So when my psychologist promises me we can break down my core beliefs and stop me being depressed, I have to wonder: what's THAT person like? New Steve could be anybody. He could be an asshole. So better to dig in and resist the idea of getting healthy. He fights hard, the dark half. Not to mention dirty.
As the old saw goes, of course people are afraid of success. Success brings change, whereas failure is always familiar.
David Cameron, Prime Minster of Great Britain
Mr Cameron, you gave a speech this week in Munich
Yes, thank you, I know.
Go down well?
Very pleased with it. Yes. The Germans seemed to love it.
And the home crowd?
I should think so, yes.
I was wondering, could you talk us through it?
Well, I thought I was very clear.
Oh very well. Well, basically, what I said was, there are two types of muslims in the world, right?. You’ve got your wrong muslims and your right muslims. And I want to make something very clear, Brian, right from the outset, and that is that I love right muslims.
Oh indeedy yes I do, very much so. Love them to bits, Brian. They are a peaceful, loving bunch of folk who can marry my daughter, should she happen to meet one of them at her private school.
And wrong muslims?
Hate them. Hate them. Can’t stand them. Basically, they’re the worst thing in the world. You know – you know when you go out to get the paper in the morning, barefoot, first thing before the coffee - and you tread in doggie doo, and it goes right up between the toes?
Worse than that, even, your average wrong muslim. Just terrible.
I see. But how do you tell a right muslim from a wrong muslim?
Oh that’s easy. A wrong muslim blows people up.
And a right muslim?
Doesn’t blow people up. Of course.
Well of course it is, it’s the opposite, isn’t it? If you’re blowing things up you’re a right muslim and if you’re not you’re a wrong – no wait, I got that wrong – if you’re -
But what if they’re going to blow things up but haven’t yet?
Well for cases too close to call, we go to the third umpire.
Yes, he sits in his booth and watches the video, and tells how far away they were from the bomb, which way they were swinging and so forth.
And declares if they’re right or wrong?
Aren’t you afraid that some people might get right muslims confused with wrong muslims?
No, see, I said very clearly in my speech that we must never confuse the two. Ever. That would be wrong.
Do people confuse the two?
Oh all the time, Brian. All the time.
Well, the right, for one. As I said in the speech, Brian, you’ve got the right out there saying that all right muslims are wrong.
Which is wrong?
Absolutely wrong, Brian. The right is very wrong on this matter.
Well, you’ve got the left, Brian, who say that all wrong muslims are right.
And you’re not saying either?
Right. Because that would be wrong.
But is it possible, Mr Cameron, for a right muslim to go wrong?
Absolutely it is. Yes. Which was the main point of my speech. At any moment, Brian, at any given moment, a right muslim can go wrong.
By listening to a wrong muslim.
But wouldn’t they know that muslim was wrong, being right muslims?
Ah, no, you see, Brian, this is where the wrong muslims are very clever. Some of them are pretending to be right muslims.
They’re wrong pretending to be right to trick right into wrong?
Right. And of course, some of the right ones are pretty close to wrong any way.
So they’re between wrong and right?
Right. They’re in the middle.
So they’re moderate?
No, the moderates are right. The wrong ones are in the middle. Keep up, son.
And if the right ones go to the middle?
Then they can go all wrong.
So how far to the middle can they go?
Before they’re wrong?
Difficult to say, really. But I can usually tell. It’s an instinct you get.
Is that the basis of a policy?
Oh, no, for the policy, well, we’ll, I guess, we’ll just draw a line down the middle. Right down the middle.
And everything right of the middle is –
Wrong! That’s right!
Right. This seems very confusing.
Well, it’s very easy for us in Britain.
Because it’s so much more simpler than our politics.
What’s happened there?
Well, we put the right and the left next to each other...
On the right. And then we threw out the middle, which made them the left.
So now we have the middle on the left, and nobody in the middle.
So who’s on the right?
Oh just about everybody, these days.
