Why I Love My Online Gaming World

I realize I’ve been AWOL for quite some time. I have a ton of excuses – life’s been hectic, the kids’ schooling has been demanding, people keep getting sick, etc. Mostly though, I’m just not feeling it. The writing, that is.

Two days after starting a journal, I rip out the pages and throw them away. Blogging has followed similar lines – if I manage to sit myself down to write a post, I end up deleting it before publishing. I still haven’t finished editing the novel I wrote for NANOWRIMO two years ago, and I’m not sure I ever will. I feel blocked and kind of depressed. Inspiration is hard to come by right now.

I’m embarrassed to admit what I do in the few precious moments of free time I have, because it’s not an activity that lines up with my professed morals. While I should be doing yoga or writing or meditating, I play Call of Duty. Yes…the violent, pretend-you’re-a-soldier-and-shoot-as-many-enemies-as-possible game. It’s my guilty pleasure.

I’m stuck with an old version on a little-used platform, where only 100 of us around the world might be playing online at any given time. I will shed tears the day they discontinue the game’s server. Sure, I could play on my daughter’s PS3, but it wouldn’t be the same because my friends wouldn’t be there. And I love my online gaming friends.

By “friends” I’m talking about the handful of players I know by user name only – the ones I tend to play with over and over again (after all, there are precious few of us left). I don’t “mic up”, so I’ve never talked to these people outside of a few brief online messages about the game. I don’t know anything about them except what weapon they prefer and what type of gaming style they exhibit. Most of them don’t use mics either, so I’ve never even heard their voices. So why on earth do I feel like they are my friends?

I guess when you spend so many hours with someone, working towards a common goal (albeit not a particularly warm and fuzzy one), a feeling of togetherness develops. My Call of Duty friends don’t ask much of me, nor I of them. We simply hang out in the comfort of our own homes and shoot pretend people in a pretend world. There are no messy emotional exchanges, no hard feelings. No expectations, no commitment. Hackers aside, it’s a fairly level playing field where it doesn’t matter who you are in real life. No one asks, no one cares. The game and how well you play it are what matters.

In the real world, I have a hard time living in the moment. I’m always analyzing the past or worrying about the future. Lots and lots and lots of worrying. Enjoying the here and now is a struggle for me, because even when things are going well, I’m anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. But not when I play Call of Duty.

Once I hear, “Time to work soldiers,” everything else falls away and I am completely absorbed in the here and now of the game. There’s no time to worry about bills or health insurance or groceries or what’s going to happen six months from now. That brings my troubled mind a certain amount of relief that I can’t get anywhere else.

I imagine most people will see it as just another form of escapism. Maybe it is. But I prefer to think of it another way – that Call of Duty is teaching me how to get out of my own head for a while and live in the moment. Yes, it’s a stretch. But it’s one I’m willing to make in order to justify the happy moments I spend with my pretend friends in our pretend world.

Namaste (with just a touch of irony).

No More Whining

Wowsa! What a difference a couple days of sunshine and no Trig can do for a gal. This leads me to the question of why a school subject should be allowed to make life THAT miserable. But maybe that’s a question for another day.

I really do apologize for the last post – apparently I needed that oh-woe-is-me moment in order to get my crap together. Sometimes, I need to write it out in order to deal with it.

As I suspected might be the case, the time off school and the nice spring weather has helped the vibe in our household immeasurably. We just might survive the remaining 31 and 1/2 school days.

On Friday, Kid 1 was in a funk, resigned to the idea that she might never feel good again. The general atmosphere of depression in our house was getting overwhelming for me, so I bailed. I spent hours wandering around Walmart by myself, choosing ribbon for Kid 1’s Prom garter and pricing items for the homemade Fear Factor game I’m running with a friend at a Post Prom event. A little time to myself was wonderful, even if it was at Walmart.

Over the extended weekend, Kid 1’s health seemed to take a turn for the better. Fingers crossed! Without the stress of school or volleyball for five whole days, she’s had some real time and space to rest and relax. She has a little energy and looks perkier than she has in a long time. I hope it holds!

I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting caught up on a few things. Of course, my “to do” list is still longer than I’d like, but I don’t think anyone every gets truly caught up. Life has a way of throwing something else at you when you least expect it.

For instance, I was sitting down to dash off a quick blog post the other day when I came across my friend Veronica’s post about GISHWHES. She’s posted about it in the past, but I never looked too far beyond her posts and pictures. This time something made me dig a little deeper, and I checked out the GISHWHES website.

I was intrigued, but a bit unsure about my ability to participate in such a grand, strange, creative, goofy, magnificent event. Luckily, Veronica had no doubts, and a few hours later I became an official member of Team Dandelions. As I meet my new (mostly Danish) teammates and read more about what I’ve gotten myself into, I’m feeling that weird little prick of excitement that I sometimes get when starting a new project or adventure.

Somehow, being totally overwhelmed with life translated into joining a week-long international scavenger hunt with fourteen people I’ve never actually met. Yes, I realize that sounds insane. But for some strange reason, it makes me happy.

So no more whining. It’s time to put on a smile and get on with life. And find a storm trooper costume before August….






Survival Mode

I’m still here. Marginally. My last post tempted fate. Fate never appreciates that. Supposedly, expressing gratitude and looking on the bright side are positive things that keep the good vibes coming. I’ve tried doing both, but to no avail. We’re back to living in survival mode. Forget anything extra, we’re just trying to get through each day in one piece.

Kid 1 and I are struggling to get through the rest of the school year. She’s been sick for what feels like a very long time. They say it’s mono, but some days I’m not so sure. I honestly cannot remember the last time she felt good. It’s incredibly difficult to get her through a day of school, even with our flexible online format. Every day is like wading through quicksand, and every day it feels like we’re sinking further and further down.

I used to think the school’s rigorous curriculum was a good thing, but all it’s doing is beating kids down and making them think they’re stupid. Most kids don’t survive at this school for as many years as my daughter has. Most go back to regular school, and some drop out altogether. It’s hard to blame them. Even my 4.0 student talks about dropping out. I didn’t realize how difficult it truly was until I had to start helping my sick kiddo get through it. Now I know why she was always so riddled with school-related anxiety.

In Trig and Chemistry, the teachers can’t even do some of the problems they’re expecting the students to do! By googling some of her problems, my daughter discovered that the material she’s being held accountable for in high school is stuff that college students in advanced courses are asking for help on. I’m all for challenging kids, but my daughter is constantly being asked to do things she hasn’t even learned. They’re expecting kids to go from A to C without teaching them B. Trying to learn in that way is almost impossible and exceedingly frustrating.

So you take those already-stacked-against-you odds and add an illness like mono. Almost impossible becomes IMPOSSIBLE. I do everything I can to help (ask me anything about the fucking Unit Circle and I can probably tell you), but I’m starting to feel like Sisyphus, endlessly rolling that boulder up a mountain.

The boulder is a 130-pound teenager who can barely get out of bed. The mountain is three hours of Trig, followed by five more subjects that average anywhere from one to two hours each. Top it off with ill-prepared teachers who don’t give a shit (I actually heard one admit it out loud), and you might see why I’m at the end of my rope.

Thankfully (there I go trying to express gratitude again), Easter break is upon us. Maybe we’ll be able to sneak in some rest. Maybe we’ll be able to get out of survival mode and remember what fun and laughter feel like. Maybe my baby will start to get better, because it’s been far too long.

A girl can hope anyway.