Space Pictures and Tabletop Roleplaying Games

I love me some space clouds. Thanks to the advances of modern technology, a whole lot of science, and an even greater amount of international cooperation, we now have some pretty fucking cool pictures of space. I can only imagine that more and more pictures from NASA have come out since I wrote this and if I go online for anything over my vacation, it will have been to look at neat pictures of space clouds. I mean, just look at this thing! It’s so freaking fluffy! Which makes since, since it’s a loosely adhered cloud of space dust that is only visible because we’re so far away from it. Like the haze of humidity during a warm summer sunset, we can only perceive it because we’ve got light bouncing off every bit of it towards our eyes.

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Making The Most of a New Day

Wren checked the clock and saw they’d overslept. Grumbling under the music playing from their phone, they heaved themselves upright and sat on the edge of their bed for a few luxurious mintues, mind blank as sleep slipped slowly away.

After their routine of exercise, stretching, coffee, showering, and breakfast, they slumped into a lounge on their deck and spent an hour planning their week. Meetings were maneuvered, appointments shifted, and plans confirmed as their second cup of coffee dwindled. Wren clambered off the chair after finishing, left the pool of lamplight on their deck, and went for a brisk walk through the woods.

It still felt wrong to hike in the dark, but they’d adjusted to wearing a headlamp and marked all their favorite paths with reflective trailmarkers. Their parents had gotten used to winters without snow eventually, so they figured it was just a matter of time.

After their hike, Wren settled down for lunch in their kitchen, absorbing the warmth and light of a sun lamp while eating. They could have taken vitamin suppliments, but they found comfort in the routine of basking.

After cleaning up, they settled into their office and put in a few hours of work, doing a few pages of roughs and working on some flats for their currnet graphic novel. The idea was about five years old, but it felt nice to draw sunlight. Nostalgic, even thought it had only been a few months since the Shutter project failed, cutting Earth off from sunlight permanently.

Since the shutters were all solar panels, humanity had plenty of power to turn the moon into a replacement. Days were 28 hours long now, after adjusting the moon’s orbit, but Wren always felt like they were built for days like this. Shame about the tides, though.

Dusk Reflected In Windows

The final moments of my work day follow a similar routine. I empty bottles, sort pens and notepads, turn off my fan, unplug my lights, settle my sweatshirt and jacket into place, steady a mask on my face, sling a bag over my shoulder, and perform three quick keyboard shortcuts on my computer. As I linger for a moment, still uncertain after years of practice that I have performed the proper functions, I feel the familiar weight of my bag, now light for the empty bottles and lunch containers, slip from where I had slung it to its familiar position. It will stay there, despite my best efforts, as I move down halls and through doors to leave my workplace behind in favor of the outside world, my car, and whatever my evening has in store.

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Destined To Always Return To Destiny

For the third time, I’ve decided to get back into Destiny 2. The first time was following a normal lull in play as I ran out of content to enjoy, hit the point of grinding for small increases, and couldn’t get a group of friends together for the end-game type content (a raid). I stopped playing when I hit that same point again, though this time we did manage to get enough people together to do the first raid before the next one properly came out. The second time, I got back into Destiny 2 with the release of some new content in an attempt to maintain connections after I moved away from my now ex-roommates and we tried to find ways to spend time together during the various peaks of the pandemic. I fell out again because I couldn’t even get a group together without a lot of schedule work to do the small-team weekly activities and I’m not one for playing these types of games by myself. I’d much rather do it with other people. Never once did I stop playing because I wasn’t enjoying the gameplay, the story, or any of the content. I always stopped because I just didn’t have people whose company I enjoyed to continue playing with.

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My Place Beneath An Infinite Sky

I am a child. The world has become huge, but pieces of it still feel small and like they can belong to me in a way they can’t belong to anyone else. I am past all the illusions of youth, but I’ve learned to lie well enough to fool even myself when the need arises. Tonight, a night when everyone else is busy settling in to the cabin my parents have rented, I am left to my own devices. My parents are so busy with my youngest sibling that they don’t even notice me leave. Their usual hail of admonitions is absent as they talk about the next two weeks and the schedule we are all to stick to. Tonight, though, I have no schedule, excellent fire-making skills, an enormous pile of wood beside the bonfire pit, and a cloudless evening sky that I’ve been told will soon be filled with more stars than I have ever seen in my life.