- Dr Temperance "Bones" Brennan, "Bones"
When I was about fourteen years old I boiled down all my angst, all my problems, into two fundamental questions: who I was - the status - quo - and where I was going - quo vadis. I liked Latin a lot then. I didn't study it, of course, but we'll come back to that. I remember when I was in uni I was happy to discover that I'd learnt a lot about the former, which was an achievement even if I had no idea about the latter. The latter was always the stumbling block. I felt for the longest time that I was born without ambition, drive or goals of any kind. Nowadays I don't know about that, but I do know why I felt that, and it comes back to a growing feeling I have in fact never solved the former or the latter, that in fact I have no idea who I am. Because I don't want to know, and never have. Because I'm afraid of the answers. I've always been afraid of the answers.
When I was sixteen I remember catching my face in the mirror and being surprised, because it had been a few years since I'd even looked in a mirror. I mean, a boy doesn't need to, really, not when he doesn't care about what he looks like. But I think also I stopped looking because I was too afraid to see what might look back. I'd probably see that weak and stupid thing everyone else saw, instead of the fantasy me I could build from inside my eyes. When you don't see yourself, you can't judge yourself.
Over time, i did the same thing with my personality. I tried to make myself very small, very invisible, because the smaller I was, the less of me I could see, and the less of me anyone else could see. Existing was exposure to judgement. And I worked so hard on this, from, really, the moment I was born, that I destroyed most of my sense of desire. All too often, when I was being myself and following my instincts, I would break things, or break the rules, or just be strange, and I would be punished for that, harshly. Quickly I learnt that my instincts could never be trusted, and what i wanted was not what I was supposed to want. So I stopped asking myself. I figured someone would come along and tell me the right answer to everything I needed to know about everything, and I think the hardest lesson I learnt growing up was this would never happen, and that even if I looked there might not be any answers. Sure, I could create my own answers - but that would mean trusting my thoughts. And I couldn't do that. Because how likely would it be that I would know anything about life? And by life I mean questions like what I wanted to be, or do. When I grew up...and at that moment.
In grade seven, when I was eleven, a ridiculous student teacher made us do an assignment. We had half an hour to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up, and then present it to the class. Afterwards (although we didn't know about this doing the first assignment) we were put to work in our fields designing an imaginary underwater city - those who wanted to be engineers designed the houses and vehicles. Those who wanted to be artists drew the flag and map. Those who liked biology came up with the aquatic life. Those who wanted to be shopkeepers got to design a mall. And so on and so forth. But before that, we had to sit in front of the class while the teacher read our little sentence about what we wanted to be, and answer a few questions.
You might as well have asked an illiterate to read.
After half an hour of staring at the empty page, panic growing in my belly like a white hot fire, I sat and watched as the teacher worked her way down to my sheet. She called me out the front and - I suppose thinking I was being insolent or lazy - demanded an answer to the question. I sat, dumb, terrified, ashamed, for minutes on end. She prompted and poked. I started to cry. I never broke the rules - ever. I was way too scared to do that. But I also had no answer for her. And every infinitely long minute made me hate myself more for failing so completely at what everyone else could do.
Eventually she let me off the hook. I ended up being put with the engineers, I think. Which I didn't mind, as long as I didn't have to answer the question.
It was one of the worst days of my entire life, and sadly, it summed up so much of my life before and after that day. I learnt from that, and from so many lessons before and after that I didn't have the answers inside me. Or I'd already learnt somehow that any answers I might have had could not be trusted. Because to know what you want to be when you grow up you need to be able to do two things: first you have to be able to look at yourself long enough to figure out what you like or dislike, and then you have to believe, even for a tiny second, that it is possible - that someone like you not only could be something when they grow up, but could deserve it. By the age of eleven, I had lost the capacity to do both, assuming I ever had them.
By age thirteen, I did have a goal in life. It was to die penniless in a gutter. I figured, aim low, just to be safe.
