I’ve Been Doing This For A Year Now

When this post goes up, it will be the last main post of July. There will be one more “Recorded and Reposted” poem going up tomorrow, but that’s been scheduled for well over a month now. More than a couple months, actually, come to think of it. My next post will be the first post of August, which will mean I’ve been doing this for a year. One whole year passed since I started updating this blog again and I did over three hundred new posts. With a few reposts of update poems with attached audio clips. Looking back at 2021, I feel like I’ve made progress in some areas but lost progress in others, but I am fairly certain that’s just my perception tainted by my anxiety.

I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel different. I feel incredibly different. Some of that is just due to my perception of the passage of time. Though it was only about a year ago that I started updating this blog again, it feels like several years have passed. I’m pretty sure I’ve aged five years in the one that passed, thanks to the stress of living in modern US society as our rights are slowly eroded, income equality worsens, and the entire planet continues to glide toward fascism and collapse. Most of the improvements have been in my personal life. I’ve finally started exploring an aspect of my identity that I’ve known about my entire life after finally being able to silence the voices in my head (my parents’ voices) that told me nothing mattered except being the person they’d taught me to be. Aside from one poem I wrote in high school, I’d never expressed any of this stuff to anyone else and barely even allowed myself to think it.

I’m still not sure I’m ready to write about all that any more specifically on my blog, all of the stuff behind why I am to be referred to using they/them pronouns and my explorations of my own identity, but I’m doing a lot of work on that. It’s been nice to take a break from processing trauma in every therapy session to focus on exploring who I am to myself and talk through how to reconcile the first thirty years of my life with my life after that. After all, my sort of blind acceptance of the person I was (as dictated by my parents) also meant that I was able to accept everything I went through in a way I’m struggling to now that I finally FEEL that what my brother and my parents did to me was unacceptable.

I think that working through all of that again is going to be ultimately helpful, since I’ll be properly processing it and accepting myself as having lived through that stuff rather than just accepting that it happened. The former is critical and doesn’t let anyone off the hook while the latter is unquestioning and lets everyone off the hook. Not that it matters much since there’s little that can be done in terms of accountability other than preventing any of them from being a part of my life going forward.

So a lot has happened. I’ve grown a bunch. I hate myself less frequently and while I’m not quite to the point of liking myself that much, I do accept myself most of the time, now. And I’m getting better at speaking up, though the events of the last few days prove that I still have work to do. I need to get better at correcting people. Though I’ve spoken up in a few incredibly difficult situations at work, I’m still having a hard time doing that around my friends. I know they don’t mean it, you know? And I don’t want to make it a thing when most of the time I’m just so damn tired. Still, it’s worth doing and only by correcting people will the need to correct people eventually disappear. After that, anyone using the wrong pronouns in reference to me will be doing it on purpose and I’ll know what kind of person they are as a result. Good stuff.

I still struggle to stick to my creative goals from one week to the next, but I’m defintely more creatively active than I used to. I still actually make monthly progress on my main projects rather than having to speak about yearly progress since I used to go multiple months in a row with no progress. I’m going to keep working on that and hopefully some continued focus on rest and careful spoon management will get me in a position to create more. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery, quit my job, and just create all the time non-stop. What a life that would be.

Anyway, I’ve reflected and muttered on long enough. Here’s to one year completed and the start of a new year after. After all, regardless of everything else that has happened in my life, one of my core character traits has been and will always be a refusal to actually give up. Stop, yes. Give up, no. A small distinction to some people, but an incredibly important one to me.

The Fuel To Your Fire

Spite can be a powerful motivator. I can think of a huge number of things I’ve done just to prove people wrong, and I can think of times spread across my entire life that it has motivated me to act when I otherwise might not have. It is growing less and less frequent, though, as time passes. Spite burns brightly, but it burns quickly as well. Spite can be used to alleviate exhaustion from burnout, but it generally leaves me feeling worse once I’ve burned through it. These days, I’m pretty much out of everything I used to burn as the fuel that drove my work. I get by on discipline and inertia, but nothing has really stepped up to take the place of the hope I once felt.

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What Makes A Story A Gaming Campaign Or A Book

I wish I had the time and energy for more weekly Dungeons and Dragons games. Specifically, the time and energy to run them. At present, I’d like to get myself to one weekly game (that, you know, actually plays weekly) and two every-other-week games that alternate so I can run two games a week but have more time to prepare the two that alternate. If I didn’t have to spend time working a full-time job, I could probably run a game every day. Do prep in the morning, run in the afternoon, and have evenings to myself. I’ve thought about trying to get into the “Game Master as a day job” gig, but I’ve decided that for now, I want to keep this as just a hobby. Still, if I had more time and energy, I’d love to add another game or two into rotation.

