The Best Laid Plans And All That

The problem with having some grand, magical plans for reflection and processing difficult memories, is that life so rarely aligns with these kind of intentions. I’d initially planned to have my week off set aside as a time to reflect, to journal a bit, and to prepare myself for the months ahead, but pretty much none of that has happened and it seems like very little of it will happen. Life got in the way.

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

I’ve tried over a dozen different blog posts and each one of them was stressing me out or not fun, or taking too much work to write in a way that felt true, real, and honest with myself. I haven’t slept well this week, for a lot of reasons that amount to “I just need to let some time pass until things straighten themselves out,” so I’ve struggled to stay focused on my goal of enjoying this process.

As a result, I’m just going to talk about The Legend of Zelda until I feel like I’ve hit my daily writing goal because I enjoy the FUCK out of The Legend of Zelda and I could write an entire novel just about the darker themes of the various games, a sequel zeroing in on Majora’s Mask, and then finish the trilogy with a final novel about the way that Breath of the Wild’s silent storytelling, that requires the player to intuit and improvise their own story using the pieces provided by the game, is a masterful way of wrapping them all up together but leaving the narrative open for additional entries in the franchise down the line.

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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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Fall

Dawn in Fall is my favorite time of day.
The soft, warm colors paint the sky

As I clear the sleep stains from my mind
And my eyes gradually adjust
To take in the waking world.
The crisp chill air fills me as wind blows
The orange and pink splattered clouds
From one horizon to another.

Dusk in Fall is my favorite time of day.
The bright colors of late afternoon
Drain from the sky as my work worn eyes
Slowly adjust to the fading light
And my exhausted mind stirs anew.
The smoke scented air hangs heavy and cool
While heavy cold blues appear, descending
Until day has stilled and night reigns above.

The start of Fall is my favorite time of year.
The memory of heat and humidity lingers
Like a sheen of sweat on your forearms
And even the heavy frost of frozen mornings
Is a welcome reprieve from the cloying summer.
The quiet skitter of leaves on breeze
As the world begins to fall asleep
Lets me know that I can finally find peace.

The end of Fall is my favorite time of year.
The advent of snow and blistering cold
Wakes my mind like a dip in a frozen lake
Because there’s something in the failing fall
That tells me it is time to start moving.
The heavy weather gives me something
To push against as my mind roars a challenge
At the quietly dying world,
­­            As if to say “Not me.”

­­­                       “Never me.”

I’d Like to Craft a Clever Title, But I Emptied This Mine Years Ago

Like many people in this day and age, I played Minecraft. I got in fairly early, in its second year, and enjoyed it for a long time before the increasing variety of changes took it from a basic building and destruction game to the first of many “block games” that eventually changed to fit the mold of all the games based on it. The path it has taken is a weird one, but I kind of get it from a developer’s perspective. This game spawned a whole style of animation and gameplay and so many people used the low graphic style to create their own games that it wound up becoming the head of a movement it wasn’t a part of. Minecraft was just one more resource collection and building game, though it did eventually become the most popular one.

(Please read the following in your best “crotchety old man who just finished yelling at some kids who kicked their ball into his yard” internal voice.)

Nowadays, the game is full of extra critters, you can get experience points, there’s some kind of story mode that I don’t understand at all and definitely don’t trust, there’s magic and potions and flying now, and the whole point of building giant square buildings out of cobblestone so you’ve had a safe place to hide from the creepers while you waited for the forest fire you accidentally started to finally burn itself out several “chunks” away has been lost! The game doesn’t feel anything like the game I used to love! I used to spend many nights quietly toiling away in my mines so I could build mine cart paths that automatically took me from one mine to another and then to my base with the simple flip of a few switches and now I can’t spend any time in the mines without having to deal with some kind of tall goon that teleports over to me and silently screams as he beats me to death with whatever block he picked up before I made eye contact with him! These are the dying days of building games and I’ll always be angry that we were abandoned by the original creator of the game!

(Thank you for your patience. We now return to being a reasonable adult. Please read the following in whatever internal voice is most natural to you.)

