Playing Out Emotions in D&D

Hello!

So, I just got home from my third full night of D&D (the second where we’ve actually been playing the campaign). Well…I can’t say I just got home since it has been close to an hour and I’ve been handling all the human things that come along with being away from the house for about 13 hours of the day. I got myself some food (a pizza slice is nice on the 15 minute break but it does not a meal make. Well, neither does chips but I’m in a weird place emotionally right now so chips it is) (Don’t worry, don’t worry I’m planning to get something more filling once I’ve finished up and posted this). I fed the cat. Called my mom and had a small cry because human emotions are scary and being 26 doesn’t make you better prepared for said emotions. In fact, I feel like I’m less prepared for them.

But, I will say this honestly, I’m currently working through some emotions that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t really hit until after the session finished.

All my emotions from before the session. Handled.

I didn’t expect it to happen. I figured D&D was going to be a tool to help me socialize more. I didn’t expect it to draw out certain emotions and allow me to detach from them, to allow me to put them in the character, play them out in a fantasy world, and then let go.

Let me set the scene.

The group is in a town where they are working off a debt owed from half the party getting drunk and causing drunken stupidity. Hobgoblins show up and basically warn the town guard that the town will be incorporated into their growing empire and we collectively decide to boobytrap the shit out of the town and fight it out: battle of Winterfell style…or any town siege in any Western movie you prefer.

We start patrolling the areas and because I’m a healer who’s not much use for anyone else: I go on the patrols. On the third day we discover a run down shrine that used to belong to the Everlight, the goddess my cleric serves under. Turns out though, that the inner sanctum has been used for rituals in the name of the Spider Queen. Lydia, my character is livid and angry and a thousand emotions she can’t express because she just had a moment of direct connection with the Everlight and now it’s been thrown in her face.

All of these emotions should be foreign to me. Nothing like this has ever remotely happened to me, and any event that could even be skewed toward a religious experience or complete meltdown rage happened years ago. Yet, as I played through the scenario, as I acted and spoke as Lydia would, I felt something in my gut uncurl.

During the break, when several of us hurried next door for a slice of pizza, I realized that a lot of the pent-up emotions from the passed week weren’t nearly as pressing.

It’s hard to explain. I’ve been trying really hard not to pen myself in, to let me emotions exist and not to shove them all deep down inside. Even trying to do that consciously though isn’t easy. I’ve been suffocating myself emotionally for so long that its second nature to put them in a box and put that box on a shelf and never even look at it again. To ignore it all until its all too heavy to ignore and everything comes crashing down.

More recently, I’ve been trying to understand myself better. I want to be able to identify my emotions, to put words to them, names, and to discover the root causes.

I’ve been trying to do all the emotional labor logically, not emotionally.

No wonder I had such a bad anxiety attack last month. It’s been either ignore it or over think everything while pretending to be all clinical about it. Set it aside, but be sure to label the box first!

But tonight, with Lydia there was no boxing things up and ignoring it. There was no way to do that in a story that demanded a sheer emotional reaction. Right before they discovered that the inner sanctuary had been used for evil purposes Lydia had prayed to the Everlight and experienced not only a vision but a physical manifestation too! (The Everlight wiped a tear from her face). It was a total moment of peace and love and acceptance that Lydia – and myself – had been craving for, for so long. A quiet steady moment in a sea of confusion, doubt, and fear. I didn’t even realize I had been holding myself so tensely until I felt myself give way and relax.

THEN THE DM FUCKED LYDIA UP WITH THE SPIDER QUEEN.

The moment of peace and tranquility was gone. The one being that had respected and comforted Lydia in her darkest moments was being insulted and her shrine desecrated and Lydia just wanted to smash it all. She didn’t want to study it, to try and figure out what was happening. She just wanted it all dead and gone and broken.

Of course, the other characters with her stopped her (physically picked her up actually…she’s barely over 3 feet considering she’s a halfling). They set her off to the side and sat with her until she calmed down. They reminded her to breath, explored a bit more, and when everything that could be was gleaned from the place, helped her wreck it and let her set it back up as a shrine to the Everlight.

And suddenly I realized how angry I had been: at myself for never letting myself be peaceful and content, at everyone else for never giving me the exact words I wanted to hear when I wanted to hear them, for having their own lives and problems that are priorities for them. For never being first in any one else’s lives and stupidly allowing that to decide that I shouldn’t be first in mine.

