The Line Between Naivety and Forgiveness

Trust, once lost, is not easily regained. The process of losing trust can be anything from drawn out and complex to instaneous and simple, but regaining it is always a time-consuming and difficult affair. We’re seeing a lot of that play out in the world these days, on a lot of different scales. Perhaps the biggest and most difficult to define example is people losing faith in government instituions. A much smaller but still impactful example is the recent loss of trust in Wizards of the Coast. It will take decades to restore trust in government instutions, especially given how every day seems to bring more evidence that the institutions we thought were safeguarding our government are actually just there to serve and protect the most powerful and wealthy among us (not that we needed more evidence to believe that). Likewise, it will take Wizards of the Coast a long time and some pretty extreme conscessions for people to trust that they’re not simply kicking the can down the road with this latest backpedaling they’ve been doing.

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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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Grief and Personal Revisionist History

The Queen died today (the day I wrote this, I mean). As a US citizen and a person with a great deal of disdain for the parasitic ruling class of wealth, nobility, and power, I’ll admit I’ve never had much concern for the UK’s royal family. I’m pretty sure I’m breaking some kind of rule about ways to refer to monarchs who have passed away in the transitional state between one ruler and the next, but I’d be lying if I said I cared enough to actually look it up. All I know is I started to recognize patterns in the ways that people were writing about the event on Twitter before I got tired of how EVERYONE was talking about it and found a new comic to read instead of doing my usual Twitter scrolling (Vattu, by Evan Dahm). Which I found because someone shared an image from said comic of a character saying “it’s a tragedy for an emperor even to exist.” If that doesn’t just about capture my feelings on the matter, then I don’t know if anything ever will.

Originally, I planned to never even mention this event on my blog. I don’t really care about the royal family outside of the abstract annoyance I feel about any news item that takes over the entirety of the internet for longer than an hour (there’s already YouTube videos about it, of course), so why would I waste my time on it? I almost deleted the whole post so I could write about my identity or how much I’m dreading the end of Spiritfarer because it’s everything I’ve thought it would be, but while I was looking up the exact text of the quote above, I found another tweet, this one from an account I follow because of her frank discussions about the difficulty of growing up and trying to heal from an abusive family and the grief involved therein: “You don’t have to pretend someone was kind or good because they died. Everybody dies.”

Since my grandfather passed away, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about grief, loss, and the way those things can warp our view of the past. Or perhaps the way we deliberately misrepresent the past in order to justify the grief and loss we feel. I’m still not sure which it is and I strongly suspect that the true answer is that it’s a bit of both for pretty much everyone. When he passed, my mother’s family spent a lot of time waxing poetic about my grandfather, sharing funny stories, and looking at old photos (which is when I had the uncomfortable realization that my older brother is the spitting image of my grandfather when he was younger). It was a difficult event, in part because of the emotion involved and my (to put it INCREDIBLY FLIPPANTLY) difficult relationship with that side of my family, but also because I could see my mother, aunts, and uncles leaving out parts of stories that cast my grandfather in a less than positive light.

Now, the way my mother and her siblings tell it, my grandfather was a jokester and a mischief maker who was well-liked by the people who knew him. He could supposedly talk his way into or out of just about anything. However, as someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about generational trauma and who has learned to recognize the signs of trauma in other people via the details they leave out of the stories they tell about themselves, the past, and the people who hurt them, I think the truth was more complicated. As it almost always is. I think that my grandfather was not always the kind, accepting, friendly person I knew. I think there’s a reason he used to threaten to slap people upside the head or that my mother and her siblings never tell any stories that involved them getting into actual trouble. He changed, I suspect, as he grew older, but that doesn’t absolve him of what he did in the past. I think that if he had acted to address the generational abuse he perpetuated, my mother might have been able to do so as well, rather than resist the notion that she has anything to apologize for.

As I reflect on how little I know about the life my grandfather lived and the way that people are reacting to the death of the queen–waxing poetic, noting the harm she, her family, and the UK have done to the world, or just avoiding the topic entirely–I find myself wondering if we’re ever going to be able to have a healthy relationship with grief. Will we (collectively, I mean) ever be able to mourn a person’s passing and the grief that engenders without trying to paint over all the harm they might have caused? I think there are probably a lot of people who have had a genuine emotional reaction to the passing of the queen, and I don’t mean the people obsessed with celebrities who personally feel the loss of a public figure. I mean people whose lives were touched in a positive way by a public figure through a small interaction or even act of kindness. Not even to mention her family, some of whom may have had a troubled relationship with her but who probably still care about her. I think we could make space for those people to grieve without needing to ignore all the harm the royal family has caused to so many people around the world.

