What I am learning this year about: Living through historical moments

For years the Big question for people was “where were you on September 11th?”

That was the defining moment, the axle spin that took us all from Point A to an unexpected, uncertain, unplanned-for Point B.

And we could all pretty much describe in great detail – those of us old enough to remember – where we were, at that moment. What we were doing. What we were thinking. How we were feeling. The days that followed, too, are often cast in stark relief against more mundane times of our collective history.

No one woke up that day (well, of those of us not directly responsible) thinking “today is a day that will change the world, or at the very least, change my world and the worlds of many other people.”

But we all knew, as we watched the day pass by, that we were watching and/or experiencing something that would be in history books.

So here we are, feeling that same sensation again. Change – monumental and unsure – is already here; we are living it.

It can be unsettling. Perhaps frightening, but I prefer the term unsettling because I feel it better encapsulates the length of time that we deal with it. A fright is a sudden thing for me, but that uneasiness, the lack of confidence in one’s footing – that is being unsettled. It’s like sitting on a couch or a chair and being completely unable to get comfortable for any real amount of time.

That’s where we are.

It sucks, right?

It’s easier to look back at things, to read about them from the safe distance of time, fantasize about how we would have done things differently, how we wouldn’t make the same mistakes. When secretly what we’re thinking is “thank the universe that isn’t me.” Even if we’re not conscious of it, there is a part of us that is grateful to have been spared the terrible events of the past.

There is a part of us that hopes we will never have to experience such events ourselves.

I have thought about this a lot, in fact. This idea that sometimes we have to go through to get out, and in those moments that through seemed absolutely impossible, I’ve always come back to the same place.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

I’ve relied on it so heavily that a few years ago, I got part of it tattooed on my arm, my daily, sometimes hourly, reminder that all I can do is what I can do. This situation sucks. But this situation is what it is. We cannot close our eyes and make it disappear. We cannot be born in some other time. We are here. Now. And we must go through.

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What I reminisced about this week: TTRPG

Monday Eric sent me a text with a meme from a DnD group on Facebook (I think it was Facebook) with a cat sitting in front of a character sheet. The DM is saying that the adventurers have encountered a wizard, who has placed a chalice of some bubbling, smoking liquid on the table. And of course the cat says “I knock it over.”

Obviously I laughed about that for a half hour.

And then I got a little fixated on something: the character sheet in the picture. It was not a DnD character sheet. It was a White Wolf character sheet (or World of Darkness, I suppose – look, I can barely keep up).

This led to a day of hyper-fixating on WHAT FREAKING GAME IS THIS FROM.

It’s been YEARS, I mean over a decade, since I played any White Wolf game that wasn’t VtMB.

Things I remembered very vividly, right off the bat:

  • The different games had different borders – Vampire had a sort of gothic, wrought-iron looking border; Mage had a sort of geometric fade-out thing with the various symbols associated with the types of magic floating around; Werewolf was a relatively simple border with slashes through it.
  • Mr. Gone’s website was THE resource for character sheets
  • The character sheets and systems changed after I stopped playing
  • Every detail of some of my longest-played characters, playing their stories in my head like a movie,
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Faygo for a while there
  • The Combat Mix
  • Some other things that I’m not about to unpack for a bunch of people on the internet

Could not remember the specifics of this sheet, however. So I let it go.

For a couple of hours, during which I was still chugging the waters of Mnemosyne.

Obviously I love video games, and that love springs from my origins with pen, paper, and ten-sided dice. I love stories – hearing them, watching them, reading them, telling them – and it doesn’t get much better than building a story with friends.

What I liked (and still like) about the White Wolf World of Darkness games was that they always felt so character-driven to me. It was ridiculously easy to play a game with only one storyteller and one player or a very small group. The stakes always felt personal in some way, or if they weren’t, there was usually (with a good storyteller anyway) a very compelling, personal reason that your character was in the midst of whatever was happening.

DnD lacks some of that to me.

DnD also lacks the epic dice rolls. Listen, I like the simplicity of the D20. But there was something about putting points into my attributes and abilities and then rolling some crazy number of D10s that was just very satisfying. It’s like playing Warhammer and getting like 15 attacks and just chucking dice all over the table while laughing maniacally. It just feels good.

