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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Second Chance Living

So, I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time.

I've been thinking about the events that led to my dealing with PTSD. I've been thinking about how much I would share, and what I would not say. I'm still thinking.

There are stories, friends, that are better left untold. There are things that happen in real life that make the scenes from books that keep you awake at night seem like shadows under the bed, easily dismissed by a flashlight and a mother's kiss. There are real-life monsters, and they walk around in human skin. I don't like horror stories. I don't read them, and I don't write them.
I have decided that I do not want to talk about the past. I don't live there anymore, though my mind occasionally conspires to drag me back. I live in today, in the present, with my kids and my friends and my family. This is where I choose to take my stand. This is where I will stay, and this is what I want to write about.

Sometimes the only way to move forward is to take a stand.

Life is weird sometimes, when you're living on your second chance. Some of us made bad choices as teens and young adults. For some, those bad choices led to endings, of freedom, or of life itself. I have mourned friends whose choices led them away, along paths where I could not follow. I have learned from their mistakes, but have, to my continual amazement, been spared. I am a living second chance. I often feel that I owe it to those who were not given that gift, to make the most of it.

Living on a second chance means that I don't take anything for granted. It also means that I don't have the same perspective as many of my friends and family. I don't see opportunities in the same ways they do, and sometimes that causes frustration. Why wouldn't I want to go for the management position in the company I work for? I could do the work easily enough, and the pay is reasonable. But it would mean giving up too much of the precious time I have remaining with my kids- while they're still young and living at home. I can't make that sacrifice- the money's just not worth it.

My heart. My loves. My life. 

Why do I "waste" my time on writing fan fiction and making silly Youtube videos, playing a children's game and hanging out with people who do the same things with their spare time?
Because, friends, there simply is not enough joy in this sometimes-dark world. There aren't enough smiles to go around. There are shadowy places in minds that are too often left unexplored and unlit. If my goofing around in a Minecraft world, or my writing stories that bring heroes to life brings even one person a bit of joy, a glimmer of hope, and gives them the nudge they need to feed their own creative spark, I will gladly labor for as many hours as it takes to make that happen.

The further I get into Youtube, the more fun I have.

I am one of the lucky ones. I fell into a pit, and was trapped there, by the subsequent depression and anxiety related to trauma. But I have a pretty amazing family. We're not perfect- who is? And parents who, while they made mistakes, loved me and wanted the best for me, always. Those are powerful weapons in the fight against depression, and I consider myself most fortunate.

The purpose of this entry, and of this blog, is to light candles. To reach out to those who are living in that dark place. To let you know, you are not alone. You can fight back. You can find joy. You are worthy. You are loved. You are wanted. I've been where you are, and I've found my way out again. You can do it. I believe in you.

"What if I fall??"
"Yes, but what if you FLY?"

Remember that life is an adventure. Live it. Learn from it. Never stop believing. There is power in faith, and in hope, and in love. Light always wins over darkness. Always.

Safe travels, friends.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Attack of the WHAT???

Dear readers, I am, at this very moment, having an emotional meltdown. Over a video game. With real tears trickling. It's not pretty. It's an ugly cry, and it comes from down deep, because this is more than "just a game." This is the full circle. This is the infinity snake catching up with itself. The mobius strip making the connection... It's just a game, to be sure, but to me... it's more.

Some of you, if you know me in real life, have heard me talk about Minecraft. About the connection forged between myself and my troubled tween. My son has been playing Minecraft almost from the beginning. He played the truly early stages- the first releases of the game. He would get SO excited when updates were released. He, quite frankly, drove me half mad with his chatter about creepers and endermen and zombies and mobs and mods and downloads.

Redstone was a complete mystery to me. It still is to some extent. I didn't understand the appeal of this blocky, weird game, until one day, seeing the disappointment in his face when he caught me rolling my eyes at just one more rendition of "Me and Brody got cornered by these zombies but his wolf was fighting for us and then this creeper came along and..."

For an instant, I caught sight of just how deeply my little boy, whose father had just walked out of all our lives, was hurting. I decided to appease him in the only way I knew how- I asked him to teach me Minecraft.

It was the beginning of an era. With a lot of frustration and some swearing (mostly me) and some "Geez, Mom, you're REALLY bad at this!" eyerolling comments, he introduced me to the game. And then, in an effort to understand it better, I did what I do best - research. Research took  me to Youtube, to explore the gaming channels... and that's when I discovered a whole other dimension of minecraft- Mods.

The very first modded Minecraft "lets play" Youtubers I watched were Generik B, Chimney Swift, and BDoubleOO, playing "Attack of the B-Team." Their commentary was engaging. The gameplay was intriguing. Chimney, in particular, caught my attention with his infectious enthusiasm and his mischievous approach to multiplayer gameplay. Soon, my son started playing B-Team, too, and got me to play it. I eventually upgraded my computer to better handle the modpack. Together, my son and I discovered this world. We explored it. We built things together. We laughed. We shouted. We got frustrated. We created and destroyed. We argued and collaborated. We learned... and we grew.

These days, my son doesn't really play with me. For a while, we played servers together and built incredible things. He showed me his creative world in which he built some insane redstone projects. Even now, when he has a girlfriend and a life that is slowly carrying him away from the childish pursuits of Minecraft and further toward the interests of an older teen, he can still be drawn back in. We still watch Etho, another Let's Player, together. We discuss his builds and talk about how crazy his "sand worm" project is, and how cool. Even as my son is growing away from his early interest in Minecraft, I am building a small hobby channel and immersing myself in the community that nurtured that early interest.

And now, a new era is opening up. Attack of the C-Team will be a sequel to the early Attack of the B-Team series. Many of the same Youtubers who participated the first time around will be involved in this remake. To call my reaction "excited" is like comparing Mt. Vesuvius to a sparkler.

This new game is about more than Minecraft. It's just a game, after all. There may be mods in this pack that I don't care for. The changes with the update may not appeal to me. I might not be as excited to play once I see what's been added and what's been taken away. Knowing all of that doesn't dim my excitement one bit.

These past few years have been... difficult.
My kids and I have navigated some rough waters. Not only has the divorce caused enormous emotional upheaval, we subsequently lost my best friend and my sister. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected. The devastation was deep and is lasting. For the past year or more, I've been knocked off my feet with grief, just keeping my head above water. It's only been in recent weeks that I've begun to feel as if life might have a chance of returning to some semblance of normalcy, and that the gaps left by the losses might close enough so that the feeling of continuously falling into them will end and our feet might once again touch the ground.

While no game, no exciting news, and no new adventure can possibly begin to touch the depth of the losses we've suffered, there is a moment, after one has been walking through darkness for so long, that a flicker of light can be seen. There is a moment when you realize that the tunnel you've been walking through isn't endless after all, that you will step out of it. The sun will once again warm your face, and you will feel the breeze against your fingertips. Spring will come, even after the longest winter. What is lost to the past can never be recovered, but there will be new experiences and new joys and new chances to laugh and live and breathe together. There is healing, and that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.

My kids have both expressed interest in exploring this new modpack together. The idea of playing together again, and discovering the ways in which we've changed, as players and in our relationships, is exciting beyond words. The fact that they still want to play with me... It's a balm to the soul.
So, forgive me if I dance just a little too exuberantly at this announcement. If I get a little carried away, and get just a little too excited. It's been a long, cold, dark night. I'm ready for the sun.

Bring it on.