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I Just Think Nebulae Are Pretty Neat

I love looking at space pictures. I prefer looking at pictures of nebulae, especially different pictures of the same nebula captured using different lenses, different filters, different anything. It’s so amazing to see how different the world looks if you capture the light using something other than human eyes. Like, most giant clouds of space dust look kinda bland to the human eye, but point the right camera at them and suddenly they’re a visual feast, so many different colors and intensities mixing together.

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Happy National Novel Writing Month!

National Novel Writing Month approaches. Well, it technically starts today, but I wrote this a week before you’re reading it, so it both approaches AND is here. I had originally planned to do a bunch of preparation for this month, as part of trying to get my creative energy and focus back, but I’ve fallen a bit short of my goals. I AM writing a blog post almost every day, or at least averaging out to six posts in seven days, but I had hoped to start October by writing an extra five hundred words a day in a book project. Which I haven’t done even once.

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I Hate When I Can’t Share This Cool Story I Wrote

One of the worst feelings I have that isn’t a result of my questionable brain chemistry and varying mental health is having a fun, interesting creative work that I’ve produced but cannot share with the people who would be most interested in it. I love creating stuff just to make it, but I want to share the things I create and like with other people. Partly to help make them (the stuff I’ve made) better, partly to share something I think people will like, and then also partly for the good, good serotonin hit I get whenever someone likes a thing I’ve created.

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I Need to Rest Sometimes. I’m Not He-Man, After All

As time passes and the vagaries of life interfere with the plans I’ve made, I’ve thought long and hard about what I would do if I didn’t write a blog post one day. I had originally planned to write every blog post a week in advance, try to avoid referencing anything time sensitive unless I was going to insert it ahead of other posts, and not sweat it too much if I didn’t have a post for a day. After all, this is supposed to be fun for me, right?

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An Essay About A Poem About Sun and Coffee

I’ve had this idea for a poem I want to write for months now. I want to capture the simple peace and joy of sipping coffee on my porch as early morning sunlight beams down on me. Since I have no deadlines and I want to savor the moment before I capture it, I’ve been waiting for my next chance to do that. Unfortunately, due to various complications, I haven’t actually had such a morning in a long while.

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The Order of the Stick Has Stuck With Me

One of my favorite webcomics, which happens to also be my favorite D&D webcomic, is Order of the Stick. If you’ve been in the webcomics consumption business or D&D business for a while, you have likely heard of it. It has been going on since September of 2003 and, despite a few setbacks and being the poster child of how too much success can be a bad thing, it has passed 1100 pages. What started as a way to joke about the rules for the new D&D 3.5 release has developed into an epic tale that still manages to find the time to make jokes about the rules.

The first comics are fairly formulaic, by today’s standards. The party is introduced to the readers and jokes are made about obscure rules or the tendency for player characters to fail simple checks, like seeing the monsters immediately behind them. Then Evil Opposites are introduced, a Lich at the end of the Dungeon is encountered, and then the party is released into the wider world to wreak havoc and eventually get railroaded into some new plot or another. They go from light-storytelling at the start so jokes can remain the focus to telling an epic story of personal growth, the consequential struggles of mortals in the matters of gods, and need of individuals to act even when they feel out of their depth. There’s on particular moment, as the webcomic approached and passed its 1000th update that has stuck with me. The combination of the art change and the focus on the growth of one of the characters culminated in a single splash page that still gives me chills.

For a long time, my idea of playing or running Dungeons and Dragons was to create a place for players to sort of just stumble through the world. There was supposed to be a story, but it was secondary to making sure the players got to make their jokes and kill a bunch of stuff. Reading through Order of the Stick showed me there was a lot more that I could do within the world of D&D since the writer/artist, Rich Burlew, manages to tell the entire story without departing from the world. It taught me a lot of how to trim a story to fit within the confines of a D&D campaign, how to ensure my players had agency, and how to even do a bit of railroading without ruining the story. Beyond even that, it taught me so much about how to play within the rule set, how to creatively express myself in a variety of character types, and how to add nuance to the rather black and white D&D morality system without making everything entirely relative or perception-based.