Because Minecraft was a big part of my life for so many years, to the point where I have music I can’t listen to without being transported back to Minecraft worlds that no longer exist, there’s a part of me that feels like the paragraph above. At the same time, I appreciate where Minecraft has gone since then and I think it is doing a great job of serving its target audience. I might not be its target audience anymore, but that’s alright. My youngest sister loves the game and the adaptation its gone through to fit on mobile touchscreen platforms has really opened it up to many people who never would have otherwise played it. It went from being a game enjoyed mostly by hardcore gamers who enjoyed it’s retro feel to being played and enjoyed by millions of different people from all walks of life. I love it when games find a way to bring themselves into popular culture in a big way and I’m glad Minecraft found a way to survive the burnout of its creator. Not a lot of games are that lucky.

The game doesn’t really appeal to me beyond its basic roots. I played through the advent of random villages, temples, and ocelots, but I it became more and more important to maintaining my own projects to have a variety of resources and connections to the local area. I needed to be able to defend myself against enemies that would become more numerous and dangerous the longer I stayed in the area. If I found a village, I needed to defend it constantly from zombie invasion or expand it to the point where it could defend itself. If I wanted to travel the world to take advantage of the resources available in the various biomes, I needed horses which were also only available in certain areas. I had to have farms and herds of animals to provide food for myself, armor if I wanted to survive the constant need to leave my well-defended areas, and ready access to lava if I ever actually wanted to dispose of stuff permanently. It got complicated and they even took away my ability to rapidly clear the land through forest fires by limiting how far fires could spread. As they added more new elements and story to the game, my interest waned and other games took up the time Minecraft once did.

The game I loved is still in there and I keep the game updated in case I ever want to play it again, but I’ve got other things to spend my time on now. I miss the days of simple mining before I couldn’t spend more than an afternoon mining without running into some kind of ridiculous giant cavern filled with long falls, monster spawns, and resources that are more trouble than they’re worth. I’m sure the story modes are fun and there’s still a lot of joy to be had exploring the worlds that spawn whenever you start a new game, but I just don’t have the desire to catch up on a few years of updates so I can figure out how to trim out everything I don’t want and just focus on the basic resource collection and building elements. Maybe there’s a stripped-down game mode or someone has the install files for a previous version of the game I can use, but I haven’t found anything in my google searches. I’m alright with that, though. I’d probably only play for a few evenings or afternoons and then stop again. Nostalgia only gets you so far and I don’t really play many open-ended games without my friends any more. I get too bored and I’m pretty sure I’d wind up setting Minecraft aside to play Destiny 2 with my friends. I just don’t really have the desire to spend five hours building a castle no one is going to see.

I know servers are easier than ever to set up, but I don’t think I could convince my friends to start playing it again. There’s only so much time in a day and, even if we all had two hours a day just for Minecraft, I’m pretty sure my friends would rather use it for something else. It’s difficult to go back to old games these days, when there’s always something new and exciting just around the corner.

 

Every Day is an Adventure

I remember, the first time I sat down to watch Adventure Time, remarking to my friends that I wasn’t drunk enough to watch this show after only the first episode. For those of my friends who are adults and trying to start the show, I usually recommend sitting down to it with a strong drink because while I adore the show, it starts off a little weirdly. It also continues weirdly, but it isn’t jarring once you’ve made the mental adjustments required to enjoy the show. They’re not strenuous, of course. It just takes a bit of time to adapt to the over-the-top action and characters before you start to see past the surface to the surprising depths of the story and character development arcs.

Like a lot of “children’s shows,” Adventure Time can be enjoyed on multiple levels. At the most basic, there are good lessons about how to be responsible, what it means to strong, how to deal with emotional problems, and how to treat people who are different from you, to name a few. These lessons are delivered through fairly straight-forward plots and the colorful fun of an action show with heart, making it an instant hit with most kids. For those looking for a bit more, there’s actually some complex emotional and interpersonal problems that happen through the various seasons that are resolved slowly. It can be difficult to watch if you want the sort of cleaner wrap-ups of most adult shows since, for example, some things are introduced in season 1 that aren’t addressed until season 5. Emotional development takes a long time, in terms of seasons and shows, but it happens at a rate that lets the adults watching the show appreciate what is going on beneath the surface but also lets the kids slowly see the changes happen in a way they’ll understand as they go through similar (if somewhat less fantastical) situations in their own lives.