I've never told anyone any of this, because I've been ashamed of it. And because it hurt so much. And even moreso, I didn't tell myself about it. I retreated into my fantasy world, put my brain on autopilot and tried to forget about the Steve who didn't know and couldn't hope. Which meant of course that I lost any chance of ever knowing anything about who I actually am, or ever accepting that. For 34 years I've run on autopilot, hiding behind my eyes, too ashamed to enjoy anything, too despairing to want anything, tricking myself backwards into a few tiny moments of success and happiness, because on some high level I knew it was the only way to do it.
I'm 34 years old and I don't know what I want - I don't know what I want to eat for breakfast. I don't know when i want to go to bed or get up in the morning. I don't know what I like or what I hate. And I don't know how to ask. The man in the mirror is a stranger to me, and I'm terrified to meet him. Because he might be - he almost certainly MUST be - somebody weak, somebody stupid, and somebody I hate.
But I have to look because otherwise nothing is ever going to stop. And so it begins.
So a few weeks ago we did a mad random from-the-hip session of Smallville chargen to show someone how it goes. We put genres in the hat again and pulled out "Ancient Rome" and "The Love Boat". Brainstorming and chargen later, we ended up with Trireme Dreams, a show about relationships on a cruiseship in Ancient Rome. The campaign bible came out like this:
http://dconstructions.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/triremedreams.pdf (Warning, this contains spoilers for the following)
But the thing was, I could not get this idea out of my head. And somehow, it turned into a real series in my head. And then I had to write it. Not the episodes themselves (at least, not yet), but the series started to form, episode by episode and I needed to write them down. The stories wanted to be told. I don't know what to do with them, if anything. But they exist, and maybe people want to read them. If you like episode one, let me know and I'll post more.
The Morpheo pulls into Athens at the end of a long cruise. We meet Licivia, the entertainment director of the ship, worn out and a bit sick of her life babysitting drunken romans. And once again, at the last night party the captain hasn’t made an appearance. In fact, he’s once again drunk as a skunk in his cabin and the customers are asking questions. It gets worse: Licivia discovers he’s given all the servants the night off so there’s nobody around the pour the wine except her and the cook and the few rowers left hanging around. So it is that Caractus the deck-swabber is drafted from swabbing decks into the upper level. He’s sent to get the captain; he finds him walking the halls drunk as a lord – and then he passes out in the kitchen. Caractus needs a strong body to help him hide the evidence and goes to look for Trochaius. No sign below, so he runs to warn Licivia, only to spot Trochaius transformed into Maximus the gigolo, busy working the room – the secret is out.
Maximus tries to explain to Caractus but is interrupted by Licivia who demands Maximus keep Lutetia happy because Lutetia REALLY wants to see the captain. She orders Potius to help Caractus and they bicker for reasons unknown. Meanwhile Maximus heads back to the dining room...only to be clonked on the head by a mysterious assailant. Once again left to control Lutetia, Licivia loses and is forced to lead Lutetia to the captain’s room, leading to farce as she encounters Potius and Caractus and has to do some quick redirections. The gig is almost about to be up when suddenly...there’s Salutis, accepting his new commission, in full regalia. For the first time in her life, Licvia is happy to see a man.
Salutis is not exactly the party animal but he manages to get Lutetia calmed down and back to the party. He even agrees to play some party games, to make a good impression. This gives Caractus enough time to get back on deck and discover Maximus’ body and wake his friend up, promising not to tell Licivia. By the time the two get to the captain though, it’s too late – barbarian terrorists swing onto the deck and try to take hostages. An awesome brawl kicks in, and everyone takes part, even the ladies. With a military man to lead them, the rabble are seen off with no casualties, and one of their number captured. Caractus takes the prisoner downstairs, promising the captain answers.