It was a completely different scenario but the emotions were the same. For a moment, I think I have it all figured out, then I’m proven wrong and lash out (usually at myself but sometimes at other people who sure as hell don’t deserve it). But there’s the reminder too that people do want to help, it just might not be in the way you want in the moment. Lydia didn’t want to get picked up and sat in a corner until she calmed down. No one likes being told to calm down when all they want to be is angry. No one likes being told to wait. But sometimes calming down and waiting is necessary. Sometimes it stops you from trampling important things (here being evidence of what was actually going on but in real life, more often then not, relationships that are important to you).

I didn’t even realize how much anger, and even resentment, was building up inside me until I saw it staring at me through Lydia’s mismatched eyes. And suddenly it wasn’t mine anymore. I didn’t want it.

I don’t want to be the angry, scared halfling who constantly blames herself when things go wrong, even (ESPECIALLY) when they’re out of her control.

I want to be the halfling who has quiet conversations with the dragonborn about home and losing it and growing up because sometimes you have to and that’s not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes home is different in your head and heart then what it actually was and when you get wise enough you’ll be able to see that and maybe, one day, even accept it.

I want to be that girl and after tonight I feel closer to that Lydia then I did before I entered the comic shop earlier in the day. I didn’t just name the anger and betrayal, and despair but acted them out in a safe environment. I didn’t box them up and hide them: I displayed them, played them out, and let them go.  It’s not a perfect system, it’s another tool in the tool box, but it’s something I found that I didn’t even know I needed.

On the Recent Radio Silence

Hello!

Sorry I went quiet there for a few weeks. June was…perhaps not my best month. For the most part, I’ve been absolutely exhausted the entire month. Between my parents being down to visit and my best friend and her husband coming up, I’ve been around people all month which reminded me that I have gotten used to my own space prior to this point.

Not perfectly used to it yet. I still tend to refer to both the apartment and my car as belonging to my parents rather than being Mine. I still hadn’t moved into the other bedroom (which is slightly larger and has the larger bed with the much newer mattress.

You see, I’m a creature of habit and June just screwed up my habits so hard. It’s been a week since my parents have headed out again and I’m still not back to my habits.

Now, part of that is certainly because I’m trying to make new habits: I’ve finally moved into the other bedroom and am in the process of turning what was my bedroom into an office/library. But that’s slow going. It’s taking time and money and I have to try and spread the cost out or I’ll screw myself over.

Other things are out of my control. I mentioned in the last post that I was going to a D&D night on Monday. I’m trying to make that a habit too but July 1st (Canada Day) fell on a Monday this year so that night wasn’t a D&D night. Which was fine because I spent it driving my parents into the big city so they could catch their international flight. I got home at 2 in the morning but, hey, at least I caught a few glimpses of fireworks as we drove up.

I like to think I’ll be able to restart my habits soon. Get better at actually posting these blogs on Monday (and have them be about something other than my life at the moment) but I’m honestly not sure if I’m going to be able to form habits any time soon.

What I mean is that work is getting heavy. I’m absolutely wiped when I get home which was why I was trying to get up before work and get some of my own projects completed then. But I’m still tired when I wake up because I can’t sleep in the heat. As of yesterday, I also spent several hours in Emerge to make sure I hadn’t rebroken my left wrist (which I heard crack pretty badly carrying a box at work). From the x-rays it doesn’t look like I’ve done any lasting damage but for right now it still hurts and I’m going to be overly conscious about how I move at work and at home for days.

My best bet is likely to hold out until September. Things are going to change then: I’m starting a new program at a new university. I’ll have to develop new habits anyways and dust off some old ones too. It’ll be an adjustment period that I can, hopefully, use to my advantage.

That does mean that things aren’t always going to be perfectly settled for the blog. I’ll do my best to get a Monday blog up consistently but if I have to choose between my mental/physical/social health and the blog then my health is going to win. This whole radio silence and wrist thing has really slapped me upside the head with my need to get my priorities straight.

Wake Up Call at the Falls

Hello!

Sorry, I’m late again. It’s been a whirlwind week and I feel like I’ve been going non-stop between work and non-work activities.

I was supposed to get a tattoo on Wednesday but that didn’t happen. We did end up in Toronto; visiting the CN Tower and the Ripley’s Aquarium (I got to touch a manta ray. Turns out they’re rather slimy).

On Thursday, my birthday, we bused out to Niagara Falls and took a boat trip into the horseshoe itself. That…that was a real rush.  We bused back to Toronto and only made our train by planning on being super late because that was the night the Raptors won and Toronto was already a mess getting ready for the game.