For instance, a lot of the earlier episodes are non-sequiturs, with nothing to place them inside the show’s overarching timeline, but there are details that slowly fill in the world around the protagonists, Finn the Human and Jake the (magic) Dog. Finn’s sword is an easy indicator of when an episode takes place as he has a tendency to go through them a lot faster than you’d think. His behavior and age are much more subtle ones since they don’t mark most of his birthdays or give a number to his age that frequently. Instead, you can follow the show’s continuity using plot markers and shifts in character relationships. Old enemies become friends, allies reveal ulterior motives and become enemies, and background characters rise to sudden prominence before establishing a firm place in the long list of secondary characters.

The way information is revealed to the viewer can make it a difficult show to watch haphazardly. While understanding most episodes isn’t dependent on having watched all previous episodes, a lot of foreshadowing or important subtext can fall between the cracks in your understanding of the show. As information is slowly revealed, one small bite at a time (bites that increase in size as the show goes on as the first two seasons are particularly light on details), so much that you suspect is confirmed. If you pay attention to the background in almost any episode, you could reasonably draw the conclusion that Adventure Time occurs in a post-apocalyptic world. You could also conclude that humans are rare, magic has risen in the place of most of the sciences, and there’s an incredible danger present in the world that most people see as ordinary because of how screwed up the world became following whatever apocalyptic disaster befell it. Eventually, you get enough information to assemble a picture of the past on your own. Full reveals or complete pictures are super rare, but they become reference points for the show that help shore up the history you assemble as you watch it and you can usually tell where you are in the show’s timeline by references to these points.

My favorite part of the show is the way the writers use the same method of small hints and details mixed in with a few big reveals in the emotional development of the characters. Finn, as the primary protagonist, deals with the most as he grows. Jake, the secondary protagonist, has his share as well. Even a lot of the secondary characters (who occasionally have small arcs featuring them) have complex emotional journeys throughout the show. The best example of that is probably the Ice King, a certifiably insane wizard with ice powers given to him by a magic crown he wears. Not only does he feature in a lot of Finn’s emotional growth, he changes throughout the show from a pathetic villain to a tragic villain who can’t help himself, seeing as he’s been driven insane by the magic crown he wears. Some of the most powerful and emotional moments in the show come from his stories and the way people start to treat him as they grow to understand and somewhat accept him. There’s a whole list of other characters, some with their own special mini-seasons, that undergo growth and change, and each one gets their moment to shine, even the pesky whiny ones you want to just disappear.

 

Throughout it all, aside from the big reveal or big change moments, the show manages to keep an upbeat sense of humor and a positive look on even the most difficult situations. The characters rely on each other to get through their weak moments and humor is a constant aid as they try to cope with the world they actually live in as it pushes aside the world they want to live in. Even the most resilient characters are sometimes knocked down and we get to watch them struggle to their feet again. The entire show is a lesson in getting back up after failure until you succeed and learning to accept change and growth into your life gracefully.

I’ll admit the pacing can be weird early on and that it can be difficult to accept some of the asides the show makes as it slowly works its way through a difficult problem, but every episode has something important to say if you’re willing to look for it. A lot of these messages are repeated many times, but they’re usually important enough that it’s worth hearing them again. Plus, with how human they all act, even Jake the Dog and Princess Bubblegum (who is made of gum), it can be incredibly refreshing to see people struggle to deal with lessons they’ve already learned and taken for granted.

I recommend watching it. The seasons are pretty cheap on Amazon or Best Buy, but I wouldn’t recommend getting them on a streaming service as they are sometimes in weird orders and the season-by-season breakdown in the later seasons gets super wonky. It is way cheaper to get them on DVD or Blu-Ray than to buy them on Amazon or iTunes. If you want a show that will make you laugh so hard you cry and so sad you just have to laugh, that will take you on an incredibly complex emotional journey through the eyes of a wide range of very (mentally and emotionally, since “diverse” means very different things in our world than it’d mean in their world) different characters, and will leave you constantly wanting more, I cannot recommend Adventure Time strongly enough.

A Little Change Can Go a Long Way

Last night, I got caught up reading a book. I was already up late because of D&D and remembering to update my blog, but deciding to read for a bit before going to sleep definitely kept me up for another two hours on top of all that. I’m running on about three and a half hours of sleep today. For now, I’m managing alright, despite having spent most of Saturday in a big-group social situation. Weddings are great, but they really wipe me out. Meeting tons of new people and being around that much energy takes a lot of effort for me. If it wasn’t for how wonderfully restful Sunday was (prior to staying up three extra hours, anyway), I’d be dead on my feet.