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Lingering Chill

There is a certain pleasure in hunkering down for the winter months in the cold, enduring Midwestern north. As the temperatures drop, the rain turns to sleet that turns normal stairs and sloping lawns into treacherous slides for those without adequate caution. Empty, grey days turn into cozy retreats as people turn from excusing their flight from the worsening weather to embracing it. Life goes on, as always, but the quiet moments that once demanded to be filled are now left empty save for rest and warmth, attention turned inward instead of outward. Homes become bastions of warmth and life, drifting and disconnected from the world around them save for the moments that they open up to share their light with those daring enough to still travel between them.

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Sleeping with the Window Open

I used to sleep with the window open.

 

The washed out yellow street light
Standing sentinel at the corner next to my driveway
Throws wild shadows on my shelves and walls
That are occasionally stretched into thin waving lines
As the bright pale blue light of the patrolling cop’s
Fluorescent headlights roll past my yard.
The silent murmur of the woods holds sway
Broken by a passing car on a distant highway,
The echoing sirens of a police car needed somewhere quick,
Or the mournful blare of a train lost somewhere in the hills.

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Descent Into Darkness

“Listen well, children, for I shall tell you of the world we lost and how this place came to be. Of what once was and may someday be again.

“The world was peaceful, once. A place of prosperity, light, and community, where anyone could reach out and connect with whomever they wished. Though conflict remained, it was small and often little more than jest. A brief disagreement blown out of proportion as a symbol of the bond between two brothers. Brothers born from a shared love rather than the same mother. Truly a time when the commonality between men mattered more than the weak bonds of blood and circumstance.

“Some decried this time of peace and love as nothing more than the death throes of a society brought down by its own complacency, and they may have been right, seeing how we now live in darkness and solitude, all that we once held dear lost to us as the great libraries of Alexandria were lost to the Ancients. So to, has much of our culture and what made us great been lost to us with nothing more than the elements to blame. And we, proud and once mighty, assumed ourselves safe from such trite things as a storm or the wind and rain.

“But no. We were proud and we were wrong. And now we pay the price of our hubris as we live out the rest of our days in darkness.”

“Charlie.”

“As the darkness descends ever deeper, we must-”

“Charlie, do you and the kids want cupcakes?”

“Mom! I’m trying to talk about the collapse of human civilization!”

“What? It’s just a power outage. Are you that upset you can’t play your games online?”

“This isn’t about that!

“Leave your cousins alone and go read a book.”

 

The Portal

Timeo stared at the portal, uneasy with the wash of pale light that emanated from it. He’d heard from Gellis there was nothing to fear on the other side of the portal, but Gellis had been through it so many times that he seemed immune to the odd feeling of the light as it lingered on his skin.

Gellis also didn’t seem to notice, but he was a little different after every trip to the outer realm. It was hardly noticeable unless you looked back and saw how much changed happened.

The first time he noticed, Timeo started monitoring everyone who want through the portal. Anyone who was gone for a significant amount of time came back changed in a similar way. The degree of change tended to vary by person, but it was always the same type of change. Timeo was surprised that no one cared when he pointed it out.

“It’s fine. Nothing to worry about.” they’d tell him. He wanted to believe them, but he’d done his research and new that what they told him wasn’t true. His presentations and appeals fell on deaf earths. Fennrel actually laughed at him.

Today was the day, though. Timeo could no longer put off going through the portal. If he did not contribute to the enclave’s well-being, he would be cast out. And then they’d force him through the portal, anyway. Today, he had an appointment with his destiny.

After making sure all of his gear was prepared, Timeo took a deep breath, opened the glass shield, and stepped through the portal. The sun beat down on him, various creatures screamed into the air, and Timeo took his first breath of fresh air. Resolute despite the cancer-causing orb in the sky, Timeo strode off toward his first day of college.