I’ll admit that the idea works a lot better when you’re talking about someone whose impact was primarily felt within a family or family-adjacent social unit rather than all over the world. I think a lot of people are justified in their anger and resentment at the way that the queen is getting all of this attention despite the literal and direct harm done to the world, their country, or even their lives by the queen in her time as the (figure)head of the UK. But then again, this post was never really about her. She was just a convenient focal point for my reflections about loss and grief and this was really me trying to grapple with the flawed person my grandfather was, the flawed people my parents are, and how I’m striving to end the cycle that hurt all of us, so much as I can by myself, anyway.

I mourned my grandfather’s passing even as I recognized that he wasn’t always the person I knew. I will mourn my parents when they pass, if I’m around to see it, even if they are still the people I know they are right now. I will speak honestly of them, just as I do my best to speak honestly of my grandfather and as I hope people will speak of me when I’m gone. The passing of a person is a chance to grapple with the full weight of their life and it would be a foolish disservice to everyone who was impacted by them to do anything less. I just hope the world eventually gets on board with this idea. It would be a lot more healthy for everyone if they did.

Recorded and Reposted: She Waits

She waits,
Like a mountain reaching for the sky,
Pushed up by unseen plates in an embrace
It will never know or feel,
She waits for a call
To hear a voice she knows
She may have already heard
For the last time.
She waits for comfort,
A desert cactus counting days
Since the last rain,
Pinning hope on each passing cloud
As the little water it has slowly drains.
She waits,
Breathing deeply, fighting anxiety
As each buzz of her phone,
Each ping on her computer
Resurrects hope she abandoned
When it pulled out her hair
And chewed her nails to the quick.
All I can do is stand by and watch
While she waits,
Useless words weigh down my tongue,
Empty gestures tie my arms,
And the knowledge I cannot fill
The void she feels bows my head.
She waits,
Knowing what might be lost
Cannot be replaced,
Like a dried up river
Leaves a furrow in the earth
That will linger on until
The entire world has changed.
So she waits,
Living the best she can
With one ear cocked for a sound
And one eye watching for a face,
And a smile to hide them both.

Every Day Grief

There is a particular feeling, sweet and sorrowful, that rises slowly in your consciousness as you near the end of something you have loved. A misty-eyed sensation you cannot address even in the privacy of your internal monologue because doing so means admitting it is real and present, and ignoring it means you can live in blessed ignorance for another day. It is a feeling as ancient and familiar to me as my own sense of self-hood, perhaps older even, because the day I was first aware of myself, this feeling was already there.

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I’m Tired and Sad, So Let’s Talk About The Legend of Zelda: Episode 2

Time for another episode of your favorite not-show on this blog! I’ve had a rough weekend, did an emotionally difficult thing, and just cannot shake the doldrums of my week because I’m in a tough but healthy situation of my own making that finally rejects the secret hope of my entire existence in order to move on with my life. No, I will not be getting more specific than that. Also, the day this is going up is my birthday and I can do what I want on my birthday, even if I’m writing this a week before my birthday.

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The Middle Distance

I nod, clumsy hands sweating
As they hold a phone to my ear,
But I cannot find words to answer
Beyond “mhmm” or “yeah” as my thoughts,
Tangled like my hand in my hair,
Lie in knots on the ground around me.
Knots I tied myself because this
Is harder for you than me.
You need to relay information
And I need to hold it together
So you can make another call after this one.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 24 (11/24)

Yesterday and today have been weird. Between getting booted off my laptop for a surprise Windows update and trying to arrange a visit with my grandparents, I haven’t had much opportunity to get my writing done. I only got six hundred words in once my computer had finished doing its update as it was almost midnight and I was dead tired from two nights of sleeping in an unfamiliar bed that felt akin to sleeping on a moss-covered boulder. I wanted to do more, but I just didn’t have it in me. I also wound up sleeping really well last night, so I overslept my planned wake-up time and didn’t have the time to write before I needed to get out of bed, pack, and head to my grandparent’s place. So now it’s after seven in the evening, I’m sitting in my friend’s living room because I need to be around My People after a stressful weekend, and I’m trying to jam out enough of a blog post that I can justify hitting that “Publish…” button.

Honestly, I should probably just get this up, write one hundred words so I can continue my update streak on the National Novel Writing Month website, and then stop writing for tonight, but I’ve given up on my daily word count so many times lately. I don’t want to keep doing that. I’ve got a lot to do in order to succeed with my goals this month and I can’t afford to keep making excuses. I don’t want to keep making excuses. I want to get my words done, but that’s a tall order when all I can think about is how thin and frail my grandfather felt when I hugged him on my way out the door. How small he’s gotten. How he was too tired to crack jokes. How he didn’t once refuse any of the assistance we offered him. He used to be as big as I am and it’s startling to see how small he’s gotten. In my car, I have clothes my grandmother bought him that are too big for him that would fit me. These are different from the last ones I got. Those were given to me as my grandparents moved to a smaller house and needed to free up some space. They were extra. These are almost new and just don’t fit him now that he’s lost so much weight.

