I Have A Low Bar For What I’d Call A Peaceful Day

This has, so far, been the first week where nothing has happened by the end of Wednesday (please keep in mind this was written a week before it was posted). This will mean it is the first quiet week I’ve had in about a month and something I sorely needed after the tumultuous few weeks I’ve had immediately prior to this one. Not all of that time has been bad, of course. A lot of fun and/or good things happened during that period of time, but a lot of bad, unpleasant, and awful things also happened during that time period. It has just been a lot without much of a break for me to catch my breath. I couldn’t escape the constant happenings anywhere I went. Even the refuges I had built on Twitter for moments like this had been overrun by happenings. Long overdue happenings by the sound of it, happenings that I support wholeheartedly (for the most part, more than one thing happened after all), but still stuff that was a drain to encounter.

As I’m writing this blog post, it is the end of the third day since anything new happened to me. I’ve had no new issues to deal with, no new occasions to celebrate, no new happenings to work through, and none of the old stuff has reared its head anywhere beyond my anxiety. It has been quiet and I’ve had time to feel exhausted without worrying that I’m missing something vital. As boring as my days have been, this is exactly what I’ve needed. I even found an extra bottle of mouthwash when I thought I was entirely out of it, so even the small stuff has stayed incredibly uneventful.

As I write this, there is no noise in my apartment aside from the quiet whir of my fan, the distant gentle cheeps of my bird who is upset with me for walking past her without spending the rest of the time she’s awake interacting with her, the clack of my keyboard as I write, and the soft rumble of distant thunder as a series of heavy storms roll past to the north of me. I’m under a tornado watch, as is most of my state right now, a severe thunderstorm watch, and an incredibly enjoyable “watch the dark storm clouds roll in” watch. Given my history with storms, this is incredibly calming rather than worrisome and I’m looking forward to whatever tonight brings as the storm rages outside. It might be a tornado, which would be terrible, but there will definitely be plenty of rain, lightning, and thunder.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my evening. My attempts to make plans met with no success, so I suspect I’ll be reading or playing video games by myself while listening to a backlog of podcasts. The exact activity will depend on whether or not I still have power of course. Even now, I’m actively saving my work every line or two since it looks like the kind of weather that steals your power away without warning. That would suck, since it is hot and humid as all get-out, but it would definitely make tonight a quiet night with no demands placed on my emotional energy. Unless, of course, my apartment gets wrecked by a tornado. The one exception to the hopefully peaceful night I have ahead of me.

Still, a tornado does one thing and there’s only one thing I can do about it, so it is a relatively simple situation to handle when you’ve studied weather patterns and lived in the Midwest as long as I have. Feels so much easier to hypothetically handle than a difficult conversation about why I chose to remove someone from a Dungeons and Dragons campaign or why I think we absolutely need strict gun laws in a way most pro-gun people around me don’t seem to comprehend given the way the second amendment to the US constitution has been misinterpreted for years. Even writing those out was exhausting.

Musing About Being Thirty

Day 2 of my stay-cation is here and I wonder how it’s going. Writing things a week ahead of time and trying to reference the actual days that pass or will pass makes for some odd verb tense problems at times. I usually catch them all in editing, but it’s easier to avoid the problem by not writing about the day the post is going up. Today, though, as I’m going through my last full day of work for the week prior (I have a 4 ten-hour day schedule at work, with some overtime on Friday if I need/want it), I’m imagining being able to rest and relax. To sleep in. To lose myself in a game coming out on the day this posts…

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Whatever The Weather

We’ve had a few hefty storms in my area lately, which has been nice considering how few of those we’ve had prior to this last week. We needed the rain and I needed a chance to bask in the gentle susurrus of water falling on leaves as I sit in the mostly dry area beneath them. I also needed the comforting rumble of thunder echoing through the gray skies about as much as the area needed a return to proper summer water table levels. There’s a creek I walk by most days that has been low for so long all the signs of the “normal” water level disappeared a month ago.

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Saturday Afternoon Musing

Some days, what you really need is to hang out with a new friend online and repeatedly punch each other in the face during a custom PVP match only to eventually betray each other with ridiculously over-powered guns so that you both wind up fighting over who gets the ammo for the over-powered guns by returning to punching each other once again.

That was my evening. Well, the end of my evening. Played a lot of other games before than and actually did some more progress-oriented stuff in Destiny 2 before inviting a new clan member to a private PVP match so we could punch each other more effectively. I mean, you can totally still punch people when they’re on your team and you’re wandering around a planet shooting bad guys, but there’s never a winner. It doesn’t do damage. No friendly fire in Destiny 2, thank goodness. My clan’s favorite pastime, while we’re waiting for an event to start or for someone to complete a platforming puzzle, is to shoot each other or try to knock each other off of stuff using melee attacks. It’s a good time.