My friends headed home on Saturday and I worked both Sunday and Monday. Then I went to a beginners D&D night last night which just completely filled up Monday.

I’m trying really hard not to shut myself off. If you had asked me if I wanted to spend my birthday in the noisy rush of transport and the mid-way which is the Canadian side of downtown Niagara Falls I would have told you no. I’m an introvert, I would have told you I wanted something quieter.

But…in the complete roaring rush of the Falls my head actually went quiet. Sure, I was yelling a lot; the whole thing is a little overwhelming and scary but also very cool. But I wasn’t anxious. My heart was pumping and skittering differently. It felt like I was actually alive in the moment and not just worried about mistakes of the past or the unknown future.

It was me: my hands freezing cold as they gripped the rail, my glasses smeared with spray, my ears ringing with the total noise of gallons of rushing water.

And it wasn’t just Niagara Falls either. There were quieter moments too, when my head was so wrapped up in what we were doing that nothing else really matter. My grad/birthday dinner with friends and family (something that hadn’t happened in so long), the off-brand Harry Potter escape room (we beat it with six minutes to spare!), mini-putt, and the garden between the Falls and the Hard Rock Café where we paused to take pictures.

Looking back on it, I’ve had to face some hard realizations. I’m my own worst enemy. Even those quiet moments wouldn’t actually be quiet for me if I did them on my own right now. My head just gets too loud and I just LET IT. Sure, this week hasn’t been perfect but my anxiety didn’t keep me up nearly as much. My depression didn’t keep me down. There was just other things to focus on; other things to do.

One of the last things my friends and I did was sign me up for a psychic reading at one of the local new age shops. She used a mixture of tarot cards, palm reading, and aura reading and she told me a lot of harsh truths that I’ve been ignoring in my self.

I tend to focus on the negatives. I tend to shove my emotions deep down inside rather than letting them out, giving them up and letting them go. I tend to try and take on everyone’s problems and solve them even when I really fucking hate when others try to do that to me. I blame myself when I can’t fix everything but tend to be real blind to the moments of self-sabotage in my own life.

I’m actually so afraid of people seeing me as different, nerdy, flawed, needy, that I just close the door and say its because I’m introverted that my normal path is between apartment and work and back again. The most I tend to get out is the grocery store.

And none of that is going to change until I decide I WANT it to change and actually WORK for it. I can’t be a better person while acting the same way.

So the first D&D meeting on Monday night is step one. I’ll go again next week. And the week after.

I’m going to get out more. Maybe not Niagara Falls but also not my apartment. I’m going to try and focus on the good things that can happen, that I can make happen. I’m going to try and actualize it rather just say it and forget.

Wish me luck.

Birthday Surprise!

Hello!

Sorry for the day late post, yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in a really long time. You see, my birthday is coming up toward the end of this week and I also would have walked across the stage to receive my Master’s degree late last week (had I opted to spend the money and go to the convocation).

I had decided a while ago not to bother spending that money, and just spent $40 to get my parchment sent to me early. With my parents heading international, my brother moving to the other side of the country, and my friends scattered across the nation, at my loneliest times it felt like a hollow victory. Even when snapping some celebratory photos in the beautiful dress my mother made me at times didn’t feel right, I didn’t have that many people to celebrate with.

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Turns out my mother understood that far more than I realized. She’s been planning a surprise for me for months.

She and Dad flew home about a week before we set up a dinner to celebrate both my birthday and my grad. It was supposed to be a small thing: just them, my uncle and me. But when we got to the restaurant our table had two extra seats.

My mother had been scheming with my best friend since March. She and her husband showed up at the restaurant from halfway across the country.  It was the best birthday surprise I ever could have received!

They’re still here (they’re staying until Saturday) asleep in the next room which my parents were kind enough to vacate to my Uncle’s house. Today is the first day I’ve had off from work and it’s the first day of three so we have some plans!

You’ll probably get several more posts about this surprise in June and the resulting adventures and mayhem. (I’m getting my first tattoo tomorrow which is very exciting). I’ve worked the passed two days and we’ve still managed to get up to some shenanigans.

On Sunday I took them on my walking tour and accidentally pocket dialed one of my bosses in the process so several people at work heard a section on my tour (thankfully a part where I was in full tour guide mode and not joking around in only partial guide mode [which is harder to shake than I realized]).

