Keep On Keepin’ On

So it’s been a while since my last post, but I have good reason. The last week or so has been pretty busy for me; last Tuesday was my third session with my Dungeon World group, and last Monday was the character creation session session for a 4th Edition D&D game that should be starting up soon – I’m not running it, thankfully. Just yesterday was the fourth session of my Dungeon World game, and it went very well – much better than session 3. I think the group works together pretty well, and it’s fun to do, even if it is exercising new narrative muscles in my brain.

I met up with Calla on Sunday to see a movie, and again on Tuesday – we met with some friends at a place called The Mad Potter and painted some pottery, which was fun and a cool new experience. I’m still not entirely sure where things are with her; last year around this time she was essentially placing her life in my hands, and now it seems like – well, I don’t know what it seems like. I know there’s not a relationship in the cards, but it feels like she’s even distancing herself as my friend. It sounds like she’s trying to take on a lot by herself, and I wish she would ask for support if she needed it – but I know how hard it can be to ask other people for help. I spent a long time trying to handle everything in my life alone, because I didn’t feel like anyone else could understand what I was going through – and that didn’t work out so well for me. It took 2 suicide attempts and a trip to Menninger Clinic, as well as four months in a step-down program, to hammer that into my head. My head, as you might surmise, is pretty hard. So I hope my friends don’t do the same thing and try to take on everything alone, when those close to them are willing to help.

Today I was at a workshop with NAMI on learning how to effectively tell my story, to communicate it in ways that would be helpful for advocacy. It’s just another thing to do to work towards getting into the social work field, on the side of mental health. It is so frustrating to me that so many people don’t understand even the smallest things about mental illness, and so I want to do what I can to change that. This blog is a piece of that, certainly, but I want to do more; I want to try to help people the way Menninger and the step-down helped me. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be able to do, but I want to do something; it’s hard for me to see my friends in distress and not want to do more to help. I know I’m not their therapist, and I don’t want to be, but if I can help make any part of their lives easier – and then do the same for other people, while I’m at it.

In a couple weeks I’m going to head back to St. Louis to help my parents figure out what they’re going to keep and give away, sell, or leave behind, and soon after that, I should be an uncle. The next month or so is going to be pretty interesting – and that doesn’t even get inot holiday season in retail. So we’ll see how active I can be here.

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Delaying Tactics

Man, 11 days since my last post? I had no idea it had been so long. Time flies, I guess. It’s been a busy 11 days, so hopefully I can be forgiven for neglecting my blog for so long. When last I wrote, I had just been to church for the second time, and had just finished my first week at my new duties in the receiving area of my store. Things have definitely gotten more interesting since then.

For one thing, I actually managed – with the help of a good friend, who deserves all of the organizational credit, because I would have trouble planning my way out of a paper bag – to run my first session of an RPG called Dungeon World, which I’m sure I have mentioned int he past. The first session was at a nearby game store, and it was me, my friend, and two gals he knew from work (we all work at the same company, just different stores). I thought the first session went really well – people made fun characters relatively quickly, the system didn’t get in the way, and I felt like I was able to improvise pretty smoothly, all fo which seemed to lead to a great first session. I say first, because this week we got together again, this time at my place, and two additional gals showed up – making the demographics 4 women, 2 men, which is weird, but awesome. The two new players again made up new characters quickly, and we finished up the adventure that had been started in the previous session, finally killing the Spider-Witch Florimel and returning some very traumatized children to their families. It was a lot of fun, and a big confidence boost for me, because I had been really worried that I wouldn’t pull it off very well. hopefully we’ll have another game soon.

Also, my birthday was this past Sunday. I turned 35, which sounds like a lot now that I think about it – so usually I try not to, because then it involves me trying to work out how close I am, percentage-wise, to becoming a Steve Carell character. You know the one. I celebrated thusly: on Saturday, after having nabbed the second Captain America movie on Blu-Ray earlier int he week, I started watching all 9 Marvel movies, in in-setting chronological order. I managed to get all the way up to the Avengers before calling it a night, then the next day, my birthday, got through Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 before going out to dinner with three friends, all of whom are awesome. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse called Fogo de Chao, and if you’ve never been to such a place, let me tell you – it’s like a festival of meat. They have a salad bar, but mostly, you sit at your table, and you have a little thing at your place setting – one side is red, the other green. When you flip it to green, servers magically appear with all variety of meats and give you pieces, until eventually you are so full that you get what one of my friends called the ‘meat sweats’. Then, for dessert, two of my friends, both women, rolled out a dessert they had constructed especially for me – a three-tiered pyramid of donuts from various places around Houston. Let me tell you, I was very full at the end of the night, and very happy. If any of y’all are reading, let me say this to my friends and family(both those who were present, and those present in spirit): I love you guys, and each one of you has helped me to have a life worth living. You have made my life so much better by being a part of it.

As for my professional life, I’m mostly used to working in the receiving area of the store now; my back still aches from being on my feet and carrying boxes all day, but it’s far less stressful than customer service for me. And I get to listen to audiobooks, music, and podcasts while I work – so far I’ve made it through Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, all of the On RPGs podcast, and most of the podcast episodes of the Knights of the Night group dealing with their experiences with Dungeon World. At home, I’ve also been reading through a good book, through it’s taking longer than it normally would because I tend to read before bed, and my new job means that when I get in bed, my body tends to prefer sleep to reading much of the time. The book is called Friendfluence, by Carlin Flora, and it is about how friends influence us, change our lives, and can actually have an impact on our physiological well-being. It’s a pretty good read, and I look forward to finishing it (mostly so I can point out to my friends exactly what their presence is doing to my brain, which seems fun to me). I am still waiting to hear back from the Via Hope group on whether or not I will be accepted into this round of training for Certified Peer Specialists, and I should hear back from them by the 22nd.