Really, though, what helped the most last night was being able to just relax with my friends and do something that engaged my attention. Additionally, since I don’t have any plans for this weekend, I was able to just read until I finally felt tired enough to sleep. If I’d had plans today, I’d have stressed out about the fact that I couldn’t sleep until about half past one in the morning because I would have needed to wake up and get out of bed at a certain time. Sleeping in and having a leisurely, quiet morning that ended in me playing a few hours of World of Warcraft was so relaxing. I didn’t need to think about anything, there was nothing going on for me to plan or anticipate, just the calm meandering from one task to another that is a big breakfast, kitchen cleaning, and using up all the bonus XP my character in WoW got because I didn’t play for almost a week (which is a great feature, by the way, I really enjoy the fact that I basically got a free level’s worth of XP for not playing).

It’s been almost twenty-four hours since I gave up trying to process how I’m feeling and started focusing on just escaping for a bit. Coping instead of dealing with it, really. I can still feel it there, sitting inside me and demanding attention, but it’s sorta like the feeling your eyes get when you’re tired. It’s easy to ignore as long as I’m staying focused on something. At this point, though, part of me wants to move on to processing it. I’ve taken a bunch of time away from it, gotten a lot of sleep, and recharged as much as I can in a day. I might go for a walk first, as well, just to solidify my peace of mind by spending some energy on a relaxing activity. The weather never got as bad as they predicted it would, so today’s warmth and sun would be quite enjoyable.

That being said, I’m living in a city that’s been devastated by the flooding. I don’t really think I could go on much of a walk without running into signs of the damage. Dealing with it on foot, though, when I’ve got the ability to just pause and consider what I’m seeing rather than just the glimpses I catch in my car as I drive back to my unaffected home, might make it easier to handle. Or perhaps even help me process it. Walking has always helped me work through things and maybe that’d be the ideal venue for processing this feeling rather than meditation. Meditation can be isolating and a lot of my feelings are tied up in a sense of disconnect from the problems plaguing my community, so maybe entering more fully into it would be good. Plus, I haven’t gone into town since Tuesday afternoon, when everything was settling from “dangerous” to “safe, but still destroyed.”

I kind of miss the places I used to walk when I was in college. The town was small, like my current town, but more developed. There were sidewalks everywhere and streetlights often enough that I never worried about being unable to see my environment. Plus, that neighborhood was entirely suburban. It sprawled out, taking up a huge amount of space, because it was a suburb of Green Bay and most people commuted to work in the city rather than anywhere in their town. Plus, it had all the benefits of being a college town without being constantly full of students. I went to a small college, some twenty-five to twenty-eight hundred students, so I was pretty much the only person wandering around late at night when I couldn’t sleep and the few quiet stargazing spots on campus weren’t doing the trick. It really was such a peaceful town. I miss it.

I miss a lot of things about my life before I moved to the Madison area. I miss the sense of peace and possibility I had back then, when it seemed like I’d be able to do anything if I just worked at it long enough. I miss the confidence I had when I considered my future and the ultimately naive way I thought everything would be alright in the end if I just pushed through. Now, I know things will always work out in the end, but frequently not in the way we wanted them too and all too often in a less-than-positive way. I don’t know anything about my future or what I really want out of life, so I just focus on what I think is best for me and what goals I want to accomplish now. I know I can’t do everything, but I’m also much more certain of my ability when it comes to things I know I can do, like writing.

It’s been a long four years and eight months, but this place is home now. Even if I do miss where I went to college, I’ve got a lot more invested in this city. Maybe I’ll eventually find places to walk that I’ll love as much as De Pere, Wisconsin, but I know I already enjoy being able to walk around downtown or through the numerous parks in Madison. Or just through the “downtown” parts of my little suburb. There are plenty of sidewalks there and a bunch of benches that should no longer be submersed. Maybe I’ll bring a book and sit on one of those for a while. That’d be pleasant.

 

Time for a Peaceful Afternoon

Some days, all I want to do is sit on my porch in the shade, drink a cold beer, and enjoy the breezy peace of a warm spring afternoon. Unfortunately, this can be hard to do because I live in a duplex and share a yard with a family that has children who live to loudly play in said yard and who seem to invite all of the neighborhood kids over to do the same. Additionally, there are always bees on the porch, my only porch chair broke last fall (it was a cheap collapsing canvas chair), and lately the weather has been warm enough that going outside for any amount of time means being drenched in sweat.