I spent years playing White Wolf, collecting lore about my characters, carefully taking notes, and organizing all of the matériel that came with lovingly playing those roles.

And it took me years before I was able to really start playing again. I play DnD now on Monday nights with a small group; we play online, and we have two people who are new to the game, and I find that the, let’s call it practice, that I got all those years ago comes in handy.

I still miss White Wolf sometimes. I still miss some of my old game group. But like anything else in life, I find that change is good, and while the mechanics may have changed, and the faces around the table, the core of it is still there, and that’s what matters.

It was an Exalted character sheet – a White Wolf system I never played, but boy was it fun to fall into the rabbit hole because of something so familiar.

And to solidify this as a week of thinkin’ ’bout old times, I later saw an internet friend post a picture of their OWN Exalted character sheet just before starting a game.

It all comes full circle. Play on, friends.

Travel as a metaphor

I got back into Michigan from New York on Saturday afternoon, only about 13 hours after my originally scheduled time. Other at Arkus were far more delayed than I.

It was all of the storms – crazy thunderstorms and a few tornado watches all along the Eastern coast that had flights coming in cancelled, which means no planes to carry us all home. I was holed up in the Delta Sky Lounge, courtesy of Coworker, when my phone buzzed with the cancellation notice.

Cut to about an hour in line, with a lot of other tired non-passengers, hoping to get something other than a three leg journey through Syracuse, then Atlanta, and then home just shy of Sunday morning.

These kinds of things are exhausting and anxiety-inducing to me, but they’re not something that makes me mad. The poor saps behind the counter can’t do anything about Mother Nature’s wrath against her ignorant children, so I’m not about to scream at them.

“If weather could be controlled, Delta would have bought it by now,” was my favorite line from the helpful attendant who patiently refreshed his screen to see if he could get me to Atlanta (impromptu family visit?) or Minneapolis (daily flights back to Michigan).

The wait (and my volunteering to sort some info cards for them while I did so) was worth it. I got on a flight to Minneapolis that night, stayed with Coworker for free, and hopped back on a plane the next morning to come home. Cue celebratory Electric Hero sandwiches, cocktails, and blessed sleep.

Travel, man, am I right?

Sam, you haven’t posted in months, and now you’re going on about travel, and you mentioned a metaphor, but…?

Allow me to use your question as a convenient transition and take you back in time about 4 months.

Another Coworker made the decision to move on to other things after some life changes, and so I took on a few extra projects that needed to be closed out. I also got a promotion – not sure I’ve mentioned that? Anyway, yeah. So I had the experience of onboarding an employee.

Things were kind of crazy. A lot of pressure systems moving around, as you can imagine, and accordingly, a lot of things were delayed, some things were cancelled. But during that time I learned a lot – got hands on with some new things, got creative with some other things, and also just did a lot of work.

Skies have cleared. I got a lot of things off my plate, and not a moment too soon, as we enter Dreamforce season (already?) and very soon after that, holiday season. I still have some behemoths hanging around, major projects that are ramping up, but it’s so good to just breathe. I feel in control again – finally, after months of feeling like I was on a loop, digging and digging and digging but never seeing the surface.

And isn’t that the thing that’s so frustrating about travel issues?

 

 

Obligatory apology and excuses blog post

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again, where I fish for flimsy excuses about why my (now paid) blog site has lain dormant as Moria for the past…can we say weeks? I’ll feel better if I say weeks.

Right, so let’s get it over with.

I’ve been working. Really, truly, I have. Statistically speaking, it takes about 12 months for someone to become (or at least feel) proficient in a new job. I’m about halfway there! In the meantime, I still forget details, sometimes – little things like checking a box or something. And then bigger things like balancing time or wrapping my head around how long it takes me to do Things. I still don’t always know if something is going to take me an hour or six days…

I’ve been meaning to write. As I was explaining to my Professional Writer father the other day, at any given time I have at least 3 draft posts, and then there are times that I have 7 or 8, all sitting there, wondering if I’ll ever get back to them. At least one of those drafts has been around longer than my new job…so….I’m sure I’ll finish it one of these days.

