I took some time to overhaul the look of this blog so that it was more centered on Dungeons & Dragons. I had intended, for the most part, on producing only content related to that game here. In the weeks since I made that change, I’ve struggled to generate said content. The explanation may be related to any number of things — the imbalance of chemicals in which my brain swims, the emotions that climb over one another for my attention daily, the tension that exists between my journey forward into the future as aspects of my past try to exert overwhelming influence on my present…
I think I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m thirty-nine years of age today. I think it’s normal for people to be reflective on their birthday, but given the last couple of years, there’s a lot for me to work over. Hell, I’ve spent the last fifteen minutes trying to puzzle out what it is I want to say here. And a bit part of the challenge is that I keep coming back around to the idea that other people will be reading this. But the thing is, I can’t write this for anybody else. This sort of thing is something I have to write for myself.
So why put it on the blog at all?
Let me try and articulate this. People fight battles you can’t see every day. There are folks out there with diseases wracking their bodies with pain, without a single outward visible symptom. I don’t want to be reductive in my writing or over-simplify these very complex conditions, but when you break it down, at the end of the day, they’re alone in the war they wage with their physical forms. It may be a false equivalence, but I feel the same goes for mental conditions and disorders. While there are behaviors that inform others of what is going on inside — a literal request for help in completing a task or mitigating symptoms, or a figurative “cry for help” in one form or another — the reality is that we can never truly know what is happening on the battlefields we all have within ourselves.
My hope is that me rambling into a keyboard will help others in finding ways to come to terms with those battles. That, in turn, gives me more fuel to wrestle my own demons to the ground.
And wrestle them I must, or they will strangle the very life from my soul.
That may sound overly dramatic. I’ll plead guilty to perhaps engaging in a bit of hyperbole. I am, by nature, a storyteller. Stories tend to be dramatic in one form or another as a way to draw in the audience into the narrative and the characters affected by it. Be it as a novelist with my “rough and unable pen,” or as a Dungeon Master behind a screen armed with dice and terrain tiles, I want the people who read or hear my words when I’m telling a story to find escape, catharsis, or a deeper understanding about themselves or the world around them. A lofty ambition, maybe, and possibly a little pretentious. But more than anything else, I want my readers to read because they give a damn.
That’s why I’m such a fan of authors like Chuck Wendig and Seanan McGuire and Delilah Dawson — I care about what happens to the people in their stories. By telling us stories about people like Nora Wexley or October Day or Cardinal, these authors inhabit fictional characters with life and say to us through their actions, losses, and emotions, “these are people worth caring about.” Maybe it’s just me, but that’s why I read stories.
That’s also why I show up to D&D every Monday night. It’s not about rolling the biggest numbers or pulling off the most inventive moves in a combat scene. I show up because I care — about the characters at the table, about the people who play them, about our hapless Dungeon Master, whose narrative skills and voices are the skeleton upon which the players hang the meat of the story. And everyone at that table cares about each other, and the characters represented by dice and sheets of paper.
I’m waxing poetic here, but I swear, this all has a point.
Why put this stuff on the blog, instead of keeping it to myself?
Because I am worth caring about, too.
And by making that a public declaration, I am putting my foot down as far as my feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness are concerned. I can fill pages upon pages of journals with pontifications on the meaning of my life and how I need to find that for myself rather than looking for it in the affection and approval of others. (For the record, I have.) Added to that is the fact that I am aware of my status as a ghost piloting a meat suit on a rock hurtling through the unfeeling void of space at speeds I can barely comprehend. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, I’m one of around seven billion human beings on this planet, and there may be an exponentially larger number of sentient beings in our universe. The question of whether I or anybody else cares about me is ultimately insignificant.
But because I am sentient, because I think and feel, it’s anything but insignificant to me. That is worth remembering. And it has to start with how I feel about me. After almost forty years of life, it’s long past time to stop treating those feelings like they don’t matter.
I can never fully understand the battles others fight. I will never know what it is to be female bodied, have a different skin color, suffer from a chronic illness, or come from an abusive childhood. My context for relating to those around me is limited by my own experiences and whatever knowledge I have as imparted by other individuals and the world at large. But the feelings of those individuals do matter to me. This is especially true in the people I personally know and care about. Even if there is a world between me and an individual who’s touched my life or found an indelible place inside my heart, even if we rarely if ever speak to one another, your feelings matter to me. You matter to me.
I’d like to think I matter to you, but in the end, I have to matter to me.
At the most basic level of things, I have to fight this battle on my own. Nobody else can fight it for me. Others can fight it with me, certainly. And it’s good to have allies. But I am the only resource upon which I can absolutely undoubtedly rely. I have to treat myself as such. I have to value myself. I must matter to myself. I need to care about myself.
It’s the only way I can truly be my best self, and in turn, care about and fight alongside you.
To that end, I am taking this opportunity, at the dawn of my thirty-ninth year, to try and pull myself away from the memories and imprecations of my past selves, to strain my eyes towards the horizon, to stare into the howling and uncaring void that in the end consumes all of us, and scream the words:
I choose to be.