Yesterday, after a shift that tended to be ‘busy’ or ‘dead’ with no in between they picked me up and we went black-light mini-golfing. There were some crazy painted glowing pictures and statues: everything from angry dolphins to a very high looking gorilla. We spent practically half our time take photos and selfies and then putting some rounds. Two faster groups passed us but they seemed to have been competing with each other far more than the three of us were. We were there to have fun and hang out with people we hadn’t seen for a very long time and dearly missed.

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I’ve include a picture of me in the black-light, to show you a little bit of what we were playing around in. I’m not posting any photos of my friends until I double check with them that they’re okay being in my blog. He might not be due to work, so better be safe than sorry!

After my tattoo tomorrow we’ll be off on a whirl wind trip that you’ll hear a lot more about next week. Until then: I have some laundry to do, we have an escape room booked for tonight, and the drinking arcade is calling our names this evening!

I’ve needed this so badly.

Musings on Dororo, Episode 20

Hello!

Sorry about last week, a serious dizzy spell hit me and I spent practically two days on the couch trying to make the world stop turning so quickly. I’ve currently have a pretty gnarly sore throat which tells me I’m getting sick, AGAIN, but its not so bad that I can’t sit here and throw down some words.

Especially since I watched the 20th episode of Dororo last night and OH BOY.

For those of you wondering ‘Dororo?’ its an anime set in feudal Japan where a baby boy’s entire body was sacrificed to demons to give the land his father rules prosperity. By some great miracle the baby survives and is picked up by a man who builds replacement limbs. Hyakkimaru is giving an entire fake body and, as a teen, sets out to kill all the demons and get his body back. Along the way he meets a little kid, Dororo, who tries to teach him as much as they can whenever Hyakkimaru gets a new limb or sense back (Hearing, smelling, sense of pain ect.)

Visually the anime is stunning (especially in comparison to its older counterpart) and Hyakkimaru ‘s fighting style is beautifully, and at times horrifically rendered. Since he grew up without arms his swords are built right into his fake ones: he can pull off his hands up to the elbows and, suddenly, blades! By episode 20 he only seems to really be missing his arms and his sight (though he can see the colour of souls and thus recognize demons and not good people and, of course, Dororo), which makes a lot of sense because those three aspects are really what set him apart in the style of the anime.

Now the anime can feel a bit ‘Monster of the week’ with the basic plot of Hyakkimaru and Dororo meet person in need, find them to be connected to demon in some way, fight demon, get defeated, rally, kill demon, get body part back. Often times, if Hyakkimaru got a body part, especially one of his senses, back at the end of the last episode at least the very start of the next episode (if not a good deal longer) is spent with him learning to use, deal with, or enjoy said sense (he hates hearing, sound is overwhelming, but smell is enjoyable especially around flowers).

HOWEVER, I’ve never found Dororo to get stale because the greater story line comes crashing in from the get go: interspersed with the adventures of Hyakkimaru and Dororo’s adventures are moments with Hyakkimaru’s father, mother, and younger brother, Tahōmaru. His father chose to sacrifice his son to the demons to keep power, yes, but also to take care of his people who were suffering. In fact, practically all the humans who become associated with demonic creatures or demons do because they too are suffering. Sometimes, the demon isn’t even the bad guy: it’s the humans and, sometimes, the anime makes you wonder if its Hyakkimaru himself.

You see, the kingdom is at war and, every demon Hyakkimaru kills, lessens the protection the land has. People are dying and villages start to starve because he’s fighting to get his body back. There’s an ongoing storyline about whether or not Hyakkimaru can even operate as a human considering how he grew up: always hunted and under attack without any real understanding of why and by whom. He doesn’t know how to talk and sound is so overwhelming that it drives him mad at points. Nor does he seem to feel any sympathy for those who suffer because he fights for his body, something Dororo feels. For him, he fights for his body because ‘It’s mine.’.

His biological family all turn against him because, for them at least, it’s the sacrifice of one for the good of many. Even his surrogate father, who built his false body, eventually refuses to help him because of what pain and suffering its causing.

But that question is always right on the edge: the humans who side with the demons often do so by sacrificing other people to those demons. They are guilty of the exact thing Hyakkimaru’s father is: benefitting from the prosperity of the deal as long as someone else pays the price.

Nor is Hyakkimaru heartless. Throughout his journey he meets several people who really connect with him, especially Dororo, and teach him about his body and his humanity. In fact, a person’s name (big spoilers so I won’t type it out) is Hyakkimaru’s first word and one of his favorite’s more recently is Dororo after they’ve been separated and united again. In fact, Dororo becomes one of his main connecting points with the world, even after he gets many of his senses back: Dororo is his moral compass and someone he really wants to protect.

