, I decided to go ahead and start playing Fire Emblem: Engage anyway. It had just come out, after all, and I needed something new and exciting after the week I’d had. I needed something to keep me engaged and, well, it was right there in the title. Unfortunately for me, my first evening of playing the game was marked by multiple restarts, no ability to shift the difficult up mid-game (which accounts for one of the restarts), and a whole lot of trying to figure out if the mouth movements were bad and making everything else seem good by comparison or if I just couldn’t see anything because the mouth movements for the English dub prevented me from noticing anything else happening during the dialogue and cut-scenes.

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Fresh Burnout and Emotional Exhaustion

After an incredibly exhausting start to my year, things are starting to calm down. All of the major events that showed up in the first weeks of this month have passed and I’ve had at least a couple days where very little has happened. Additionally, I went to my most recent session of family therapy, reflected on how it had gone for a few days afterwards, and decided that it would be my last. It was only a single hour every week, but it took up a disproportionate amount of my idle thoughts and most of my active ones as well, so I’m looking forward to thinking about things I enjoy again, such as my various writing projects, fun video games, and the other aspects of my life that I want to work on to improve myself rather than attempting to lead my parents toward growth. Hopefully I will have a chance to rest and recover from everything that’s been going on so that I can once again enjoy myself rather than continue the staving off of misery that I’ve been doing lately. And while I have made little progress on any of my major worries for the rest of 2023, I’ve done what I can for now.

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My Shrinking World

Some days, it feels like the world is shrinking. So many pillars of my life are disappearing or crumbling before my eyes. The recent Open Gaming License (OGL) debacle by Wizards of the Coast has shaken one of the foundational pillars of my modern life, revealing the growing cracks that were hidden from my eyes (largely due to privilege and my frequently tangential involvement in the Tabletop Roleplaying Game section of the internet). The way that Twitter is slowly dwindling as it is likely on a path towards being mismanaged into irrelevance (as evidenced by the recent changes to the app’s feed system). Old apps and websites I used to go to for entertainment have already boiled the frog and it took major highlights of the difference between my recent experiences and the reasons I used to spend my time on them to make me realize I needed to move on. Sure, I’ve managed to find a lot of new things to fill the gaps in my life (at least mostly, anyway), but it still feels like my world has shrunk.

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My Video Game Schedule Is Full Through Next Winter

I played a lot of video games during my two-week vacation over the winter holidays this year, but I feel like I barely scratched the surface of all the games I got and want to play. This feeling isn’t entirely based in reality, since half the games I currently want to play are games that I don’t own. I put a bit of an embargo on buying things in the latter half of the year, specifically on games I would be alright waiting to play but definitely wanted to play eventually so I’d be able to give people ideas for what to give me as a gift. Now that the holidays are over and I’m not expecting any more gifts, I’m looking to buy everything I wanted and didn’t get. It’s not a huge amount of games, to be sure, but it’s enough that I’m probably going to be busy for months, especially with all the other games coming out this year.

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A Rainy Grey Day in January

It rained today. It is the middle of January and, instead of the freezing cold, snow, sleet, and “wintery mix” I’ve grown accustomed to in the Midwest, it merely rained. It was a cold rain, to be sure, as the temperature is hovering right above freezing and driven below it by every gust of wind, but it was not a freezing rain. It plinked off my umbrella with a liquidity I don’t typically expect a month into winter. Usually it bounces off my umbrella with a plonk and snap, as the fabric repels the solid crystals or sludgy drops, but today it plinked and then slowly rolled away. I know the cold and bitter winter I expect is still hovering on the horizon, waiting for its chance to invade once these warm southern winds finally leave it be, but it feels like it lost any real chance it had to take hold this year, despite the havoc it wreaked around the holidays.

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Intentionally Past Tense

Content Warning: This poem references loss of parents, grief, mourning, and also non-specific references to childhood trauma.

I speak about my parents in the past tense.
It is an old habit,
Hard-won as the only measure
I could take to build the distance
I needed to feel alright,
But this years-long practice
Of linguistic intentionality
Has served me well
In more ways than this.