I don’t regret my decision. Matthew Colville is a wonderful author and I’m excited to review his two books, Priest and Thief. They’re an absolute joy to read so far and I find it incredibly frustrating (in the best way) that the third book is not yet visible on the horizon. The man has been incredibly busy lately, with his usual YouTube video series about running Dungeons and Dragons called “Running the Game” and working on the incredible Kickstarter he ran only a few months ago. Setting up an office and writing a D&D supplement take a lot of work and he’s managed to do them both without dropping any of his other plates, so I am willing to cut him some slack when it comes to working on his book series.

Staying up late can be a lot of fun. As long as I’m staying engaged and enjoying myself, I don’t mind doing it once every so often. It only becomes a problem if I start to make a habit of it and wind up leaning on caffeine to see me through the day. That’s never a healthy habit and it is an easy one for me to fall into since I feel the most awake and alert in the evening and night, no matter how little I’ve slept.

Thankfully, getting better sleep has been easier since I’ve gotten a “new” (owned by a friend, but still in way better condition than my previous mattress) mattress. It is some kind of foam and, while sitting on the edge causes it to sink alarmingly, it does a much better job of supporting my back than my old spring mattress did. My lower back pain is much diminished and might even totally disappear in time and all of my joints feel way better which is a benefit I didn’t expect. Six hours of sleep now feels like eight or more hours of sleep on a good night with my old mattress.

It was amazing to realize just how much my old crappy mattress contributed to the problems in my life. Low-quality sleep, aching joints and muscles, constant lower back pain, and little desire to actually go to sleep all added up to a certain degree of constant irritation or frustration that now seems so clearly tied to my old crappy mattress that I’d been putting off replacing for over a year. Almost a year and a half, actually. I probably would have continued to put it off if it wasn’t for the fact that one of my friends just happened to be moving and my girlfriend made a few comments about how my back pain was clearly tied to my creaky, dented, shitty mattress.

It is amazing how changing one relatively little thing I’d been ignoring for a long time made my life so much better. Even a return to “neutral” in terms of what sleeping did for me was a huge boon. Last week was super stressful and exhausting for a lot of reasons and in a lot of ways. If I’d been sleeping on my old crappy mattress, I’d probably be depressed, exhausted, and on the verge of tears/a panic attack at this point. Instead, I’m tired but ready to go play D&D again. I don’t need another evening of rest before I feel up for tackling another social situation.

That’s not to say I don’t want to rest. I would love to get to sleep early tonight and try for a lovely eight hours. I might actually wind up feeling properly rested if I could do that for a few nights in a row. I haven’t felt properly rested in a long time and it is now so easy to see why. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard to convince myself not to spend money on a new mattress. It was definitely worth what I spent and then some.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what else might be a seemingly insignificant thing that could have a huge impact on the quality of my life. Working out more springs to mind, as does putting more effort into ensuring my diet is well-rounded instead of the “eat food and just make sure it includes fruit and veggies” thing I’m currently doing. Neither of those are really insignificant, though. They’d both take a fair amount of discipline and effort every day, but the potential benefits should outweigh the costs. Back when I was more active in regards to maintaining my physical health, I felt better than I have since I stopped. Combining that with the benefit of a non-shitty mattress could have an incredible positive impact on my life. Likely will have. Should have. I don’t really know and I won’t until I try it out.

I’m going to keep thinking of more things I can try as well. I’m still trying to fit all the puzzle pieces from the past two weeks of meditation together, so something else to focus on for a bit should help me wrangle everything into place. We’ll see. I feel like I say that a lot. It’s kind of exciting to know that there’s the potential for so much positive change, but also kind of scary. Thing could wind up being incredibly different and, while I one-hundred-percent support myself getting into better physical and mental health, I’m not sure I’m ready for all the changes that might entail. Thankfully, I’m not on a schedule.


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Saturday Morning Musing

I started this year, 2018, by telling myself that I was going to put my writing first. Instead of sacrificing my writing time in favor of my friends, catching up on sleep, playing video games, reading books, or building relationships, I was going to write. Not all day, but for at least two hours a day. That seemed perfectly reasonable, since I was already sort of doing that anyway with my, at the time, two months of daily blog entries. Turns out, it is a lot harder than I expected. Not so much the writing time part, because I can make the time for it, but actually making it my number one priority.