Instead, I’ve had to find my peace elsewhere. Quiet moments of sitting in the armchair in the library or sitting in my desk chair with my monitors off so I can just gaze out my window at the trees in my front yard while I look for bits of blue sky between the dancing leaves. Occasionally, it is with my friends as we pause in whatever we’re doing to just enjoy the moment, like the silence we shared after reaching an excellent vantage point in our hike over the holiday weekend.

Peace, like silence, is important to me. My head is constantly a riot of thoughts, noise, and emotion so any time I can put all that aside to appreciate the calm feeling of a certain moment is something that helps me feel more in control.

Today, I’m pursuing peace. I’m leaving work early, setting this to go live at 5 pm, and spending the rest of my day in peace and quiet. I have a lot of stuff I need to sort through right now, so I’m going to focus on resting up, finding peace, and then trying to untangle the knots. While I don’t think I’ve made any particular breakthroughs, I do think I’ll be getting back to my regular program of posts soon. I kind of miss it and I’m hitting the point where all of my meditations are thinking a little further on things I’ve already thought about. I’ll probably still do more journal-ish posts, but they’ll definitely be less frequent than they are now.

Soon, things will be somewhat back to normal. I hope. We’ll see.

Saturday Morning Musing

I really don’t like the hype train. I’m very patient when it comes to people and obligations. When it comes to things I get excited about or that don’t have a specific wait time, I absolutely suck at waiting. Which means I hate watching trailers for movies and video games because they get me super excited for something cool and then I have to wait four months or a year or, in Breath of the Wild’s case, three years. Last week, Nintendo announced the latest Super Smash Bros. game would come out on the Switch this year and all I can do now is wait and think about it. It probably won’t come out until the holiday shopping season, but a soft release date is not very helpful to me.

I’ve never really enjoyed the anticipation portion of anything. I like knowing when stuff is going to happen and then mostly ignoring it until it is time to do something about it. This can sometimes backfire on me, as it did with the Switch, because I missed my 12-hour window to pre-order one. I managed to get on by waiting in line for 12 hours and freezing my butt off, but my life would have been better if I’d just pre-ordered it. For the most part, though, I don’t actually lose anything by avoiding stuff until right before it comes out. I got movie tickets to see Star Wars just fine. I can just go into most book stores to grab books I want. Game stores never actually run out of games these days. Steam makes pretty much every game easily available since I don’t know if it is even possible to run out of digital copies… Heck, most “physical” games are just download codes concealed inside plastic rectangles these days.

There’s only so much planning you can do for stuff like that before it starts feeding into anxiety. I already have enough trouble properly allocating my mental energy without marketing companies doing everything they can to convince me to uselessly spend mental energy on substanceless hype. I really don’t need the encouragement since I’m already to get overly invest in pretty much anything. This means I can be susceptible to marketing because it feeds into behavior I’m already prone to, so I spend a good deal of effort to stay away from marketing geared toward my interests. Which unfortunately means I miss out on a lot of things I might enjoy until long after they’re out.

Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of friends who all advocates of the hype train, so I can ask them what is coming up and get all my gaming news without any of the hype beyond their excitement. Books are a little bit easier to follow on my own because there isn’t as much energy put into marketing them via excitement like there is for video games and movies. Most of the time, we just get news from conventions or author blogs, such as Patrick Rothfuss confirming that The Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy is actually just the beginning of the story. Which I am super excited about, because it means I was right to suspect that there was too much left unanswered at the end of Wise Man’s Fears to wrap up in one book. I love the series, so I am excited to hear there will be more books, but there is no urgency behind this. We don’t even have a release date for the book that was for-sure happening, Stone Doors, so information like this is close to news than marketing.

Honestly, even if I do miss out on things sometimes, I feel a lot better when my life isn’t full of a constant stream of advertisements, marketing promotions, and pitches for things that I probably want. It is a lot easier to focus on what I am doing and what I already have to enjoy when I’m not being bombarded by what I don’t have. Inner peace, and all that.

Lost Connection

Dancing dots spin and whirl
As I fret and watch the screen.
Seconds tick and minutes pass
As I mourn what might have been.
Passcodes take too long to type
As I start to make a scene.
Why’d my phone have to shut off
As you started to come clean?

I swear I want to hear you out
As I quickly make my case,
But anger soon fills up your voice
Knocking patience out of place.
My words become lost in yours
And then vanish without a trace
Because your pain and questioning
Have left my answers with no space.

I sit and listen for a while,
Until I can take it no more,
Then I gently set my phone down
And think back to moments before.
That sudden sound of silence
As my stomach dropped through the floor:
I felt relieved that I’d not need
To put up with you anymore.