Every so often,
When I speak to someone who doesn’t know
About the history behind my words
And they notice my particular phrasing,
They offer me their sympathies.
“I’m sorry for your loss”
Or “oh, I didn’t realize…”
Sometimes even followed by
“How long has it been since they passed?”
At which point I simply explain
That they’re still alive and well,
They’re just not a part of my life anymore.

From there, the roads diverge.
Some towards silence,
Uncertain or awkward or sympathetic,
Some towards fumbling words
That all echo each other
Despite some intending empathy
And some intending gentle reproach.
I do not take it personally, though,
Since it is clear they all mean well.
My view took me decades to understand,
So what hope did they have in five minutes?

Now it only hurts on the rare occasion
When I see someone openly mourning
Or dedicating some great endeavor
In memory of a past-tense parent
And I find myself wishing
I could have grieved like this as well.
When I realized I had lost something,
It was not the people who had made me
That I found myself missing,
But the family I imagined I had,
What my life would have been
If everything had been different.

I speak to them now and again,
As a part of another’s journey,
And I feel grateful for the hours
I spent practicing intentionality
In every word that leaves my lips
Because all I really want to say is
“I have finished mourning you
And there’s nothing left in the well
That once held the childish love you twisted
Into servitude and self-sacrifice.”

I will grieve again when they pass,
But it will not be for them.
It will be for the final disappearance
Of everything I thought I wanted
Before I learned just how well
People will treat someone
That they properly care about. 

My Most Expensive Vacation Fantasy

Around this time last year, I was fantasizing about taking a trip somewhere. About entirely escaping from my day-to-day life and just going off to do any number of things. Maybe sit in a hottub in a remote cabin in some snowy woodlands somewhere. Maybe spend a night or two in a luxurious hotel room with a large bathtub so that I could finally immerse my entire frame in the water. Maybe just going someplace quiet and secluded so that I could finally just exist in silent peace for a while. Any of those, and more, would have been such wonderful experiences, but I just couldn’t get the money and the time together. Eventually, I did go on a summer trip with two of my siblings and two of our friends which ticked some of those boxes. It was nice to get away for a while and I hope to do something similar again soon. Probably not this year, what with the busy calendar I’ve got through the end of May, but someday.

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Wizards of the Coast Delved Too Greedily And Too Deep

One of the things in the background of my life last week (mostly because I didn’t have the time or emotional capacity for it to be anything else until last Friday) was the on-going destruction of the reputation of Wizards of the Coast in the tabletop gaming community. For those of you unaware, you can read the full context here. In short, though, Wizards of the Coast was planning to replace something called the Open Gaming License (or OGL) with an updated version full of incredibly shitty terms. In addition to disallowing anything like a Virtual TableTop (VTT) or most media related to Dungeons and Dragons (like podcasts or youtube videos), this verion also laid claim to anything produced by a 3rd party and 25% of any revenue produced over $750,000 (which would bankrupt most companies in that position). The version that existed for over two decades, that has allowed so many people to make a career out of third party content creation, was going to be replaced by what was a shameless cashgrab by people only interested in increasing their own company’s revenue rather than continuing to foster the tabletop gaming communities that exist in and around Dungeons and Dragons.

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I Miss Being a Part of Large Groups

I participated in an internal event at work the other day that involved talking to people as part of a demo for about eight hours straight. I had a bit of a break in there, for lunch and my usual daily walk, but I still talked more than I have in years. I’m fairly used to talking a lot for a few hours at a time, thanks to running tabletop gaming sessions (which sometimes wind up being very heavy on me talking if the players aren’t really in a chatty mood that day or we’re busy moving things along in a new environment), but yesterday was a strain on my voice in a way that nothing else has been since even before the pandemic. Even a couple days later, after taking care to stay hydrated and treat my throat with some soothing beverages, I still have a bit of an ache that comes and goes depending on how well I’m hydrated in the moment and how much I’ve been using my voice.

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