When my roommate went to the hospital, I gave up all of my writing time for that day to visit him. I’ve given up multiple days each week to spend time with my girlfriend. I started playing D&D on Monday nights, which often means I’m too tired to write when I get home at 9:30 or 10. I’ve been going to foam fighting practice almost every week, which definitely leaves me too tired to write when I get back. I am prioritizing people and social interaction over writing rather consistently at this point. I do it without thinking. I have a natural tendency to put other people’s desires, or what I think are their desires, before my own, so it can be a difficult habit to break even on my best days.

I don’t really regret it, though. As much as I’d like to have a bunch of writing done or have rebuilt my buffer so I’m not writing blog posts the evening before they’re supposed to go up, I really don’t think I should have made my decisions differently. I want to prioritize writing above everything else, but the world is full of things that are actually more important than getting a thousand words written, no matter how much I want to have written those words. Honestly, I can’t even really say that I prioritize my writing over other things like resting or playing video games. If I’m too stressed or exhausted, I won’t be able to write well. I can sit down and produce words no matter what, but there comes a point when it is easier to just take a break to rest and try again some other time.

Recently, I haven’t been writing as much as I planned. I intended to write an extra thousand words every day this month, on top of maintaining my blog, but I’ve written exactly zero extra words. I sit down to write and wind up feeling too tired to get anything written but the stuff I absolutely need to. I only ever sit down to write at the end of the day because I’ve been spending my work days prioritizing work (as I should be, since it pays my bills and allows me to participate in society) and then I come home and wind up spending time with my roommates or making dinner. I can’t say these decisions are the wrong ones to make, it’s just that I find myself realizing that there’s not really anything to prioritize writing over.

I only play games and read when I’m stressed to the point of needing relaxation in order to sleep at all. I try to sleep enough every night because sleeping too little leads to depression spikes like last week’s and a haze that coats my mind is thought-slowing cotton. I can’t skimp on meals because the act of preparing and consuming a meal is very relaxing to my. I have been letting a lot of my cleaning go, lately, but that’s reaching the point where not doing it is stressing me out more than I’m benefiting from the extra fifteen to sixty minutes I gain from not tidying up my living space. I definitely can’t work less since I can barely avoid my life as it is. If I worked fewer hours, I probably wouldn’t be able to make ends meet or I’d be so stressed that I wouldn’t be able to do anything but desperately avoid thinking about my finances or panic about my finances.

I honestly don’t have much in my life that isn’t something I need to try to be healthy. I probably don’t need a girlfriend, but I really like having one and she’s an immense positive influence on my average mood throughout the week. I don’t really go on trips, I don’t waste time with things that don’t benefit me, like phone games or Imgur, anymore. I’ve cut out a lot of crap and tried to reinforce my life with things that positively influence me. I read more, now that I’m not browsing Imgur for hours every day and I get more done at work now that I’ve removed most of my handheld distractions.

I really should be seeing an increase in the amount of time I spend writing and the amount of writing I get done. I’m really not sure why I’m not, and I don’t even know where to begin trying to find out…

Hurry Up!

“Hurry up!”

I grumbled my way into my bedroom and the clock on my desk reminded me I had half an hour, despite my mother’s nagging. When I went back to hang up my towel, I still had ten minutes.

After I finished tying my shoes, I got in the car and waited for my mom and sister to appear. Dad sat behind the steering wheel, drumming his fingers. He seemed as frustrated with
Mom as I was. She’d been shouting at us to hurry up for the last two hours and, even in the car, I could hear her shouting up the stairs at Nadine.

It was exhausting. She had only suggested we visit her parents for dinner yesterday, so her impatience felt ridiculous. When she eventually appeared at the door with Nadine in tow, we
still had a minute left before our departure time.

After everyone had settled, Dad backed the car out of the garage and drove off. I played sudoku on my phone as we drove and ignored Mom’s constant muttering. Half an hour of
muttering later, we arrived to see Grandma’s smiling face waiting for us on their porch.

The visit felt more pleasant than usual because Mom stopped nagging us, but it passed quickly. As Dad parked the car at home, I noticed a cop parked right in front of our house. As Mom ushered us inside, I heard the cop talking to Dad.

“Hello, I’d like to speak to Andrea Fitzner, please.”

“Can I ask what this is about, officer?”

“One of her senior partners was found dead today and we’d like to ask her some questions related to our investigation.”

“Honey?”

Mom shooed us through door and closed it behind us, cutting us off from her and the rest of the conversation.