Fire and Peace

Here sit I, wrapped and stoic
In somber silence insoluble,
Painting prosaic pictures
On a dirty page so voluble
That it has become volatile.

My keyboard cries “calamity!”
Rocketing its reedy racket
Through thin and thankless seconds
Captured in a minute packet
And covered in an hour jacket.

Such soothing salacious sounds
Bring back bitter unbegotten barbs
That jibber, jabber, and jibe
uselessly against my wards
and all my other mental guards.

Plentiful and powerful peace
Is found and ferociously fenced
In the nearest nebulous neighborhood
To be kept as protection against
The encroaching ruin that is sensed.

Words fly like fast-falling fire
On volatile pages that, exploding, shatter
Rancorous raucous reality
And I leave in glorious clatter
Everything that’s supposed to matter.

Here sit I, wrapped and stoic
In fire and peace together,
The nascent nagging of necessity
Is felt like the prick of a feather
As I finally release my tether
And float in fictional felicity
Where I will not care whether
This makes me idiotic or heroic.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Sweet Scent of Rain on a Damp Morning

In a game that keeps on giving some nine months after I started playing it, one of my favorite random occurrences is the occasional rain storm. As I play through Hero Mode (enemies are stronger and regenerate health, plus there are more of them), I’ve changed my settings to get rid of as much of the Heads Up Display as possible, using the “Pro” layout. Gone is my clock, my sonograph, my thermometer, and every other indicator that I’m playing a video game aside from my health bar and occasionally my stamina wheel. If I could hide those, I’d do that as well. Not to make the game harder, but to bring me closer to the game. That way, when it begins to rain, my only indication is the growing cloud cover or the first tell-tale drops as I ride through an area occupied by a storm.

I feel a certain amount of anxiety at times, not knowing what the weather will be before I decide to climb a mountain (you will slide down the cliff you’re climbing if you move at all during rain storms), but it quickly fades once I actually get absorbed into the game. I climb and either hurry if it gets cloudy or resign myself to being rained off the cliff. I also don’t know if it is a rainstorm or a thunderstorm until the first lightning strike, so that means I have to avoid using any metal weapons or armor. If I can climb or fight most enemies, there’s not a whole lot left to do if I don’t want to teleport away and do something else until the rain ends.

I’m quite patient. I’d rather set the controller down for a few minutes while the rain storms itself out than warp away and lose track of what I was doing as I get distracted by some new quest. When I first started doing this, I’d grab my phone and browse Twitter or Imgur for the storm’s duration. As time went on, I paid more attention to the storms in the game. There are things that only show up in the rain, certain bugs and flowers, and AI characters, both enemies and NPCs, behave differently when it is raining. There are parts of the map that flood when it rains. Rain and thunderstorms aren’t just a detriment to your ability to climb or a barrier to work around when you’re fighting, they’re actual players in the world that cause everything in it to respond. There is so much to do during a storm that I’ve stopped setting my controller aside and spend the four or more in-game hours exploring my local environment to see what changes.

The more I played, the more I noticed that I felt similarly during a game rain storm compared to how I feel when I sit in a real rain storm. Now, I split my rain storms between exploring and finding a nice sheltered place, out of the rain, to have Link stand while I look out at the rain-soaked world around him. My inner pluviophile has taken control and now I love nothing more than a surprise rain storm so I can watch the water drip off of link’s clothes and the weapons he’s holding in his hands. I love to watch the world go soft and grey as it rains during the day and then dim as the sun sets and night begins.

There are particular places in the game that are always raining. I like to go to them sometimes, usually when I need to relax, so I can have Link light a fire and stand next to it under whatever shelter I could find while it rains. The world falls silent except for the sound of rain on the ground, the moan of the wind as it whips the rain around, and the crackle of the fire. When I close my eyes and listen, I can almost smell the sweet scent of dirt churned into mud by rain and the fresh tinge to the air wafting in my window.

Eventually I open my eyes, pick up my controller, and go back to playing. I chase Koroks to expand my inventory, find new shrines, collect everything I can so I’ll be able to upgrade my armor, and find new ways to tackle multiple enemies at once when freezing them is no longer an option (the gold ones can’t be frozen, I guess? That’s super annoying). It may be a few days between play sessions or it may just be a couple hours, but I know I’ll eventually go looking for the rain again, just so I can spend a little more time bathing in the silence and peace the rain brings.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 24 (11/24)

Thanksgiving  and my cold now appear to be over and I can ago about my business, finally. Time to write up a storm. As soon as I catch a friggin’ Miltank, anyway… Thing won’t freaking show up and its been half an hour! So annoying. At least I’m failing to get some Black Friday shopping deal. I mean, sure, I can’t get what I want, but at least I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) and wait in line for a couple of hours to fail to get what I wanted.