While it managed all of that, the story created a wonderful mixture of sympathetic villains, unsympathetic villains, good guys who get screwed over, and bad guys who get better than they deserve. As soon as you venture outside of the online comics, to the book only publications or the PDFs that were created as a part of the “too much success” Kickstarter (what started out as a cheap drive to fund reprinting a popular book wound up raising millions of dollars and forcing Rich Burlew to take time off of the comics in order to work on meeting the commitments he made during the event, some of which is still ongoing). My favorite story, about my favorite character, is one of those PDFs. How the Paladin Got His Scar is a tale about personal strength, commitment to something larger than yourself, second chances, and choosing to live for something while still being willing to die if it means that everyone else will be safe. I read it at a time I really needed it and I still go back to read it again when I feel like I need to strengthen my commitment to something that feels impossible. Such as updating my blog every day for a year.

People talk about stories or books that made them who they are today and Order of the Stick is one of mine. I would not be as skilled a storyteller as I am without this comic. I would not be the same creative, twisty DM and player without it. I would not be me without it. If you’re looking for something to read and enjoy jokes about D&D and learning about what it means to be a leader or the price of power, check it out at Giantitp.com. Also, yes, the stick figure drawing does improve over time, but it remains stick figures until near the 900 mark, when it improves without losing its original charm.

 

Saturday Morning Musing

I have a tendency to get distracted while I’m doing things and then see something move out of the corner of my eye. This happens to a lot of people, usually as the result of some small shift in something our brain chooses to ignore, like a hair that’s out-of-place or a shadow in the background somewhere. It’s super creepy. Countless horror stories have been written about creatures that lurk just outside the scope of our vision; something that can only be glimpsed out of the corner of our eye when we aren’t looking for it. I  know of only a few examples of positive things with similar abilities and most of these are more purposely ridiculous than positive.

After I graduated college, while I was still working the area, I stopped having this rather common occurrence and started seeing something in front of my eyes as well as off to the sides. I spent a lot of time talking it over with my friends, both skeptics and believers, and even started called it “The Apparition” because it was consistently the same thing. The more I talked about it, the more detail I was able to notice about it, and and the longer it would stick around. I was under a lot of stress at the time and my imagination was at its most active, so I’m not sure if I even really believe what I think I saw. Despite being so positive this was happening four years ago, looking back on it now makes me doubt it ever really happened.

I don’t really have any proof that ghosts are real, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Science can only be used to explain what we can perceive and make educated guesses about what we can’t, so it is entirely possible ghosts are real and we just don’t have the means of detecting them yet. It’s also possible that what we call “ghosts” are just the result of some easily explained phenomenon that escapes us simply because we haven’t figured out how to perceive things correctly. There’s a lot of support for them in the general population, in part as a vague interest and sometimes as a serious belief, which includes a number of people you wouldn’t expect. One of my mother’s church friends claimed to be able to see or feel spirits and also firmly believed that a number of my anxiety, OCD, and depression problems were actually qualities of this spirit that had attached itself to me. According to her, it was likely my great-grandfather. Which is super creepy to think about. Who tells a twelve-year-old that they’ve got a ghost attached to them?

There are, of course, the countless rumors of buildings or places being haunted. After seeing some of the stuff I did in the theater I worked in most days, along with the stuff I felt, I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t something there. Maybe it was a figment of my imagination, maybe it wasn’t. The further I get in life, the harder it is to maintain anything more than a perfunctory skepticism about a lot of things. Maybe I am haunted by the ghost of a deceased relative. Maybe I’ve got some kind of otherworldly being who hung out around me for a while. Maybe they’re the same thing and my spirit’s brief appearance in my vision was a mark of my transition to full adulthood. Maybe they’re not real at all and I’ve got an imagination that just wants to tell stories, even if only to itself.

Who knows? I don’t think it really matters, either way. Sure, it could change some of the way I live my life, but only the micro details. Nothing major. All I know is that thinking about something like this is like lighting a fire in my mind. Open-ended questions that require me to build stories just to think about them are a lot of fun. As a result of these mental exercises, I think I can see where stories for things like Cthulhu or Mind Flayers came from. Additionally, seeing unknown things out of the corner of your eye has given me an idea for a story I would like to write. It would be different from any of the variants I’ve encountered and the prologue I’ve written so far, to solidify the idea, makes use of a few characters who had been homeless for a long while now.

Now, hopefully I haven’t creeped myself out too much to be able to go into my basement to do some laundry. All those memories and thoughts of the stuff I encountered at the theater have given me the heebie-jeebies. I’m going to go spend some time in a well-lit room with many light sources so as to minimize the amount of darkness and shadows near me.