In episode 20 there’s something of a breaking point. Both Hyakkimaru and Dororo fall of a cliff and while they survive with little injuries, Dororo’s arm is caught under some rocks. While, given time, this wouldn’t be a major concern, the rock slide has opened a spring underneath them, and their crater is fast filling up with water. Hyakkimaru fights to move the rocks but his hands and arms are only prosthetics, and prosthetics hiding swords, and he breaks on arm trying to push the rock. As Dororo’s head goes under Hyakkimaru starts screaming and bashing his head against the rock: his one friend, the one person who has stayed on his side through all of this, is dying and he can’t do anything.

Luckily, a blind travelling priest (a reoccurring character who often talks about Hyakkimaru’s mission and the moral implications of it with Dororo) arrives and uses the blade hidden in his lute to pry the rocks apart and pull Dororo up. Hyakkimaru now feeling wrathful about his missing body parts returns up the cliff and literally dismembers the demon trying to get some part of his body back. It doesn’t work, and Dororo has to beg him to leave the dead body alone.

This rage seems to happen because of Dororo almost dying: Hyakkimaru couldn’t move the rock because he didn’t have real human arms and hands. Hyakkimaru no longer wants his body back because it’s his but also so, just like all the other human characters, he can better take care of his own.

BUT the problem is that Hyakkimaru might be using Dororo as an excuse for still fundamentally wanting his body back because it’s his: HE HAD THE TOOLS TO GET DORORO OUT, HE JUST NEVER THOUGHT TO USE THEM.

The priest uses his blade to get Dororo out, not any brute human strength. He pries the rocks apart and snaps the blade in the process. Hyakkimaru becomes so fixated on using the part of him that hasn’t been returned yet (and thus wanting it back even more) that he completely fails to consider how he could use who and what he is now to solve the situation. In the process he destroys the prosthetic arm but not the blade underneath. In fact, the blades are fast becoming the most symbolic part of him: he uses them to dismember the demon as he was once dismembered. In this moment, he breaks the symbol of his humanity (his hand) and chooses the symbol of his inhumanity (his blade), most likely without even realizing it.

The story seems to be getting to the end game now, and Hyakkimaru’s break here in episode 20 leaves one wondering how he’s feeling going into what is likely the final confrontation coming up.

Man, I love this show.

Wait For It

Hello!

I’m in a slump again. That’s the thing about depression: it just keeps coming back. There’s a lot of temptation to just curl up and do the bare-minimum to get by. Go to work because I have to (or I’ll be fired), make sure my cat is taken care of, and try to take care of my own needs.

Some days are like that. I once heard someone compare it to being a SIM character; make sure all the bars are filled and just wait it out from there. I try to make sure I’ve eaten and slept and moved around a bit and if I can enjoy some entertainment, then bonus.

But a lot of the time I don’t want to be like that. The fun part of SIMS is not the everyday monotony, it’s when you’re building a new house, or trying to romance another SIM, or generally screwing around with your character. It’s not: wake up, go to work, come home, eat, sleep.

That’s what my life feels like right now. I’m back in a depressive slump and just going through the motions and I don’t even feel like I’m creating anything any more.

None of my writing feels like its working. The second book in my trilogy is awful and changing that means I’ll have to change huge swathes of the third book that’s already written and the more I think about it the more I dislike the first book too. Not that anyone’s reading it. I don’t have the audience. I’m not the self-promoter I need to be for self-publishing. I’m tired.

Even doing something like this is actually just exhausting, especially since I don’t want to leave it for a week but I also don’t want to be super negative. I’m just not feeling super positive right now and thus aren’t sure what to write about.

I’m trying to be nice to myself about it. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to magically not be depressed anymore. Asking the impossible of myself is not going to help and isn’t going to achieve anything. Trying to understand what I need and what I don’t is my best bet right now. Yesterday, what I needed was a reminder that I’m not alone in this. I spent my entire drive home listening to ‘Wait for It’ from Hamilton: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulsLI029rH0).

It does help to remind myself that there’s a difference between standing still and laying in wait. Taking some time to figure things out, to save up money, to take a break is all okay. Even if I’m not huge strides right now doesn’t mean I’m not moving towards my goals. Baby steps are still steps.

Sometimes its just hard to remember that.