This is one of those things that alters the course of your mind. I can feel my mental topography change and my thought’s about my grandfather show up in every mental space I have ever built. The mental image of my writing–the internal me slowly climbing a mountain without a clear path or a certain destination–is now done in the shadow of another mountain whose paths are all too clear. The empty darkness that is where my internal self lives, a place of calm emptiness where I go to get peace from the noise of my mental health issues and the noise of live, is no longer entirely dark. The ocean of my depression has a giant wave on the horizon that is moving at a speed I can’t detect, but I know it can crash over me at any moment without warning. There’s no escaping this.

I imagine I’d feel something similar if one of my parents was ill, but it’s hard to know. It’d probably be different and maybe worse in its own special way. My grandfather has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve him or stories about him. I remember when my sister was being born, the one who is only a couple of years younger than me. It is only a flash, a moment in time, a picture of a story someone once told me, but it’s still crystal clear. I remember my older brother and I playing some kind of game on the couch in the basement of their old home that involved taking the cushions off the couch. Maybe we were building a fort, maybe we just wanted to bounce on the springs of the couch, but our grandfather was there, watching over us as we played as he put up with our games in a way that let us know he’d rather be here with us than anywhere else. He was a bartender and union electrician until his retirement and he’s always been a tough old man in my eyes who still managed to avoid a lot of the more toxic bits of masculinity in his emotional dealings with us. That might just be the eyes of a child worshiping his favorite relative or the rose-colored glasses of an adult remembering his favorite relative since most of that side of the family has a tendency to engage in passive-aggressive bullshit more often than not, but it’s hard to believe I’ve imagined it entirely.

I want to be able to write about it, but I just don’t know how to fit him into a story. He’s always been a goofy, silly old man to me, and I don’t want to just drop him off somewhere that won’t do justice to the person I’ve seen my entire life. This is all still pretty recent and I’m pretty sure I just need more time to figure it out, but it’s hard to write anything without thinking him. I want to preserve a part of him in the stories I tell, just like I’ve got snapshots of so many people in my stories, but I haven’t spent as much time considering him like that. Even though I’m familiar with loss and the limitations of mortality thanks to the loss of high school classmates and my own traumas, some part of me just refused to accept that this man who always seemed bigger than me–even after I had an inch on him–would one day no longer be. I still don’t want to believe it.

Everything comes to an end eventually. There is a price to be paid for everything, even life. I’ve gotten a lot of life and happiness out of my grandfather, especially considering I know so many people whose parents have already passed on. I just always hoped it would be longer. I mean, out of all my grand-relatives, I always kind of figured he’d be around the longest. I feel kind of crappy saying that, but it’s true. Now I have to face the fact that it isn’t and I’m having a hard time reconciling my feelings and my knowledge. Especially when I’m struggling to figure out how to write about it.

I’m going to eat some kind of alcoholic desert my friend made and rejoin the group for a little bit, but I think I might take the night off from my National Novel Writing Month project and try my hand at writing about a man who is leaving a shadow larger than life. I hope your day was productive and I hope you manage to reach your writing goals today. Good luck.


Daily Prompt

One of the big Fantasy series I have been enjoying lately is Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. Despite being made up of three (of ten, according to what I’ve read) giant Fantasy tomes, his stories are fun, quick, and refreshing. This gigantic, sweeping series features a world that is different from most fantasy worlds I’ve read. The powers are novel, the means of getting powers relies on rules that are slowly being revealed but are incredibly interesting, and everything originally from the world has some kind of carapace because of the regular storms that swing through the area or is otherwise incredibly hardy to account for how insane the weather is compared to ours. Beyond all that, the stories aren’t afraid to confront difficult issues or show how terrible people can become good people. The effects of trauma, the reality of depression, and complexity of doing bad things for good reasons are all addressed (incredibly well) throughout the series.


Sharing Inspiration

How does your protagonist respond to interpersonal conflict? Are they a pot-stirrer, or do they hate the idea of being involved in the nitty-gritty of other people’s lives? Some people immensely enjoy setting up conflicts between people and some people would literally rather die than engage in any kind of emotional or verbal conflict, let alone a physical one. How does your protagonist feel about them? Is it something they can handle easily or is it going to be a struggle they’re going to need to muddle through? Write a scene showing them responding to or engaging in some kind of conflict.


Helpful Tips

Don’t chain yourself to continuity when you’re writing. If you get hit by a great idea for something that’s pretty far down the line from where you’re currently writing, pursue it. Don’t put it aside and expect to remember it when the time comes. The same goes for entire scenes or chapters. Or plot points. Or books. If an idea comes to you, record it. The idea might change as time passes and it might not fit when you finally get to it, but it’ll still inform how you write the parts around it. Maybe it’ll bring you back to an element of the story you lost between writing that section and reaching it. No matter what, though, it’ll be worth recording because at least it’ll get the idea down somewhere so you can keep your mind focused on moving the story along rather than trying to juggle story pieces that showed up ahead of their moment.