In our epilogue, Salutis and LIcivia exchange a proper introduction – there’s a spark. Caractus promises Maximus his secret is safe with him. Lutetia is seen in the dining room regaling everyone about how she saved the day. Back in the rowing benches, Caractus wakes the prisoner, who is overjoyed to see his ally. Caractus tells the prisoner that this rash act has set his plans back weeks and then calmly slits the prisoner’s throat. He tells Salutis he got nothing from the man, and Salutis says it doesn’t matter – some secrets never come to light...
I'm currently engaged in an effort to clean up and compartmentalise my internet presence. It seems like a good idea in this increasingly intar-tubed world. So we have all my gaming and writing stuff being blogged (and eventually linked) here:
My political whining and hate-on is here:
My TV and film critiques go here (sorry about the slowdown on those):
And I've just started a new LJ to basically try and force me to write stuff about my state of mind. One of my better therapists urged me to write prose and poetry, realising quickly that it's how I relate to the world and understand it. If I'm ever going to get better I'm going to have to pull stuff out of me and that means writing it down. But because not everyone who signed up to this news serrvice wants both barrells of full steve mental illness olympics, I'm parking that stuff over at d_flates . I hope some of you wonderful people who have given me such great support with fighting the demons will friend that one. I hope those of you who don't want that shit to deal with all the time will stay here and be cool. I'll still post the weird in-between stuff here (see next post).
The point of that story is that just because something makes me feel awful doesn't mean I bear a grudge. Specifically, I'm talking about Game Chef, NaNoWriMo, NagaDemon, The Stockade Game Design Challenge, the 24 Hour RPG Challenge and all their friends. These are all wonderful things with wonderful goals and I encourage everyone to take part in them if they feel they will be useful or just fun. And I'll try to do what I can to support these efforts and those undertaking them - and especially those running them to help those undertaking them - up to the point that it becomes bad for my health.
Or to put it another way, when the wind is in the east, I can tell a good idea from a handsaw, and please don't think I'm being critical just because I'm sick.
Because for me, they're obligations. I know it's stupid but that's how they are, how they always are. People get cranky about Christmas because they HAVE to do things like visit family. I'm like, if you don't want to go, don't go. It's not the going that bothers me. It's the pressure. And that pressure is part of every holiday. New Year's Eve? You're supposed to go out, drink and have fun. Halloween? You're supposed to put on a costume and party. Birthdays? You're supposed to have a party.
That word is like a knife to my heart.
Supposed equals expectation. Expectation equals demand to meet a standard. A standard to meet equals FAILURE.
Long ago, as a defence mechanism (and just by being me), I started rejecting all standards and rules. I get cranky when people ask me why I'm eating breakfast at lunch time. I hate being in a box. And I like that about me, most of the time. But yeah, then there's holidays and I get suicidal.
Of course, there are other expectations that happen on their own. I'm SUPPOSED to be Joss Whedon. I'm SUPPOSED to be Robin Laws. I'm SUPPOSED to be Terry Pratchett. And usually, I can keep these down to a dull roar. But then there are these things. You know, like a writer's festival. Or a game convention. Or worst of all, things which are designed to help you write things. Like NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, and it's new fun cousin, National Game Design Month. And the 24 Hour Game Challenge. And Game Chef. And the Stockade Game in a Year challenge. Now I not only have to explain why I'm not Robin Laws, I have to explain why I'm not taking all these wonderful opportunities to BECOME Robin Laws. And now I'm not only failing to write an RPG, I'm also FAILING TO WRITE ONE IN A SPECIFIED TIME F
Don't get me wrong, I know none of these things are supposed to hurt me. I'm sure they help other people. Hell, I'm sure other people enjoy birthdays.
But if you're ever wondering why I'm not participating in some helpful, time-sensitive scheme, you now know why. It's because even thinking about them makes me want to kill myself.
November is NaNoWriMo and NaGaDeMon. December is my birthday, and Christmas, and New Years. Two months in hell, coming up.
Anyway, the new thing is here: http://dconstructions.wordpress.com/
I'll still lurk around LJ to read the Birds, catch up with people and post personal stuff, but yeah, all gaming and writing stuff will now be relocated to the new thingy.