I Just Want to Let You Know You’re Not Alone and Someone Understands

One of the most important parts of any mental health awareness campaign is helping people see that they are not alone. When you are wrapped up in your depression, anxiety, or OCD, it can be incredibly easy to forget that you’re not alone, that other people have felt this way and understand how you feel right now. I can only imagine that other mental illnesses are similarly isolating. The simple act of letting people know that they are not suffering alone, of being able to reach past the barriers they have created and show them other people feel that way as well, can often be enough to help someone who is just starting to live with a mental illness.

Even if you’ve been doing it for years and consider yourself an expert and handling your own shit, it still feels good to know that other people know what you’re going through. That other people can understand your pain and you’re not the only person who ever got in an argument with a loved one and felt like you weren’t worth their effort anymore. Or that you aren’t the only one who freaks out at the entirely-unlikely-but-still-possible interpretations of the subtext of a conversation you had with someone import. Or that you aren’t the only one who feels like your thoughts have been taken over by a whirlwind that refuses to let you think about anything but your deepest, darkest, most ridiculous fear that you know is unfounded but can’t seem to ever let go of because what if it isn’t that ridiculous. Feeling understood is the best feeling when you’re in pain you can’t seem to stop that’s coming from inside your own head.

One of my friends messaged me last night, as I sat on the couch and watched Adventure Time in an attempt to reinforce the ideas of growth and slow change I’m trying to focus on. She had read yesterday’s post and wanted me to know I wasn’t alone, to let me know someone understood what I was feeling, and to thank me for being open on my blog. It was a little thing, a few messages and a few moments of shared emotional connection, but it helped me a lot. I may be past the point where I need to know I’m not alone, but it always feels wonderful to be reminded of it. It was just the boost I needed to get through the evening and to set me up for today. A lot of the comments I’ve gotten from friends today have been incredibly helpful, even if they didn’t explicitly remind me I am not the only person to feel this way. The kind understand and supportive comments, combined with a few frank observations, made me feel seen for the first time in a long time. As someone who gets so wrapped up and isolated in my own head that I can completely rewrite reality in order to have a “plausible” doubt to gnaw on, all my friends today reminded me that I’m here and so are they.

I want to do the same thing for other people. I want to be a beacon, a lighthouse on the shore, a little light in the darkness that says “you aren’t alone and there’s someone out there who understands how you feel.” That’s why I write about things in an open and honest way I struggle to do when I talk to people. That’s why I don’t hold back in my writing unless I’m protecting another person’s right to privacy. I want to talk about how I feel because it is good for me to process this stuff and because I hope someone else out there sees what I’ve written and feels it resonate in them. I want to create stories and write poems that make people feel things. I want to meander my way through drawn-out essays about the tribulations of my life so other people see someone else struggling with the same pain they feel. I put this up publicly in the hopes of one day helping one person who needs it.

This is why I tell stories. This is why I tell the stories I do. I want people to see and feel things that I’ve felt in the hopes of reaching someone who hasn’t made that connection yet. I want to promote understanding by creating art that conveys what it feels like to be anxious, depressed, and suffering from OCD. I want to capture it all so people who have no experience can get a glimpse of what other people feel, to promote empathy. I want to display it so people who have these same feelings don’t feel so alone anymore.

If I ever become a millionaire or make a pile of money from lucrative publishing deals, I’m going to secure my relatively simple lifestyle and spend the rest founding a charity to promote people creating art as a means of coping with their mental illness in order to foster understanding in the wider world about what it means to suffer from depression, an anxiety disorder, OCD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and everything else that people depict their stories and art. Journals, magazines, art galleries, short story collections, related websites, the whole kit and caboodle. Everything I can throw money at to get creators exposure and to get the world to understand through art. Music, performance art, literally everything that helps promote understanding. It’d take winning the lottery to fund an organization like that, but I think I can get it started slowly with a more reasonable amount of money if I get the right people involved.

Ideally, the charity would help prevent people who are suffering from ever feeling like they’re alone again. I’d also like to raise mental health awareness in the US and the world in general, get funding for better treatment options for those suffering from mental illness, and remove the stigma associated with mental illness. There are enough problems facing people with any mental illness without them also feeling shame for being ill. No one needs that.

Until I have the money, though, I’m going to keep writing on my blog, keep reviewing and sharing wonderful art other people do that speaks about mental illness, and do my best to always be a voice saying “You’re not alone. I’m here and I understand.”