Trying to make the time to write over the holidays has always been a tricky endeavor for me. I try to balance spending time with my family with spending time on a commitment I’ve made to myself. This is further complicated by the fact that I recognize that chatting over dinner isn’t enough face-to-face time with my family and the fact that my family is fairly supportive of my writing. It’s a fine balance to find and, combined with the unfamiliar environment and laptop writing, I wind up being only about half as productive as I normally would be. At the same time, though, I usually come back ready to write and be super productive, giving me a few days of increased productivity. Like I said, it’s a fine balance.

Even if I didn’t do as much this holiday as I usually do, I’ve always enjoyed the act of driving places. Being able to climb into my car and just go has always been reassuring to me. Knowing I’m never stuck where I am and that freedom is only a tank of gas away does a lot to calm a lot of my less conscious anxieties that’ll just build when I’m getting particularly stressed. During the actual drive, once I’m on the highway or interstate, I can just relax and cruise, let my mind wander as the forefront of my mind is occupied by navigating through traffic on the interstates or watching the scenery as I drive the old state routes.

I prefer the state highways when I can take them. I dislike feeling rushed or hurried and taking a state route somewhere feels like the epitome of my “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude. There are some really wonderful hills and almost deserted back-country state routes in Wisconsin. Route 12, once you get past the Wisconsin Dells, is probably my favorite drive. Sprawling vistas, forests blanketing hills, and some beautiful rock striations when they have to cut through the hills rather than of around or over them.

Now that winter is closing it, it’ll be difficult to find a pleasant drive or get anywhere far away without using an interstate. Even through the state routes are still the only real access that a lot of the small towns in rural areas have to the rest of the state, they’re not always well plowed or sanded/salted. With my tiny little 4-door Mazda sedan, a little patch of ice is all it would take to wipe me out. I’ll miss the almost-silent sound of asphalt beneath my tires (as compared to the loud scream of concrete), but I’ve still got some time until the snows start. Maybe I’ll go for a drive tomorrow, when I need a break from writing. There’s a lot of unexplored state and county routes around where I live now.

 

Daily Prompt

When writing a story, it is important to create conflict for your characters. A story without much conflict wouldn’t be very interesting to readers. There needs to be something going on, something at stake to hold people’s attention. However, as we all know through our own experience, a life full of enough conflict to make an interesting story can be completely exhausting. As a result, you character will probably spend some time trying to find peace. Today, write a scene in which your character either finds some peace or takes refuge in their favorite way of creating inner or outer peace. Try to include some reflect on why they’re trying to find peace or make it harder for them to find peace because the conflict of their life keeps intrude on their quiet place.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is one of my favorite “feel good about the world” songs, “Great Big Life” by Kyle Andrews. I enjoy almost all of Kyle Andrew’s music, as a lot of it sounds positive and upbeat, even when dealing with more complicated or negative issues. Another of my favorites by him, “I Don’t Want a Lump of Coal” sounds almost as upbeat as “Great Big Life” but is about being left by your significant other right around Christmas. He does a lot of the more typical love songs, but also songs about heartbreak and he mixes them so it’s not entirely clear which is which until you take the time to really listen. Even then, some of them are entirely up to how you interpret them. He has some albums that stick firmly to the softer rock/alternative genre while some entire albums start to dip into a more electronic or pop sound. He makes for great light listening, perfect for background music to just about anything.

 

Helpful Tips

If you’re trying to finish your NaNoWriMo project by doing a couple day-long marathons around the holiday, it can be hard to sit in one place for very long and trying to move someplace with a less stagnate environment (like a coffee shop or library) can be distracting given the higher-than-usual number of people out and about. If you’re still determined to try, make sure to break up your writing session with breaks. Write for 45-90 minutes at a time, with a few couple-minute breaks mixed in to prevent you from getting too distracted. Do a little bit of research or look up some music. After your 45-90 minutes is done (and you’ll know its done once you start pulling up Facebook or some other social media), actually get up from your computer and go make a cup of tea. Leave your phone behind and let you mind wander as you wait for the water to boil. If you want a cold beverage, find a window to look out for a bit or have a conversation with someone around your place. Once the tea is make and ready for sipping or the conversation has ended, get back to work. As fun as breaks for facebook or video games can be, you also need a break from your screen and electronics just as much as you need to let your brain rest from writing.