All in all, it’s been a busy week and a half, but in a good way. I’ll make an effort to keep my blog more updated, because I know it’s something I have been neglecting, and I have some ideas for other things to write, but right now my body is telling me it was a bad idea to get up this early, so I’m going to listen to it and relax on my day off.

Summer Daze

Well, it’s been a busy week. Thus the not-writing-in-my-blog-ness. This week, I finally managed to find myself a volunteer position at a local NAMI office; I’ll be working in their SEA – Support, Education, and Advocacy – Center, calling people who have been referred to NAMI and trying to give them any information they have asked for. I’m hoping that will lead to other work, but it should be interesting to see how I can do with that; I’ve never been the greatest person at talking to people I don’t know on the phone, so it will be good practice, if nothing else.

I’m trying to figure out now how to find players for a Dungeon World game; I’ve got one friend who is interested, so I’ll at least have somebody I know at the table; I just need to find a few more. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to get together with people to do that, but just knowing that it is a possibility makes me feel a little better.

My workplace is going to be having a ‘dress as your favorite character’ day coming up, and being the comic book nerd that I am, I’m planning on going as Captain America. This means I have to find a couple things – most notably a shield, and the one I’ll probably get is plastic, because man, the metal replicas are really expensive. I’m not exactly super-buff, either, but I’m not going to worry about that right now; it’ll just be fun to d something a little unusual and whimsical at work, because there are honestly days when I feel like exploding. Not violently, in case you’re worried, but just yelling at people who treat the store really poorly.

One thing I’m worried about is my relationship with Calla. She’s away at a camp for most of the summer, and her communication times are pretty limited, and it sounds like she’s really stressed. I get that; having to deal with a lot of really young counselors who don’t seem to know how to do their jobs – so you end up doing parts of theirs along with yours – has got to be exhausting and frustrating. I just feel that every time we seem to get to a good place in our relationship, a place where we’re actually talking to each other about things that matter, something happens to mess that up. I wonder if it is me, if I’m not being as emotionally expressive or supportive as I should be, so that she feels like I’m not there in the way I should be; or if the hours she’s working and her limited communication chances mean that she just doesn’t get the chance to blow off steam. But there’s not much I can do right now besides be  a good friend, so that’s what I’ll do. It’s all very confusing, but it is something I am learning to deal with.

In any case, that’s what my week has been like, with the addition of a 32-hour work week (which is about as much as I am ever allowed to work as a part-time employee). So it’s been a busy week, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping soon, but I will try to be more aware of how often I am posting here and try to keep things a bit more current.

P.S.: I also just received the character art I paid for as part of the Werewolf: the Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Kickstarter, and so, without further ado, I present to you the picture of my 90s-era character, Jacob Greyfang, courtesy of my favorite RPG artist, Ron Spencer:

Jacob Greyfang

The World of Dungeons

This isn’t really about my state of mind, but it is something that has been running around in my head for a while. Roleplaying games are one of the things I haven’t really had a lot of time for since I got to Texas, even though I really enjoy them. There are a number of different reasons for this. One, while I have friends in the area, most of them aren’t really that interested in RPGs, and that’s cool. It just means I need to find other people who are interested. Two, because of my irregular work schedule, it can be hard to have a specific day for gaming, even should I find a group. Three, it has been my experience that the easiest way to start a gaming group is to run the game yourself. The problem here is that it has been so long since I have really run a game that I just don’t have the confidence in my abilities that I used to; especially running a game with relative strangers, confidence is pretty key – I don’t want to look like an idiot. I tried to run a D&D game not long after I left Menninger, mostly for people in my step-down program, and the complexity of the system, my lack of practice, and being the only one who really knew the rules meant it failed badly – which is basically all on me, because I thought I would be more up to the challenge than I was. So I needed a game that is relatively simple, but that is also pretty cool, and easy to pick up – one that would be easy to jump into at irregular meetings.

I think I finally found a game that meets my criteria. It’s called Dungeon World, and it’s a very cool game. It’s very narrative, moreso that most games I’ve played, run, or even read before – this means that the players have to describe what they’re doing and who their characters are. Character creation is very simple, and the system itself is relatively easy to pick up and learn. It’s great as a DM (Dungeon Master, the guy who kind of controls the world around the players), because most of what I do is ask questions and describe what’s going on; there’s very little mechanical work for me to do. The system is very modular, so it is easy to create new classes and such; there are already quite a few that have been created by the greater gaming community that I like. It’s more freeform than I generally have used; instead of having the characters operate in an established setting, the players and I would essentially create the setting around the characters as we play – through things they mention or questions I ask. Oh, and the basic parts of the game are available for free

My worry is that, as a very narrative game, it will require a lot of creativity on the part of both myself and the players – and a lot of mine will have to come off the top of my head, as I create dangers, odd situations, and monsters to fight essentially on the fly. I’ve had periods of creativity in my past –  I used to think I would be a fantasy/science fiction writer, and I was in the middle of writing a fantasy novel when depression really set in. But lately, I haven’t had a lot of creative juices flowing. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a constant need for it; gaming used to help a lot with that, and I’ve only had a couple of chances in over a year to work those metaphorical muscles. But I do like the system, and I have read a lot about it; I have a reasonable degree of confidence in my ability to at least get the ball rolling. Now I just need to find some players, and a time to play. So, after going down to NAMI on Monday to see if they have any volunteer opportunities open, that’s next on my list.