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on. After Zoe left us so suddenly, I can safely say that the very last thing I wanted to do was…anything.

The first time you skip or forget something, it’s minor, right? It’s just a hiccup. The problem is that if you then skip a second time, or a third, it starts to snowball. And it snowballs fast. I guess that’s kind of the point of that metaphor, though, right?

Eventually going back seems that much more daunting. What do you mean I have to roll this 2 ton snowball back up the hill? It was so much smaller when it started falling! I’ll just wait for it to thaw a bit.

It doesn’t thaw. Winter has officially arrived.

My point is just that after a while writing a post seemed like an insurmountable challenge. It had been too long. I put in work to provide regular content, and then I let it fall to the side, in order to take on some more pressing things, and coming back to it means facing that gaping chasm in between last post and this post.

I don’t even want to THINK about how many of these posts I’ve made. But whatever. I’m only human. I disappear sometimes. The weight of things gets just a little too heavy, and my response is to tuck myself away.

So maybe this can be my blanket post moving forward? For the next time I need to limp away to lick my wounds and can’t work up the energy to put this kind of stuff into words.

I have some ideas in the works, though…all of the “well at least I’ll think it’s hilarious” variety. But it’s something, at least.

Sweet Baby, Mama Loves You

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

zoeinbow

You came to me, unexpectedly, when I was a junior in college. Working at the pizza place, living with a fellow student who had a kitten, and you were mentioned offhandedly. Someone was moving and couldn’t bring their cat, and did I know anyone interested in a black cat?

Me. I was interested.

“She’s not a lap cat,” they said, handing you over in a metal crate that looked more like a bird or rodent cage than a cat carrier. I put you in the back of my Camry – the same one still in the garage, and I took you home.

You slept on my pillow that night.

zoeonmamabeast

You were not fond of the kitten, but that was ok.

One time you got out of the house, and I ran down the street in a panic, trying to find you. You were hiding on the covered porch, watching my antics, no doubt with amusement.

You moved into that windowless basement apartment with me, despite the dog, and then you moved into my parents’ house with me when I left that place behind.

You flew 3,000 miles to be with me in Seattle, where you met Eric, who I still maintain you love more than me. He denies it. But we both know.

zoeatchurch

You drove almost that same distance to Arkansas, when we moved again. Eric tells the story better than me – you meowed the whole way, non-stop, until the final day. When you arrived, I had a sign on the door “Welcome Home Zoe! (And Eric).”

That was a good apartment for you, with all of the light in the living room and big windows. And the ample room for your favorite pastime: hunting hair ties.

zoeskills

Then you and I drove to Michigan; it was my turn with you in the car, but you didn’t cry nearly as much. So maybe I am your favorite. We drove all the way in one day, and you spent the night learning your way around that old house in Zeeland.

When we bought our house, we had you in mind. I was disappointed that the only windows for you to sit in were in the basement, but we figured we could make it work.

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My right shoulder is sore most of the time because you insisted on perching there like a parrot. Your head – so soft and warm – pressing against my neck. I can’t really be upset about it. What’s a little soreness compared to cute, fluffy black cat on my shoulder? And there was the pawing at my side until I picked you up and put you there.

You were always so small; people thought you were a kitten, even though you had the disposition of an old woman, set in her ways and kind of demanding, but no one says anything.

You were also exceptionally sweet. Most of the time. And only to us. With others, you were standoffish. And there were the times you mangled me. But never Eric. So I guess point for him again.

ericandzoe

This morning you were even smaller, impossibly so. And I don’t know if it was worse seeing you like that or putting away your scratch post this afternoon, so I won’t see it tomorrow and be somewhere between confused and devastated.

It’s unfair, really.

I told you and the universe and anyone who would listen that you were, in fact, immortal. But then, you always got your way.

You are, though. Because here you are – small and sweet and precious and all of those things I would say or sing or whisper to you (and at you, and at Eric about you, until he would make that annoyed face, even as he agreed). The concept of immortality has changed in the digital era because pieces of us, of you, can live on forever. A series of 0’s and 1’s, words translated to digital memory.

It’s all I can give you now.

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

zoeinsun